Nichikan’s Gohonzon depiction of the Ten Worlds

Nichikan Shonin (1665 - 1726) - the 26 High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu – is known as the restorer of Nichiren teachings.  Among his various works, clarifying the depth of Nichiren Buddhism, was his Six Treaties (Ha Rokkan Sho), lectures on the Heritage of the Law and clarifying the power of the Gohonzon:

        "If you have faith in this Gohonzon and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo

        even for a short while,                

        no prayer will go unanswered, no offense will remain unforgiven,

        all good fortune will be bestowed, and all righteousness proven”.

Commentary on The True Object of Worship, Nichikan Shonin

How was Nichikan Gohonzon conferred on SGI?

After refusal of Nichiren Shoshu administration (1991) to confer Gohonzon on SGI members, the chief priest of Joen-ji temple in Tochigi Prefecture, Japan, who seceded from Nichiren Shoshu, offered the Soka Gakkai the Gohonzon transcribed (in 1720) by High Priest Nichikan Shonin.  Following this significant offer, SGI started, in September 1993, conferring upon its members the Gohonzon based upon this Nichikan-transcribed Gohonzon.

“In his June 6, 1993 letter to Soka Gakkai President Einosuke Akiya,

Chief Priest Narita writes:

        “The existing situation, in which Nikken has unjustly terminated the conferral of Gohonzon upon Soka Gakkai members, convinced me that the best and most just course—as well as the course that,I feel,would win the approval of the Daishonin—would be to enable Soka Gakkai members to receive Gohonzon based on this Gohonzon.”

On August 23.1993, the Association for the Reformation of Nichiren Shoshu and the Association of Youthful Priests Dedicated to the Reformation of Nichiren Shoshu—representing about thirty reform priests who had seceded from Taiseki-ji—issued a joint resolution supporting Narita’s proposal.

In it,the reform priests stated:“We declare that the Soka Gakkai is qualified in every way to confer okatagi Gohonzon based on the Gohonzon transcribed by High Priest Nichikan and assert that by so doing the Soka Gakkai will fulfill a sacred mission consistent with the spirit of Nichiren Daishonin.”

With the approval of the council and other committees, the Soka Gakkai decided to accept Chief Priest Narita’s proposal”.

Nichikan’s Gohonzon depiction of the Ten Worlds

In all mandalas inscribed by Nichiren, the central bold characters (NamuMyohoRengeKyo) represent the principle of the Mutual Possession of the Ten Worlds.  According to the Lotus Sutra, the World of Buddhahood is inseparable from the Nine Worlds of existence.  Hence, the world of Buddhahood embodies the principle of the Mutual Possession of the Ten Worlds. 

        “Nichiren based the graphic image of the Gohonzon on a scene from the Lotus Sutra and

        on the theory of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, which expresses that the world

        of Buddhahood exists as a potentiality in any given moment or life-condition of an individual.

        In other words, the world of Buddhahood does not lie outside of one's daily existence or

        being - it is inherent in one's life.

        The large characters "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" down the centre of the Gohonzon depict    

       this realisation.

While all of the extant 120 mandalas inscribed by Nichiren depict the Mutual Possession through the central bold characters, in many mandalas the individual characters depicting each of the Ten Worlds are variously shown:

        “Not all of the Gohonzon inscribed by Nichiren are the same by any means.

        For example, of the 120 extant Nichiren inscribed Gohonzon,

       only about a third contain the name Devadatta representing the world of Hell;

       only 65 contain Shariputra and Maudgalayana representing people of the two vehicles,

        and so on.

        After the Daishonin’s death, successive high priests exercised their own judgment in how to

        represent the principle of the Ten Worlds”.

Representing individual Worlds by a “group of worlds”

For practical reasons, the Ten Worlds are sometimes referred to by the two sets of the six lower worlds, and the four higher worlds. Representing some of the Worlds in one category is evident in the Lotus Sutra. For example, the sutra - in more than one chapter - considers the “three vehicles” (the Worlds of Learning, Realisation and Bodhisattva) - not as individually separated worlds, but - as one group of higher worlds:

        “The Buddha reveals that the three vehicles: Learning, Realisation and Bodhisattva - are no

        more than expedient means, while the one supreme vehicle of Buddhahood offers the only

        true way to enlightenment”.   The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra vol.1 p. 115

Nichikan Shonin depiction of the three Worlds of the three vehicles Learning, Realisation and Bodhisattva as one group - accords with the Lotus Sutra’s consideration of these three practices as a group that must be replaced by the one great vehicle of Buddhahood.

Similarly, the Worlds of Greed, Anger and Animality were represented in Nichikan Gohonzon as a group by one character of Kishimojin.  In his Orally Transmitted Teachings, Nichiren states: 

        “Hence we may say that the Goddess Mother of Demon Children and the ten demon

         daughters represent the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds and the hundred worlds

        and thousand factors, that is, the principle of three thousand realms

        in a single moment of life”  OTT, Chapter 62, Dharani

Nichiren Daishonin also indicated in the explanation of the Dharani Chapter in the Orally Transmitted Teachings -  that through the Lotus Sutra, one is able to transform the group of lower worlds of Greed, Anger and Foolishness - into the three virtues.

Depiction of the Ten Worlds in Nichikan Gohonzon

While the Mutual Possession of the Ten Worlds is embodied with the central bold characters in the Gohoznon, Nichikan Shonin did also include the Ten Worlds in the form of individual characters and two groups: a group related to the Lower Worlds, and a group of Higher worlds:

The World of Hell – represented by The Devil King of the Six Heaven.

The Worlds of Hunger, Animality and Anger – represented by a group of the three Lower Worlds, referred to by Kishimojin and the Goddess of Ten Daughters.

The World of Humanity – represented by Zojo, embodying humanity’s powers of growth, progress and development, and by the Upholder of Human Society (Great Heavenly King Jikoku Tenno).

The World Heaven, represented by Heavenly king Bishamon, Shakra, and Bonten

The Worlds of Learning, Realisation and Bodhisattva as a group - represented to by the four Bodhisattvas,

The World of Buddhahood, represented by characters for Shakyamuni and Taho Buddhas.

Some of the Ten Worlds get more than one representation in Nichikan Gohonzon, but all the Ten Worlds are present, illuminated by the central characters of the Mutual Possession of these worlds.  

Nichikan Gohonzon depiction of Ichinen Sanzen

Nichikan Gohonzon depicts various characters symbolising universal functions, such as the Heavenly Kings, which Nichiren Daishonin regarded as inseparable from the Law of MyohoRengeKyo:

        “The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The five groups of supernatural spells

    represent our individual bodies [or Myoho-renge-kyo].  Myō is represented by the ten demon

    daughters, hō by the heavenly king Upholder of the Nation, ren by the heavenly king Increase

    and Growth, ge by the heavenly king Wide-Eyed, and kyō by the heavenly king Vaishravana”.


    The five characters Myoho-renge-kyo thus correspond to the five groups

    of supernatural spells and the five groups of supernatural spells are our individual bodies”.

This interconnectedness between the spirit (or essence) of the characters in the Gohonzon implies that one should look at this mandala as one inseparable image embodying the life of the Three Realms: the individual, society and the environment. 

As Nichiren states, the central characters of MyohoRengeKyo represent both the Mutual Possession of the Ten Worlds and the Ten Factors operating within the life of the individual.  The Law of MyohoRengeKyo is also shared by living beings and Society, as well as by the Environment, which are represented in Nichikan Gohonzon by various characters related to  the powers of human social bonds, and by the powers of nature. 

This is the essence of IchinenSanzen: the concept of IchinenSanzen teaches that all the mutually possessed states of life of the individual, society and environment – all are eternally present at this moment of our life - opening the possibility for us to aspire to and acquire the highest state of Buddhahood without any hinderance.

Author: Safwan Zabalawi


Nichikan Gohonzon map of characters and their essential meaning

A comprehensive map of Nichikan Gohonzon is presented by SGI-USA in its following website page:

A simplified map is presented here: Nichikan Gohonzon Simplified Map         _____________________________________________________________




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