Previously I wrote:
I suspect that “One Buddha and Four Attendants” {Isson Shishi} Statues were enshrined as the Honzon there. … I also think the original statues were maybe damaged or destroyed; circa 1283 or 1284.”First Gohonzon at Minobu? I
As I pointed out, a painting was made some 50 years after Nichiren’s passing that shows the “One Buddha & Four Attendants” as the original Gohonzon at Kuoun-ji. I have always thought that Nichiren’s personal standing Buddha Statue and the Mandala Honzon now known as “Shutei” were enshrined there. We know that they were enshrined at Nichiren’s funeral. It is certainly possible that the image in the painting was an interpolation.
However, it possible that Nichiren used those for travel, and had a more permanent statue arrangement at Kuon-ji. If the personal standing Buddha Statue was part of the main altar at Kuon-ji, why would Nichiren want it kept at the mausoleum after his death?
At any rate, there is more evidence other than the painting. We also have Nikko’s confusing words in Hara Dono Gohenji. In that letter, Nikko tells Hara about the events that had caused him to leave Minobu, for good, in the fall of 1288. He mentions that one of the disputes was over a statue of Shakyamuni that Hakiri Sanenaga arranged to be carved. Here is a look at relevant passages:
In the following passage, Nikko is discussing the standing Buddha statue that Nichiren acquired at Izu. From Hara Dono Gohenji:
The lay priest got an idea, “I want to do my bit to make a formal wooden statue of Shakyamuni.” Acharya Mimbu [Niko] gave him an unnecessary advice that he should make an wooden Buddha in the place of the one which Acharya Daikoku [Nichiro] took. Since then he has clung to this idea. … The Buddha however didn’t have the bodhisattvas like Superior Practices as attendants. It was only the one who attained enlightenment for the first time in this world.
Nichiren wanted that statue placed at his mausoleum, but Nichiro saw fit to take it from Minobu. The form of that statue is the same as the Buddha statues used by other schools to represent the Buddha of acquired awakening. In Nikko’s view, it does not represent the Eternal Buddha.
Here, I suspect Nikko is referring to a different statue, one that did have 4 attendants:
I, Nikko, told him that I dare not oppose him if he wanted to enshrine [fiur worship at Kuon-ji the Buddha which the late Sage had and enshrined.
And here to the standing Buddha that was to be placed at the grave site.:
I said to him, "For what reason do you want a copy of the Buddha who attained enlightenment for the first time and who is transient [to enshrine for worship, or as the Gohonzon]. — {ibid}
Nikko apparently approved of “One Buddha and Four Attandants” to be enshrined as the Gohonzon at Minobu; but not the standing Buddha statue used by other schools to represent the Buddha of acquired awakening. But Hakiri could not afford the full 5 statue arrangement. So Nikko tells him to wait and, in the meantime, use a calligraphy mandala.
“If it is beyond your ability, you should wait until someone appears among your descendants and rightly builds one. Until then you should enshrine the one which the Sage had made with calligraphy.” — {ibid}
To summarize. Nikko was all right with it if they were making a “Shakya Alone” statue for the mausoleum, to replace the one Nichiro had taken for safe keeping. Apparently, Nikko learned they intended to enshrine a statue in the Hondo or main hall of Kuon-ji; to replace the “One Buddha and Four Attendents” {Isson Shishi} that were damaged or destroyed.
Nikko wrote:
“How could you break so hastily the wooden statue of the lord of teachings of Namu-myoho-renge-kyo which is the reason for the Sage’s advent in this world?” — {ibid}
“the wooden image of the Thus Come One enlightened from remote ages
past was broken in the first place …”
– {ibid}
He seems to be saying that there had been “One Buddha and Four Attendants {Isson Shishi}”Statues, but they were lost or damaged {broken}. He seems to be saying that Hakiri Sanenaga literally broke them, but this might mean that Hakiri was responsible in the sense he had not protected them.
” I told him like this strongly [I was serious] but he might think I was making light of him {being sarcastic}.”
It is possible that the landlord had become angry, stopped practicing, kicked the Nichiren monks off his mountain, and literally destroyed the original altar. This would certainly explain why Nissho and Nichiro acted as they did. It is also possible that the Temple was damaged in a storm, or even that intruders may have looted the Temple. I have heard that the answer might be buried in a sealed cave at Mobara.
to be continued