On Nichiren’s Gohonzon for Practicing Kanjin
Posted by rbeck at March 10, 2005 11:56 PM
Revised & Updated 12-02-2005
Someone wrote: “I am certain SGI as an organization would not condone the display of Gohonzon on the Internet, no matter which temple they came from. No doubt there are other Nichiren groups that feel that way as well.”

Note that the Taisekiji Great Mandala is not published, nor are any Nichiren Shoshu transcriptions. My understanding is that Nichiren Shoshu forbids this. I do not know of any other Schools who object. I have honestly racked my brain. I can only think of one parallel, and none in Buddhism.
While Nichiren Shu has some Nichiren Mandalas & Amulets they decline to publish, for apparent proprietary reasons, they do not have a blanket proscription. Nor is this proscribed by any other Shu I know of. There are Mandalas from the other Nikko-Fuji School Shu{s} that are lawfully published and in the public domain.
I have personally decided not to post pictures of Nichiren Shoshu Mandalas at public web sites. I wanted to mention that since SGI & Hokkeko members are likely present. That is my present policy. If I post links to locations with pictures of the Yashiro Kunishige Dai-Mandara Great Mandala of Taisekiji, or the Nittatsu, Nikken, or Nichikan transcriptions, I shall try to be mindful & warn of this.
The Nichiren Shu has pictures of their Shutei Mandala and altars at various web sites, and their unofficial yahoo group. Honmon Shoshu, Nichiren Shoshu’s neighbor, has pictures of their Daigohonzon on the web, and in books, as well. Members of Kempon Hokke and HBS routinely post pix of their altars on the web. I am estimating SGI will continue to gradually change their position, to get in the mainstream.
I know of no other Buddhist schools that, across the board, forbid pix of sacred objects. There are Fuju Fuse temples that forbid non-members to view some of their most sacred treasures. But even in those cases, that only applies to specific items. It is not a blanket tabu. In other words, it is a proprietary issue; they wish to control distribution of the image. For example, there are 3 known Nichiren Honzon (and some amulets), not in the Gohonzon Shu. These might include the Prayer Gohonzon issued to Nichiro, a treasure of Nichiren Shu.
Part of this issue maybe pertains to an old Shinto superstition about photo images? At one time, even the direct painting of a portrait was tabu? For this reason, I think, the potrtraits of Nichiren, Honen, etc were painted from reflections in the water?

Posted by rbeck at March 10, 2005 11:56 PM
Comments: Question on Pix
From: “jdupiter”
To: “Robin Ray Beck”
Subject: Gohonzon
Date: Sat, 31 Dec 2005 14:00:33 +0000
Mr. Beck I have been a fulltime member of NSA/SGI Sokagakkai since December 3 rd 1967 Los Angeles California. And there is one thing if anything that I know ; that it is TABOO royal to photograph or show the face of the Gohonzon in any way for ANY reason.
Image hosted by Photobucket.com
I spoke the other day to a navy veteran who traveled through Thailand in the 50 & 60s. At most buddhist temples he went through, he was not allowed to take pictures of the buddhist statues.
SGI member/Gurnee
Posted by: Dan Defenso at March 16, 2005 01:27 PM
Hi Dan,
You are from Chicago or Gary? Anyway, at that time, the superstitions about photos and curses were still common in Asia.
And I acknowlege valid proprietary concerns. Temples often do not want their sacred objects photo’d for that reason. This is the case at Kamakura Myohoji, a Fuju Fuse temple. Some of their images can only be viewed once a year, through a cracked door way. Some are ‘members only.’ We want to see them, we go visit and donate some money. Or join.
I am not buying the superstitious angle. I am respecting valid proprietary concerns.
with “Ji”, (metta, maitri)
Posted by: robin at March 16, 2005 02:59 PM
For what it’s worth…
I took a candid photo of my dog sitting at my altar, looking at the Gohonzon (unlike me, he totally gets the meaning of the ritual). I thought it was a hoot, and showed it to an SGI friend. She told me, in no uncertain terms, “you’re not supposed to take photos of the Gohonzon.”
Posted by: Queen Lolo at March 16, 2005 04:38 PM
Hi Queen Lolo,
I told that to members many a time. A senior leader from Japan told me I was being silly and superstitious.
Posted by: robin at March 16, 2005 04:48 PM
Hi Robin
Gurnee, IL is in Lake County, 40 miles north of Chicago. I’m 5 mins from the Wisconsin border by car.
Yes, I agree that it’s proprietary concerns. Having met a few Thai buddhist adherents, the superstitious/cultural factors do come into play though.
In my opinion if these gohonzon you’ve posted on your blog are from authentic Nichiren calligraphy, I would treat them as digital copies & nothing more. Since these copies have been long out here in cyberspace, then the cat’s out of the bag as they say and we just have to deal with it. Some of my fellow members might disagree with me.
I still would ask anyone that gohonzons should NOT be photographed — if it’s mine or presently enshrined in our community/culture centers. It’s simply proprietary.
Manipulating digitally the Nichiren-inscribed gohonzons online is, to me, tampering with the copy of the relic’s image to make them visually pleasing and for the sake of expedient esp. just to make a few bucks.
Posted by: Dan Defensor at March 17, 2005 09:46 AM
Hi Dan,
Sure, I know where Gurnee is.
I pretty much agree with what you wrote. Except the last part. As far as I know, all the Honzon issued by all of the schools are printed using electronic images.
And, I do not know of anyone ‘Indy’ who is making more than their cost back, if that.
There are two main sources of on-line images. Both are from a book of plates that is apparently available to ministers.
There are two known Nichiren originals that are not on line. One is the Nichiro Prayer Honzon of 1277. The other is most likely the storied Nichizen Daimandara of 1280, the one that Taisekiji purchased from Kitayama 100 – 120 years ago.
Nichiren’s Last is on line, but is not in the book. As far as I know, the on line images of it are all from an Omamori that was scanned.
The proprietary concerns are not legally binding per se. The three I mention are the only Nichiren originals where that is even an issue.
Posted by: robin at March 17, 2005 11:41 AM
Oh, yeah. Thanks for the correction about all schools producing gohonzons electronically.
I still think it’s tampering with the image of a Nichiren-inscribed gohonzon (and originally from a relic) to reproduce a more visual palatable copy. Maybe ‘tampering’ is too strong a word, but it’s best I can do for now. Thanks.
Posted by: Dan Defensor at March 17, 2005 12:03 PM
This reminds me of the debate over colorizing films. :) robin
Posted by: robin at March 17, 2005 12:59 PM
whoops. I’m not debating. Just making a comment. :-D
Tampering implies with ‘ill’ or ‘malicious’ intent. So I apologize. I just meant that ‘altering’ the digital copy from an original (therefore historical relic/antique) Nichiren gohonzon is what it is – and what’s altered is no longer even a facsimile of the original. That’s not to split hairs or anythin’, or am I? ;-D
Posted by: Dan Defensor at March 18, 2005 12:06 PM
The ‘originals’ are all hanging in museums anyway, so what hairs are you splitting exactly? Even the copies in the Gohonzon Shu are that ‘copies’. And so they have been scanned online for others to view and have access to who may not be as fortunate as to be able to obtain a copy of the Gohonzon Shu (you can’t just order it off of amazon.com you know). And with the amount of money that Scotty put into upgrading our computer and buying an 18″x24″ Wacom pen tablet and a full version of Adobe Photoshop so that he could work at a very high resolution, pixel by pixel, working in conjunction with the Don on the Gohonzon Restoration Project in cleaning up some of those online scanned images. Granted, he has not worked on them in quite some time that is due to him having to retire from his job and us move to another state so that he could stay home to look out for me with my deteriorating health. So the ones that were done are still the only ones done, but to suggest that we were in it for profit is offensive at best. There is no reason that Gohonzon should not be readily available for someone who desires to have one. There is also no reason someone should have to pay to get one. Dialog is key; there has been plenty generated just by having the Gohonzon Shu online – not all of it has been negative.
Posted by: Donna Millar at March 19, 2005 12:18 PM
“with my deteriorating health.”
I have neen using an 8 X 10 copy of Mark’s 1266 healing Amulet in conjunction with the Prayer Gohonzon, and the 6 or 7 syllable Chakra Wave Odaimoku. Also the Green Tara and Manjusri Mantras. My condition is virtually untreatable, but it is clearly responding. I do not know about long distance mettawaves, but I am going to send some if that is okay.
Posted by: robin at March 19, 2005 01:32 PM
““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““Guess I’ve not seen Mark’s 1266 healing Amulet but I’ll look for it (I haven’t been active for so long), but I guess it’s time I started somewhere even if it’s just here on your blog (hope you don’t mine). :-) I’ve got my English gongyo book completely done (it even has that ‘to hell and back’ 10 steps process in there), now I just need to find a bookbinder to get about 150 – 200 copies bound for the SFI. (Any more than that and I have to go back to the original artist of ‘Old Tusker’ for permission to distribute more, but right now that’s what I have approval for.) I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out; as soon as I find the bookbinder and figure out the cost, I can start saving for it. I think the final page count was like 80 pages or so. I included the Heart Sutra as well because it is helpful for me and I thought others might enjoy it too (even found the Sino-Japanese for it and included it under the English like I did for Chapters 2 and 16 of the Lotus Sutra). I’m trying to get reorganized here 7 months after our move, but reorganization isn’t one of my strong points especially with PTSD, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and migraines, but I’m hanging in there :)
Posted by: Donna Millar at March 19, 2005 02:16 PM
“Guess I’ve not seen Mark’s 1266 healing Amulet but I’ll look for it”
That is the one to the left in the chakras pix. I will see about posting a file image at one of the groups in a few days. I photo shopped the amulet and border from the scroll, then pasted it onto a gold background.
At SFI: All Albums | Photo Albums > mark’s> shi_dai_kinmai_o_daimoku
that is his name for it. I can not recall the actual name.
Posted by: robin at March 19, 2005 02:43 PM
“(I haven’t been active for so long), but I guess it’s time I started somewhere even if it’s just here on your blog (hope you don’t mine). :-)
Posted by: robin at March 19, 2005 02:47 PM
Hi Donna,
Thanks for the clarification.
When you introduce someone to the practice, how do you explain the gohonzon and how it’s used in your particular sect of buddhism? (I presume you’re with the Nichiren Shu?)
Posted by: Dan Defensor at March 20, 2005 04:38 PM
The only reason both SGI and NST are against showing the Gohonzon image online, is they both claim to own Nichiren Buddhism. And the Gohonzon has been mainly the tool for control.
Posted by: Joe at March 21, 2005 07:31 AM
Hi Joe,
What you mention about control issues could be construed as going to valid proprietary concerns. They may feel they are trying to rightfully protect the Gohonzon image from usupers.
Others seem to think it profanes a sacred image to post it on line. I simply do not agree with that.
Posted by: robin at March 21, 2005 03:53 PM