Click to enlarge. “Sado siken no Dai mandala”
“The great mandala which was drawn in Sado for the first time.”
Revised & Updated 12-28-2005
Life and legends of Nichiren
Nichiren’s Gohonzon for Practicing Kanjin

The consensus is that Nichiren Shonin inscribed his first formal style Great Mandala of the Ten Words on the 8th day of the 7th month in 1273. It was a long narrow mandala; almost six feet tall, and about 2 feet wide, done on a single piece of silk. The original is no longer extant; it was lost in a fire at Mount Minobu in 1875. It appears that the same fire also destroyed the original draft of Kaimoku Sho and the Sosei Amulet of 1264.
Fortunately, a copy of the Sado Siken Daimandara was made by the 33rd abbot of Kuon-ji,. There are diagrams and descriptions. Hopefully, we will have an image someday. For now, I am told it is similar to the Tenmoku Honzon #011.
There are many references to a Great Mandala inscribed by Nichiren at Ichinosawa {modern Sawata} Sado Island on July 8 1273: Image hosted by
On July 8th, 1273, St. Nichiren, brushed the seven sacred characters Na-mu Myo-ho-ren-ge-kyo down the center of a piece of silk material measuring about two feet, six inches by five feet, eight inches.” — from Nichiren Shu
1273 July 8: Inscribes the first Mandala Gohonzon of the Ten Worlds, as a symbol of the Lotus Sutra and object of worship.” –from Timeline of Nichiren’s Life
The first Mandala Honzon was revealed on July 8, 1273.“– The THREE GREAT SECRET DHARMAS by Rev. Shokai Kanai
On July 8 of that year, he wrote the Great Mandala for the first time” “…the eighth day of the seventh month of 1273, … is said to be the date of his first writing of the Great Mandala, … Manual of Nichiren Buddhism by Rev. Senchu Murano

While researching this mandala on line, I came across an anti-Kempon Hokke hit piece; AMAZING VISIT TO MYOMAN-JI, HERETICAL HEAD TEMPLE OF KEMPON HOKKE SECT, IN KYOTO. Apparently, some ill informed Americans had viewed a traditional painting at a Kempon Hokke Temple in Japan. They somehow saw this painting; of Nichiren inscribing The Great Mandala of July 8 1273, as evidence of the Taisekiji Dai Gohonzon. They wrote:
It was titled, “Inscription of Dai-Mandala.” From the picture, the size of the Dai-Mandala can be estimated as 3 feet by 10 feet. Photo F: The Inscription of the Dai-Mandala . This was not in Sado Island, because several priests, all well dressed, were watching Nichiren Daishonin who was writing the special Dai-Mandala with sumi-ink and a brush.
Needless to say, this is the illustration of the inscription of the Dai-Gohonzon. (This is particularly important, because Bruce and other KHS members have been writing that the Dai-Gohonzon in Taisekiji is a fake.)

Needless to say, they had not studied much history. At the time, Nichiji, Hoki-bo Nikko, Sado-bo Niko, Shijo Kingo, and Nichiro had arranged for Nichiren to be moved from the hut at Tsukuhara, to more comfortable lodging; Kondo Kiyohisa’s residence at Ichinosawato, near Mano Bay, on the Sea of Japan. The former three were likely present for the inscription itself. In addition, Lady Nichimyo had visited, bringing gifts of silk, hemp paper, ink, and brushes. Also, by that time, a number of Sado residents had converted.
Similar Honzons
I have often wondered why this mandala is not in the Gohonzon Shu. I only recently learned the reason; it apparently no longer exists, and was already lost when the GS was first published in the 1940′s . However; there are pix of two Dai Mandaras that I have reason to suspect might be based in the original Great Mandala of July 8 1273: Neither of these is the actual Great Mandala of July 8, 1273. That particular Great Mandala was, I have learned, destroyed in a fire about a century ago. However, they are possibly similar to the original. They are rather similar to each other, and are not based on anything else that is published.
One is sold commercially by Kaiundo and other religious items suppliers. I have a hunch it is at least loosely based on the Great Mandala of the Ten Worlds inscribed on July 8, 1273. Also, see Ernesto’s comment below. That is an example of how valuable reader input is on this topic. If you know something, please share! The other is Chikusan’s Treasure, Chikusan’s Treasure from an Antique Store . An astute observer will notice that, in the top row, there are 4 columns of characters, flanking the Daimoku on each side, instead of three. The extra pair represent the Emanation Buddhas and Virtue Buddhas of the Ten Directions. (See Also: The Buddhas of the Ten Directions). On both the Kaiundo # 4340 and “Chikusan’s Treasure”, “Namu Emanation Buddhas” is on the right, between Jogyo and Anrugyo; while “Namu Buddhas from the Ten Directions” is between Jyogo and Muhengyo, on the left.
This is a tad different from what I am seeing on authenticated pre-1278 Nichiren Mandalas. I have never seen any exactly like this. On the others, such as the Tenmoku Mandala, the Nichiren Prayer Gohonzon, etc., Zentoku Nyorai {the Virtue Buddha of the Eastern direction} is on the right side, between Jogyo and Taho; while Jippo Bunshin {Emanation Buddhas}is on on the left, between Jyogo and Shakyamuni {See Ernesto’s comment below, it took me a while to catch on to this}.
KK writes:
“This gohozon’s date, … ["Chikusan's Treasure"], the eighth day of the seventh month in the tenth year of Bun-ei — is surely the same as that of so-called “Sado siken no Dai mandala” (the great mandala which was drawn in Sado for the first time). But the famous gohonzon is reported to have been lost in the fire in Mt.Minobu together with other very important documents such as Nichiren’s original manuscript of “Kaimoku sho” in the eighth year of Meiji, more than 100 years ago, so we don’t have even the photo picture of the gohonzon. Only some priests who had a chance to see it before the fire left the records which tell us what the gohonzon looked like, what were drawn on it.” — KK
Moreover, the proportional dimensions are identical to those described above. Based on that, I suspect it might represent the actual Gohonzon that Nichiren inscribed on that date. This does not mean it is even an exact duplicate. However, it is certainly the best clue I have as to what it looked like.
By the way, those who have the Nichiren Shoshu or Fuji style Daimandara will notice there are also 4 top row columns on these. That is the not the same. In that case, the 4th columns are to the outside of The Bodhisattvas, and they are phrases from the Tendai tradition, based on passages from the Lotus Surra.

Posted by: robin at April 21, 2005 11:40 AM
Posted by: robin at May 12, 2005 04:22 AM
Revised & Updated 11-28-2005
Revised 12-28-2005
Updated 5-14-2008

Unpublished Mandalas
As Don Ross recently explained, at the Tusker Sangha, and GohonzonForum, there are thought to be three autheticated Nichiren Gohonzon not in the Gohonzon Shu. One of these is Nichiren’s Last Gohonzon. If I am correct, that one is dated the sixth month of 1282?
As for the other two. Don wrote:
To my knowledge, there are three known authenticated Nichiren Gohonzons which have net yet been published in RAK’s Gohonzon Shu. …At least two of them are owned and used by Nichiren Shu. … I don’t know the third, but the other Mandala I am aware is the sister Gohonzon to the PG, the one inscribed with nearly the same inscription for Nichiro in the same month as when the PG which was inscribed for Nissho.
That leaves 1 more. ““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““
Revised Excerpt of Letter to Don Ross at Gohonzonforum dated May 05 2005
A while ago you mentioned knowing of three Authentic Nichiren Gohonzon not in the G-Shu? I gathered that maybe Nichiren Shu might have declined to publish these for proprietary reasons. At least that is a logical conclusion. You are apparently certain on two of these; and the Coffee-House, with the help of Scotty, has published one of them? No need to repeat the details on those two.
I think are several more. “Buuut — we now know that the Sado siken no Dai mandala” (the great mandala which was drawn in Sado for the first time); the Dai Mandara of July 08 1273 is NOT the third one, since it was destroyed in a fire.
Thanks to Eddie, I have dates on the first 26 in the Gohonzon Shu. As you know, some are not dated. It appears that, as of publishing in 1247, the Gohonzon Shu was; or there was an attempt for it to be, as near as possible, in chronological order. Of course, anything added later would not be in chronological order. And there are the 8 very early ‘study’ or ‘preliminary’ Gohonzon that are undated {003-010}.
The dates on the first 13 are relevant to a discussion of July 8 1273 Great Mandala:
001: dated Oct 9, 1271 (Bunei 8): This is verified by Nichiren Shu sources as the first ‘study’ or preliminary Gohonzon. Nichiren inscribed this mandala on October 9, while he was being detained at the residence of an official named Honma Rokuro Zaemon {Lord Honma Rokuro}, at Sagami Province, in the village of Echigo, from September 13 to October 10, 1271. Echi or Echigo is the modern Atsugi City.
002: dated Jun 16, 1272 (Bunei 9): This one is also verified by Nichiren Shu sources. Nichiren had been at en route from Echi to Teradomari from October 10 to October 21. They left Teradomari on October 27, and arrived at Tsukuhara Sado, now the site of Sado Konponji, at modern Niibe/Niibo, on November 1.
In April Transferred from Tsukahara to the residence of Kondo Kiyohisa at Ichinosawa on Sado. Ichinosawa is modern Sawata/Sawato near Mano Bay. There are three Nichiren Temples nearby, Abtusubo-Myosenji, Sado-Jisso-ji, and Sado-Myoshoji. In May, Nichimyo traveled to Sado Island to visit Nichiren Shonin. On June 16 Nichiren inscribes another preliminary Mandala Gohonzon {002}.
003a to 010: Undated. So these may be out of order.
On July 8: [Nichiren]inscribes the first Mandala Gohonzon of the Ten Worlds, as a symbol of the Lotus Sutra and object of worship. So # 011 was a month before {or 11 months after] that. There is no Mandala fitting the description of this one in the Gohonzon Shu; and Nichiren Shu has a detailed decription of it — made of Silk, exact dimensions.
011. Eddy indicates this was dated Jun 1274 (Bunei 10). By then, Nichiren had already moved to Minobu {on May 12 1274}. According to Nichiren Shu, Nichiren wrote a June 1274 mandala for his disciple Tenmoku.
012. Undated. This is a very simplified mandala. It looks to me like four buddhas flanking the Daimoku? These four entries might include Shakyamuni, Taho, and representitives of The Emanation Buddhas, and the Virtue Buddhas of the Ten Directions? There are also Aizen & Fudo, but no 4-heavenly Kings. There is an interesting looking inscription on the right facing, outside of Fudo.
013: dated Jul 25, 1274 (Bunei 11): It looks very much like the one dated Jun 1273{/} or 1274{?}.
Also, Chikusan’s Gohonzon is related somehow, since it is dated July 8 1273.
Hi Robin,
Great sleuthing on your part. I am really enjoying the series. I just wanted to comment on the Great Mandara, you mentioned, that is obtainable from Kaiundo. You may be aware of this already, but this is the Great Mandara that I chant to. When I asked Rick, the owner of Kaiundo, if he knew what the extra columns along the top said, he said that the one on the right says, “Namu Emanation Buddhas,” and the one on the left says, “Namu Buddhas from the Ten Directions.” This makes it a bit different from actual Nichiren inscribed Great Mandalas, such as the Prayer Gohonzon and Hon-in-myo Daihonzon, which include “Namu Good Virtue Buddha of the East” on the right, and “Namu Emanation Buddhas” on the left. Of course, being second hand information, I could be wrong.
Posted by: Ernesto at April 24, 2005 12:11 PM
Fantastic pictures. You’re like the FWP curator of awesome Buddhist images.
Something off topic – did Nichiren have any siblings or was he an only child? I thought I saw a reference in one of his writings, that he had brothers. I had asked that question to some senior and was sort of shot down back in the day. Are you the oracle?
More in line with your topic now – What was your impression of the lithographs (?) on the walls of Myogyoji temple? They weren’t high art or anything, but they told a nice story of the life of Nichiren. As for my personal interest in Buddhist art, I would most like to see highly realistic renderings of Nichiren and Shakyamuni in action. Suitable for framing stuff.
Keep us entertained and informed, Robin.
Posted by: Charles at April 21, 2005 10:45 AM
Thanx. Some of those were even thumbnails that I enhanced, On the first question, yes. He was the fourth child of Shigetada and Umegiku Nukina. On the second, I should know the origins of the art at the temple. Let’s see? Hmmmm? They are fromThe Nichiren Daishonin Shoden. I think it was published in 1981 by Taiseki-ji. The original paintings were by K. Touko in 1920 for “Nichiren Shonin”. However, they are based on older paintings. I have come across refrences to 17th century versions of the collections. Of course, each artist uses creative liscence and adds scenes.
There are several partial collections of these on line. Nichiren Shoshu has two versions of theirs. The Nichiren Shu has at least two, one in japanese. Some scenes are adjusted to fit whatever who pays for them wants. I rate stories as impossible, possible, plausible, likely, etc. For example, I think pix putting Nichiren in red robes might be historically inaccurate. But the event might real, or a legend of a real event.
Oh, I fixed up the links to Maka Shikan sources. I do not think there is a full translation. In fact, that is impossible. Some chapters of the lectures were never even recorded.
Posted by: robin at April 21, 2005 11:40 AM