Nichikan’s Gohonzon

Nichikan Shonin (1665 - 1726)  - the 26 High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu – is known as the restorer of Nichiren teachings.  Among his various works, clarifying the depth of Nichiren Buddhism, was his Six Treaties (Ha Rokkan Sho), lectures on the Heritage of the Law and clarifying the power of the Gohonzon:

        "If you have faith in this Gohonzon and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo

        even for a short while,                

        no prayer will go unanswered, no offense will remain unforgiven,

        all good fortune will be bestowed, and all righteousness proven”.

                                                                      Commentary on The True Object of Worship, Nichikan Shonin

How was Nichikan Gohonzon conferred on SGI?

After the refusal of Nichiren Shoshu administration (1991) to confer Gohonzon on SGI members, the chief priest of Joen-ji temple in Tochigi Prefecture, Japan, who seceded from Nichiren Shoshu, offered the Soka Gakkai the Gohonzon transcribed (in 1720) by Nichiren Shoshu High Priest Nichikan Shonin.  Following this significant offer, SGI started, in September 1993  conferring upon its members the Gohonzon based upon this Nichikan-transcribed Gohonzon:

                                    “In his June 6, 1993 letter to Soka Gakkai President

                                    Einosuke Akiya, Chief Priest Narita writes:

        “The existing situation, in which Nikken has unjustly terminated the conferral of Gohonzon

        upon Soka Gakkai members, convinced me that the best and most just course—as well as

        the course that, I feel, would win the approval of the Daishonin—

        would be to enable Soka Gakkai members to receive Gohonzon based on this Gohonzon.”

        On August 23.1993, the Association for the Reformation of Nichiren Shoshu and the    

        Association of Youthful Priests Dedicated to the Reformation of Nichiren Shoshu    —

        representing about thirty reform priests who had seceded from Taiseki-ji —

        issued a joint resolution supporting Narita’s proposal.

        In it, the reform priests stated:“We declare that the Soka Gakkai is qualified in every way to

        confer okatagi Gohonzon based on the Gohonzon transcribed by High Priest Nichikan and

        assert that by so doing the Soka Gakkai will fulfill a sacred mission consistent

        with the spirit of Nichiren Daishonin.”

With the approval of the council and other committees, the Soka Gakkai decided to accept Chief Priest Narita’s proposal.

Soka Gakkai Joju Gohonzon

The Soka Gakkai was conferred on by High Priest Nitatsu Shonin several Gohonzons to be enshrined in Soka premises.  Although SGI could use any of these Gohonzons to copy and deliver to new members at the time of crisis with the priesthood (who refused issuing Nikken inscribed Gohonzon) - however, in the continuing tradition of respect to Priesthood, the SGI preferred to priorities Nichikan Gohonzon conferred by the Chief Priest of Narita Temple.

        “In 1974, the Soka Gakkai asked High Priest Nittatsu for permission to have several of the    

        Gohonzon in its possession, including the joju Gohonzon enshrined at the Soka Gakkai

        Headquarters, transferred into wooden form in order to preserve them. At that time, Nittatsu

        responded that because these Gohonzon belong to those who received them, they may be

        transferred into wood in order to cherish them based upon faith, indicating that it was up to

        the Soka Gakkai if they wished to do so.

        Upon obtaining Nittatsu’s permission, the Soka Gakkai proceeded, in 1974, to have eight

        Gohonzon reproduced in wooden form. The Seikyo Shimbun, in issues dated January 4 and

        July 17, 1975, reported that the joju Gohonzon at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters and the

        Kansai Headquarters respectively had been transferred to wood. The priesthood expressed

        no complaint or objection to this at the time”.

Soka Gakkai Joju Gohonzon (now enshrined in the Hall of Great Vow for Kosen Rufu in Shinanomachi, Tokyo) was dedicated by High Priest Nittatsu Shonin - as follows:

        For the fulfillment of the Great Vow for Kosen Rufu throughout the Compassionate    

        Propagation of the Great Law - To be Permanently Enshrined in the Soka Gakkai       

        (Japanese: Soka Gakkai Joju). 

It is also referred to as the Soka Gakkai Kosen Rufu Gohonozn. 

Such a highly specific Gohonzon dedicated to the SGI was based on the inscription of the  daiGohonzon  -  and conferred by High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu. 

Based on Nichiren Daishonin’s indication that the Gohonzon is the “Life of Buddha”, all Gohonzon mandalas are equally embodiments of the “Life of Buddha”.  With SGI deep respect to genuine priests, preference in conferring Gohonzon on new members was given to Nichikan Gohonzon (upon request from the Association for the Reformation of Nichiren Shoshu and the Association of Youthful Priests Dedicated to the Reformation of Nichiren Shoshu).  All Gohonozns in possession of SGI were inscribed and conferred by Nichiren Shoshu High Priests.

Nichikan’s Gohonzon depiction of the Ten Worlds

Nichikan Shonin was a High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu who was entitled to inscribe and issue Gohonzon, yet the current Administration of Nichiren Shoshu expressed doubts about the capacity of their own previous High Priest, Nichikan Shonin, to inscribe Gohonzon - only because SGI was conferred with the Gohonozn inscribed by Nichikan Shonin. 

Nichiren Shoshu taught its believers that Nichikan Shonin (their own High Priest) did not know how to correctly inscribe the Okatagi  Gohonzon.  The reason given was that in the depictions of the Ten Worlds, their previous High Priest decided to inscribe the Ten Worlds in form of “groups of worlds”, rather than “individual worlds”. Disregard of Nichiren Shoshu priesthood to the credibility of their own High Priest shows the corrupt way of thinking the current Administration manifests.

In all mandalas inscribed by Nichiren, the central bold characters (NamuMyohoRengeKyo) represent the principle of the Mutual Possession of the Ten Worlds.  According to the Lotus Sutra, the World of Buddhahood is inseparable from the Nine Worlds of existence.  Hence, the world of Buddhahood embodies the principle of the Mutual Possession of theTen Worlds. 

        “Nichiren based the graphic image of the Gohonzon on a scene from the Lotus Sutra and

        on the theory of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, which expresses that the world

        of Buddhahood exists as a potentiality in any given moment or life-condition of an individual.

        In other words, the world of Buddhahood does not lie outside of one's daily existence or

        being - it is inherent in one's life.

        The large characters "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" down the centre of the Gohonzon depict    

       this realisation.

All of the extant 120 mandalas inscribed by Nichiren depict the Mutual Possession - either through individual characters (depicting each of the Ten Worlds) or in groups depicting the Lower or Higher Worlds.  Successive High Priests chose one or the other way of depicting the Ten Worlds, either individually or in groups:

        “Not all of the Gohonzon inscribed by Nichiren are the same by any means.

        For example, of the 120 extant Nichiren inscribed Gohonzon,

       only about a third contain the name Devadatta representing the world of Hell;

       only 65 contain Shariputra and Maudgalayana representing people of the two vehicles,

        and so on.

        After the Daishonin’s death, successive high priests exercised their own judgment

        in how to represent the principle of the Ten Worlds”.

Representing individual Worlds by a “group of worlds”

For practical reasons, the Ten Worlds are sometimes referred to by two sets: one set of the six lower worlds, and the other set of the four higher worlds.  Representing some of the Worlds in one set (or category) is evident in the Lotus Sutra.  For example, the sutra - in more than one chapter - considers the “three vehicles” (the Worlds of Learning, Realisation and Bodhisattva) - not as individually-separated worlds, but - as one group (of higher worlds):

        “The Buddha reveals that the three vehicles: Learning, Realisation and Bodhisattva - are no

        more than expedient means, while the one supreme vehicle of Buddhahood offers the only

        true way to enlightenment”.   The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra vol.1 p. 115

Nichikan Shonin depiction of the three Worlds of the three vehicles Learning, Realisation and Bodhisattva as one group - accords with the Lotus Sutra’s consideration of these three practices as a group (that must be replaced by the one great vehicle of Buddhahood).

Similarly, the Worlds of Greed, Anger and Animality were represented in Nichikan Gohonzon as a group by one character of Kishimojin.  In his Orally Transmitted Teachings, Nichiren states: 

        “Hence we may say that the Goddess Mother of Demon Children and the ten demon

         daughters represent the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds and the hundred worlds

        and thousand factors, that is, the principle of three thousand realms

        in a single moment of life” .  Orally Transmitted Teachings, Ch. 32 Dharani

Nichiren Daishonin also indicated in the further explanation of the Dharani Chapter in the Orally Transmitted Teachings -  that through the Lotus Sutra, one is able to transform the group of lower worlds of Greed, Anger and Foolishness - into the three virtues.

Depiction of the Ten Worlds in Nichikan Gohonzon

While the Mutual Possession of the Ten Worlds is embodied with the central bold characters in the Gohonzon, Nichikan Shonin did also include the Ten Worlds in the form of individual characters and two groups: a group related to the Lower Worlds, and a group of Higher Worlds:

The World of Hell – represented by The Devil King of the Six Heaven.

The Worlds of Hunger, Animality and Anger – represented by a group of the three Lower Worlds, referred to by Kishimojin and the Goddess of Ten Daughters.

The World of Humanity – represented by Zojo, embodying humanity’s powers of growth, progress and development, and by the Upholder of Human Society (Great Heavenly King Jikoku Tenno).

The World Heaven, represented by Heavenly king Bishamon, Shakra, and Bonten

The Worlds of Learning, Realisation and Bodhisattva as a group - represented to by the four Bodhisattvas,

The World of Buddhahood, represented by characters for Shakyamuni and Taho Buddhas.

Some of the Ten Worlds get more than one representation in Nichikan Gohonzon, but all the Ten Worlds are present, illuminated by the central characters of the Mutual Possession of these worlds.  

Nichikan Gohonzon depiction of Ichinen Sanzen

Nichikan Gohonzon depicts various characters symbolising universal functions, such as the Heavenly Kings, which Nichiren Daishonin regarded as inseparable from the Law of MyohoRengeKyo:

        “The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The five groups of supernatural spells

    represent our individual bodies [or Myoho-renge-kyo].  Myō is represented by the ten demon

    daughters, hō by the heavenly king Upholder of the Nation, ren by the heavenly king Increase

    and Growth, ge by the heavenly king Wide-Eyed, and kyō by the heavenly king Vaishravana”.


    The five characters Myoho-renge-kyo thus correspond to the five groups

    of supernatural spells and the five groups of supernatural spells are our individual bodies”.

This interconnectedness between the spirit (or essence) of the characters in the Gohonzon implies that one should look at this mandala as one inseparable image embodying the life of the Three Realms: the individual, society and the environment. 

As Nichiren states, the central characters of MyohoRengeKyo represent both the Mutual Possession of the Ten Worlds and the Ten Factors operating within the life of the individual.  The Law of MyohoRengeKyo is also shared by living beings and Society, as well as by the Environment, which are represented in Nichikan Gohonzon by various characters related to  the powers of human social bonds, and by the powers of nature. 

This is the essence of IchinenSanzen: a concept that teaches that all the mutually possessed states of life of the individual, society and environment – all are eternally present at this moment of our life - opening the possibility for us to aspire to and to acquire the highest state of Buddhahood without any hinderance.

Author: Safwan Darshams


Nichikan Gohonzon map of characters and their essential meaning

A comprehensive map of Nichikan Gohonzon is presented by SGI-USA in its following website page:  SGI-USA Diagram of Gohonzon

A simplified map is presented here: Nichikan Gohonzon Simplified Map         _____________________________________________________________




                                                          Nichiren ShoShu & SGI