Pieters (March 20, 1995)
Please explain the Dai Mandala Gohonzon.
Murano (July 20, 1995)
Sakyamuni Buddha did what he had never done before at the beginning of Chapter XI of the Lotus Sutra. He produced innumerable Replica Buddhas of his own from himself, told them to expound what he was going to expound from that moment, and dispatched them to the worlds of the ten quarters: the four quarters, the four intermediate quarters, zenith, and nadir. After he saw them having reached their assigned worlds, Sakyamuni Buddha expounded the teaching of the One Vehicle, that is the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma. Obedient to their Original Buddha, his Replica-Buddhas expounded the same teaching throughout the universe and as a result the universal validity of the Wonderful Dharma was revealed.
Prabhutaratna (Taho), a past Buddha of a world located far to the east, rejoiced at seeing all this. You should bear in mind that a past Buddha, who had already entered Parinirvana, can see, hear, speak, and let his Stupa move at his will. When Prabhutaratna entered Parinirvana, his disciples enshrined him in his stupa, and shut the door of the stupa. Since then Prabhutaratna had been sitting in meditation in his Stupa with no disciple attendants. He had wished to expound the Wonderful Dharma by himself during his lifetime, but refrained from it because he thought that the Wonderful Dharma should be expounded by a Buddha whose emanations be the Buddhas of the worlds of the ten quarters to show the universal validity of the Dharma. Prabhutaratna himself had not such Replica Buddhas, so he had waited for the advent of such a Buddha for so long a time.
Overjoyed with Sakyamuni’s expounding the Wonderful Dharma, Prabhutaratna caused his Stupa to travel westwards through the skies of innumerable worlds. The Stupa reached the sky below the Saha-world, passed the world from underneath, and stayed in the sky just above Mt. Sacred Eagle, where Sakyamuni Buddha was expounding the Wonderfill Dharma.
Thereupon Prabhutaratna turned his Stupa towards Sakyamuni, and praised him from within the stupa. The congregation were astonished to hear the voice of a Buddha from within the Stupa staying in the sky. They asked Sakyamuni, “Who is in the stupa?” Sakyamuni said that Prabhutaratna was therein. They asked Sakyamuni to open the door of the Stupa so that they could see Prabhutaratna. Sakyamuni said that Prabhutaratna had made a vow to open the door of his Stupa only when the expounder of the Wonderful Dharma would summon all his emanations to the front of his stupa. The congregation begged Sakyamuni to do so.
Thereupon Sakyamuni issued rays of light from himself to all directions. The light served as a sign of call-up. By the order of their Original Buddha, all the Buddhas of the worlds of the ten quarters came to Mt. Sacred Eagle. Seeing this, Sakyamuni went up to the sky and opened the door of the stupa. Prabhutaratna made a half-seat on his right, and invited Sakyamuni into his stupa. Sakyamuni sat by the right side of Prabhutaratna. It was taken for granted in India that the left seat is upper than the right one. Prabhutaratna took the upper seat because a past Buddha is senior to a present Buddha. Prabhutaratna did not yet know that Sakyamuni was older than he because Chapter XVI of the Lotus Sutra was not yet expounded. Sakyamuni took the lower seat with a smile.
The congregation wished to be in the sky high enough to accompany the two Buddhas. Reading their minds, Sakyamuni Buddha raised them up in the sky, and put them in the position of attendants. All the other Buddhas remained sitting on the ground.
Thereupon Sakyamuni addressed the congregation that his Parinirvana day was drawing near, and that he was going to transmit the Wonderful Dharma to someone. Hearing this, many Bodhisattvas appealed to him for the transmission. Sakyamuni refused their appeal, however, saying that there were proper persons for that. And he issued rays of light from himself as a sign of call-up.
All of a sudden the earth quaked and cracked, and innumerable Bodhisattvas came from underground. To the astonishment of the congregation, those Bodhisattvas exchanged greetings with Sakyamuni Buddha. How strange! The congregation had never heard of them. Sakyamuni addressed the congregation, “I am older than any other Buddhas. All the Buddhas of the past, present and future are my emanations. Those Bodhisattvas who have arrived from underground are my disciples.” Here it is revealed that the One Vehicle, that is the Wonderful Dharma, is universally valid not only spatially but also temporally.
Seeing all this, Prabhutaratna was shocked. He felt ashamed of his ignorance of the fact that the Buddha sitting next to him was his Original Buddha. He tried to change the seats, but Sakyamuni checked him, saying, “You are now the State Guest of the World-State of the Eternal Sakyamuni. You are now representing all the Buddhas of the past, present and future.” Prabhutaratna understood Sakyamuni, and remained at his seat, motionless.
The Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha is no one else than the Historical Sakyamuni Buddha. Prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment and became a Buddha. He was called Sakyamuni because he the muni (sage) of the Sakya Clan. He had a bilthday and Parinirvana day. All this is a historical fact. But the same Buddha announced in Chapter XVI of the Lotus Sutra that he is eternal. He says that he appeared in this world as the Historical Buddha in order to save all living beings. The Eternal Sakyamuni is the same of the Historical Sakyamuni in his eternity. The Historical Sakyamuni is the name of the Eternal Sakyamuni in his historicity. To separate the Eternal Sakyamuni from the Historical Sakyamuni will destroy Buddhism. The fundamental teaching of Buddhism is that a human became a Buddha and that a Buddha was once a man. Christ worshiped God; Mohammed, Allah. But the Buddha worshiped no one but himself in his eternity.
You can become a Buddha provided that you are forever a disciple-Bodhisattva of the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha in faith just as Nichiren is forever a disciple-Bodhisattva of the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha in faith. You will be allowed to join the Samgha under the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha, who is still now expounding the Wonderful Dharma on Mt. Sacred Eagle. Jodo Buddhism puts Amitabha above Sakyamuni Buddha. Shingon Buddhism establishes Mahavairocana as the Eternal Buddha, not Sakyamuni as that.
You can buy a Buddha-statue and worship it as that of the Eternal Sakyamuni. But how can you tell others that the statue is that of the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha? Something must be done to characterize it. Nichiren always carried a small statue of the Buddha with him, and worshiped it. He sometimes advised others to make a set of five statues: the Buddha and the four leading Bodhisattvas to characterize the Etemal Sakyamuni Buddha. But to understand the meaning of this set of statues needs an elaborate study of the Lotus Sutra. Various Buddhist sects are busy arranging the statues of Buddhas and other Buddhist deities on the altar according to the tenets of the sects. A Buddha accompanied by Avalokitesvara and Samantabhadra is Amitabha Buddha. A Buddha attended by Surya and Candra is Bhaisajyaguru Buddha. A Buddha attended by the four Bodhisattvas is what Buddha? This is a topic of quiz: Who am I? Scholastic complicacies weakened Japanese Buddhism.
People are clever. They just call Buddhas and Buddhist deities “Nonosama” invariably and collectively, and chant the Nembutsu in front of any temple, disregarding the sect difference. What is more interesting to note is that no sect except Nichiren rejects the Nembutsu-chanting before their temples. They make flattering excuses. Tendai identifies the Buddha of Chapter XVI of the Lotus Sutra with Amitabha Buddha although such an identification is not mentioned in the sutra. Shingon enlists Sakyamuni Buddha in the four Buddhas under Mahavairocana. Zen sects do not care at all, saying that freedom is Zen.
Nichiren finally gave up idolizing the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha. Instead, he ideographically described the World of the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha as his residence, and recommended it for worship. To worship the world of the Buddha means to worship the Buddha in his right position. The “Imperial Palace” alludes to the Emperor. The “White House” stands for the President. This description of the World of the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha is called Gohonzon or the Great Mandala.
The fundamental idea of the Great Mandala was revealed in his Kanjin-honzon-sho, which he wrote three months before the description of the Great Mandala. It runs:
There is a Stupa of treasures in the sky above the Saha World of the Original Teacher. In the Stupa of Treasures is enshrined [the core of the sutra, that is, the five characters:] Myoho Renge Kyo. By either side of the Myoho Renge Kyo sit Sakyamuni Buddha and Prabhutaratna Buddha. Sakyamuni, the World-honored One, is accompanied by the Four Bodhisattvas headed by Visistacaritra. The four Bodhisattvas: Manjusri, Maitreya, [Samantabhadra and Bhaisajyaraja] sit on lower seats as the attendants on Sakyamuni Buddha. All the other Bodhisattvas, major or minor, who are either the disciples of the Historical Sakyamuni or the Bodhisattvas having come from other worlds, look up at the Buddha just as the subjects of a king sit on the ground and look up at nobles and dignitaries beside the throne. The Buddhas of the worlds of the ten quarters sit on the ground to show that they are emanations of Sakyamuni Buddha and that their worlds are manifestations of the world of Sakyamuni Buddha.
Here we see that the Daimoku, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, is made visible, and that the visible Daimoku is used as the symbol of the World of the Etemal Sakyamuni Buddha. A symbol represents a thing. A national emblem is the symbol of a country. It represents anything and everything of the country. Without the Olympic flag, the games cannot be called Olympic. The army of the Emperor Gokogon was defeated, but the Emperor was saved because he had his Royal Standard.
When the Daimoku, which is the name of the Dharma by itself, is used as the symbol of the World of the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha, it represents not only the Dharma but also the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha and his Samgha residing in that world. In other words, the Daimoku as the symbol represents the Three Treasures of the Lotus Sutra.
The adoption of the Daimoku as the symbol was a great success because it can never be mistaken for the Nembutsu, and because Sakyamuni Buddha mentioned therein can never be mistaken for any other Buddha than the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha.
But here we have a problem. The names of Sakyamuni and Prabhutaratna are put side-by-side. This juxtaposition reduces the dignity of the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha greatly. He looks like one of the two pages serving a tablet on which the Daimoku is inscribed. There is another problem. If we write the Great Mandala according to the description given in the Kanjin-honzon-sho literally, we should put all the Bodhisattvas under Sakyamuni because they are his disciples. Therefore, the right (when we face the Mandala) column of the Mandala under Prabhutaratna would be blank because Prabhutaratna Buddha has no disciple-attendants. In order to keep the balance of the writing, Nichiren moved some Bodhisattvas from the left column to the right one to impress us as though Prabhutaratna had his own disciples. This reinforcement of the right column causes more reduction of the dignity of the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha.
In order to recover the seemingly lost dignity of the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha, some Nichiren Buddhists once again recommend the worship of the set of One-Buddha-Four-Bodhisattvas statues. But this set of statues fatally lacks the existence of the Daimoku, which is the life of Nichiren Buddhism. We must say that, without the Daimoku, the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha would become homeless.
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