Honzon (Nichiren Shoshu) (本尊 (日蓮正宗))
The honzon (the principal object of worship) in Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism is the Honmonkaidan-no-Daigohonzon (usually called the Lotus Mandala). Also known as the Honzon of Ichienbudaisoyo, it was drawn by Nichiren, the founding father of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, on a Japanese cinnamon tree and engraved by Izumi-ko Nipposhi. It is characterized by the Nichiren mantra Namu Myohorenge-kyo at its center, with the Kao (a written seal) of Nichiren below it, prayers summoning various Buddhas surrounding it, images of the Four Guardians in its corners, and bonji (Sanskrit characters) for Fudo Myoo (god of wisdom and righteousness) and Aizen Myoo (god of love) on either side of it.
Honmonkaidan-no-Daigohonzon has writings such as 'Honmonokaidan,' 'Ganshu Yashiro Kunishige' and 'Hokkekoshura Keihaku.'
Branch temples of Nichiren Shoshu enshrine a copy of the Honmonkaidan-no-Daigohonzon copied by the Hoshu as mandala Honzon, and followers receive a mandala, which is a copy of the Honmonkaidan-no-Daigohonzon copied by Taiseki-ji Temple priests (Hossu).
Nichiren Shoshu has decreed that the Honmonkaidan-no-Daigohonzon is said to be drawn by the founding father on October 12, 1279 as the Honzon of Kimyoeji, (enshrined in the Grand Head Temple, Taiseki-ji Temple Hoan-do) and considers it to be the true reason for the founding father's appearance.
The Great mandala Honzon based on the founding father's idea is sometimes called Monji mandala or Jikkai mandala by art lovers, but they are all branches and leaves of the tree trunk that is the Honmonkaidan-no-Daigohonzon. The structure of the Honzon is with the opening phrase consisting of the Nichiren chant, 'Namu Myohorenge-kyo' and the name of the shuso 'Nichiren' with hangyo (a seal) is written in unique, characteristic handwriting in the center as a column, with many names representing living things that are included in the Three Thousand Realms Contained in One Mind, starting from Shakamuni-butsu/Taho-nyorai on both sides, and Bodhisattva and gods, even to Devadatta in hell, surround it. This image expresses, as Honzon Shichika no Sojo says, 'the opening in the center, Jikkai on either side, and all represent Nichiren,' and borrowing the image of a ceremony on the Ryozenejo, Jikkaigogu, Hyakkaisennyo, Three Thousand Realms Contained in One Mind are all expressed by Nichiren Dai-Shonin.
In other words, together with the central Namu Myohorenge-kyo and the Holy Entities of the Jikkai on both sides, it expresses the entire life of Nichiren Dai-Shonin
Therefore, the Dai-Shonin said 'Please believe in me because I poured my soul into the ink to write this.'
Each temple, facility and house of followers of Nichiren Shoshu have a Great mandala drawn by the founding father gifted by the Hoshu at that time or a mandala Honzon copied by historical Hoshu is enshrined, and it is without question thought that service to the Honzon should be done 'with the same feeling as waiting upon Nichiren Dai-Shonin himself in the flesh.'
The Honzon is the Enlightenment of a living Buddha, in other words, 'Honbutsu Nichiren Dai-Shonin' himself and at the same time, it connects the senses and boundaries of the founding father as a Ninhonzon into one, expressing the relationship of Ninho-iko (humans and law are melted into one). This Honzon is known to express soul-searching training, in other words, the actual practical method for attaining enlightenment with one life rather than just the theory of the Three Thousand Realms Contained in One Mind that is the core of the Hoke-kyo Sutra being "Anyone can certainly become a Buddha" by working and chanting every morning and evening to this Honzon.
The second founding monk, Nikkyo, was strict in following the rules of Buddhism and declared all shrines of other sects as non-followers of Buddhism, but also left writings stating that worshipping should be allowed because upon fulfillment of wide distribution, all shrines and temples in Japan will have enshrined a Honzon. This may be the reason why some shrines in the vicinity of Taiseki-ji Temple in Fujinomiya City Shizuoka Prefecture enshrine the Honson of Nichiren Shoshu as their sacred body.
Forms of the Honzon
There are two forms of the Honzon, 'Paper drawing Honzon' and 'Ita Honzon.'
Paper-drawn Honzon have a mounting and are in the form of a hanging scroll, with two types, 'Joju Honzon (Calligraphy-copied Honzon,' written by the Hoshu, and 'Katachigi Honzon,' which is a printed version of the mandala written by the Hoshu. The paper-drawn Honzon owned by temples are all 'Joju Honzon,' the same as the 'Doshi Honzon' displayed during funerals. The Honzon given to followers' homes are 'Katachigi Honzon' (there are also Special Katachigi Honzon), and devout followers can apply for a 'Joju Honzon' to the Grand Head Temple through their affiliated temple.
Ita Honzon' are all 'Joju Honzon.'
They are enshrined in each building of the Grand Head Temple and Main building (Hondo) of each temple, emulating the ' Honmonkaidan-no-Daigohonzon,' with gold-plated characters on a board with a layer of black lacquer. The cord of the Honzon is placed into the lotus pedestal before enshrinement. Honzon generally have a gold-colored frame, such as the 'Oza-kawari Honzon' (copied by Nikkyo) enshrined in Taiseki-ji Temple Kyakuden (Taiseki-ji Temple), but some facilities have wooden Honzon while others have paper-drawn Honzon.
It should be added that the Jojuban Honzon and Honmonkaidan-no-Daigohonzon do not have the same form.
Honmonkaidan-no-Daigohonzon are shaped like a log sliced in half, which is not similar to the concept of a 'board.'
Additionally, the date of copying, the owning temple name, the enshrinement place, ganshu, name, etc. may sometimes be written on the side of the Honzon, and the Hoshu name of its copying and his hangyo (Kao) are also written at the bottom.
Honmonkaidan-no-Daigohonzon is considered to be the true reason for the appearance of Nichiren and was drawn by Nichiren himself on October 12, 1279.
Next to Honmonkaidan-no-Daigohonzon enshrined in Taiseki-ji Temple, Hoan-do, there is a kyuden (miniature shrine) enshrining a 3-sun statue of Nichiren called the First Buddha, which is made from a Japanese cinnamon and sculptured by Izumi-ko Nipposhi, when Honmonkaidan-no-Daigohonzon was established and there is a story (legend) that Nichiren saw this and commented that 'it looks similar.'
Regarding the Honmonkaidan-no-Daigohonzon, there has been constant discussion by other sects on whether it is real or not. The photograph in the title page of the book, 'Nichiren Shonin' published in 1911, was given to the author by Ichijo YUI. It is difficult to see the details, but the opening phrase, Four Guardians and the Kao can be clearly determined. From this appraisal, it has been pointed out to be similar to the mandala given by Zen in May 8, 1280.
The one in Taiseki-ji Temple is a paper-drawn Manadara with authentic writing by Nichiren on March 1280, and is described in the fifth volume of the Fujishu Gakuyoshu as 'named Shishinden-gohonzon,' and is a special Honzon that was given to the Emperor when he became a believer in Nichiren's Buddhism and to be kept in the Shishinden, Kyoto Imperial Palace. Another legend has it that in the age of Nichiu, the ninth head of Taiseki-ji Temple, the Shishinden-gohonzon was engraved in a board to become a 'Substitute Gohonzon' while the honzon (Nichiren Shoshu) was hidden in a cave owned by the Ide family in Numazu for protection from burglars.
The name Shishinden-gohonzon has been a traditional name used for a long time, but at the Insect warding Buddhist ceremony in 2002, the sermon by Nikken, the sixty-seventh Taiseki-ji Temple head said, 'The name should be reconsidered and should be correctly called Shishisosho-no-gohonzon, or Shishidenju-no-gohonzon.'
The one in Yobo-ji Temple is a paper-drawn Manadara given to the Emperor at the Shishinden in 1756, but is considered not to be Nichiren's actual writing.
The Shishinden is part of the Kyoto Imperial Palace and was formerly the Emperor's living quarters. Since the Emperor's Imperial Palace was moved to Tokyo, it has been under the management of the nation as a cultural asset and it is possible to visit it as a tourist attraction.
The Honzon kept at each temple and displayed at Makura-kyo, wakes, and funerals are 'Doshi Honzon' and is a Honzon for guiding the deceased to Ryozen Jodo for sokushin-joubutsu, and is also called the 'Sokushin-Jobutsu no gohonzon.'
In some cases, the Nokotsu-do in temples such as the Grand Head Temple Taiseki-ji Temple enshrine a Honzon. The Honzon enshrined in a Nokotsu-do is a Doshi-Honzon for the same reason.
Enshrinement form and Buddhist altar/altar equipment
The enshrinement of a Honzon is normally in the form of only the Honzon itself, but some temples employ 'Goei-do style,' where a statue of Nichiren is enshrined in front of the Honzon as it is at the Goei-do (Taiseki-ji Temple) or the 'Separate Three Treasures style,' where the Honzon is in the center and on the left when facing the Honzon is a statue of Nichiren and on the right is a statue of Nikko as it is at the Kyakuden of Taiseki-ji Temple.
Nichiren Shoshu enshrines the Honzon in a Zushi. It does not place ihai (ancestral tablets) in the Buddhist altar. A white wooden ihai is used for the funeral but when Nokotsu is performed during the Day 57 or Day 77 ceremony, it is put into the Kako-cho (death register) and the white wooden ihai is given to the temple. Therefore, the morning and evening Buddhist religious services are performed while looking at the Kako-cho to offer prayers for the deceased. The Buddhist altar for Nichiren Shoshu is quite different in structure from altars for other sects because it has a Zushi in its inner side. Some household altars have copied the Zushi in temples.
Followers never place ihai in their altars but the Daikodo at Taiseki-ji Temple have ihai of Nikko and Nichimoku. This is considered to express Nichiren observing the preaching disciples, Nikko and Nichimoku, who heard Nichiren preach and are directly descended from him.