What is the Gohonzon? Why do we need it?

The Gohonzon is the object of devotion, in the form of a scroll, that practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism enshrine in their homes and is the focal point of their daily practice of morning and evening sutra recitation and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. (Go means "honorable" and honzon, "object of devotion.")

"This Gohonzon is the essence of the Lotus Sutra and the eye of all the scriptures," Nichiren Daishonin states. "It is like the sun and the moon in the heavens, a great ruler on earth, the heart in a human being, the wish-granting jewel among treasures, and the pillar of a house" ("On Upholding Faith in the Gohonzon," The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 624).

In the center column of the Gohonzon are the characters "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" and under that, "Nichiren," surrounded by various other Chinese and Sanskrit characters that depict historical and mythological Buddhist figures. Together they represent profound philosophical principles and conditions of life.

Like a musical piece or a painting that reflects the life-state of the person who created it, the Gohonzon reflects Nichiren's life-state: Buddhahood. It is not merely a symbol, or something to focus on while chanting. Since it embodies the state of enlightenment, Nichiren's life, it is the actual reality of the Buddha's life. It is the link between the Buddha state within ourselves and in the environment. It is an instrument to see our true potential and use it. Therefore, by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon, we call forth our own Buddhahood, tapping our inherent wisdom, compassion and life force. Gradually, day after day, our own life-state is influenced and strengthened through our daily practice to the Gohonzon.

SGI President Ikeda states, "Just as a mirror is indispensable for putting your face and hair in order, you need a mirror that reveals the depths of your life if you are to lead a happier and more beautiful existence" (My Dear Friends in America, p. 94).

Nichiren cautions: "Never seek this Gohonzon outside yourself. The Gohonzon exists only within the mortal flesh of us ordinary people who embrace the Lotus Sutra and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" ("The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon," WND-1, 832). In other words, our faith and practice make the Gohonzon an external stimulus to awaken our internal life of Buddhahood.