Honzon (本尊)

Honzon has the following meanings.

Sculptures, paintings, mandalas, named inscriptions of Buddha or Bosatsu, are considered to be the most important objects of religious belief installed in Buddhist temples or altars, or carried around on the body as an amulet.

In religions other than Buddhism, an object of religious attention that is held to be important.

In daily life outside of Buddhism, the central person or person who should not be sidelined or a precious object.

Here we describe the use of Honzon as a Buddhist term.
(Other meanings are derivatives of Honzon as a Buddhist term)

Origin of Honzon

The name and concept of Honzon comes from the teachings of Daibirushanabutsu-Jinpenkaji-kyo Sutra.

There are two conditions to Honzon. They are clean and unclean. If the Honzon is clean, it will depart from all and if it is unclean, with thoughts, it will be kei/gyo.

The two conditions to Honzon make two things possible. Because with thoughts, it can reach the Siddhi (the ultimate destination) of thoughts, and because it is without thoughts, it can create the Siddhi of no thoughts.
Setsu-honzon-sanmai-bon, no. 28

In Japan, during the Kamakura Buddhism period, Nichiren taught that the following three conditions should be observed.

Konpon-sonsu
He should be revered and worshiped as 'the foundation of everything in the world.'

Honrai-soncho
He should be esteemed for being 'what we ourselves should ideally be in the flesh.'

Honnu-songyo
He should reveal his 'appearance and shape of blessed existence' that has always been in existence since the infinite past but was hidden until the present.

This is considered to have been the result of feelings of rivalry towards the Shingon sect founded by Kukai, who Nichiren is thought to have considered as his foremost rival. The character styles of the Great Mandala for Honzon designated by various schools of the Nichiren sect all show similarity to Bonji (Siddham characters), which is a major characteristic of the Shingon sect.

Honzon of Various sects
The Honzon of major sects in Japanese Buddhism are shown below.

Nanto Six sects - the Honzon differs depending on the temple. Todai-ji Temple (Kegon sect) Kon-do Honzon is a Vairocana (famous as the Big Buddha), Yakushi-ji Temple (Hosso-shu sect) Kon-do Honzon is Yakushi-nyorai, Kofuku-ji Temple (Hosso-shu) Chukon-do Honzon is Shakanyorai.

Tendai sect - this sect was introduced to Japan by Saicho and inherits teachings from four sects, En (Tendai), Mitsu (Mikkyo), Zen (Zen-shu and Kai (Kairitsu) and the Honzon of each temple varies. The Honzon of Enryaku-ji Temple is Yakushinyorai for Konpon Chu-do, the east tower of Enryaku-ji Temple, Shakanyorai for Tenhorin-do (Shaka-do) for the west tower and Kannon Bosatsu for the Yokokawa Chu-do in Enryaku-ji Temple Yokokawa. Some temples like Shinsho Gokuraku-ji Temple have Amidanyorai as a Honzon.

Shingon sect – Dainichinyorai is the most revered, but the Honzon of each temple varies, such as Shakanyorai, Amidanyorai, Yakushinyorai, Kannon Bosatsu and Fudo Myoo. This is thought to be based on the thinking that all Buddhas are a sign of universal truth and a manifestation of Dainichinyorai, who has attained Buddhism's highest form of existence, in a different appearance. The Honzon of To-ji Temple, Jingo-ji Temple and Daigo-ji Temple are Yakushinyorai, and Kongobu-ji Temple has Ashuku-nyorai (considered the same as Yakushinyorai) as the Honzon.

Jodo sect - Amidanyorai (seated image)
Jodo Shinshu sect - Honson is one Buddha, Amidanyorai (standing image)
The form is a wooden statue or painted image.
Or a named Honzon of 'Namu Amidabutsu.'

Rinzai sect – Shakanyorai is often the Butsuden Honzon (depending upon past connections, may also be Kannon Bosatsu, Amidanyorai, Jizo Bosatsu, etc.), however, the Zen sect temples tend to revere Soshi images as much as, or sometimes even more than Buddha images.

Soto sect – Shakanyorai is often the Butsuden Honzon (however, it is considered conceptually as existing in the soul)
Depending upon past connections, may also be Kanzeon Bosatsu, Amidanyorai, Jizo Bosatsu, etc.). However, the Zen sect temples tend to revere Soshi (founder) images as much as, or sometimes even more than Buddha images.

Nichiren sect, Hokke sect - 'Sanbo-son' consisting of a pagoda with Shakamunibutsu of Kuonjitsujo, Great Madara drawn just before Nichiren's nirvana in 1282 and the Nichiren chant written in the center, and Shakanyorai and Taho-nyorai on the sides, with a statue of Nichiren below it.
Nichiren Shoshu – Honzon of October 12, 1279 (Nichiren-Shoshu) (usually called, Ita-Mandala)