Frequently Asked Questions

We hope you find these questions and answers helpful to you in your practice. If you have any other questions feel free to contact us.

What is Buddhism?

What is Buddhism?

Buddhism is a religion that was established by Shakyamuni Buddha who lived in India nearly 3,000 years ago. He observed people suffering as a result of the inevitable cycles of birth, old age, sickness, and death. In searching for the means to alleviate that suffering, he realized, through his religious practices, that life is impermanent and subject to change, yet at the core of existence is something eternal and immutable—the eternal Law of life, the Law of causality. He clarified this eternity of life, and explained the reasons for the individual circumstances of our day-to-day lives.

Shakyamuni Buddha attained this enlightenment after many years of meditation and study. Then, for the next forty-two years, he expounded to his followers the teachings they should practice, so that they could realize for themselves the same enlightenment and liberation that he had gained. The most devoted followers became monks or nuns and were expected to abstain entirely from sex, intoxicants, and all harmful, abrasive, or frivolous conduct. In addition, the Buddha and his following avoided all luxuries of attire, accommodation, and diet. Like their teacher, the monks and nuns possessed only a robe and begging bowl. They moved constantly from place to place, so that they would not become attached even to such rudimentary shelter as a certain tree or cave. In the afternoon or evening, they would listen to sermons by the Buddha and then put the teachings into practice through meditation. These sermons were also attended by lay followers of the Buddha, interested and sometimes hostile followers of other religious persuasions, and the merely curious. Because of this diverse group of followers, Shakyamuni Buddha realized the necessity of presenting his teachings according to the capacity of the listeners. There were many different sutras that now have been classified according to their level of profundity. After forty-two years, Shakyamuni revealed that up to that point, he had preached only provisional teachings and was now ready to reveal the truth. This truth was the Lotus Sutra, which he expounded during the final eight years of his life.

Nichiren Daishonin is the True Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law, the age in which we now live. He made his advent in this world more than 790 years ago in Japan. Through his study of Shakyamuni’s teachings, he determined the Lotus Sutra to be the only correct teaching for the Latter Day of the Law, a period of time beginning 2,000 years after Shakyamuni’s death. He revealed that all human beings have the potential to attain the enlightened state of Buddhahood in their present lifetime. He was able to reveal that all of life’s phenomena are manifestations of the eternal true entity of life, the Buddha nature.

What is Nam Myoho Renge Kyo?

In the infinite past of kuon-ganjo, the True Buddha named the ultimate Law or true entity of life in the universe as Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. In view of the person, the life of the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin himself is “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.” Literally “Nam” means devotion and “Myoho-Renge-Kyo” is the title of the Lotus Sutra. A simplified translation means “Devotion to the Mystic Law of the Lotus Sutra.”

Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is also called the mystic Law of cause and effect, because within it is both the cause and effect of attaining Buddhahood. “Renge” means Lotus Flower. The Lotus Flower produces its flower and seeds at the same time, representing the simultaneity of cause and effect. The cause is to chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and the effect is attaining enlightenment.

Even though Buddhahood exists within our lives, we are unaware of it until we begin to chant to the Gohonzon. It is important to understand that without fusing with the life of the True Buddha we cannot actualize it in our own lives.

Once we awaken this true entity within our lives we manifest the immeasurable wisdom and power to overcome adversity and reveal our own enlightened life.

Just as the word “India” in­cludes within itself all the mountains, rivers, treasures and people of India, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo in­cludes within itself all of the teachings and benefits of Buddhist practice.

The depth and significance of chanting Daimoku (Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo) cannot be fully explained. You must experience it through practice, in order to grasp the meaning and benefits within your own life.

Who is Shakyamuni Buddha?

Shakyamuni is the historical founder of Buddhism who lived approximately 3,000 years ago. Chinese and Japanese tradition set the date of his birth on April 8, 1029 B.C.E. and his death on February 15, 949 B.C. E. He was born in what is present day Nepal as a prince, the son of King Shuddhodana of the Shakya tribe. According to Buddhist tradition, at the age of nineteen he renounced his princely life, and started his journey as a religious ascetic seeking the truth. At the age of 30, having realized that the severe austerities of ascetic life in India did not lead to an awakening to the ultimate truth, he sat under a pipal tree (also known as the “Bodhi Tree”) and meditated. He attained enlightenment and embarked on a lifelong career of traveling through India, preaching to many disciples and believers to lead them to the same enlightenment.

During the last eight years of his life he expounded the teachings of the “Lotus-Nirvana Period,” in which he taught the principles of the Lotus Sutra, his highest teaching, and instructions for its transmission. Shakyamuni’s teachings in the Lotus Sutra ultimately reveal in the depths of the passages that his status was provisional, and that the True Buddha of kuon-ganjo would appear in the Latter Day of the Law to reveal the Buddhism of the true cause that would lead all humanity to enlightenment.

Who is Nichiren Daishonin?

Nichiren Daishonin is the True Buddha of the infinite past of kuon-ganjo. He is the founder of true Buddhism, Nichiren Shoshu. He is the True Buddha who is eternally endowed with the three enlightened properties, and who eternally possesses the three virtues of sovereign, teacher and parent. He fulfilled the purpose of his advent into this world by inscribing the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching on October 12, 1279 so that all the people of the Latter Day of the Law can eradicate their evil karma and attain Buddhahood. He was born on February 16, 1222 and physically passed away on October 13, 1282.

Learn More About the Life of Nichiren Daishonin >

What is the Gohonzon?

The object of worship of Nichiren Shoshu is the life of the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. In order to save his disciples and believers who would take faith after his passing, the Daishonin inscribed his enlightened life in the form of a mandala as the object of worship. It is called the Dai-Gohonzon. By inscribing the Dai-Gohonzon, Nichiren Daishonin established the cause for the universal propagation of true Buddhism and the securing of peace throughout the world. All Gohonzons enshrined in temples and homes of believers are transcriptions of the Dai-Gohonzon and derive their power from it.
When we are seated before the Gohonzon, we should realize that we are in the presence of the True Buddha.

Our devotion to the Buddha, expressed through our sincere chanting of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, is the means by which we can fuse our lives with the life of the Buddha. While in this state of fusion, the powers of the Buddha and the Law permeate our existence, purifying our minds, extinguishing our evil karma, and planting seeds of wisdom, compassion, and virtue in our lives.

Having established the correct object of worship and the correct way of faith and practice to manifest the Gohonzon’s beneficial power within the lives of believers, the Daishonin transferred the living entity of his inner enlightenment to his sole successor, the Second High Priest, Nikko Shonin. This transmission, entrusted to a single person, is the basis upon which each successive High Priest transcribes the Gohonzons that are bestowed upon disciples and believers of succeeding generations. This unbroken flow of the Buddha’s life between master and disciple is the means by which the Daishonin’s enlightenment will remain in the world to save all mankind throughout eternity.

All believers of Nichiren Shoshu are granted a Gohonzon that is loaned to them by the Head Temple, so they can worship in their own homes. The Gohonzon is transcribed only by the High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu. The chief priest of the local temple bestows the Gohonzon to believers who are ready to receive.

What is the Dai Gohonzon?

The Dai-Gohonzon is the embodiment of the enlightened life condition of Nichiren Daishonin and fundamental object of worship in Nichiren Shoshu. It was inscribed by Nichiren Daishonin on October 12, 1279. It was the purpose of his advent into this world as the True Buddha. All Gohonzons of Nichiren Shoshu are derived from the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teachings.

What is Karma?

Karma is a Sanskrit word that means action, and encompasses the results of the action. If one hurts another, the action vanishes when the event is over, but the physical and emotional consequences remain.

Karma is action that creates an influence over future events in one’s life. Karma is created by three categories of action: thoughts, words, and deeds, which include all the activities in life.

From this, we can understand the relationship of cause and effect in the present. Those in sports and music will get good results if they exercise and practice. This is a simple example of cause and effect in one’s present life. The principle of karma in Buddhism goes beyond one’s present life. In Buddhism, results that manifest in one’s present life can be due to behavior in past lives. This principle also extends into the future.

The Sutra of the Foundation in Observing the Mind (Shinjikan-gyo) states:

If you wish to know the causes you have accumulated in the past [in your past existences], look at the effects that are manifested in the present. And if you wish to know the effects that will be manifested in the future, look at the causes you are accumulating in the present…”

(Gosho, p. 571)

The life into which one was born is a current result brought about by karma created in past lives. One’s actions in the present will show in one’s future. Causes accumulated in the past are called past karma, and the causes currently created are called present karma.

The way to change Karma:

Nichiren Daishonin’s teaching is not fatalism. It is the teaching that allows us to truly change our karma, as he demonstrated in his own life. The Daishonin states in “Letter from Sado”:

My present exile is not because of any crime. It is solely so that I may expiate in this lifetime my past heavy slanders and be freed from the three evil paths in the next.

(Gosho, p. 580; MW-1, p. 38)

The Daishonin said he eradicated his past karma by enduring the persecution of the Sado exile. Moreover, he said that he could open a way for the future that would be free from the three evil paths.

If we believe in the true Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin and chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, we can observe our lives, change our karma, and build a strong life force that will enable us to overcome any difficulty and establish a truly happy life.

What is Benefit in Buddhism?

When we practice to the Gohonzon with faith, the great life condition of Buddhahood will manifest in the depths of our lives. We can expiate our negative karma from the past and experience it as a lesser effect. We are, at once, able to lessen the heavy suffering, both material and spiritual, that would have manifested in our present life as a result of negative past causes.

What is more, for the practitioner of Nichiren Shoshu, the lesser negative effects can be changed into great benefit. This is called hendoku iyaku, the Buddhist term for “changing poison into medicine.” No matter how many problems and sufferings may arise, if we muster strong faith and never give up this practice, these situations will be resolved. Moreover, our life condition will open up to a life of greater happiness. This is the Gohonzon’s great benefit, changing misfortune into happiness. To state a few examples: poor health can change into good health, poverty can become financial stability, a selfish person can become a person of noble character, and family discord can be transformed into true family happiness.

Thus, by overcoming our sufferings and problems, we arefilled with a strong life force and enjoy true fulfillment. The force that impels us to accomplish this is Buddhahood welling up within our hearts as a result of our faith in the Gohonzon. The greatest benefit is the attainment of Buddhahood in one’s present form.

The attainment of Buddhahood in one’s present form is the life condition symbolized by the four virtues ofJo, Raku, Ga, and Jo. Jo (eternity) is an indestructible eternal life. Raku (happiness) is a feeling of absolute (as opposed to “relative”) happiness from enjoyment of living itself. Ga (true self) is a strong and harmonious will, undisturbed by any outside influence. Jo (purity) is a pure life, unaffected by outside influences.

Conspicuous and Inconspicuous Benefit

By having strong faith in Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, all people can attain the life condition of absolute happiness, or Buddhahood. As proof, benefit is revealed by the effect of Buddhahood welling up inside the life of the believer. The emergence of the great power of benefit from the Gohonzon will provide absolute proof, leaving no room for doubt.

In Nichiren Daishonin’s words:

Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is like the roar of a lion. What sickness can therefore be an obstacle? It is written that those who embrace the Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra will be protected by Kishimojin and her ten daughters. They will enjoy the happiness of Aizen and the good fortune of Bishamon. Wherever your daughter may frolic or play, no harm will come to her; she will be free from fear like the lion king.
(MW, Vol. 1, p. 119; Gosho, p. 685)

There are two kinds of benefit: conspicuous and inconspicuous. In the Latter Day of the Law, inconspicuous benefit is most important. Conspicuous benefit is an obvious realization of our prayers. But the greater benefit is inconspicuous benefit, which appears gradually over time.

As one accepts and embraces the Gohonzon, and strives in faith, various conspicuous benefits will often be experienced in accordance with the time and the situation, such as the benefit for the beginner in faith, the protection of the Shoten Zenjin when one is facing a problem that needs to be solved, or when one’s life or livelihood is on the edge. These conspicuous benefits are but a small part of the benefit from the Gohonzon in comparison to inconspicuous benefits.

By experiencing the benefit of the Gohonzon, one can be firmly convinced of achieving the life condition of “attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form,” which is the greatest of all inconspicuous benefits, and is the purpose of our faith.

What are the Three Treasures?

The three treasures are what all Buddhists revere as the most precious treasures in the universe. They are the Buddha, the Law, and the priesthood. The Buddha is one who is enlightened to the eternal truth of life and the universe and possesses the three virtues of sovereign, teacher, and parent. The Law is the teaching that the Buddha teaches through his own enlightenment. The priesthood signifies the disciples of the Buddha who inherit, protect, and transmit the teachings to future generations. In Nichiren Shoshu the Buddha is Nichiren Daishonin, the eternal True Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law. The Law is the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of True Buddhism, and the priesthood is Nikko Shonin, the Second High Priest, who directly received the transmission of true Buddhism, and all of the successive High Priests of Nichiren Shoshu who have received this face to face transmission in an unbroken succession for over 750 years.

What are the Three Great Secret Laws?

The Three Great Secret Laws are the principles that constitute the core and foundation of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism. They are the True Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching, the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching, and the Daimoku of the Essential Teaching.

The True Object of Worship is the Dai-Gohonzon, inscribed by Nichiren Daishonin on October 12,1279. Within the Dai-Gohonzon are the person and the Law. The person is the eternal enlightened life of the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. The Law is Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to which the Daishonin is eternally enlightened.

The True High Sanctuary is the place where the Dai-Gohonzon will be enshrined at the time of kosen-rufu so that all the people in the world can eradicate their negative karma and attain enlightenment. At the present time it is enshrined in the Hoando Enshrinement Hall at the Nichiren Shoshu Head Temple, Taisekiji. In a general sense, it also signifies the place where the Gohonzon is enshrined in local temples and believers’ homes.

The Daimoku of the Essential Teaching is Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. It carries the significance of both faith and practice. Nichiren Daishonin established the Daimoku of the Essential Teaching by chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo for the first time on April 28, 1253.

What are the Ten Worlds?

Our life condition determines how we face and handle each situation in life and the environments we create. It is a basic tendency to act in a particular way, make causes to stay healthy, acquire things, and enjoy life. Buddhism calls these life conditions “worlds,” and they number ten: hell, hunger, animality, anger, tranquillity or humanity, rapture, learning, realization, bodhisattva (compassion, service to others), and Buddhahood.

The causes we make are conceived in our minds. Our bodies move to give these ideas a form, such as our homes, human relationships, our communities, cities, nations, states, and the world. Just as our body and mind are inseparable, people and their environments are also inseparable. We can only create a reflection of the life tendency or “world” that we are in. For example, people who have a basic life condition of hell will create an environment that reflects this condition. What do you see as you look at your own environment or at the world we have collectively created?

Regardless of our basic life condition, or of what “world” we are in, our emotions and experiences do not remain stable. Everyone will experience anger, joy, calmness, and learning something new. A person in hell can experience rapture when his pain is temporarily relieved. People who are in the world of Bodhisattva feel rapture when they are able to help someone, but might be plunged into anger when they see someone mistreat others and be plunged into hell because they can do nothing about it. Each of the ten life conditions contains the potential for all ten within itself. It is a person’s interaction with his or her environment that determines which of the ten worlds will manifest in life at any given time.

The important point to remember is that just as we all possess the potential to manifest the worlds of anger, rapture, and learning, we also possess the potential to manifest the world of Buddhahood when we fuse our lives with the Gohonzon through strong and steady faith and practice.

What is Slander?

Slander (Jpn. hobo) is a Buddhist term. It is short for “slandering the true Law.” The Chinese character hoin hobo means “slander.” This refers to language and actions that go against or make light of the true teaching. The Daishonin states the following:

Slander means to go against true Buddhism.
(Gosho, p. 286 [summary])

He also states:

Slander means to slander the Buddha and the priesthood.
(Gosho, p. 608 [summary])

When we disparage or harbor disbelief toward the Buddha and refuse to listen to the High Priest’s guidance, we are slandering the three treasures of the Buddha, Law, and priesthood. To put it simply, slander means actions and words equating to what the Buddha admonishes us “not to do.”

One should be careful not to further commit slander by agreeing with individuals who continuously slander. The Daishonin teaches us:

Nor should you associate with slanderers, for if you do, you will share the same guilt as they. This you should fear above all.
(Gosho, p. 1458; MW-1, p. 256)

If you cooperate with people who criticize true Buddhism, and if you do not correct people who believe in teachings other than the Daishonin’s true Law by saying “What you believe in is not the true teaching,” then this is the same as committing slander. One should also avoid visiting or making offerings at religious shrines, or purchasing “good luck charms” or tags. These actions go against the Daishonin’s teachings. In Buddhism, there is a doctrine called the 14 slanders. If we become lazy in our Buddhist practice, skipping Gongyo, Shodai, and shakubuku, or if we act in an envious manner and speak ill of Nichiren Shoshu priests or Hokkeko members, these actions all constitute slander.

Strict Admonishment Against Slander

The Daishonin shows us that the offense of slander is even more serious than committing the five cardinal sins (Gosho, p.609). The five cardinal sins are to kill one’s father, to kill one’s mother, to kill an arhat, to injure a Buddha causing him to bleed, and to cause disharmony between the priesthood and laity. When we commit slander, we make causes that will lead us to a truly unhappy life. In Nichiren Shoshu, slander was strictly admonished more than 700 years ago. Nikko Shonin firmly protected the Daishonin’s teachings and strictly admonished against slander. The Daishonin states the following in the Gosho, “Admonition Against Slander”:

To seek enlightenment without repudiating slander is as futile as trying to find water in the midst of fire or fire in the midst of water.
(Gosho, p.1040; MW-1 p. 165)

The Daishonin teaches us that if we commit slander, we never can be happy. Please remember that it is a matter of course that we should not slander. The admonitions we receive to refrain from slander are for our own benefit. Also, we must shakubuku as many people as possible.

Good Luck Charms and Holidays of Other Religions

In Japan, there is a custom of decorating Darumas—Bodhidharma dolls, which are considered to be symbols of optimism and good fortune—or maneki neko (lucky cats). Some people believe that these ornaments bring prosperity in business and in personal life. When Japanese students visit shrines during school field trips, they find many lucky charms and tags for sale, and it is a Japanese custom to purchase such amulets, which they believe will protect them from car accidents and help them to be successful in school. These charms, however, hold no meaning. Purchasing such items and wearing them or hanging them up in the house is a negative cause that goes against the teachings of true Buddhism.

Two very popular holidays in the West are Christmas and Hanukah. Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Hanukah is a Jewish holiday celebrating the rededication of the Second Temple. Nichiren Shoshu believers do not observe holidays such as these, which are festivals of other religions. Participating in holidays and ceremonies of other religions constitutes slander, since these are provisional teachings. These events may seem to be enjoyable, but we firmly should keep our promise to the Daishonin and be extremely cautious not to commit slander. Hokkeko believers with questions regarding slander should seek guidance from their chief priest.

Does Nichiren Shoshu Teach Silent Meditation?

There is a principle in general Buddhism called the three types of learning. They are precepts, meditation, and wisdom. Precepts are meant to help the people stop evil in thoughts, words, and deeds. Meditation fosters a focused and tranquil mind. Wisdom helps one conquer illusions and awaken to the truth. All of the doctrines and practices of Buddhism fall into one of these three categories.

Silent meditation was an appropriate practice in earlier forms of Buddhism that suited the capacity of the people in earlier ages. Now in this period, which we call the Latter Day of the Law, silent meditation no longer brings benefit. The correct three types of learning in the Latter Day of the Law correspond to the Three Great Secret Laws revealed by the true Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. Precepts correspond to the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching. Meditation refers to the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary. Wisdom corresponds to the Daimoku (Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo) of the Essential Teaching.

Thus, Nichiren Shoshu believers do not conduct silent meditation, a practice that is not suited to this time period. The practice of true Buddhism is chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to the Gohonzon.

What is the Difference Between Zen Buddhism and Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism?

The Zen sect asserts that enlightenment is not to be found in the pursuit of doctrinal studies, but only through the direct perception of one’s own mind with the practice of meditation. Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism is based on the Lotus Sutra, which is the Buddha’s legitimate teaching. Nichiren Daishonin stated:

The Zen sect rejects the sutras. It claims that they are in the category of the written word. Instead, it teaches “a separate transmission outside the sutras, independent of scripture or words.”
(Gosho, p. 1308)

Thus, their arguments are based merely upon the worlds of the teachers of doctrine and not upon the Buddha’s teaching. The Daishonin said:

When he taught the metaphor of the five flavors, correlating them to the five periods, the Buddha proclaimed that the Lotus Sutra alone was supreme. He stated that of all the sutras he “has preached, now preaches, and will preach,” the Lotus Sutra is unrivaled on the path to attain enlightenment. These are the golden words of the Buddha.
(Gosho, p. 1309)

Therefore, we can attain enlightenment only through the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, but we cannot manifest the Buddha nature by the practice of mere meditation.

Does Buddhism Believe in a Supreme Being or God?

Buddhism has a completely different view of life than monotheistic forms of religion. Buddhism teaches the eternity of life, spanning the three existences of past, present, and future. It teaches that all beings, both sentient and insentient, go through an eternal cycle of birth and death, and appear according to internal causes (karma) and external causes (conditions in the environment).

Since each being comes into existence based on causes made in the past, Buddhism does not teach a doctrine of creation or the existence of a supreme being. The practitioner of true Buddhism realizes that one’s present existence and future destiny is completely dependent on causes made in the past and present. The practice of Nichiren Shoshu enables one to create the highest cause, through chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to the Gohonzon and teaching the practice to others. Thus, through chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, one can eradicate negative karma from past causes and establish a happy life now and in the future.

Buddhist Practice in Daily Life

How Do I Begin My Buddhist Practice?

The journey of faith in Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism begins by chanting “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo“ to the Dai-Gohonzon – the True Object of Worship – for this time period called the Latter Day of the Law. The Dai-Gohonzon was inscribed by the True Buddha Nichiren Daishonin for the enlightenment of all humanity. The Dai-Gohonzon is the very life of the True Buddha Nichiren Daishonin Chanting “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo“ to the Gohonzon, with the Dai-Gohonzon as the source, allows one to eradicate their negative karma, awaken their inherent Buddha nature and personally experience the true benefit of enlightenment.

Those beginning their Buddhist practice receive Gojukai, the ceremony in which people accept the precepts of Nichiren Shoshu and become disciples of the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. Shortly thereafter – once the new member has shown sincere efoort to practice consistently, he/she can request to receive a Gohonzon to enshrine in their home. The Gohonzon is presented to us throught the compassionate virtue of the High Preist for our enlightenment. Please treat the Gohonzon with the deepest reverence and respect. The Gohonzon is never allowed to be photographed, videotaped, photocopied or duplicated. Only the High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu may transcribe the Gohonzon.

Steps to Receive Gojukai & Gohonzon

1. Chant Consistantly

Once you’ve made the decision to practice trueBuddhism, it is most important to do Gongyo and chant Daimoku consistently.

Daily practice consists of Gongyo (reciting the Liturgy, Gongyo book) and Daimoku (chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo as much as possible). Choose an area in your home that is specifically set aside for this purpose. Purchase the Liturgy of Nichiren Shoshu (Gongyo) book and Juzu (prayer beads). You will also need a bag or cloth to wrap these items to keep them clean and protect
them from damage.

Gongyo is performed twice each day – morning and evening. It is sometimes difficult to discipline ourselves to do Gongyo consistently. It is easier if you set aside time each morning, before leaving for work or beginning your day, and when you arrive home in the evening, before starting anything else. By practicing this way, your life will steadily improve, day by day, and you will experience great joy in your daily life.

Chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo as much as possible following Gongyo. Of course, you may also chant Diamoku any time during the day, as often as you like, at your home or at the temple.

Your sponsor, the person who introduced you to Nichiren Shoshu, should be able to help you learn how to pronounce the words. There are also instructions in the front of your Gongyo book. It is easier to learn in a group setting. There are local meetings where Gongyo lessons are held. Please ask about these and other meetings to attend that will help you learn more about this practice.

Nichiren Shoshu True Buddhism is based on faith, practice and study. To receive the most benefit, it is important to be consistent, and in order to understand Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, you need the correct materials for study.

2. Study

Complete the subscription form for the Nichiren Shoshu Monthly, choosing a 3 month, 6 month, or 1 year subscription before receiving Gojukai and Gohonzon. Vital information about Nichiren Shoshu and guidance from our High Priest is provided on a monthly basis in this magazine. There are other important books available for purchase at the temple bookstore, such as Basics of Practice and Nichiren Shoshu Ceremonies.

3. Receive Gojukai

When you are ready to make the commitment to accept faith, let your sponsor know. He or she will request an application form for membership in Nichiren Shoshu. Gokuyo (offering) should be included with your application and submitted on the day you receive Gojukai. Then, decide which Sunday works best for you. On the Sunday you accept faith (Gojukai) arrive at the Temple early, 9:30AM or so, to meet with your sponsor and make sure you have all your paperwork signed and approved. It is best to sit in the front row with your sponsor.

Ceremony will begin. This ceremony forms an eternal bond between you and the Gohonzon and formally initiates you into Nichiren Shoshu. Gojukai is received only once in a lifetime. First, someone will read the explanation of the Gojukai Ceremony. Then you will be asked to stand in front of the chief priest to receive Gojukai – the ceremony to accept the precept. You should have your Juzu Beads in your hands.

The following 3 questions will be asked (after each question, answer “I do”).

  1. Do you faithfully swear to practice the true teachings of Nichiren Daishonin throughout your life?
  2. Do you faithfully swear to protect the Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws throughout your life?
  3. Do you faithfully swear to keep the precept of Nichiren Shoshu throughout your life?

By answering “I do” to each question, you show your determination to protect and uphold the Gohonzon.

While everyone continuously chants, the priest will touch the top of your head with a special Joju Gohonzon.

4. Prepare An Altar

Purchase a Butsudan (altar), to enshrine the Gohonzon, and also Butsugu (candlesticks, incense burner and incense, vases for greens, and water cup), in preparation to receive the Gohonzon. Your sponsor or Kanji (board member), will assist you in choosing the correct placement for your altar in your home. It should be in a safe, quiet place where you can do Gongyo and chant undisturbed.

5. Receive Gohonzon

When you are ready to make the commitment to receive the Gohonzon, let your sponsor know. He or she will request an application form to receive the Gohonzon. (You must be practicing correctly for your application to be accepted). Gokuyo (offering) should be included with your application and submitted on the day you receive the Gohonzon. Then, decide which Sunday works best for you.

On the Sunday you receive the True Object of Worship (Gohonzon), arrive at the Temple early, 9:30AM or so, to meet with your sponsor and make sure you have all your paperwork signed and approved. It is best to sit close to the front with your sponsor.

Ceremony will begin. You will be asked to stand in front of the chief priest to receive the Gohonzon. You should have your Juzu beads in your hand, your gongyo book open and a fukusa (cloth for wrapping beads) layed on top of the Gongyo book. If you don’t have a fukusa you can omit it. It is not recommended to use a handkerchief that was used for a different purpose previously.

The priest will place the Gohonzon in your sutra book, which you will be holding open in your hands.

Arrangements should have been made in advance for your sponsor or Kanji Board member to enshrine your Gohonzon at your home as soon after the ceremony as possible. The final step is to continue your Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist practice throughout your life, and receive abundant benefit, happiness, and growth each day. Share this practice with your friends and relatives (shakubuku) so that they, too, can begin to change their lives for the better. Start saving to attend tozan (pilgrimage to the Head Temple) as soon as possible.

If you have any question about the care of the Gohonzon or would like to learn more about Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism please contact the temple to learn more!

What is the Significance of Gojukai: The Oath of Acceptance?

Gojukai is the ceremony during which a person officially joins Nichiren Shoshu and becomes a believer. The word Gojukai literally means, “The Acceptance of the Precept.”

In earlier forms of Buddhism, practitioners followed various rules of discipline and behavior called “precepts.” In some forms of Hinayana Buddhism there were 250 precepts for monks and 500 precepts for nuns. In Mahayana Buddhism, some schools followed the ten major and forty-eight minor precepts taught in the “Brahma Net Sutra.” The ten major precepts included prohibitions against stealing, lying, disparaging others, and belittling the Three Treasures. The forty-eight minor precepts included warnings against consuming intoxicants, eating meat or the five kinds of pungent plants, carrying weapons, traveling in dangerous places, and teaching the Dharma for profit.

However, the Daishonin taught that we cannot gain any benefit by following such precepts now, in the Latter Day of the Law. Instead, we uphold the one great Precept of embracing the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary. This is the direct path to the attainment of Buddhahood in our present form. The True Buddha called this precept, the “Precept of the Diamond Chalice.” In the Gosho “Teaching, Practice, and Proof” the Daishonin states:

The five characters of Myoho-Renge-Kyo, the heart of the Essential Teaching of the Lotus Sutra, contain all the benefits amassed by the beneficial practices and meritorious deeds of all the Buddhas throughout the past, present and future. Then, how can this phrase not include the benefits obtained by observing all the Buddha’s precepts? Once the practitioner embraces this perfectly endowed mystic precept, he cannot break it, even if he should try. It is therefore called the Precept of the Diamond Chalice. (Shinpen; p. 1109; MW-4; p.129)

The Great Teacher Dengyo compared the principle of the true entity of all phenomena expounded in the Lotus Sutra to a diamond chalice, which is impossible to break. By observing the single precept of embracing the Gohonzon, we receive the benefit of embracing all other good precepts.

Gojukai is the Ceremony where the new believer accepts this “Precept of the Diamond Chalice” and vows to practice throughout his or her life. The spirit of upholding this precept of Nichiren Shoshu is expressed through the “Oath of Acceptance” taken by the new practitioner during Gojukai.

The “Oath of Acceptance” is the vow that is made to the Three Treasures of True Buddhism. The priest asks three questions, and all participants make their vow by answering “I do” to each question. This constitutes their entry onto the pure path of faith:

The Oath of Acceptance

  1. “Do you faithfully swear to practice the True Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin throughout your life?”This vow means that we promise to renounce all other religious laws, masters, and doctrines. We swear that, from this day forward, we will practice only the pure teachings of Nichiren Shoshu.
  2. “Do you faithfully swear to protect the Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws throughout your life?”This vow means that we promise to discard all other religious objects of worship and to uphold the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching as the one and only True Object of Worship. We swear to protect the Gohonzon with our life, and to revere it as the enlightened life of the True Buddha.
  3. “Do you faithfully swear to keep the Precept of Nichiren Shoshu throughout your life?”This vow means that we promise to continue our practice to the Gohonzon for the remainder of our lives. It includes the promise to do our best to “practice for ourselves” (jigyo), and to “practice for the sake of others” (keta). We are therefore making the determination to never miss Gongyo and to do shakubuku. This Precept also contains the principle of practicing honestly and living our daily life honestly.

By answering “I do” the new believer accepts the Precept and makes a determination to uphold the teachings of True Buddhism. At the same time, all other members present also answer “I do.” This renews their commitment to practice together with the new members in itai doshin, and to strive for the advancement of Kosen-rufu.

What is the Meaning of Gongyo and the Silent Prayers?

What is Gongyo?

Gongyo is to recite the Lotus Sutra and chant Daimoku in front of the Gohonzon. The practitioners of Nichiren Shoshu have been carrying out the practice of Gongyo since the time of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin. We recite the first part of the Hoben (“Expedient Means”-2nd) Chapter and the entire Juryo (“Life Span”-16th) Chapter of the sutra and chant the Daimoku – Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo – to the Gohonzon.

Practicing morning and evening Gongyo allows us to purify our lives, establish a happy life condition, and create our own desirable futures. Performing Gongyo every day without fail is a critical aspect of our practice.

We perform all five silent prayers in the morning and three silent prayers (the second, the third and the fifth silent prayers) in the evening.

The Silent Prayers

The First Silent Prayer

In this prayer, we offer the essence of the Mystic Law (Myoho) to the Shoten zenjin who protect the True Buddha and the Law at all times.

The Shoten zenjin gain their power to protect living beings from the essence of the True Law. This protection is included in the beneficial effects of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, hidden in the depths of the Juryo Chapter. Therefore, we offer the Shoten zenjin the essence of the Law and pray so that they may have increased power to protect the Mystic Law

The Second Silent Prayer

In the Second Silent Prayer, we express gratitude to the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching, which is the essence of the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin, and give the highest praise to its great, beneficial effects.

Next, we offer appreciation to Nichimoku Shonin, who inherited the True Law from Nikko Shonin. Then, we express gratitude for all the successive High Priests.

The Third Silent Prayer

In the Third Silent Prayer, we acknowledge the virtues of Nichiren Daishonin: sovereign, teacher and parent to all people. We offer Him our thanks and repay our debt of gratitude. Following this, we praise the merits of the Second High Priest, Nikko Shonin, who received the Law of the Daishonin and directly passed it down. Nikko Shonin protected the Dai-Gohonzon and founded the head Temple, Taisekiji.

Next, we offer appreciation to Nichimoku Shonin, who inherited the True Law from Nikko Shonin. Then, we express gratitude for all the successive High Priests.

The Fourth Silent Prayer

In the Fourth Silent Prayer, we pray for the extensive propagation of the True Law. This prayer is entitled “Prayer for Worldwide Propagation.” When all the nations of the world become devout believers in the Mystic Law, global peace is certain. Kosen-rufu is possible through the efforts toward extensive propagation. Practicing shakubuku in order to accomplish wide-spread dissemination of the Law means that we devote ourselves to the Daishonin’s teachings because we are His faithful disciples.

With this spirit, the successive High Priests have been continuously conducting Ushitora Gongyo at the Head Temple every single day since it was initiated by Nikko Shonin. The High Priests have been praying for world-wide peace based on the expansive propagation of the True Law. In the same way, we, the members of Hokkeko, pray for propagation in this prayer and pledge our utmost efforts towards shakubuku.

In the second half of the fourth prayer, we pray to expiate karmic hindrances due to past slander and determine to deepen our faith. Additionally, we pray for our families’ harmony and comfort, and to achieve our individual goals.

The Fifth Silent Prayer

In the Fifth Silent Prayer, we perform a memorial prayer for the deceased. In this memorial prayer, we offer deceased individuals the benefits produced by reciting the sutra and chanting Daimoku. There is no other way for a deceased individual to attain Buddhahood. A prayer offered to the Gohonzon is the highest cause. That is why we make this supreme memorial prayer for the deceased.

Lastly, we recite “May the impartial benefits of Myoho-Renge-Kyo spread equally to the farthest reaches of the universe so that I, together with all other existence, may attain the tranquil state of enlightened life.” This means that all life in the universe is to be embraced by the merits of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and all can attain Buddhahood, equally. We pray that the land in which we live is filled with the merits of the Gohonzon. Then, we chant three Daimoku, and end Gongyo.

Hiki-Oaimoku is pronounced Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. By chanting these prolonged Daimoku after each recitation of the sutra we can express the meaning of the Mystic Law hidden in the depths of the Juryo Chapter.

In the evening, we offer the second, the third and the fifth prayers of Gongyo

Reciting the Hoben and Juryo Chapters

The reason for reciting the Hoben Chapter and the Juryo Chapter during Gongyo can be found in the Gosho, “Recitation of the Hoben and Juryo Chapters,” which states:

All chapters of the Lotus Sutra are excellent, but there are none better than the Hoben Chapter and Juryo Chapter. The others are, as it were, branches and leaves grown from the trunk of a tree. You should acknowledge this whenever you recite the Hoben Chapter and the Juryo Chapter. (Gosho, p. 303)

Accordingly, the Hoben Chapter and the Juryo Chapter are the core of both the Theoretical (Shakumon) and Essential’ (Honmon) Teachings of the Lotus Sutra. The Daishonin, of course, always read both chapters. It is important to keep in mind that this practice is to show the meaning and benefit of Daimoku – Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. Gongyo is called the supporting practice (Jo gyo), while chanting the Daimoku is called the primary practice (Sho gyo)

The Correct Attitude Towards Gongyo

It is important that we devotedly perform both morning and evening Gongyo in our daily practice of True Buddhism. Nevertheless, each individual’s situation varies. For example, different occupations require different work hours. Therefore, we perform morning and evening Gongyo according to our schedules.

During morning Gongyo, we pray that we may spend a meaningful day as children of the Buddha, and that we may realize the merit of Myoho in our lives. In order to make a fresh start daily, we recite the five prayers in the morning. During evening Gongyo, we extend sincere gratitude to the Three Treasures (the Buddha, the Law and the Priesthood) for protecting us throughout the day.

Because the practice of Gongyo is so important, we must sit up straight and pay attention while facing the altar. During Gongyo, hold the Juzu beads in your hands, look at the sutra and read each word precisely.

When chanting Daimoku during Gongyo, put your hands together and hold them at the chest naturally. Look at the character “Myo” on the Gohonzon as much as possible. Again, there is no restriction as to how much or how long you must chant Daimoku. You may chant as long as you like. The Fifty-ninth High Priest, Nichiko Shonin, said:

To properly offer Daimoku, we should be careful to recite the words without negligence and put everything else out of our mind. Don’t chant with your voice too loud or too fast. (Koyo, 134)

We should face the Gohonzon solemnly and chant Daimoku calmly.

Taking the initiative to visit the Temples or the propagation centers where they are available, and doing Gongyo and chanting Daimoku under the leadership of priests are essential to learn how to properly conduct Gongyo and to chant Daimoku correctly. Until new believers learn the daily practice, those who introduced them should demonstrate a good example by performing Gongyo with them.

The Benefits of Performing Gongyo and Chanting Daimoku

The Daishonin said, in “Conversation Between a Sage and an Unenlightened Man”:

If only you chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, then what offense could fail to be eradicated? What blessing could fail to come? This is the truth, and it is extremely profound. You should believe and accept it. (Gosho, p. 406; d. MW, vol. 5, p. 110-111)

As we are common mortals suffering from numerous difficulties, we will never be able to comprehend the Mystic Law or manifest the Buddha nature in our lives by ourselves. Therefore, we must perform Gongyo and chant Daimoku faithfully towards the Gohonzon, which is the manifestation of the True Buddha’s enlightened realization of Myoho. The Gohonzon embodies the ultimate merit, great benevolence, and will free us of suffering. During Gongyo, the Daishonin’s powers-the power of the Buddha and the power of the Law unite with the power of our faith and the power of our practice. Performing Gongyo is the only way to cause Buddhahood to manifest in our minds and inspire us to make great efforts. As the result of this, we can lead joyful and powerful lives.

The Twenty-sixth High Priest of the Head Temple, Nichikan Shonin, said:

The Gohonzon is endowed with power that is vast and deep, and works marvels. By chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to this Gohonzon we are able to realize our wishes, eradicate our negative karma, accumulate fortune, and carry out truth in our lives. (Mandan p. 189)

Believers have experiences of recovering from illness and overcoming poverty. This is proof of the Gohonzon’s beneficial effects. Whatever difficulties they may have overcome, these are only partial revelations of the Gohonzon’s power. These are superficial and temporary benefits, and are not all of the Gohonzon’s merits. We must apply ourselves and perform Gongyo and chant Daimoku every morning and evening. We must also devote ourselves to carry out shakubuku. Moreover, we must continue to maintain faith for three years, five years, ten years and more to open the door to and become closer to Buddhahood, which exists in our lives.

The purpose of faith is to attain Buddhahood, which is the highest realm. We must believe in the Gohonzon with our hearts, always perform Gongyo, and faithfully chant Daimoku to the Gohonzon. This is the only way to attain Buddhahood.

The “Oath of Acceptance” is taken by the new practitioner during Gojukai.

The “Oath of Acceptance” is the vow that is made to the Three Treasures of True Buddhism. The priest asks three questions, and all participants make their vow by answering “I do” to each question. This constitutes their entry onto the pure path of faith:

The Oath of Acceptance

  1. “Do you faithfully swear to practice the True Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin throughout your life?”This vow means that we promise to renounce all other religious laws, masters, and doctrines. We swear that, from this day forward, we will practice only the pure teachings of Nichiren Shoshu.
  2. “Do you faithfully swear to protect the Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws throughout your life?”This vow means that we promise to discard all other religious objects of worship and to uphold the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching as the one and only True Object of Worship. We swear to protect the Gohonzon with our life, and to revere it as the enlightened life of the True Buddha.
  3. “Do you faithfully swear to keep the Precept of Nichiren Shoshu throughout your life?”This vow means that we promise to continue our practice to the Gohonzon for the remainder of our lives. It includes the promise to do our best to “practice for ourselves” (jigyo), and to “practice for the sake of others” (keta). We are therefore making the determination to never miss Gongyo and to do shakubuku. This Precept also contains the principle of practicing honestly and living our daily life honestly.

By answering “I do” the new believer accepts the Precept and makes a determination to uphold the teachings of True Buddhism. At the same time, all other members present also answer “I do.” This renews their commitment to practice together with the new members in itai doshin, and to strive for the advancement of Kosen-rufu.

How Do I Do Gongyo (recite the sutra)?

In this video by Myosenji temple, Nichiren Shoshu Priests perform slow Gongyo, the recitation of a portion of the 2nd and the entire 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. You will need to use a Liturgy of Nichiren Shoshu/Gongyo book.

For new Buddhists, following along with the Priest when you are learning to chant is the very best way to learn the Sutra pronunciation properly. It is also good practice for long-term members to improve their Gongyo.

What is Shodai?

Shodai is the abbreviated Japanese term that means, “chanting Daimoku.” The Daishonin states:

The most important thing is to chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and attain enlightenment.
(Gosho, p.1388; MW-1, p. 214)

The most crucial point in our faith and practice is to chant Daimoku. When we earnestly chant to the Gohonzon, the four powers of the mystic Law come together and we receive great benefit. The four powers are: the power of the Buddha (the Daishonin), the power of the law (the Gohonzon), the power of faith (belief in the Gohonzon), and the power of practice (chanting Daimoku). Among these four powers, the power of the Buddha and the power of the Law are absolute. On the other hand, our power of faith and power of practice are not necessarily strong all the time. In fact, sometimes we might miss Gongyo or we might not be able to concentrate when we chant Daimoku.

When these four powers come together, however, our wishes will come true. Therefore the important point is our strong faith and practice—the power of Shodai. It is of utmost importance to continue doing Gongyo and Shodai every day, without slackening.The Daishonin states:

If only you chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, then what offense could fail to be eradicated? What blessing could fail to come?
(Gosho, p. 406; MW-5, p. 110-11)

Chanting Daimoku (Shodai) enables us to eradicate our offenses from our past lives, which are the causes for our suffering. This is the reason why it is important to chant to the Gohonzon. The Daishonin teaches the following in the “Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings” (“Ongi kuden”):

We wake up with the Buddha in the morning, and we go to bed with the Buddha at night. We are always attaining Buddhahood, and we are always manifesting the original state.
(Gosho, p. 1749 [Summary])

This means that no matter what circumstances may arise, we must never neglect our faith and practice to the Gohonzon, and we must base our life on chanting Daimoku. As we grow older, we face many challenges in our daily life. If we continue to chant earnestly every day, we will find all solutions without fail. Therefore let us continue to do Gongyo and chant Daimoku, whether or not we are facing challenges right now.

Many temples have Daimoku chanting meetings, called Shodai-kai, at certain times of the day, led by the chief priest. Are you participating? Even though you can chant at home, it is important to visit the temple and chant Daimoku together with the priest and fellow Hokkeko members. Itai doshin is especially important in our faith and practice. Even though we are many in body, the aspiration of our faith and practice is the same. Thus the members of a local temple should make efforts together with one mind, toward the purpose of advancing kosen-rufu.

The Daishonin states the following on the importance of itai doshin:

Though numerous, the Japanese people will find it difficult to accomplish anything, because they are divided in spirit. On the contrary, I believe that although Nichiren and his followers are few in number, because they act in itai doshin, they will accomplish their great mission of propagating the Lotus Sutra.
(Gosho, p. 1389; MW-1 pp.153-154)

This principle applies not only to Buddhism. It also is exceptionally crucial in our daily life. For example, think about events such as sports events or music festivals. If the teammates or members of a band do not work together harmoniously, an event will not go well. In order to be successful, it is necessary for us to cooperate with each other with one mind. Spreading the Daishonin’s Buddhism around the world through shakubuku is a really daunting task. In order to achieve this, the entire priesthood and laity of Nichiren Shoshu truly must practice in itai doshin, following the guidance of High Priest Nichinyo Shonin. The Daishonin teaches that if we do this, then no matter how small we are in number, we will be able to achieve kosen-rufu.How do we unite our mind as one? This can be achieved when the members gather at the temple and chant Daimoku with the chief priest.

Centering on Head Temple Taisekiji, Nichiren Shoshu temples all over Japan conduct the Kosen-rufu Shodai Ceremony at 9 AM on the first Sunday of each month. This is a special Shodaikai to pray for kosen-rufu. All of the priests and lay believers of Nichiren Shoshu in Japan chant together at the same time as the High Priest. If you are having trouble chanting Daimoku, you can participate in the Kosen-rufu Shodai Ceremony on the first Sunday of each month. Your problems and challenges will be solved, and you will be able to lead your daily life in high spirits!

What is the Practice of True Buddhism?

The three aspects of practice are faith, practice, and study. Faith is the developing belief and conviction in the Gohonzon. Practice includes practice for oneself and practice for others. Practice for oneself is chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and the twice daily recitation of Gongyo, consisting of portions of the Lotus Sutra. Once you begin to experience the actual benefit of the practice, you naturally will wish to share it with others. The act of propagating this Buddhism with a spirit of deep compassion is to help others to overcome their sufferings. Study is also an important aspect of the practice for the purpose of deepening our faith and confidence in the teachings.

For a new believer who has little or no experience with true Buddhism, faith can be described as an expectation that benefit will manifest through chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to the Gohonzon. As your practice continues, you will develop confidence that you can bring forth the enlightened nature of Buddhahood in your life. Faith then develops in the form of conviction, and conviction develops through actual proof that gives you the confidence to continue the practice.

What is the Meaning of Practice?

In Buddhism, “practice” means to do exactly what the Buddha taught. It is said that the sutras Shakyamuni expounded comprise five or seven thousand volumes. Among these, there are none that stated, “we are able to become happy without practice.” Twenty-sixth High Priest Nichikan Shonin states:

The fundamental point of Shakyamuni’s many teachings is to lead all the people to practice.
(Summary, Six Volume Writings, p. 161)

It is important to learn the Buddha’s teachings, but it is more important to put those teachings into practice. Our High Priest Nichinyo Shonin stated the following to encourage our faith and practice: “Faith and practice are not just intellectual exercises. It is important to take action.” There are two kinds of practice—practice for oneself and practice for the sake of others.

When we do Gongyo, chant Daimoku, and make a pilgrimage to the Head Temple, this is the practice for oneself. We do Gongyo every morning and evening. Gongyo signifies training or practice. It is a continuous accumulation of practice, day by day. Some of you might say that you are not good at doing Gongyo consistently everyday. However, the reason why we are able to lead our lives safely each day is because of the Buddha’s protection. Please do Gongyo assiduously, in order to show your appreciation to the Gohonzon. Gongyo is the most basic and important practice in Nichiren Shoshu. When one does Gongyo every day, various kinds of wishes will be materialized without fail. No matter how far away one’s destination may be, one must advance, one step at a time. Otherwise, the destination never will be reached. Let us strive to maintain this important practice of doing Gongyo, firmly believing in the Gohonzon, so that we will be able to become happy.

We also need to communicate with people who are practicing provisional religions. We courageously must tell them that the teachings they are following are incorrect. Let’s encourage them to build happy lives by practicing the Daishonin’s Buddhism together with us. This is the practice for others.

When you hear the word, “shakubuku,” please do not hesitate. Don’t tell yourself, “I cannot do it,” or “It’s just too hard.” There are many ways to do shakubuku. There are no set rules on how you must do it. The most important point is to chant sincerely to the Gohonzon for the happiness of the person whom you want to shakubuku. Remember, there is no shakubuku if there is no Shodai. Before talking to someone whom you want to shakubuku, first offer your prayers to the Gohonzon, such as, “Please help me to encourage this person to practice.” The Daishonin states the following about chanting Daimoku:

Now, in the Latter Day of the Law, the Daimoku that Nichiren chants is different from that of previous ages. It is the Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo of both practice for oneself and practice for the sake of others.
(Gosho, p. 1594)

This means that the Daimoku propagated by Nichiren Daishonin contains the significance of saving others (practice for the sake of others) in addition to gaining happiness for oneself (practice for oneself). Thus, if you are doing Gongyo and chanting Daimoku at home alone, and are not doing shakubuku, you are not carrying out the practice of the Daishonin’s Buddhism in the true sense. Please think about this point. The Daishonin states, “Nichiren’s disciples should never be cowardly.” (Gosho, p. 1109)

Based on the foundation of doing Gongyo and chanting Daimoku everyday, let us try to do shakubuku with courage. This is the correct way to carry out the practice for oneself and practice for the sake of others.

What is the Purpose of Faith?

Attaining Buddhahood in this Lifetime

For those who have recently joined Nichiren Shoshu and are taking their first steps in faith, it is most important to have a clear understanding of the purpose of faith.

The following analogy may serve to illustrate. Suppose there are two people reading the same book. One person strives to learn all the words and grammar in the book, while the other makes efforts to grasp the author’s intent. Clearly, what the two will gain from reading will be quite different. Even in reading a single page of a book, there is a tremendous difference in the result gained by each type of reader. Inevitably, the first won’t gain the significance, while the other’s effort can open up a whole new world.

Our approach in faith is even more important. The more we can awaken to the purpose of faith, the clearer the approach necessary to achieve that purpose will become, as will the correct attitude in faith.

The most important point to keep in mind is that the practice of true Buddhism is a lifelong journey. Nichiren Daishonin teaches us that to begin is easy but to continue is difficult; however, attaining enlightenment lies in continuing faith.

So what is the purpose of faith in Nichiren Shoshu? To put it simply, there are two ultimate purposes for taking faith in this Buddhism. One is to realize an absolutely unshakable state of happiness in which there is boundless joy in being alive (attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime). The other is to realize an ideal society in which people can enjoy happy lives together based on true Buddhism (kosen-rufu).

“Attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime” does not mean changing your human form. Nor does it mean becoming a Buddha when you die, a mistaken view commonly held in other Buddhist denominations. Rather, it means achieving, in this lifetime and in our present form, the greatest potential life condition contained within the depths of our lives through sincere faith in and practice to the Gohonzon.

This highest life condition is called “The Buddha,” “Buddhahood,” or “the Buddha nature.” Another name for it is “Myoho-Renge-Kyo.”

Buddhahood is a mighty force that manifests a solution to every kind of suffering. It is a source of energy that manifests in our daily lives and propels each of us into a brilliant, truly joyful and fulfilled existence in the present moment. Striving in faith, we aim to establish an absolutely indestructible life condition of spiritual strength, wisdom and peace grounded in the world of Buddhahood.

Of course, situations in which an ill person becomes healthy, an unhappy family finds harmony, or poverty changes to financial security are necessary conditions for a happy life. However, if these conditions are examined closely, they can all be seen to be relative, partial forms of happiness in comparison to an inner condition based on Buddhahood. In many cases, relative happiness is manifested only temporarily or partially.

However, within the reality of our daily lives, we are often embroiled in so many kinds of hardships that we cannot keep track of them all. Though we are able to make money, we may suffer with family discord, or even if we are healthy we may have unhappy children.

Uncovering and revealing the world of Buddhahood is the fundamental source for attacking the root cause of suffering in human life, and for resolving every possible form of distress. This is the absolute happiness each and every person in the world is longing for in the depths of his or her heart.

Just as a single drop of water is included within a great ocean, a person who has established an absolutely happy life condition through embracing true Buddhism will definitely be able to resolve flaws in his or her character, and overcome sickness, poverty, or family problems.

Thus, it is important for us to have unshakable faith and tenaciously seek the attainment of Buddhahood in this lifetime, without being swayed by external circumstances. With strong faith, we need not be joyful one moment and depressed the next because of the ups and downs of life. Even small prayers will be answered without fail.

Achieving Kosen-rufu

The second important purpose of faith is kosen-rufu, which means to ceaselessly and correctly protect Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism and widely propagate it throughout the entire world in order to rid the world of misery. This will create unshakable happiness for all people and build a truly peaceful society.

From the very start, Buddhism has taught its followers to be merciful and to pursue their own happiness together with concern and compassion for others.

Nichiren Daishonin risked his life for peace in society and the happiness of humanity, and offered himself wholly for the sake of kosen-rufu. His successors, the Second High Priest Nikko Shonin, the Third High Priest Nichimoku Shonin, and each of the successive High Priests, have all fervently exerted themselves for the realization of kosen-rufu.

Those who make this admirable spirit a deep part of themselves and thereby dedicate themselves for the sake of kosen-rufu are embracing the true spirit of Nichiren Shoshu believers.

Thus, the purpose of faith in Nichiren Shoshu is to gain true happiness by attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime and to widely teach and propagate Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism throughout the whole world in order to lead others to happiness.

Faith, Practice, and Study

In order to gain the great benefits of true Buddhism, faith must always be accompanied by practice. Usually, when a person wants to express thanks to another it is a common social practice to make some gesture (saying, “Thank you,” giving a gift, etc.) to express that sentiment. If a person feels grateful but makes no expression of gratitude, that gratitude is not conveyed to the other person. It could be argued that the person feels no true appreciation.

Faith is like this. If a person believes in Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, this resolution in faith should reveal itself physically, in the form of action.

Practice inevitably accompanies faith. This means that the will to believe in and have respect for the Gohonzon is expressed as practice. Practice is chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo (Daimoku), and reciting a portion of the Lotus Sutra (Gongyo). The deep desire to seek the truth of Buddhism is expressed as the study of doctrine. Nichiren Daishonin states:

Exert yourself in the two ways of practice and study. Without practice and study, there can be no Buddhism . . . Both practice and study arise from faith.
(MW, Vol. 1, p. 95, Gosho, p. 668)

The Daishonin teaches that we must work diligently in our Buddhist practice and our study of doctrine. Our practice is something that emerges from the determination of our faith. Our faith and practice are kept on track by study. Nothing valuable results in our daily lives unless we act. The truth is that if we don’t translate something into practice, we won’t reap the rewards from it, and our understanding won’t progress. Not only that, when putting something into practice, it is often the case that when we don’t do it according to the correct method, our efforts are wasted, and we gain nothing.

As believers of Nichiren Shoshu, it is important for us to correctly practice Buddhism together under the leadership of a correct teacher and with encouragement from experienced believers. It is important that we walk the path of Buddhist practice together. As we gain actual proof of the great fortune of the Gohonzon and an understanding of the doctrine, our faith will deepen without fail.

What is the Meaning of Gokuyo (making offerings to the Three Treasures)?

The Offering to the Three Treasures of True Buddhism

Gokuyo is an offering to the Three Treasures of True Buddhism, the Buddha, the Law, and the Priesthood. It is an integral part of our practice to the Gohonzon. There are two types of offerings:

  • Zai-kuyo refers to material offerings such as financial or food offerings one makes at the temple.
  • Ho-kuyo refers to the offering of the Law. This means to spread the teachings of True Buddhism through shakubuku.

These two types of offerings are an expression of our gratitude to the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. We accumulate tremendous good fortune in our lives by performing these two types of offerings to the Gohonzon.

Go means “respect,” ku means “to offer” or “to support,” and yo means “to nurture.” By making our precious offerings, we are nurturing and supporting True Buddhism with deep respect and gratitude for our great fortune to have encountered the Daishonin’s teachings in this lifetime.

Nichiren Shoshu is very different from other religions with regards to offerings. Many other religious groups will accept donations from non-believers, corporations and fund-raisers. Nichiren Shoshu, however, can only accept offerings from believers. This is because offering Gokuyo is a part of our practice to the Gohonzon, and is a supporting cause for accumulating fortune and attaining Buddhahood.

There is a famous story in the Devadatta (Twelfth) Chapter of the Lotus Sutra regarding the offering made to Shakyamuni by the Dragon King’s daughter. Upon hearing Shakyamuni preach the Lotus Sutra at Eagle Peak, she immediately attained enlightenment. However, none of the members of the assembly could believe it because she was a female and also a dragon. She then offered a great jewel to Shakyamuni and he immediately accepted it. The Lotus Sutra states:

At that time the dragon girl had a precious jewel worth as much as the thousand-millionfold world which she presented to the Buddha. The Buddha immediately accepted it. The dragon girl said to Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated and to the venerable one, Shariputra, “I presented the precious jewel and the World-Honored One accepted it—was that not quickly done?” They replied, “Very quickly!” The girl said, “Employ your supernatural powers and watch me attain Buddhahood. It will be even quicker than that!” (“The Lotus Sutra” trans. by Burton Watson; p. 188)

Shakyamuni’s immediate acceptance of her offering verified that she had, indeed attained enlightenment. In the same way, our sincere Gokuyo is accepted as verification that this is a supporting cause for our attainment of Buddhahood together with Gongyo, Daimoku, and Shakubuku.

It is not possible for Nichiren Shoshu to accept offerings from non-believers, because without the faith and practice of True Buddhism, these offerings could not be a supporting cause to attain enlightenment. Gokuyo therefore, is part of our faith and practice, and is not just a “donation.”

Since Nichiren Shoshu can only be protected by the believers, it is our responsibility to support True Buddhism with our sincere Gokuyo. In the Gosho, “The Gift of Rice,” the Daishonin states:

Therefore, saints consecrated themselves by offering their own bodies, whereas common mortals may consecrate themselves by the sincerity with which they give. (MW-1; p. 268)

We sincerely offer Gokuyo to the Gohonzon in place of our own bodies. We need not be concerned about the amount we offer, just as long as it is offered to the best of our ability with an honest and pure spirit. Since we are offering precious treasures that sustain our own life for the sake of True Buddhism, we accumulate fortune greater than we could ever imagine. The Daishonin stated:

In the deepest sense, earnest faith is the will to understand and live up to the spirit, not the words, of the sutras. What does this mean? In one sense, it means that offering one’s only robe to the Lotus Sutra is equivalent to tearing off one’s own skin, and in a time of famine, offering the Buddha the single bowl of rice on which one’s life depends is to dedicate one’s life to the Buddha. (MW-1; p. 267)

What are Jigyo and Keta - the Practice for Oneself and Others?

The practice of True Buddhism encompasses two aspects. They are Jigyo (practice for oneself) and Keta (practice for the sake of others). Both are necessary for a complete practice. They are like the two wheels of a cart which work in unison to move our lives forward. In order to attain enlightenment, we must practice both.

The Daishonin states in the “True Entity of All Phenomena” (“Shohō jissō-shō”):
Exert yourself in the two ways of practice and study. Without practice and study, there can be no Buddhism. You must not only persevere yourself; you must also teach others. Both practice and study arise from faith. Teach others to the best of your ability, even if only a single sentence or phrase.
(Gosho, p. 668; MW-1, p. 95)

Jigyo

Here are some of the aspects of the practice of Jigyo, practice for oneself, which Nichiren Shoshu believers perform:

  1. Maintaining a consistent practice of Gongyo and Daimoku, making sincere efforts with a positive attitude. For example, even though we may be tired after a hard day’s work, we never miss evening Gongyo and we accomplish our Daimoku goal.
  2. Attending the Ceremonies at the Temple—especially the monthly Oko. Even if we have to drive long distances to come to the Temple, we make the effort to attend.
  3. Supporting and protecting the Temple. For example, we offer Gokuyo to the best of our ability, and help with Temple clean-up or volunteer work.
  4. Studying the doctrines of True Buddhism by reading the Nichiren Shoshu Monthly and other NST publications.
  5. Going on Tozan

Keta

Here are examples of the practice of Keta, practicing for the sake of others for their benefit, and for the advancement of Kosen-rufu.

  1. Doing shakubuku. Even though the person may not show interest or come to the Temple or a meeting, it is important to have the courage to talk about True Buddhism to others.
  2. Chanting Daimoku together with your guests.
  3. Teaching someone new how to do Gongyo.
  4. Bringing a guest to the Temple or a to a local meeting.
  5. Attending local meetings ourselves. The Daishonin’s Buddhism is meant to be practiced together with others. It is not a solitary practice.The meeting will encourage our guests, but if we don’t have a guest, we can still attend to give our support. This is part of the practice of keta. Giving an experience will always encourage the members, and just talking informally after the meeting to share experiences, will usually inspire someone. If we support the Gongyo and Daimoku and do nothing else, it will still help the meeting.
  6. Share your experiences with other members for the sake of mutual encouragement. Help encourage someone who is struggling to strengthen their practice to the Gohonzon.
  7. Take responsibility –become a communicator—call the members and keep in touch.
  8. Practice with the spirit of “Unselfishly devoting oneself.”If a member calls for encouragement, please encourage him. If a member has trouble with consistent Gongyo, offer to go to her home and chant with her. If a member without a car lives near you, offer to give him a ride to the Temple for the Oko Ceremony.

Two Goals of Practice

In Nichiren Shoshu the Daishonin gave us instructions to achieve two goals:

  1. To attain enlightenment in our present form (sokushin jobutsu).
  2. To establish Kosen-rufu.

If we always realize that our own personal happiness is connected to the attainment of Kosen-rufu we will be able to have a complete practice of Jigyo and Keta. Even if we achieve our own personal goals, it would still be hard for us to really be happy if the society around us is full of unhappiness. Likewise, our behavior in society should reflect our practice of True Buddhism. The advancement of Kosen-rufu should always be on our minds.

When we have a personal goal, we should pray to the Gohonzon with the conviction that we want to achieve it for the sake of Kosen-rufu, not only for our own personal edification. Our personal prayers should reflect the sprit of both jigyo and keta. For example:

“I am praying for a nice dependable car, so that I can get to the Temple, and the meetings, and give a ride to a new member.”

“I need to overcome my illness or financial hardship so I can put more effort towards activities for Kosen-rufu.”

“I want to become successful in daily life so that my happy life will help me shakubuku my parents, brothers and sisters.”

These examples show that good causes in True Buddhism encompass both practice for oneself and practice for the sake of others.

Sixty-sixth High Priest, Nittatsu Shonin gave the following guidance:

Whether or not your prayers will come true depends on whether or not those prayers are connected to Kosen rufu. When you are praying to recover from an illness, you must ask for good health so that you can put forth great efforts in your activities for the sake of Kosen rufu. If you are praying to eliminate your financial problems, you must ask for the resolution of such fiscal strife so that you can devote your activities to achieve Kosen rufu. All your prayers must be connected to Kosen-rufu in this way.

Why is it Important to Do Shakubuku?

The act of sharing this Buddhist practice with others and thus imparting the benefit of the Buddha for their sake is referred to as “practice for others” or Shakubuku.

The Daishonin states in the “True Entity of All Phenomena” (“Shohō jissō-shō”):

Exert yourself in the two ways of practice and study. Without practice and study, there can be no Buddhism. You must not only persevere yourself; you must also teach others. Both practice and study arise from faith. Teach others to the best of your ability, even if only a single sentence or phrase.
(Gosho, p. 668; MW-1, p. 95)

This indicates that based on one’s own consistent practice, believers must do shakubuku, practice the Daishonin’s Buddhism with others, and nurture them. This is the basis of the Daishonin’s Buddhism.

The Daishonin teaches in “On the Three Great Secret Laws” (Sandai hiho- sho):

There are two meanings to the Daimoku. There is the Daimoku of the Former (shobo) and the Middle Days (zobo) of the Law, and the Daimoku of the Latter Day of the Law (mappo). During the age of the Former Day of the Law, Bodhisattvas Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu secretly chanted Daimoku, yet they stopped short of revealing it. Nan-yueh and Tiantai of the Middle Day of the Law, both chanted Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, but also did not widely spread the five characters to others. They kept it secret among themselves. This, then is called the theoretical practice of Daimoku. Now, in the Latter Day of the Law, the Daimoku that Nichiren chants is different from that of previous ages. It is the Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo of both practice for oneself (jigyo) and practice for the sake of others (keta).
(Gosho, pp. 1594-1595 [Summary])

The two thousand years after Shakyamuni’s passing constituted the ages of the Former (shobo) and the Middle Days (zobo) of the Law. During this time, it was only necessary to practice the Daimoku in theory, chanting solely for one’s own attainment of Buddhahood. In contrast, the practice most valid for this age ofmappo (the Latter Day) is the practice of jigyo and keta. We do not merely chant for our own individual attainment of Buddhahood. We also must teach others, widely sharing the teachings and chanting together. We also must attain Buddhahood together. Then, we can establish kosen-rufu, world peace.

Let’s practice for others, do shakubuku, hold meetings, help someone learn Gongyo, and chant Daimoku with our members in the unity of itai-doshin.

How Do I Conduct Shodai at Times Other than Morning and Evening Gongyo?

The traditional Nichiren Shoshu procedure for chanting Daimoku apart from morning or evening Gongyo is as follows:

  1. Chant Daimoku Sansho, ring the bell seven times, and recite the Hoben-pon (Part “A”). Ring the bell three times and recite the title of the Juryo-hon, and the Jigage (Part “C”).
  2. At the end of Part “C” start chanting Daimoku (Shodai). Ring the bell seven times as you begin to chant Daimoku.
  3. Chant as much Daimoku as you wish, then finish by striking the bell five times as you chant the final Daimoku.
  4. Chant Daimoku Sansho and silently read the Second Silent Prayer. Chant Daimoku Sansho and silently read the Third Silent Prayer chanting the Daimoku Sansho when appropriate in between the sections of the Third Silent Prayer. Chant Daimoku Sansho again and silently read the second part of the Fourth Silent Prayer. Chant Daimoku Sansho and silently read the second part of the Fifth Silent Prayer.
  5. Ring the bell three times and chant Daimoku Sansho.

Fifty-ninth High Priest, Nichiko Shonin stated the following on the practice of Shodai:

The Daimoku that we chant must be performed attentively and diligently. When chanting, we should not have trivial thoughts in our minds. The speed should not be too fast and our pronunciation should not be slurred. We must maintain a medium pitch and chant calmly, resolutely and steadily. There is no established number of Daimoku that we must chant. The amount depends on individual circumstances . . . When we chant, our entire body should feel a tremendous surge of joy. We must persevere until we become totally one with the Gohonzon.”
(Nichiren Shoshu Koyo, p.134)

Why Do We Encounter Obstacles When We Decide to Do this Practice?

When you decide to take faith and progress in you practice of true Buddhism, devilish functions will inevitably emerge to block your efforts in ever-more conspicuous ways. If you fear them and give up your practice of true Buddhism, you are disparaging the Daishonin’s teaching. These devils prevent us from the attainment of Buddhahood. The Daishonin teaches, in the Gosho, “Reply to Lord Hyoe-no-Sakan”:

Something uncommon also occurs when an ordinary person attains Buddhahood. At this time, the three obstacles and four devils will invariably appear. The wise will rejoice while the foolish will retreat.
(Gosho, p. 1184; MW-2, p. 288)

People who are strong in faith use these obstacles as springboards for attaining new heights. Since they know what it means to enjoy the ultimate happiness of deep faith, they are able to stand up and face the obstacles without being afraid. But some people with weak faith hesitate and abandon the true Law when they encounter obstacles. These people will lose the benefit of attaining Buddhahood.

There are three obstacles and four devils that obstruct Buddhist practice and lead people onto the evil paths. The three obstacles are the obstacle of earthly desires (bonno-sho), the obstacle of karma (go-sho), and the obstacle of retribution (ho-sho). The four devils are the devil of earthly desires (bonno-ma), the devil of the five components (on-ma), the devil of death (shi-ma), and the devil of the Sixth Heaven (tenji-ma).

Nichiren Daishonin teaches in the “Letter to the Brothers”:

The doctrine of ichinen sanzen revealed in the fifth volume of the Great Concentration and Insight (Maka-shikan) is especially profound. If you propagate the teachings, then, without fail, devils will arise. Were it not for these devils arising, there would be no way of knowing that this is the true teaching. A passage from this same volume reads, “As practice progresses and understanding grows, the three obstacles and four devils emerge. They compete with one another to interfere. Do not be influenced or frightened by them. If they influence you, this will lead you onto the paths of evil. If they frighten you, this will prevent you from practicing true Buddhism.” This quotation not only applies to Nichiren. It is also the guide for his disciples. Reverently make this teaching your own. Transmit it as a standard of faith for future generations.
(Gosho, p. 986)

What should you do when you face obstacles? Ultimately, the answer is to establish powerful faith that will let you recognize devils for what they are. The problem, then, is how to go about establishing such powerful faith. The first step is to genuinely awaken to the fact that obstacles are certain to appear if you practice the true Law. At the same time, you need to be aware that these obstacles summon forth our tendency to be indolent. Nichiren Daishonin teaches, in the Gosho, “On Persecutions Befalling the Buddha”:

Strengthen your faith day by day and month after month. If you even slacken a bit, devils will take advantage.
(Gosho, p. 1397; cf. MW-1, pp. 241-242)

These devils sneak into our hearts and minds to dazzle us with social position and fame, or immediate profit and pleasure. Then, our negligent nature moves in to make us lax in our Buddhist practice. The devils that entice us by bringing out our lazy nature from within are more dangerous than obstacles that attack from without. Therefore, it is important for us to prevent these obstacles from emerging within ourselves. We must strive in our Buddhist practice by steadfastly continuing our daily practice of Gongyo and Daimoku and keep constant vigilance.

How Do I Give an Experience at the Temple?

One of the most important as well as the most difficult things we do in our practice is to give an experience. It is difficult because most of us have little or no training to speak in public and it is important because this is our opportunity to help shakubuku the guests that have come to find out about True Buddhism. We develop our own fortune through our efforts to help others understand and accept this practice, keta.

An experience should be based on Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, should be personal and based on our practice. When giving the experience our purpose and focus should be on the guests and new members. We SHOULD NOT use Buddhist terms without explaining them and SHOULD NOT give any type of guidance. Chant Daimoku that your experience will touch the hearts of the people attending the meeting and make them want to practice this True Buddhism.

When preparing your experience keep in mind that it is most important that the guest can easily follow the experience. The following three points will help the guests understand the benefit of practicing this Buddhism. These three points should be strictly observed.

  1. Explain what your obstacle or problem was. State it very clearly. Example: “I was fired from 5 jobs in a row,” or, “I was angry all the time.”
  2. Explain what you did, what action you took with the Gohonzon. What did you realize or see after you chanted Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to the Gohonzon? What happened to your spirit, attitude or your thoughts? What was your realization?
  3. What was the result of your challenging the problem through this practice. Be specific and accurately describe your benefit.

Here are some suggestions from Toastmasters International, an organization that was created for people who wish to improve their speaking. Prepare and rehearse so you’re always ready when asked to speak. In deciding what to say, you should begin by asking yourself, “what’s my purpose”? This question is key to all communication. You’re asking, “what am I trying to accomplish by giving this particular message to this particular person or group”?

You want to move your audience from Point A (where they are before you start speaking) – to Point B (where they are afterward). Point B is what your listeners are supposed to think, feel, believe or do after they’ve listened to you. Therefore, purpose in your experience is fundamental.

We communicate to get things done or to bring about change in someone’s thoughts or actions. With this in mind let’s prepare, in advance so we can share our great experiences with the Gohonzon by becoming more attuned to our audience. Always keep in mind that the people we are trying to reach with our experience are the GUESTS, not other members. They have taken the time to come and learn why they should try chanting. Also keep in mind that the guests don’t know all the Buddhist terminology such as sansho-shima or tozan, so try to use words that they will understand.

Let’s give a lot more thought and care to what we say so we can sincerely assist in the shakubuku of our valued guests. Write out your experience, following the guidelines outlined previously of beginning, middle and end as well as what you want to accomplish. Then refine it until it is no more than 3 to 5 minutes in length.

Once your speech is organized, practice in front of a mirror and ask a fellow member to listen and critique for you. In this way, we will be more effective in shakubuku. Remember, we usually have one opportunity to share the greatness of this Gohonzon with guests who come to a meeting. It is important to prepare carefully.

The Buddhist Altar

What Kind of Buddhist Altar Do We Have in Our Homes?

Butsudan is a Japanese term meaning “house of the Buddha.” In Nichiren Shoshu, it is the protective enclosure in which the Gohonzon is enshrined. The purpose of a butsudan is to protect the Gohonzon. Generally, when someone begins to practice, they have a small butsudan and upgrade to larger, more ornate ones as their faith grows and they experience actual proof in their lives. The size and type is a matter of personal choice, but it must have been originally purchased for that purpose. You may purchase one from a Nichiren Shoshu Butsudan store, or order one from Japan, but you must have a butsudan set up in your home prior to receiving the Gohonzon.

The Gohonzon is the enlightened life of the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin; therefore, we must show the greatest respect and care in preparing an altar.

Placement of the butsudan in your home is very important. When you bring the Gohonzon into your home, you are preparing to embark on a path that will reveal your enlightenment. Therefore, you should place the Gohonzon in the best place in your home. It is preferable to place the butsudan on a wall by itself, without windows or pictures hung near it. The butsudan should be placed up high enough so that the bottom of the Gohonzon is just above eye level when you are seated. It is your choice whether to sit in a chair or on the floor. The important thing is that the Gohonzon is always above eye level when you are chanting. The butsudan should be opened only during faith activities.

Butsugu is a Japanese term which includes all of the altar accessories: water-cup, candle holder(s), incense-tray, vase(s) for evergreens, and a bell. Correct placement of the butsugu is important because of the significance of each item. All items should be used only for the Gohonzon. For instance, the candle sticks should not be used for a dinner or power outage. The arrangement of various butsugu is as follows:

The incense tray is placed in the center, with the candle on your right and the evergreens on your left. If two candles and vases are used, place one candle holder at either end of the incense tray. To the outside of the candles are the vases of evergreens. The water-cup is placed closest to the Gohonzon, and offerings such as fruit or rice are placed between the incense tray and the water cup.

Nothing should be close enough to the Gohonzon to fall onto, splatter, or otherwise cause damage to it if accidentally spilled or knocked over.

Be sure to keep your altar clean at all times. Do not place pictures, notes, or anything other than the above described items in or around the altar. It is important you not be distracted when chanting Daimoku and doing Gongyo.

How Do I Set Up My Nichiren Shoshu Altar?

The Butsudan

The cabinet in which the Gohonzon is enshrined is called a Butsudan. It should be sturdy, clean, and secure. If the Butsudan has no doors, a cloth can be draped across the front, which then can be opened and closed.

The Gohonzon should not be placed too high or too low. When you sit or kneel in front of the Butsudan, the bottom of the Gohonzon should be slightly above eye level. Never place things on top of the Butsudan, have shelves surrounding it, or pictures and other articles on the wall near the Butsudan.

There is no substitute for the Gohonzon. Therefore, doing these things are based on sincere faith. The Gohonzon is supreme and our actions in the handling and care of the Gohonzon should reflect that understanding and our sincere faith.

The Butsugu or Accessories

The articles used for candles, incense, water and greens are called Butsugu.

As you face the Butsudan, on the right, place a candleholder with a white candle; on the left, place a vase with evergreens; and in the middle, place the incense burner. These three items together are called “three accessories”. This is an extremely important formality in the practice of this Buddhism. “Five accessories” may also be used: incense burner in the center, a pair of candles one on either side, and two vases with evergreens placed to the outside of each candlestick.

Incense, candles, and, evergreens, each have a significant meaning in Buddhism.

Incense represents the property of the Law or the essential property of the Buddha’s life. This is the truth to which the Buddha is enlightened. Incense should be the stick type that is available at the temple store. This incense is high quality and will not produce a smoky film that could damage the Gohonzon. Incense should always be laid flat and burned from left to right. The incense is laid flat rather than standing up, so the ashes won’t scatter signifying a scattered mind. You may purchase smokeless incense if the smoke bothers you or others in your household. We usually burn three sticks of incense, representing the Three Treasures–the Treasure of the Buddha, Treasure of the Law, and the Treasure of the Priesthood. The Treasure of the Buddha is Nichiren Daishonin. The Treasure of the Law is the Dai-Gohonzon. The Treasure of the Priesthood is Nikko Shonin and the successive High Priests. If this produces too much smoke, you may use fewer. It also purifies the area in front of the altar.

Candles represent the property of wisdom or the spiritual property of the Buddha’s life. This enables the Buddha to see the truth. (Candles should always be white and replaced before burned to the end). If you prefer, you may use electric candles or clear oil burning candles instead of wax candles. (Do not use colored oil)

In society, we often use cut flowers to express love or respect, or for decoration. They are beautiful to look at, but flowers die in a few days. From the standpoint of Buddhism, cut flowers are inappropriate offerings to the Buddha because of their ephemeral nature. Evergreens, on the other hand, will last a long time if you change the water in the vase(s) every day.

Evergreens represent the physical property of the Buddha’s life, the property of compassionate action. Evergreen should be of the type that will remain green for at least a week, always fresh cut. Never use a live plant as an offering because dirt in a container in front of the Gohonzon is not acceptable. Shikimi is used in many countries because it is fragrant and remains green for a long time. However, Shikimi is not available in the United States, so we use something similar.

The incense, candles and evergreens are placed in a straight line. There is special significance to this. In Nichiren Shoshu, we revere Nichiren Daishonin as the True Buddha who possesses the Three Enlightened Properties and whose Three Enlightened Properties comprise His single being. This profound concept teaches, in very simple terms, that the Property of the Law (signified by the incense), the Property of Wisdom (signified by the candles), and the Property of Action (signified by the evergreens) are inseparable and totally integrated as the life of the True Buddha. Incense is made from fragrant wood like Shikimi, therefore, the flame from the candles and the shikimi (evergreen) come together as smoke from the incense. The property of wisdom (candles) and the property of action (shikimi) combined are the property of the Buddha (incense). The candles, evergreens, and incense are in a straight line, to demonstrate that significance in front of the Gohonzon.

The Gohonzon embodies the life of Nichiren Daishonin and the altar is the Buddha’s home. Therefore, the area where the Gohonzon is enshrined should always be kept clean. When cleaning the Butsudan area, or Butsudan accessories, use a clean cloth or duster. Place an evergreen leaf or a piece of paper is placed between your lips so as not to breathe on the Gohonzon.

The Offerings

In front of the Butsudan should be a space to place the offerings. The offering closest to the front of the Butsudan is water in a water cup. Place fresh water in a cup in front of the Gohonzon first thing in the morning before anyone uses water in the house. First run the faucet to flush out the still water so that you can offer the Gohonzon clean, cool water. Leave the water for the remainder of the day and then remove the cup and empty out the water before evening Gongyo. You have a choice of putting away the empty cup until the next morning, or returning the empty cup in front of the Gohonzon. If the water cup has a lid, the lid is removed when offering water to the Gohonzon. If you choose to replace the empty cup in front of the Gohonzon, it should be covered with the lid.

If you eat rice, you may offer it to the Gohonzon. DO NOT place uncooked rice on the altar. After the rice is cooked, offer the first portion to the Gohonzon. This, unlike water, should not be left all day but should be offered and then removed.

You may also offer other kinds of vegetarian food to the Gohonzon. When offering fruit, offer the entire fruit, do not cut into pieces (unless it is very large, such as a watermelon) and leave on the altar only as long as it remains fresh. Remove all the labels and clean all fruit before placing on the altar, using a tray or plate that is used only for this purpose, and if possible, place directly in front of the Gohonzon in the space between the water cup and the incense burner. Traditionally we avoid offering odiferous foods such as onions, or garlic.

When offering water each morning, or making other food offerings to the Gohonzon, say this prayer silently:

I offer deepest gratitude to the Three Treasures of the Buddhism of Sowing. Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.

Then, ring the bell three times and chant Daimoku three times. Ringing the bell three times signifies appreciation for the Three Treasures.

Other offerings can be made for special events, such as an unopened bottle of sake, wine, or champagne. Be aware of the potential attraction of insects to sweets and other such items. If you do offer cooked vegetarian foods or cut watermelon, make the offering then immediately remove from the altar.

These are the basic offerings to the Gohonzon. The most important thing to understand is that the Gohonzon is the living Buddha.

The doors of the Butsudan are opened when chanting. Otherwise they should be kept closed in order to protect the Gohonzon.

In the event of a fire or natural disaster, protect the Gohonzon first. Always be extremely careful not to spill water or candle wax on the Butsudan area.

If your Gohonzon requires cleaning or repair, contact the Chief Priest at your local Temple.

Lastly, when entering or leaving a home where there is a Gohonzon, always chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo three times, offering a greeting to the Gohonzon.

How Do I Enshrine the Gohonzon Properly?

Basic understanding of the presence of the Gohonzon in the home

When the Gohonzon is enshrined in our home, our house becomes the Gohonzon’s home and we live together with the living Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin.

The ceremony to welcome the Gohonzon into your home signifies gaining the source to lead the most fulfilled life, founded upon faith. It is an important and solemn ceremony in which you receive into your home the most noble and dignified True Buddha who will correctly guide your life. What follows are the important things to remember for the Gohonzon enshrinement ceremony and the handling and care of the Gohonzon.

Whenever you enter or leave the home, always chant three times as an offering of greeting to the Gohonzon. In the event of fire or natural disasters, we need to protect the Gohonzon first.

Please do not open the envelope and unroll the Gohonzon after the Gojukai ceremony.Keep the Gohonzon in the envelope it came in until it is ready to be properly enshrined. Wrap the envelope with a clean cloth or scarf (fukusa) and safely place it in a case or bag to transport home. When carrying the Gohonzon in a case or bag, be careful to protect it from being tossed about.

Preparation

The Gohonzon may be enshrined in just about any room of the house. If you have a multi-story or split level home, you can enshrine it upstairs or downstairs, as long as the location is respectful and appropriate. The important thing is to consider the most suitable place for the Gohonzon. Places such as those with heavy foot traffic that stir up dust; those too near the distracting noises of the bathroom or kitchen; or others that are not appropriate for the Gohonzon should be avoided. It is a good idea to discuss this with your sponsor.

Before the Gohonzon enshrinement ceremony prepare a Buddhist altar (Butsudan) and various Buddhist accessories (Butsugu) such as an incense burner, vase(s) for evergreens, candle holder(s), a water cup, a bell and bell striker. Your Buddhist accessories should include either the three-piece set of one incense burner, one vase and one candle holder; or the five-piece set of one incense burner, two vases and two candle holders. The room should be cleaned beforehand .

Ideally, a Buddhist altar is positioned on the north wall. However, if the floor plan or the arrangement of the room does not allow placement of the altar in this fashion, you can be flexible. In some cases the altar may be on the west wall, and you would have to turn your back to the Gohonzon when you recite the first prayer in morning Gongyo. To avoid turning your back completely to the Gohonzon in such instances, turn slightly off line from the Gohonzon during the first prayer. If the altar is on the east wall and you cannot do the first prayer without directly facing the Gohonzon, again, seat yourself slightly off line.

Generally speaking, the bottom wood part of the Gohonzon should be at eye level. If the Gohonzon hangs too high, adjust the level by using the string. You can also adjust the height of the altar. If you adjust the height of the altar, however, do so in advance. Please do not move the altar once the Gohonzon is enshrined.

Ceremony

After the preparations are made, proceed with the enshrinement ceremony. First, the person(s) enshrining the Gohonzon should wash their hands. Then all participants start chanting Daimoku to the empty altar. Any accessories that may interfere with the enshrinement should be put on a separate table.

The person leading the enshrinement ceremony then places an evergreen leaf or a piece of white paper between his or her lips so as not to breathe on the Gohonzon, and unwraps the cloth and very carefully removes the Gohonzon from the envelope.

There is no strict rule concerning how to unroll the Gohonzon while enshrining it in the Butsudan. The important point is the safety of the Gohonzon. Generally, the person leading the enshrinement partially unrolls the Gohonzon without exposing the white part, then hangs the Gohonzon by the string hoop attached to the top. If the Gohonzon hangs too high in the Butsudan, then the attached long string can be used to tie a loop from which to hang it. Then, while holding the bottom wood dowel, the person leading unrolls the Gohonzon very slowly, letting the weight of the wood do the work.

Handle the Gohonzon very gently with the utmost care and with the lightest touch. Even the rolled Gohonzon can be wrinkled if it is handled roughly. You may touch the brown frame part of the Gohonzon if necessary, but never touch the white part of the Gohonzon. After it is enshrined, the bottom of the Gohonzon sometimes curls upward. In time, it will straighten out on its own from the weight of the wood. However, if the curl is too high, you may very gently roll the bottom wood dowel up the back of the bottom of the Gohonzon and roll it back down to reduce the curl. Do not roll it up to the white part with the inscription of the Chinese characters.

After the enshrinement is completed, the person leading bows deeply to the Gohonzon with palms together in reverence, then places the Buddhist accessories in their proper positions. Maintain sufficient distance between the Gohonzon and the Buddhist accessories to avoid any damage to the Gohonzon.

Next, the candle(s) and incense are lit, and all participants begin the recitation of the sutra. In most cases it is best not to conduct either morning or evening Gongyo during the enshrinement. This is a solemn ceremony, separate from morning or evening Gongyo. The Hoben and Juryo chapters (Parts A, B, and C) are recited once, followed by Daimoku. After concluding the chanting of Daimoku, the following silent prayers are read: the second, the third, and the second portion of both the fourth and fifth prayers. In the second part of the fourth prayer, it is recommended that you pray to deepen your faith, to expiate negative karma created by the slander of the Law, that each successive generation of your family will be able to carry on the practice of faith in the Mystic Law eternally, for the peace and prosperity of your family, and for the achievement of world peace through the propagation of True Buddhism. After reading the silent prayers, the ceremony concludes by chanting Daimoku three times.

Additional Information

In order to avoid splattering wax, use a candle snuffer to extinguish the candles, instead of blowing them out or fanning them with the hand.

Since the Gohonzon is made of wood and paper, after many years it may become discolored or otherwise marred. We must, however, try to prevent this as best we can. Make every effort to keep the Gohonzon in good condition for as long as possible. Be careful not to splash wax or water on the Gohonzon, and never handle the Gohonzon unnecessarily. Exercise precautions to prevent any accidents caused by children or pets. The Gohonzon should not be exposed to direct sunlight. Unless you are conducting Gongyo or chanting Daimoku, the doors of the altar should be closed to protect the Gohonzon.

The Gohonzon is the very life of the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. Please treat it with the deepest reverence and respect. Never photograph the Gohonzon or allow it to be videotaped. If you have any question about the care of the Gohonzon, do not hesitate to call your local Nichiren Shoshu Temple. If your Gohonzon is accidentally damaged, or if you would like to have the dust cleaned off the Gohonzon, contact the Chief Priest of your local Temple.

Daily Care of the Gohonzon?

The Meaning of the Water Offering and the Offerings of Flowers, Light, and Fragrance

Attitude When Serving the Gohonzon

The manner in which Gongyo is performed, how the Gohonzon is, enshrined and our conduct in the presence of the Gohonzon are called kegi or “observances which substantiate the Law.” For brevity’s sake, we can also refer to kegi as “observances”or “formalities.” However, you should bear in mind that these words are not superficial: kegi entail more than cursory gestures or mere formalities.

Ninth High Priest Nichiu Shonin writes in “On Formalities” (Kegi sho)”Practice of observances evidences one’s faith.” This means that a person’s conduct in the presence of the Gohonzon is a manifestation of that person’s faith, as inattention in observance leads to slovenly habits, laxity in faith and eventually results in disregard for the teachings.

This ancient verse has been handed down among priests of Taisekiji, the Head Temple of Nichiren Shoshu, “The Lotus Sutra – all I have gained, I have gained in its service: gathering firewood, picking vegetables and drawing water.”

In other words, physical actions such as gathering firewood, bringing offerings and drawing water from the stream for the Gohonzon are offerings made with one’s body. Through pursuit of this practice we, ourselves, are able to attain the Buddha’s spiritual enlightenment.

Nikko Shonin set an example for taking care of the Gohonzon through his actions in caring for the Daishonin. Nikko Shonin stayed by the Daishonin’s side constantly to serve Him, following Him like a shadow.

In serving the Gohonzon, the most important element is to exhibit a respectful attitude arising from one’s sincere wish to requite one’s debt of gratitude to the True Buddha and one’s recognition that one is in the presence of the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin, Himself. This was explained in the Kegi sho shoge:

They [priests of past ages] would place even the smallest offering on the altar in the sight of the Founder’s image and pay the utmost respect to the True Buddha as if He Himself were there. (Summary)

The Daishonin quoted the words of the Japanese sage Dengyo in the “Orally Transmitted Teachings” (Ongi kuden):

Morning after morning, awaken with the Buddha; night after night, retire with the Buddha. (Gosho, p.1749)

In essence, we should constantly accompany, serve, believe in and submit ourselves to the Buddha by starting and finishing each day with the Gohonzon.

Offering Water and Other Material Objects

In India, where Buddhism originated, people treasure water as their most valuable resource because of the intense heat and dry climate. A water offering made to the Buddha is called aka. This Sanskrit word means “water of merit.” Offering water to an honored guest – a custom later extended to offerings on a Buddhist altar and at tombs – was a common courtesy.

“On Formalities” (Kegi sho) states that, in Nichiren Shoshu, we traditionally offer fresh, cold water and never offer tea or heated water. Every morning, we set aside the first water run in the house for an offering to the Gohonzon. We offer water to the Gohonzon immediately before morning Gongyo and remove it from the altar right before evening Gongyo.

We may also make food offerings, including cooked rice, sake, candies, baked goods and fruit, on special occasions. In our tradition, we do not offer meat, fish or fowl, or foods with potent smells or strong spices such as onions, garlic or ginger. When we make these offerings, we normally chant Daimoku three times and silently offer this prayer:

I offer this (water or other item) out of my devotion to the Three Treasures of the Buddhism of the Sowing and express my gratitude for their beneficence, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.

When one has finished this prayer, one rings the bell three times, and chants Daimoku Sansho. Cooked rice should then be removed from the altar immediately.

Location of a Buddhist Altar

Set the altar in a clean place in your home. Be sure to set the altar so the Gohonzon will be a little higher than a seated person’s eye level.

The doors to the altar should be open only when you are chanting or cleaning the altar. Do not put a picture or any ornament on the offering table in front of the altar, in or on top of the altar, or hang any decoration above it. Always remember to keep the altar and its surroundings clean.

Flowers, Fragrance and Light (The Three Accessories and the Five Accessories)

Three traditional offerings occupy the space on the altar in front of the Gohonzon. In general Buddhist tradition, these include a vase for flowers, an incense burner for fragrance and a candlestick for light. We make similar offerings in Nichiren Shoshu. These are called the three accessories (mitsu gusoku). They are also called the five accessories (go gusoku) when a pair of vases, a single incense burner, and pair of candlesticks are used.

1. Shikimi

In most sects of Buddhism, flowers are placed on the altar. In Nichiren Shoshu, however, the “flowers” used on the altar are branches from the shikimi tree, because it is an evergreen and symbolic of the eternity of the Buddha’s enlightenment. Any native evergreen may be used if the fragrant shikimi is not available.

In the Hoben (“Expedient Means” _2nd) Chapter of the Lotus Sutra, we find the following passage:

…. or with many kinds of wood, such as sandalwood, aloeswood, and agalloch … (Kaiketsu, p. 115)

Evergreens symbolize the Buddha’s virtue of constancy. Shikimi, specifically, is traditionally thought to ward off evil and have the power to purify. Shikimi is thus considered the most suitable evergreen to express the purity of the Buddha’s enlightenment, serving as a solemn reminder of the supremacy of the Gohonzon.

2. Fragrance

There are references to fragrant powders, perfumes and incense in many sutras, including the “Teachers of the Law” (Hosshi-10th) Chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The fragrance of the incense offered to the Buddha purifies the
space in front of the Buddha.

Nowadays, stick incense is most often used. In the Nichiren Shoshu tradition, we place the burner in front of the Gohonzon and lay the burning sticks on their sides in the burner. We do not burn the incense sticks standing straight up. Laying the incense sticks down signifies serenity and prevents the scattering of ashes.

3. Light

In the “Bodhisattva Medicine King” (Yakuo-23rd) Chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Bodhisattva Yakuo sets his own elbows alight to offer light to the Buddha. In a Buddhist parable, the meager light a poor woman offered the Buddha with utmost sincerity continued to burn long after greater lights offered by others were blown out by a storm.

In Nichiren Shoshu, we use white candles to create light for an offering to the Gohonzon. Normally, we use regular candles, but we may also use white or clear oil candles or white electric candles.

4. Family Memorial Book

At morning and evening Gongyo we pray for the lives of the deceased, using the family memorial book. You can obtain this book from the temple or the priest in charge of one’s area.

The memorial book has 31 numbered pages-one page for each day of the month. We turn the page to the number of the following day just before evening Gongyo. In this book, significant events in the Daishonin’s life and the names of the successive High Priests appear on the day of the event or the individual’s death. Members request of their priests the additional inscription of the names of those individuals important to them who have died. Nichiren Shoshu believers will want to request and use family memorial books to repay their debts of gratitude through this continuous memorial service.

5. Oko Ceremony

An Oko Ceremony is the offering of a ceremonial meal. This offering is made on special occasions in order to repay our debts of gratitude and show our appreciation. At Buddhist memorial services, at Otanjo-e (the Daishonin’s birthday), the Oko Ceremony held near the thirteenth of each month out of appreciation for the Daishonin, the Higan-e ceremony, the Urabon ceremony and other occasions, these offerings are served before the beginning of the sutra recitation.

Believers may perform memorial services for those deceased they wish to honor at home in much the same manner. What is served will vary depending on the region and the season. Generally, what is served is less important than the sincerity with which the offering is made. As a general rule, however, we do not serve fish, fowl, or, meat, and we avoid offering vegetables with potent smells, such as onion and garlic or strong spices like ginger.

When we make these offerings to the Gohonzon, we always recite the sutra.

6. Cleaning, Attire and use of the Bell

When cleaning the altar and presenting offerings, always put an evergreen leaf or a small piece of white paper between the lips to avoid breathing on the Gohonzon. The Gohonzon, itself, should only be cleaned by the chief priest of your local Temple, or the priest responsible for your geographic region.

One should be fully dressed and should pay attention to grooming to demonstrate respect when sitting before the Gohonzon.

At the beginning of each recitation of the sutra, we traditionally strike the bell seven times. After ending the Hoben Chapter, strike it three times and proceed to the Juryo Chapter. At the end of the prolonged (Hiki)
Daimoku, strike it five times.

This is the usual rule for ringing the bell during Gongyo. However, the number of times the bell is sounded is less important than how respectfully and deliberately the bell is struck. It is most essential to put your whole mind into the sound of the bell and to offer your faith to the Gohonzon with the sound.

How Do I Make Offerings to the Gohonzon?

When making offerings to the Gohonzon your attitude should be the same as if you were making an offering to the True Buddha Nichiren Daishonin because the Gohonzon is the enlightened life of the True Buddha. Therefore the following guidelines should be observed out of deep respect for the benefit of being able to practice True Buddhism.

Daily Offerings include, evergreen, water and incense. These are offered to the Three Treasures of True Buddhism and signify the manifestation of the Three Inherent Potentials in our lives.

Here are some guidelines:

Any accessories that are used in making offerings to the Gohonzon should not be used for any other purpose.

WATER: Water should be offered in a small water cup especially for that purpose. This water cup should never be used for any other purpose than making an offering to the Gohonzon. When offering water, run the tap to clear the pipes of any sediment, place the cup in the altar prior to morning Gongyo and silently recite the following:

“I offer deepest gratitude to the Three Treasures of the Buddhism of Sowing, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.”

Leave the cup uncovered for the day. Before beginning evening Gongyo, remove it from the altar. You may replace the empty cup with a lid on it, or put it away until the next morning.

EVERGREEN: Evergreen should be of the type that will remain green for at least a week, always fresh cut, and the water should be changed as often as needed so that the water remains fresh. Never use a live plant as an offering because dirt in a container in front of the Gohonzon is not acceptable. Shikimi is used in many countries because it is fragrant and remains green for a long time. However, Shikimi is not available in the United States, so we use something similar.

INCENSE: Incense should be the stick type that is available at the temple store. This incense is high quality and will not produce a smoky film that could damage the Gohonzon. Incense should always be laid flat and burned from left to right. The incense is laid flat rather than standing up, so the ashes won’t scatter signifying a scattered mind. You may purchase smokeless incense if the smoke bothers you or others in your household. Three sticks of incense are generally used, however, if this produces too much smoke, you may use fewer.

Candles and Food Offerings

*CANDLES: Candles should always be white and replaced before burned to the end.

*If you prefer, you may use electric candles or clear oil burning candles instead of wax candles. (Do not use colored oil)

FOOD: Use only vegetarian foods and fruit as offerings. Remove all labels and clean before placing on the altar. Food offerings should be placed on a tray or plate that is used only for this purpose. Leave on the altar only as long as it remains fresh. Do not cut the fruit unless it is very large such as a watermelon. After placing the tray with the food offering on the altar silently recite the following:

“I offer deepest gratitude to the Three Treasures of the Buddhism of Sowing Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.”

RICE: DO NOT place uncooked rice in the altar. If you would like to offer rice, use cooked rice. Take the first portion placed in a rice cup for the purpose of offering; ring the bell 3 times, silently recite the following: “I offer deepest gratitude to the Three Treasures of the Buddhism of Sowing Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.” then immediately remove the rice.

OTHER: Other offerings can be made for special events, such as an unopened bottle of sake. Be aware of the potential attraction of insects to sweets and other such items. If you do offer cooked vegetarian foods or cut watermelon, make the offering then immediately remove from the altar.

Offering As Part Of The Gongyo Ceremony

BELL: Ringing the bell when performing Gongyo is also considered an offering and should be done according to the instructions in the front of your sutra book.

What is the Significance of the Altar of Myoshinji Temple?

There are many components to the Altar (Japan. Naijin) of Myoshinji Temple. Each component has a special significance, manifesting the profound principles of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism.

The Main Altar

At the top level is the main cabinet housing the Temple Joju Gohonzon. It is called the Ozushi. As an extra adornment to the altar, in some temples, including Myoshinji, the Ozushi sits on a matching elevated platform with gates around it. This platform is called the shumidan. Inside the Ozushi cabinet, directly in front of the base of the Gohonzon is a gold box. This box, called the sutra box (Japan. kyobako) contains the “Threefold Lotus Sutra” (“The Sutra of Infinite Meaning,” “The Lotus Sutra,” and the “Fugen Sutra”).

In front of the Ozushi is the six-cup offering tray. Individual believers offer a single cup of water to the Gohonzon every day before morning Gongyo. On the temple altar, a six-cup offering tray is used instead. The two middle cups each contain fresh water with the top piece of a shikimi evergreen leaf in them. The two cups to the outside of the middle cups each contain powdered incense and the middle section of a cut shikimi leaf. The two outer cups each contain a three leaf piece of shikimi. Each of these offerings in the six-cup tray has a significance relating to the doctrines of True Buddhism, such as the Three Enlightened Properties of the Buddha’s life, the Middle Way (Japn. chudo), the Buddha’s Wisdom, etc. The six-cup tray is offered to the Gohonzon each day before morning Gongyo, and is removed before evening Gongyo.

On the top level, at each side of the Ozushi is a large lantern. There are two additional lanterns, one on each side of the main offering table. These traditionally symbolize the principle of illuminating the path to the Buddha. The top level also has a shikimi evergreen vase on each side. The evergreens signify the Buddha’s Property of Compassionate Action.

On the second level is the burner for stick incense and the trays for food offered by the believers. It is also where the Gokuyo is placed when the priest offers it to the Gohonzon. During special ceremonies in which powdered incense is offered to the Gohonzon, the portable powdered incense burner is also placed on this second level.

The main offering table holds the traditional offerings of candles, the ceremonial incense burner and golden lotus flowers. The candles signify the Property of Wisdom of the Buddha, and the Lotus Flowers signify cause and effect and the Property of Compassionate Action of the Buddha. The incense burner signifies the Property of the Law of the life of the Buddha. (over)

In front of the main offering table is a smaller table located directly in front of the priest’s chair. On this table is another sutra box containing the “Threefold Lotus Sutra.” In some temples, a silk cloth is placed on top of this sutra box. To the left of the priest’s chair is the Memorial Book stand with the temple’s Memorial Book. To the right of the Priest’s chair is the golden gong. This gong can only be rung by the High Priest, or his appointed representative, the Chief Priest of the local Temple. The assistant priest may only ring this golden gong when he is designated to conduct a ceremony in place of the Chief Priest. The Chief Priest’s seat, which may be a chair or a kneeling platform is called the “Seat of the Master.”

To the left of the Priest’s Chair and Memorial Book stand, is a large bowl style bell and a small desk. This is the table and bell used by the assistant priest or visiting priest. To the far left of the assistant priest’s table is the taiko drum.

To the far right of the Priest’s Chair, next to the lantern is the large, free standing jo-koro incense burner. Underneath the top grate is a large, square tray on which incense is burned end to end. The jo-koro is used on certain occasions, when incense is offered to the Gohonzon for many hours at a time.

The Memorial Altar

To the far right of the main altar is the Memorial Altar. The back section of the Memorial Altar contains slots for Toba tablets. The smaller slots on the far right are for Toba offerings for deceased pets. In front of the Toba slots stands a permanent memorial tablet called the Ihai. In front of the Ihai is the water cup. One level down are the evergreen vase and candle. Finally, on the bottom level of the altar is the powdered incense burner.

The Canopy and Banners

Hanging from the ceiling above the “Seat of the Master” is the golden canopy (Japan. Tengai). This canopy gives shade to the Buddha when He preaches the Law. The dragons symbolically protect those who practice the Lotus Sutra. The golden streamers coming down from the top are shaped like ancient musical instruments, symbolizing the manifestation of beautiful sounds when the True Law is preached. The streamers also symbolize the bountiful benefits that rain down when the True Law is preached.

To the right and left of the canopy are the two hanging golden banners (Japan. Doban). They are shaped like a ray of sunlight to symbolize heavenly rays of light beaming down and illuminating the land when the True Law is preached by the Buddha, transforming the saha world into the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light. An inscription by the High Priest is on the top panels of the banners. On the side panels are passages from the Jigage section of the Juryo Chapter of the Lotus Sutra such as “This, my land remains safe and unharmed,” and “The people there are happy and at ease.” The dragons and golden streamers have the same meaning as the ones on the center canopy.

Bearing in mind the profound significance of the Altar at Myoshinji Temple, let us practice with deep gratitude to the Three Treasures of True Buddhism.

What is the Significance of the Juzu Beads?

In Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, the prayer beads receive the “Opening of the Eyes” ceremony which is performed by the Chief Priest. If you choose to purchase beads online, verify that the prayer beads match the description of the prayer beads in paragraph 2 below, specificallywhite cords and tassels. You can request the Opening of the Eyes ceremony at the Temple.  Juzu beads are also available at our Temple bookstore.

Nichikan Shonin (1655 – 1726), the 26th High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu wrote in his treatise, “The Three Robes of This School:”

The prayer beads are the Buddhist implement that helps common mortals advance in their Buddhist practice. (Seiten, p.970)

In Nichiren Shoshu, our prayer beads consist of two long strands joined at either end with two large beads. Hanging from the outside of these large beads are two shorter strands on one side, and three on the other. They are strung with white braided cords with white pompom tassels at the end. These sets of two and three strands are equidistant and opposite from each other. The two large beads are called the father and mother beads. Both of them represent the Buddha.

Between the father and mother beads are 108 beads of a smaller size. These beads represent earthly desires. There are also four smaller beads. They are opposite each other, two being seven beads away from the end with two strands, and the other two are fourteen beads beyond the first two. These four small beads represent the four leaders of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth — Jogyo (Superior Practice), Muhengyo (Boundless Practice), Jougyo (Pure Practice), and Anryugyo (Unwavering Practice) — and also indicate the four virtues of the Buddha’s life. These are eternity, tranquility, true self, and purity. Directly under the father bead, which is at the end with two tassels, is a smaller bead. This represents the essential nature of the Law, the eternal, absolute truth.

Because of their profound significance, you should treat your prayer beads with respect, just as you would the Buddha. To understand the meaning of the beads is to begin to understand the profundity of Buddhism, the correct practice, and the reason for expressing gratitude to the Three Great Secret Laws and the three treasures.

For more information and details on the Juzu beads, read pp. 48-53 in the book, Nichiren Shoshu Basics of Practice.

What is the Significance of the Water Offering?

In Nichiren Daishonin’s day (13th century Japan), the first water drawn from the well was offered to the Gohonzon. For this reason, we place fresh water in a cup in front of the Gohonzon first thing in the morning each day. There are two deep meanings behind this practice:

  1. The function of water is to wash away filth and impurity.  This refers to the function of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, which lets you extinquish your own bad karma and past slander.
  2. The second meaning is that just as water flows from a high place downward to lower ones, the Buddha’s compassion and mercy flows from the heights of the world of Buddhahood downward to equally benefit all life in the lower nine worlds.

Further details about how to offer the water and to care for the Gohonzon and your altar can be found in the book, Basics of Practice.

Nichiren Shoshu Ceremonies

What is the Proper Behavior and Attire When Visiting Myoshinji Temple?

When you come to the temple, you are actually coming to the home of Nichiren Daishonin, which is similar to making a pilgrimage to Taisekiji to see the Dai-Gohonzon. The conduct of each person and his or her attire when at the temple reflects their practice of True Buddhism and certain guidelines should be observed at all times when you are there. It is also important to show new members the correct attitude for their practice and help guests understand the deep value of the Gohonzon.

Guidelines for Proper Behavior

  • Arrive before Gongyo begins. This is at 10:00am each Sunday except for Kosen-rufu Shodai on the first Sunday of every month which begins at 8:50am
  • Gongyo is the offering of our sincere gratitude to the Three Treasures of the Buddha, the Law and the Priest and our attitude during Gongyo sets the pace for our daily lives. Unless you have an emergency situation, absolutely do not get up and leave during Gongyo. The importance of Gongyo is explained in detail in the front of your sutra book.
  • If you need to leave the Main Sanctuary during Daimoku, you should sit in the back so you don’t disturb other people. If you come in late, please sit in the back.
  • Sitting on the patio and drinking coffee should be done after the services, not before or during.
  • Sit upright with both feet on the floor.
  • Remain seated during the Priest’s Lecture.
  • Remain seated until the Priests leave the altar area.
  • Please do not bring any drinks or food into the Main Sanctuary. Eating is only allowed outside the temple or on the patio.
  • Do not take photos without the temple’s permission. We must never take photos of the Gohonzon.
  • Please turn off all cell phones and electronic devices prior to entering the Main Hall.
  • Smoking is prohibited both inside and outside the temple area, including the parking lot, due to local law and fire ordinances. If you need to smoke, you may do so in your car only.
  • Do not lay your beads and/or sutra book on the floor. These are to be respected as if they were the body of the Buddha.
  • Also, do not hang you beads over the back of your seat or use your sutra book as a seat saving device.
  • Do not twirl your beads or wear them around your neck and above all else DO NOT RUB YOUR BEADS.
  • When offering incense at the memorial altar, walk up the aisle around the back; do not walk between the chairs in front of others who are chanting.
  • Please refrain from holding conversations while in the Main Sanctuary as this is disrespectful. The Main Sanctuary is for the purpose of conducting Gongyo and Shodai.
  • If you make a mess, please clean up after yourself. The temple does not have a cleaning service. This is our temple and we should respect it as such.
  • If you are planning to stay for awhile, ask the temple staff if you can help clean and offer your services. You will be making this offering of your time to the Gohonzon.

Guidelines for Proper Attire

  • Please do not wear sunglasses, unnecessary outer coats, or hats when in the Main Sanctuary.
  • Please dress in nice, clean clothes to show your respect to the Buddha. If possible, please make efforts to dress up for special ceremonies, including the monthly Oko ceremony.
What is the Significance of the Kenzen Offering?

The Ceremonial Offering of Food to the Gohonzon

The High Priest makes kenzen offerings during the various ceremonies performed in the Miedo and Reception Hall (Kyakuden) at the Head Temple. Three times each month kenzen is offered during the Oko Ceremony in the Miedo. On the 7th of each month, an Oko is celebrated for Second High Priest Nikko Shonin. On the 13th of each month an Oko is celebrated for the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin, and on the 15th of each month, there is an Oko Ceremony for the Third High Priest, Nichimoku Shonin.

Also, at the local Nichiren Shoshu Temple, each month during the Oko Ceremony, and at all Nichiren Shoshu special ceremonies, such as the Koshi-e, Tanjo-e, and Risshu-e Ceremonies, the Chief Priest makes a ceremonial offering of food to the Gohonzon. This is called kenzen. It is an offereing to the three Treasures of True Buddhism. While the Chief Priest makes the offerengs, the assistant priest ringst the bell, and the believers chant Daimoku.

Kenzen is an offering of a vegetariean meal to the Three Treasures of True Buddhism. There are four offering trays, plus a sake pot and a single cup of rice.

The first tray is an offering to the Treasure of the Law, the Gohonzon. The tray has the crest of the Treasure Wheel. This symbol is common in Buddhism and signifies the great Buddhist Law. In Nichiren Shoshu, it is the symbol od the Gohonzon. On this tray are two metal cups filled with rice.

The second tray is an offering to the Treasure of the Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. The tray has the symbol of the Circular Crane. On it are a bowl of rice, a cup of soup, a bowl of beans, a plate of boiled vegetables, and a plate of pickles. All the cups and bowls except the pickle plate have a lid on them.

The third tray is an offering to Nikko Shonin, the first of the Treasure of the Priesthood. This tray bears the symbol of the tortoise shell, which is the crest of Nikko Shonin. It contains the same food offerings as the tray for Nichiren Daishonin.

The fourth tray is an offering to Third High Priest, Nichimoku Shonin, and all of the successive High Priests. It bears the symbol of the pine, bamboo, and plum, which is Nichimoku Shonin’s crest. This tray has the same offerings as those for Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin, but also has an extra cup of rice as an offering to the successive High Priests of Nichiren Shoshu.

There is also a metal cup of rice that is offered without a tray. This is an offering to the entity of all life in the realm of the ultimate reality.

A sake pot is also used in the Kenzen offering.

As Daimoku is chanted, the Chief Priest offers the first tray of rice to the Gohonzon, kneels and offers his prayers. He then opens the lids on othe tray for the Nichiren Daishonin and makes a plate of rice, beans, begetables, and pickles, and places it on the altar. He then stirs the soup with the chopsticks and puts the chopsticks upright in the rice. He then kneels and offers his prayers while assistant priest rings the bell, completing the offering to the True Buddha. This is repeated several times for the various trays. Sake is also poured from the sake pot and offfered with each tray.

After the offerings are finished, the Chief Priest pours the sake back in the sake pot, and removes the chopsticks from the rice cups. The assistant priest then removes the trays, sake pot, and metal cup of rice. Usually the trays are carried away from the altar by volunteer members.

The kenzen offering is usually done at the beginning of the ceremony before the recitation of the sutra begins. It is important to keep in mind that kenzen is a very important part of the ceremony itself. All the believers are encouraged to chant Daimoku together as the Chief Priest makes the kenzen offerings.

What is the Significance of Gojukai: The Oath of Acceptance?

Gojukai is the ceremony during which a person officially joins Nichiren Shoshu and becomes a believer. The word Gojukai literally means, “The Acceptance of the Precept.”

In earlier forms of Buddhism, practitioners followed various rules of discipline and behavior called “precepts.” In some forms of Hinayana Buddhism there were 250 precepts for monks and 500 precepts for nuns. In Mahayana Buddhism, some schools followed the ten major and forty-eight minor precepts taught in the “Brahma Net Sutra.” The ten major precepts included prohibitions against stealing, lying, disparaging others, and belittling the Three Treasures. The forty-eight minor precepts included warnings against consuming intoxicants, eating meat or the five kinds of pungent plants, carrying weapons, travelling in dangerous places, and teaching the Dharma for profit.

However, the Daishonin taught that we cannot gain any benefit by following such precepts now, in the Latter Day of the Law. Instead, we uphold the one great Precept of embracing the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary. This is the direct path to the attainment of Buddhahood in our present form. The True Buddha called this precept, the “Precept of the Diamond Chalice.” In the Gosho “Teaching, Practice, and Proof” the Daishonin states:

The five characters of Myoho-Renge-Kyo, the heart of the Essential Teaching of the Lotus Sutra, contain all the benefits amassed by the beneficial practices and meritorious deeds of all the Buddhas throughout the past, present and future. Then, how can this phrase not include the benefits obtained by observing all the Buddha’s precepts? Once the practitioner embraces this perfectly endowed mystic precept, he cannot break it, even if he should try. It is therefore called the Precept of the Diamond Chalice. (Shinpen; p. 1109; MW-4; p.129)

The Great Teacher Dengyo compared the principle of the true entity of all phenomena expounded in the Lotus Sutra to a diamond chalice, which is impossible to break. By observing the single precept of embracing the Gohonzon, we receive the benefit of embracing all other good precepts.

Gojukai is the Ceremony where the new believer accepts this “Precept of the Diamond Chalice” and vows to practice throughout his or her life. The spirit of upholding this precept of Nichiren Shoshu is expressed through the “Oath of Acceptance” taken by the new practitioner during Gojukai.

The “Oath of Acceptance” is the vow that is made to the Three Treasures of True Buddhism. The priest asks three questions, and all participants make their vow by answering “I do” to each question. This constitutes their entry onto the pure path of faith:

The Oath of Acceptance

  1. “Do you faithfully swear to practice the True Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin throughout your life?”This vow means that we promise to renounce all other religious laws, masters, and doctrines. We swear that, from this day forward, we will practice only the pure teachings of Nichiren Shoshu.
  2. “Do you faithfully swear to protect the Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws throughout your life?”This vow means that we promise to discard all other religious objects of worship and to uphold the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching as the one and only True Object of Worship. We swear to protect the Gohonzon with our life, and to revere it as the enlightened life of the True Buddha.
  3. “Do you faithfully swear to keep the Precept of Nichiren Shoshu throughout your life?”This vow means that we promise to continue our practice to the Gohonzon for the remainder of our lives. It includes the promise to do our best to “practice for ourselves” (jigyo), and to “practice for the sake of others” (keta). We are therefore making the determination to never miss Gongyo and to do shakubuku. This Precept also contains the principle of practicing honestly and living our daily life honestly.

By answering “I do” the new believer accepts the Precept and makes a determination to uphold the teachings of True Buddhism. At the same time, all other members present also answer “I do.” This renews their commitment to practice together with the new members in itai doshin, and to strive for the advancement of Kosen-rufu.

What is the Meaning of the Kankai-shiki (Re-affirmation) Ceremony?

Reaffirmation (Kan-Kai-Shiki) is conferred upon believers when they return to Nichiren Shoshu and register with the Hokkeko of their local temple. Since January 1, 1996, it has been administered to all believers who officially return, including those who had practiced on their own, those who had stopped practicing, and former SGI members who are rejoining Nichiren Shoshu. It is only conferred upon believers who have already received the Gojukai Ceremony.

The format and content of the Reaffirmation Ceremony is similar to Gojukai, but the significance is different. Gojukai is the ceremony to accept the Precept of Nichiren Shoshu, and is conferred only once in a person’s lifetime. Reaffirmation is the ceremony in which one reaffirms the vows originally made during Gojukai. It signifies the believer’s strong determination to make a fresh start on the journey of faith. It also signifies the believer’s promise to correct any past mistakes in practice and to continue faith throughout his or her lifetime.

Reaffirmation is often conferred during a regularly scheduled Gojukai Ceremony. The Chief Priest may also administer Reaffirmation at other ceremonies or by appointment. During the Ceremony, the Priest touches the head of the reaffirming believer with the special Joju Gohonzon.

The Reaffirmation Ceremony is a time for the returning believer to solemnly remember the importance of the vows originally taken during Gojukai.

What is Ushitora Gongyo?

Ushitora Gongyo is conducted every morning at the Head Temple Taisekiji. Ushitora Gongyo is referred to as the Gongyo officiated by the High Priest as Master of the Seat of the Law, in the Reception Hall(Kyakuden) at the Head Temple at 2:30 AM. In “Articles to be Observed after the Passing of Nikko,” which the Second High Priest Nikko Shonin entrusted to the Third High Priest Nichimoku Shonin, it states:

Perform Gongyo and await the time of kosen-rufu.
(Gosho, p. 1883)

Ushitora Gongyo has been conducted ceaselessly since Head Temple Taisekiji was established in 1290, from the time of Second High Priest Nikko Shonin. The High Priest performs Ushitora Gongyo every morning at 2:30 AM—in the middle of the night—for world peace and for all living beings to attain enlightenment. The Chinese characters for “ushi”(ox)“tora” (tiger) are difficult but I would like to explain the significance depicted by the characters.

First, Ushitora indicates a specific time. Most of you probably leave the house by 8:00 AM for school or work and take a lunch break around noon. At present, we indicate time through numbers, but in ancient Japan, time was illustrated through 12 zodiac signs for the date, time, and direction. The 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and boar. The hour of the ox refers to the period between 1:00 AM and 3:00 AM and the hour of the tiger refers to the period between 3:00 AM and 5:00 AM. At 1:00 in the morning, it is still pitch black. At 5:00, dawn starts to break and many people start to rise. Hence, this transitional time when darkness becomes light, and living beings start to awaken from deep slumber, corresponds to the hours of the ox and tiger. This time period is considered deeply significant in Buddhism and is referred to as the time when all Buddhas of the three existences attain enlightenment. Therefore, at the Head Temple, at this hour, Ushitora Gongyo is recited every day.

Next, Ushitora Gongyo also indicates direction. We all know that the sun rises from the east and sets in the west. The north winds tend to bring chilling weather while the southern tropical islands offer a warmer climate. Within the east, west, south, and north direction, the direction of Ushitora is mid-way between the north and east quadrant. This direction is also known as the direction of the Demon Gate. Historically, the direction of the Demon Gate has been considered to carry special significance in Buddhism. In actuality, in India, China, and Japan, the center of Buddhism has oftentimes been located to the northeast of the capital. When believers make a pilgrimage to Head Temple Taisekiji, the view of Mt. Fuji from the Temple grounds is breathtaking isn’t it? Mt. Fuji is actually located to the northeast of Taisekiji; therefore, from the standpoint of Buddhism, this also holds deep significance.

What exactly is recited during Ushitora Gongyo? During Ushitora Gongyo, similar to morning Gongyo, all five prayers are recited. Nowadays, all five prayers are recited in front of our altar at home. In the past, at Taisekiji, however, the five prayers originally were recited while moving around to five different temple locations. It was much stricter in the past.

After the High Priest completes the recitation of Gongyo facing the Ozagawari Gohonzon in the Kyakuden, he then moves to the Yohaijo, the smaller altar that is located on the west side of the main altar. There, he does an additional recitation of the sutra. The High Priest recites the Hoben-pon, Jigage, and chants Daimoku while facing the Dai-Gohonzon, which is enshrined in the Hoando Sanctuary. This recitation facing the Dai-Gohonzon from a distance is referred to as “yohai.” After completion of the recitation, the High Priest then moves to the Mutsubo and recites morning Gongyo, and with this, Ushitora Gongyo is completed.

The younger priests from middle school on up to high school and priests-in-training rotate and accompany the High Priest. Just imagine the difficulty of having to do this while attending school! Although members regularly do not observe Ushitora Gongyo, the important point is for all Nichiren Shoshu believers to recite diligently morning Gongyo everyday.

What time do you perform morning Gongyo? Even if you are exhausted, just remember that there are people performing Gongyo in the middle of the night when they are much more tired. Keeping this in mind, let’s all do our best to be disciplined in our daily practice.

Why is it Important to Attend Nichiren Shoshu Ceremonies?

An individual cannot practice correctly or nurture strong faith alone. Sometimes believers would rather practice faith by themselves. However, even in the case of worldly pursuits, it is not possible to do everything alone. If we want to study, we go to school. If we want to earn a living, we must go to our workplaces and interact with others. We learn various skills from our superiors, seniors, or teachers. By cooperating with classmates or colleagues, we make progress in our education or in our work.

In the same way, in the practice of Nichiren Shoshu, we can make progress and deepen our faith when we attend a variety of events. We can receive encouragement from our seniors in faith and likewise encourage fellow members. Nichiren Daishonin stated:

Those resolved to seek the Way should all gather and listen to the contents of this letter. (“Letter from Teradomari,” MW, Vol. 4, p. 97, Gosha, p. 484)

He also stated:

The long journey reveals the depth of one’s faith. (Gosha, p. 689)

If we want to become happy through faith, we should gather together with others and study Buddhism. Then, as now, the desire to participate with other Buddhist believers is an integral part of Buddhist practice.

The variety of events available to us fall into two general categories:

  1. Nichiren Shoshu services and ceremonies held at the Head Temple and at local temples, and
  2. Hokkeko meetings to promote faith, practice, and study for individual members.

Nichiren Shoshu Services and Ceremonies

Services and ceremonies conducted at the Head Temple and at local temples express and reveal various profound aspects and concepts of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism.

It is impossible for us, ordinary mortals swayed by emotion, to understand the profound principles of the Daishonin’s Buddhism fully. Even if we are able to understand some of them, to believe in and to retain them firmly and correctly is extremely difficult.

For this reason the Head Temple and each local temple conduct traditional services and ceremonies in order to reveal the profound doctrines of the Daishonin’s Buddhism. By participating, even without our conscious awareness, we are deeply absorbing their influences. This will be the foundation for us to be able to continue to practice with correct faith based on the profound Buddhist doctrine handed down for more than 750 years.

Eventually, solitary faith will be transformed by our egocentric ideas into a belief of an entirely different nature from the Daishonin’s cor¬rect Buddhism.

From time to time, some members may express disinterest in attending ceremonies and activities. However, it is important to keep in mind the fundamental significance of the services and the deep meaning of the ceremonies conducted in Nichiren Shoshu.

The profound doctrines of the Daishonin’s Buddhism will always be revealed in the form of services and ceremonies. For a believer, correct faith involves enthusiastic and consistent attendance and appreciation of this on-going process.

Learn More About the Major Ceremonies and Services of Nichiren Shoshu >

Special Ceremonies:

  • Ushitora Gongyo, every morning at the Head Temple
  • Goreiho Omushibarai-e, (Airing of the Sacred Treasures Ceremony), April 7th at the Head Temple
  • Shuso Gotai-e (Oeshiki), (Celebration of Nichiren Daishonin’s passing) November 21st by the modern calendar, at the Head Temple; October 13th, by the lunar calendar at most local temples

Of all the services and ceremonies held at the temples, the most important ceremony for us to attend is the monthly Oko

The Oko Ceremony is held in reverence to the Buddha, the Law, and the priesthood of the Three Great Secret Laws, and to repay our gratitude to them. This denotes the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin; the True Object of Worship, the Dai-Gohonzon; Nikko Shonin, Nichimoku Shonin, and the successive High Priests. It is held on the 13th day of every month, the day of Nichiren Daishonin’s passing, at the Head Temple, and on a date near the 13th in all Nichiren Shoshu local temples.

It is very difficult for us to attend the services and ceremonies held at the Head Temple, because of the great distance, so we make every effort to attend the monthly Oko Ceremony held at our local temple, and repay our gratitude to the three treasures from the bottom of our hearts.

Hokkeko Meetings

At Hokkeko meetings members gather together to share experiences, ask questions, and study in order to learn about the great power of the Gohonzon. These meetings are generally conducted in an informal environment such as a member’s home. Occasionally a priest may also attend and lecture, answer questions, and provide guidance in a smaller, more relaxed atmosphere.

It is important to attend as many such meetings as possible because when we do, conviction in the absolute power of the Gohonzon, the way to practice correct faith, and deeper knowledge gained through study will naturally take root in our lives. The experiences of other members, the friendships based on faith, a shared desire for Kosen-rufu, and our joint efforts in shakubuku all serve to help us deepen our faith and consequently advance in our lives. These Buddhist activities also help encourage us to overcome obstacles as they arise in the course of our practice.

The essential thing is that, through holding these various meetings repeatedly and sharing experiences from various points of view, and studying the teachings, members will develop faith free of egotistical or biased viewpoints, in a pleasant atmosphere.

What is the Purpose of Beating the Drum at the Temple?

At the temple, when we chant Daimoku after Gongyo, a drum is beaten. There are various reasons for this. Here is an explanation of the three major significant points regarding the drum.

1. To unite our minds as one

The first reason why the drum is beaten is to enable us to chant in unison. Imagine if, when we recite Gongyo and chant Daimoku, the majority of people chanted at their own speed. What would happen? The answer is simple. We would not be able to chant harmoniously. The Daishonin states that itai doshin is important in our faith and practice. He teaches that even thought we are of different bodies, when we strive toward the same goal of kosen-rufu, our objective will be achieved without fail. In order to have itai doshin, it is most important that we chant earnestly with one mind. The drum helps fulfill this important role.

2. To offer the sound of the drum

There are many ways of making offerings to the Gohonzon. It is a matter of course to offer money or food, but also we can offer our service through such efforts as cleaning the temple. Similarly, the sound of the bell or the drum also can be an offering. In Buddhist literature, it is often said that various kinds of music were offered to praise the Buddha. If you have an opportunity to beat the drum, please do your best, since you are making an offering to the Gohonzon with each beat.

3. To create a poison drum relationship

In the Nirvana Sutra, there is the story of the poison drum. Suppose someone smears a drum with poison. If this poison drum is beaten, the sound will penetrate into the ears of the people who have no desire to hear it. Still, however, they will die from the poison.

The words “poison” or “die” are frightening, but they are used as metaphors. The point is not that people will really die. This story shows that even if a person refuses to listen, we should nevertheless teach him or her about true Buddhism and enable them to make a connection to the Gohonzon. Even people who resist saying, “I do not want to practice,” will develop a karmic bond as a result, and this eventually will lead them to happiness.

The important point here is that we should talk about our faith and practice with others. Some people with whom we speak honestly will take faith through a positive relationship (jun’en) and others will form a reverse relationship (gyaku’en) but eventually will take faith in the future. There are times when we are persecuted by people who oppose our faith and practice. This may discourage some people from doing shakubuku. However, the Daishonin states the following in “Attaining Enlightenment at the Initial Stage of Faith through the Lotus Sutra”:

Therefore one should by all means persist in preaching the Lotus Sutra and causing them to hear it. Those who put their faith in it will surely attain Buddhahood, while those who slander it will establish a “poison-drum relationship” with it and will likewise attain Buddhahood.
(MW-6, p. 197)

Since the Daishonin’s true Buddhism is the only teaching in this era that will lead the people to happiness, it is important to do shakubuku by sincerely talking to as many people as possible—even those who don’t want to listen. The beating of the drum at the temple has an extremely important significance, because many people can be heard chanting Daimoku to the rhythm of the drum. This is shakubuku.

Conclusion

The formalities (kegi), such as how to conduct Gongyo and how to make offerings to the Gohonzon, have truly important meanings. When we make offerings to the Gohonzon, it is especially important to offer courteously with a sincere spirit. When you protect the Gohonzon with great care, you will be protected without fail.

At some temples, the young adults are taught how to beat the drum. If you have the opportunity to learn, please remember the significance of the drum and practice seriously.

What is the Hokkeko?

The original meaning of kois “to lecture on the sutras.” It also indicated ceremonies where everyone gathered. Later, it came to mean “a gathering of practitioners.” Thus, “Hokkeko” means a gathering of the people who believe in the Daishonin’s correct teaching and strive to do Gongyo, Shodai, and shakubuku. The Daishonin himself used the name Hokkeko. We can understand this from the fact that the Dai-Gohonzon, enshrined in the Hoando, has the following inscription:

With great respect for the petitioner of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching, Yashiro Kunishige and the people of the Hokkeko.

The Second High Priest Nikko Shonin wrote in his “Letter to the Members of Sado”:

The believers of Nichiren Shoshu have been called “Hokkeko-shu” (members of the Hokkeko).

The roots of the Hokkeko come from the original believers in the Fuji Atsuhara district. They propagated the true Law and protected the Daishonin’s teachings, even though their lives were in danger. The Atsuhara Hokkeko members were new believers who recently had taken faith in the Daishonin’s Buddhism. They strove in doing shakubuku under the leadership of Nikko Shonin.

Due to their efforts, many people in the region, including local farmers, became believers, and the Daishonin’s Buddhism spread. However, a powerful priest of another sect and others under his influence tried to stop them. Some of these members were arrested and told, “If you do not give up this practice, you will be beheaded.” But the Atsuhara Hokkeko members never stopped chanting. The central figures, Jinshiro, Yagoro, and Yarokuro were executed without being charged for any crimes. Even in the midst of this drastic situation, the farmers never gave up their faith and practice. They continued to uphold the Daishonin’s Buddhism. This incident is called the Atsuhara persecution.

Having witnessed this sincere faith of his disciples, the Daishonin knew that the time had come to reveal the purpose of his advent as the True Buddha in the Latter Day of the Law. Hence, on October 12, 1279 (second year of Koan), he inscribed the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching.

Unlike the present time, there were eras when believers were unable to practice freely. Even under these circumstances, Hokkeko members strove in their faith and diligently practiced. Down through the ages, many people took faith in true Buddhism. They upheld faith in the Dai-Gohonzon and followed the guidance of the successive High Priests. Thus, the correct faith and practice of Nichiren Shoshu has been handed down to the present time. The Hokkeko members of today must follow the example of these believers and do shakubuku without begrudging their lives. This will ensure that the Daishonin’s Buddhism will be propagated into the future.

The purpose of the Hokkeko is to protect the Head Temple Taisekiji and the local temples, and to practice together with fellow Hokkeko members, giving encouragement to each other. We should never cut ourselves off from the Head Temple and the local temples.

Most Hokkeko chapters are named after their local temple—for example, “Myogyoji Chapter.” The temple is the center. All Nichiren Shoshu believers belong to a local temple and practice under the guidance of the chief priest, who also is called the “guiding priest.”

Each chapter has a koto, who is the representative of the believers. There also are various officers who are called kanji. Some Hokkeko chapters have representatives for the young adult believers, the teenage members, and the children’s group. Each officer and representative is making efforts to help our faith and practice become stronger. So it is important to cooperate with them.

People who practice with Nichiren Shoshu are all Hokkeko members. When a person receives Gojukai and has become a Nichiren Shoshu believer, he or she also becomes a Hokkeko member. The same is true for those who have returned to Nichiren Shoshu and received the Reaffirmation Ceremony.

High Priest Nichinyo Shonin often encourages us by stating, “When the chief priest and lay believers put their efforts together and take action, our goals will be achieved without fail.” All of our friends are important of course; however, the relationships we develop through the temple are extremely important, since we are connected through faith and practice. Let us happily participate in our various Hokkeko activities. Furthermore, let’s achieve our chapter goals through chanting abundant Daimoku in total unity.

Memorials for the Deceased

What is the Memorial Book (Kakocho)?

Recorded in the Memorial Book are the anniversaries of the deaths of Nichiren Daishonin and all of the successive High Priests, acknowledgment of the religious persecutions the Daishonin endured, and the anniversaries of the deaths of your own deceased relatives and friends. The book is set up so that you can offer memorials of gratitude each day. The Memorial Book (Kakocho) is used to assist us in offering benefit or merit to the deceased each day during morning and evening Gongyo. All Nichiren Shoshu Temples have a Memorial Book at the altar. Smaller sized versions are inscribed for lay believers by the Chief Priest of their local temple. It is recommended that all believers have a memorial book. It is placed to the left side of the offering table in front of the Butsudan.

Each page of the Memorial Book is numbered to correspond to a day of the month. For example, the page numbered 20 corresponds to the twentieth day of each month of the year. Just before beginning evening Gongyo, turn the page to the one numbered for the next day. Then, repeat the memorials on that page at morning Gongyo of the numbered day.

Families who have a Memorial Book should offer the memorial section of the Fifth Prayer in the following manner. After ending Shodai, and chanting Daimoku Sansho, continuously strike the bell:

  1. Silently offer your deep gratitude for the Daishonin and successive High Priests as they are noted in the Memorial Book.
  2. Silently offer your gratitude for the religious persecutions the Daishonin endured as they are noted in the Memorial Book.
  3. Silently offer prayers in memory of and gratitude for the lives of the deceased (including the parents of the Daishonin) as they are noted in the Memorial Book.
  4. Offer prayers for your deceased relatives and friends as written in the first part of the Fifth Prayer. When finished, stop striking the bell and chant Daimoku Sansho.

To obtain a Memorial Book, believers request an application from their local temple. This application will have a place to write the names of one’s deceased family and friends. The Chief Priest will inscribe the requested names in the book. When a new name needs to be added, the book should be given to the Chief Priest to make the inscription. Please check with your local temple staff regarding appropriate Gokuyo.

What is the Significance of the Temple Memorial Book (dai-Kakocho)?

Every Nichiren Shoshu temple has a memorial book on the altar just to the left of the Chief Priest’s seat. It is called the Dai-Kakocho which translates as “Great Memorial Book.” As with all Kakocho memorial books, the temple Dai-Kakocho contains the names of each High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu, significant events in True Buddhism, the names of Nichiren Daishonin’s parents, and Nanjo Tokimitsu, the believer who donated the land where Head Temple Taisekiji was founded.

A Nichiren Shoshu Temple’s Dai-Kakocho also contains the names of deceased persons who have been entered into the book at the request of a believer. Anyone can have an entry made into the Dai-Kakocho. Each month the Chief Priest will include the deceased person in the fifth prayer of Gongyo for that day. The significance of the temple’s Dai-Kakocho is that prayers will be offered even after the person who requested the inclusion into the book passes away.

An application form can be obtained from the temple’s administration office along with details on the suggested Gokuyo.

What is the Significance of the Toba Memorial Tablet?

When you visit your local Nichiren Shoshu Temple you will probably notice that in the sanctuary, next to the main altar there is a second, smaller altar usually on the right hand side. It has the offerings of water, evergreens, an incense burner, and a candle. Above these offerings are slots or spaces to place memorial tablets. At the front is a large powdered incense burner. The purpose of this Memorial Altar is for the offering of Toba Memorial Tablets for the benefit of the deceased. This is a very significant aspect of the practice of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism.

The Toba takes the form of five levels which signify the five elements of earth, water, fire, wind, and ku (non-substantiality). The bottom level of the Toba, shaped like a square, represents earth. The second level is in the shape of a circle, representing water. The third level, denoting fire, is a triangle. The fourth level, in the shape of a semicircle represents wind. At the top of the Toba is the level representing ku. It is shaped like a jewel signifying the “treasure of fulfillment.” The Daishonin taught that all phenomena in the universe are composed of these five elements. This, of course, includes the human body. Therefore, the Toba signifies the body of the deceased.

These five levels of the Toba, and the five elements also correspond to the five characters of Myo-Ho-Ren-Ge-Kyo. The Daishonin teaches in the “Record of Orally Transmitted Teachings” (Ongi Kuden):

Our head represents Myo, the throat is Ho, the chest is Ren, the womb is Ge, and the legs are kyo. This five-foot body of ours is, indeed, the manifestation of the five characters of the Mystic Law, Myoho-Renge-Kyo. (Shinpen, p.1728)

The Daishonin also states in the Gosho, “On the Ultimate Teaching Affirmed by All Buddhas:”

The five elements are earth, water, fire, wind, and ku. …These are, in other words, the five characters of Myoho-Renge-Kyo. (Shinpen, pp. 1418-1419)

The five levels of the Toba also signify the body of the Buddha.

When we chant sincere Daimoku to the Gohonzon for the enlightenment of the deceased, we, ourselves can attain enlightenment. In addition, the deceased, who cannot chant Daimoku for themselves, gain tremendous benefit from the Daimoku we chant for them. This is the principle behind the Toba Memorial Service. The True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin stated:

The deceased rely on the benefits of offerings from their relatives. So you should offer your benefit to them to relieve their suffering. (Shintei Gosho, Vol. 1, p. 72)

On the Toba is inscribed Myoho-Renge-Kyo. There is also an inscription in Chinese characters stating, “Here exists the body of the Buddha.” Under the Daimoku is the name of the deceased, and on the reverse side is inscribed the name of the person who requested it.

Requests for a Toba are done in writing at your local Nichiren Shoshu Temple, or the Temple you are visiting. If you wish to offer a Toba at the Head Temple during Tozan pilgrimage, you may make your request in the Tobashitsu (the Toba office next to the Mutsubo) on the Head Temple grounds. If you don’t live near a Nichiren Shoshu Temple, you can make your request by mail.
The Toba Request Form asks for the date you want the Toba to be offered, the name of the deceased and the name of the person making the request. Your relationship to the deceased (such as father, aunt, friend, pet dog) and the date of death should be written on the application which is submitted with an offering of Gokuyo. Because the Tobas are individually inscribed by the priest, put your requests in early.

It is best if the believer making the request can be present at the Temple when the Toba is offered to the Gohonzon. The Priest and the believer then can pray in unity for the enlightenment of the deceased. If this is not possible, the Priest will offer the Toba in your absence.

The Offering of Powdered Incense at the Memorial Altar

The recitation of the Sutra will begin. The offering of powdered incense begins during Part B of Gongyo. It is not appropriate to wait until the sutra recitation is finished and offer powdered incense during the chanting of Daimoku, or during the silent prayers. If, however, there are so many people that it is not possible to finish before Daimoku starts, an exception is made. Chant silently when approaching the Memorial Altar.

  • With palms together, face the Gohonzon, silently offer three Daimoku and bow.
  • Then face the Memorial Altar, silently offer three Daimoku and bow.
  • Take a small pinch of incense powder between two fingers, gently raise the hand holding the incense slightly above eye level as a gesture of respect, and place the incense powder on the charcoal in the burner. This is done three times.
  • Face the Memorial Altar, offer three silent Daimoku and bow. Face the Gohonzon, repeat the three silent Daimoku and return to your seat.

There is tremendous benefit in offering a Toba Memorial Tablet. Through the power of the Mystic Law we are able to reach and affect the life of the deceased. The Daishonin states:

You erected a sixteen-foot sotoba with the seven characters of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo inscribed on it. …Your deceased parents must be illuminating the pure land as brilliantly as would the sun and moon in the heavens. Furthermore, you yourselves, their filial son and his wife, as well as your children, will live to be one hundred and twenty. (MW, Vol. 5, p. 299, Shinpen, p. 1434)

Regarding the Soka Gakkai

Clarifications on Attending SGI Activities

Several Hokkeko members mentioned that they have recently attended meetings of the SGI at its community center, or have chanted with SGI members in their homes. One member said that she goes back and forth both to Hokkeko meetings and SGI meetings. She asked whether or not this was the right cause to make.

From 1930, to the fall of 1991, the Soka Gakkai organization was affiliated with Nichiren Shoshu, and it upheld faith in the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary, and the Lifeblood Heritage of the Law passed down to each successive High Priest. However, in November 1991, this organization was expelled from Nichiren Shoshu due to its heretical interpretations of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism and it’s repudiation of correct faith in the fundamental doctrines of Nichiren Shoshu.

The Soka Gakkai International (SGI) of today is a heretical Buddhist sect. This group chants the words Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and recites a portion of the Lotus Sutra, but it is based on completely erroneous doctrine, and therefore, the Daimoku it chants will bring forth no benefit at all. Furthermore, the SGI issues to its members a counterfeit copy of a Nichiren Shoshu Gohonzon that it made without the Head Temple’s permission or the High Priest’s authorization. This group even went so far as to alter this counterfeit copy by removing the name of the priest for whom it was inscribed.

The action of chanting to a counterfeit object of worship such as this is definitely slander of true Buddhism and will bring forth tremendous negative effects. Since the SGI is disconnected from the Dai-Gohonzon and the Heritage of the Law, the Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo that is chanted by the SGI members is nothing more than empty sound—it is not a manifestation of the enlightened life of the True Buddha—and is therefore a slander of the True Law.

The source of all benefit comes from the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching, enshrined in the Hoando Sanctuary at Head Temple Taisekiji. All of the Gohonzons issued by Nichiren Shoshu derive directly from the Dai-Gohonzon and receive the Eye-opening Ceremony by the High Priest. True benefit comes from upholding correct faith in the Three Great Secret Laws based on the Dai-Gohonzon and the Heritage of the Law.

Therefore, we must clearly understand that going to SGI activities and chanting with SGI members in their homes is a practice that goes directly against the teachings of true Buddhism. If someone does morning Gongyo here at the Temple, and then goes to the SGI center that night, this person is erasing his fortune and making causes for suffering in the future. Nichiren Daishonin gives the following admonishment:

“…we may be the kind of practitioners of the Lotus Sutra whose mouths are reciting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo one moment, but Namu Amida Butsu the next. This is like mixing filth with one’s rice, or putting sand or pebbles in it.” (MW-7, p. 194)

If we know anyone who goes to the SGI center, we must correct this person and encourage him or her to practice only true Buddhism with Nichiren Shoshu.

Leaving Sokka Gakai and Joining Nichiren Shoshu

Returning to True Buddhism

We have many former SGI members joining/returning to the Temple to learn to practice Buddhism. You are more than welcome to visit Myoshinji Temple and begin the correct practice of True Buddhism.

  • If you have already received Gojukai as a member of Nichiren Shoshu, you will need,  as soon as possible, to receive the Reaffirmation Ceremony (Kankai) where you reaffirm your vows.
  • If you never received Gojukai from a Nichiren Shoshu priest, you should receive Gojukai.
  • If you received a honzon from the SGI, you will need to either return your SGI honzon to the SGI or give it to our Chief Priest. You can read about this on the NST.org site.

Recommended process to join/return to Nichiren Shoshu

  1. Visit the Temple. If you have a counterfeit honzon, please bring it with you to submit to the Temple.
    1. Get a correct Gongyo book (Sutra book) and prayer beads.
    2. Participate in the Reaffirmation (Kankai) ceremony  – OR – receive Gojukai. The Chief Priest can perform the Kankai and Gojukai ceremonies at regularly scheduled temple meetings. If you can’t make it to one of those, you can schedule another day by contacting the Temple directly.
  2. Attend (one or all) of our monthly Introduction to Buddhism meetings. We hold regular Introduction meetings, three times a month, at the Temple. These meetings provide you with the basics of Buddhism outlined in the lectures by our Chief Priest.
  3. Attend our monthly New Buddhists Meetings with the Chief Priest to learn about the correct practice of Buddhism and to ask questions in a small setting with the Chief Priest.
  4. Apply to receive your Gohonzon when you are ready.

If you have any questions, please contact the Temple directly.