October Message – The Gohonzon
On September 25th , the "Gohonzon Conferment Ceremony" was held at the L.A. Dharma Center. Due to the time difference, an online video of the "26th Gohonzon Presentation Ceremony" held at 10:00 a.m. on the previous day (September 25th, Japan time) was broadcasted to the recipients and related people who gathered at the Altar of the LA Center. Ｉ, the minister then conferred the statues, which had been previously left to me at the HQs office, for the representative of each recipient family in LA. This was the first time in the history of Rissho Kosei-kai that the Gohonzon was presented in this way. Each assigned member through the preparation for the event by trial and error gathered together this day.
This was not only the case for LA Dharma center, but all the Centers around the world where there had Gohonzon recipients this year, carried out the ceremony in a same manner. In other words, on this occasion, no one attended the ceremony at the Great Sacred Hall except for the representative of recipients, who were scheduled to receive the Gohonzon at their local Dharma centers later. Since the Gohonzon is the embodiment of the objective of our faith, it cannot be sent, unlike ordinary items. Therefore, about 10 days before the ceremony, I visited the HQs to be handed out from the representative of Rissho Kosei-kai International in HQs and carried it in my arms. On the 19th, after arriving at LAX airport, I went to the L.A. Dharma center and placed the statues temporarily in the posthumous-name room without incident. We are sure that the recipients must have been very moved to see the statue of Buddha that had traveled such a long way to be delivered to them.
Focus of Devotion
In my September message, I shared with you the meaning of “the true way of liberation”. This month, we would like to learn about the meaning of “Take refuge in the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni", which is also mentioned in the “Member’s Vow", along with the significance of “Gohonzon" and “Bestowal of Gohonzon”. Generally speaking, the Gohonzon is the objective of reverence as the focus of one's Faith, which is so-called the focus of devotion. In this sense, every religion and sect should have a focus of devotion. The Focus of Devotion of Rissho Kosei-kai is “The Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni-Great Benevolent Teacher, World Honored One", which can be called the source of eternal life and the Truth or Dharma awakened by Shakyamuni Buddha, a human being who existed in history. Since this name is essentially a personification of the invisible Truth or Dharma, it is abbreviated to “Original Buddha" or “Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni”. In contrast, the Shakyamuni who has realized the Dharma and become a buddha is called “Shakyamuni Buddha" or “Human Buddha". However, as taught in the Lotus Sutra, the "Human Buddha" had the insight that he is one with the “Original Buddha," as eternal life. Therefore, “Shakyamuni Buddha” ultimately become one with “Original Buddha". In order to make this profound and subtle truth visible so that we could realize and see it, in 1964, the Founder enshrined the Focus of Devotion, “The Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni-Great Benevolent Teacher, World Honored One”, at the Great Sacred Hall of the HQs. The luminous image shows the enlightened “Shakyamuni Buddha" united with "the Original Buddha" and filled with compassion to save all sentient beings. Through this image, we can become convinced that the Buddha is preaching the Dharma to save all living beings, transcending time and space, in every age.
I believe that this is the original faith of Rissho Kosei-kai. Thereupon, “take refuge in the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni" means sincerely believing in the Dharma that not only we human beings but all beings in the universe exist through and are caused to live by “the Buddha," the source of all life, and trying to dissolve ourselves into that life with all our hearts. Such an attitude is translated as “Namu" in Chinese. Whenever we chant “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo" or “Nam Founder Nikkyo Great teacher of the One Vehicle" in our daily lives, we are not mere reading the words, but we are also making an oath that we will practice as one with the Truth and following our founder.
Significance of the Gohonzon
When you join Rissho Kosei-kai, you receive a picture flamed Gohonzon, copy of the Gohonzon of the great Sacred Hall. It is a reproduction of an original painting by Miyahara Ryusen, a Buddhist painter, depicting the statue of the Buddha at the Great Sacred Hall, and with it, we are to enshrine the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni to our home. Why, then, is it necessary to offer a new statue or scroll of the Buddha to a person who has further practiced Buddha way from that point on? Some may ask, “Since there is permiating the Dharma, or the Eternal Buddha within and without us, on earth and the universe, there is no need to ask a new Gohonzon?” Let us consider once again the significance of its meaning!
Indeed, the Dharma is everywhere and continues to work without ceasing even for a moment. The function to keep each life alive and to make it grow has continued in the past, is continuing in the present, and will continue for many years to come. Our faith is to take refuge with all our being in the One Life, "the Buddha," which is the origin of all such lives. From this viewpoint, it is true that there is no need for a Gohonzon and that simply contemplating that one life is all that is necessary. However, faith is not a theory. In order to feel that we are one with the “Gohonzon," which symbolizes the “Original Buddha", the truly luminous life, it is necessary to recite the sutras daily in front of the Gohonzon at the family altar and let the words of the Buddha preached therein pervade our hearts. In order to become aware that our true nature is one with the original Buddha, we must continue to practice the specific practice of revering the Buddha nature and become convinced that not only ourselves but also all people are of the precious Buddha nature. This means to realize that our true nature is potentially the Buddha and that we are originally one with the Buddha. New members learn this by picture flamed Gohonzon, but even if they understand it in their minds, they cannot immediately feel it. It is hard to believe that everyone around them is buddha. This is where we learn the importance of the practice of revering the Buddha nature and Bodhisattva conduct. When we put aside our own convenience and practice for the sake of others and our fellow sangha members, our minds become refreshed and filled with a sense of gratitude. When one's mind is in such a state of harmony, the image of the Buddha as shown in the Gohonzon should be reflected in one's mind. In reality, when a statue of the Gohonzon is enshrined, the realization that one is living with the “Eternal Buddha" will deepen even more. In this sense, the enshrinement of the Gohonzon is not only a proof of the deepening of one's faith, but also an opportunity to feel at ease in the perception that one is absolutely protected and guided by the “Eternal Buddha” at all times.
Receiving the Gohonzon
For those who think that they are not ready to apply for the statue because they have not practiced the Lotus Sutra, the Founder encourages, “The fact that you have received such an opportunity is because you have encountered the Lotus Sutra in past lives and had already practiced it”. If we believe that we are precious beings who have originally encountered the teachings of the Buddha from our past lives and have accumulated practice based on the truth, we will surely see things differently.
The ceremony to enshrine the Gohonzon will be held at each house where it has been set up, with the minister, district leaders, one’s parent in faith, and others who have interacted together in the faith and practice. I would like to share with all of you the expansion of the circle of joy and excitement.
Rev. Hiroyasu Hosoyama,
Minister of Los Angeles