3. Shakyamuni Buddha, Odaimoku, and Gohonmon
The Eternal Buddha
The Shakyamuni Buddha was born approximately 2500 years ago, and preached the Lotus Sutra late in his later years. In the life-span of Tathagata (Buddha's life span is immeasurable, The Lotus Sutra, chapter 16), Buddha explains;people may think I reliquished my status as Prince, became a priest at age 19, and attained the state of enlightenment at 30, but my true form is the primordial Buddha in the remote past whose life is immortal.
The primordial session of the Lotus Sutra clarifies that Buddha Shakyamuni, who was embodied with eternal life, meaningful values, merits, and affection, will embrace the universe. In short, Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni is the life of the universe itself.
The Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni, who was to teach and guide all existing things, appeared in various places (lands) in the form of duplicate bodies as manifestations of his the original state. For example, Yakushi-nyorai (the Buddha of healing) and other Buddhas, which are the object of worship by other religious groups, are actually, duplicate bodies of Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni.
Nichiren Shonin said, “From eternity this world of ours is where the Buddha was responsible to aid the people. All things which exist in the vast univers, mountains, oceans, forests, grass lands etc., are the children of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni."
What then is the Odaimoku (The sacred title of the Lotus Sutra)? It is the eternal law, known by HBS as the Odaimoku. The Odaimoku and the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni are identical.
HBS members do not verbally read the Sutra (the Lotus Sutra) in front of the altar. They mainly chant the Odaimoku. Motivated by the Honmon Happon (eight chapters) of the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren Shonin only taught and had spread the vital points of the Odaimoku based on the Honmon Happon (primordial eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra). The Lotus Sutra's 28 chapters are merely statements of virtues, and are like a list of benefits of a medical prescription only. The Odaimoku is the medicine itself. Medicine must be swollowed to be effective. Merely reading the Lotus Sutra is ineffective. One cannot receive religious merits and divine favors without chanting aloud the Odaimoku. For that reason, Nichiren Shonin said, “To cherish the Lotus Sutra is fine, but respect only the Odaimoku. To read aloud other teachings will not be tolerated." Nichiren Shonin emphasized the chanting of the Odaimoku only.
Nissen Shonin said;“Riciting the Lotus Sutra is now senseless. Only the Odaimoku is essential. People who only read and recite the Lotus Sutra in this world are foolish as using the light in daytime. If one has the time to read and recite the Lotus Sutra, use it to chant the Odaimoku."
The reason for not displaying the figure of Shakyamuni Buddha:
Q. Why is the figure of Shakamuni Buddha not displayed.
A. It is because HBS's object of worship is Namumyohorengekyo, the Odaimoku Manadala and not Sakyamuni Buddha.
Other Buddhist sects, such as the Jodo‐shu, the Shingon‐shu and the Tendai‐shu may display statues of their respective Buddhas, such as Amida Buddha, Dainichi Buddha, or Yakushi Buddha because their object of worship is Buddha.
From that standpoint, let us think what type of a person Buddha was. The word Buddha in Sanskrit is “Buddha". which. transcribed into Chinese character or kanji, is also pronounced “Buddha". The meaning of Buddha is a “person who has attained enlightenment" or a “person who was awakened to the truth".
In Japan, Buddha is referred to as “The Awakened One" or “Wise One", who attained enlightenment or realized the fundamental truth of the universe and who transmitted to us the lesson by which one should live according to this truth.
Shakyamuni Buddha, who was born approximately 2600 years ago, based his object of worship on the eternal life of the universe (Myoho).
Other Buddhas became Buddhas also by awakening to the eternal life of the universe. Therefore, Myoho is more sacred, supreme, and respected than Buddha.In the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha stated, “There is no need to display the statue of Buddha or ashes of Buddha because the spirits of Buddha are enshrined in the Myoho (Fine Dharma)".
The Odaimoku Mandala inscribed by Nichiren Shonin is Myoho itself.
For reason mentioned above, one can comprehend why the statue of Shakyamuni Buddha is not displayed.
Q. Why does HBS display the form of Nichiren Shonin?
A. In Buddhism, a person possessing the following three power of merits is considered a great teacher:
1. The power to protect mankind (Like a great master).
2. The power to teach and guide mankind (Like a great teacher).
3. The power of love for mankind (Like a great parent).
HBS displays the statue of Nichiren Shonin out of respect because, in this period of Mappo, he was the greastest teacher who possessed the three power of merits to spread the teaching of the Lotus Sutra and the true law. We have been blessed by his teachings and, thereby, are able to receive the merits of the Lotus Sutras in this present world as well as in the future world.
The ways of writings Gohonzons
There are three largely different ways of writing Gohonzons (Scriptures). That is, “Ko", “Ryaku", and “Yo".
“Ko" is a form which has the names of Buddhas, future buddhas, and a host of sages (of the pure land) are to the right and left of the Odaimoku.
“Ryaku" has the names of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni and Taho-nyorai and the great four future buddhas, Jogyo, Muhengyo, Jogyo (pronounced the same but with different kanji) and Anryurgyo.
“Yo" is a form with only the Odaimoku. There is no need to show it on the Scripture as all Buddhas and future buddhas are embodied in it.
The names shown on the right and left of the Odaimoku indicates that the future buddhas and sages are facing the Scripture and are chanting the Odaimoku.
Although there are three types of Scriptures, all of them are embodied with the soul of divinity so it makes no difference which type is used.