Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Buddhist Concept: Gohonzon (Part 2)

This is a continuation of Part 1

It may at first be difficult to believe that the Gohonzon, a physical object, can have such a transforming effect on the lives of those to chant to it. However, Buddhism views the material and the spiritual as fundamentally inseparable. That is, all life manifests itself in both physical and spiritual aspects. There are many pieces of paper that affect how we feel, for example a letter from a loved one and an unexpected tax bill produce very different feelings within us. Both are physical objects, but what they contain and our relationship to them can transform our mood or even our life.

Just as a painting reflects the life-state of the person who created it, the Gohonzon reflects Nichiren Daishonin’s life-state: Buddhahood. By relating to the Gohonzon through chanting and studying the Daishonin’s writings, our own life-state is gradually but surely influenced by our own Buddhahood. As a piece of steel rubbed against a magnet will become magnetized, so our chanting to the Gohonzon brings forth our Buddhahood.

Many people interpreted the teachings of the first historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, as meaning that attaining enlightenment requires many lifetimes of consistent and dedicated Buddhist practice. However, Nichiren Daishonin recognized that in the Lotus Sutra Shakyamuni is in fact describing the effect of enlightenment. He further recognized that the seed, or cause, for the enlightenment of all Buddhas is the universal law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

The Gohonzon embodies the source of enlightenment, Nichiren Daishonin’s life. It is not merely a symbol, or something to focus on while chanting, it is the actual reality of the Buddha’s life. It is the link between the Buddha state in ourselves and the environment. It is not a luck magic charm, but an instrument to see our true potential and use it.

We can prove the validity of the Gohonzon for ourselves through our experience of putting it to the test again and again. The stronger our faith and trust in the Gohonzon, the more we find balance and harmony emerging in our environment, as Daisaku Ikeda explains:

“A person who attains the state of Buddhahood is similar to the atom triggering a fission reaction. His life flow is pure and profuse, and it causes remarkable changes in the depths of other lives. Just as a grass which ash begun to wither can be restored by a good rain, or a caravan stopping at an oasis is revitalized by the fresh water, individuals and their environment will be infused with the power and joy of living when they find themselves in the life flow of Buddhahood. This chain reaction can spread in any kind of environment: from the individual to the family, and to neighbours and the community…As it spreads it imparts to the environment a new, vibrant quality, changes take place on an ever-larger scale and the world is transformed. (Life, An Enigma, A precious Jewel)”

Source: Gohonzon by James Rourke UKE 2000

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