This is a wood block print of what might or might not be be an original Nichiren Mandala Gohonzon. The date of the print is the 19th Century {the 1800′s}. The date of the original appears to be given as March 20 1254.
This 1954 date is, of course, some 17 years earlier than the date of Nichiren’s commonly accepted first Mandala Gohonzon. There is no way to either definitively authenticate a mandala like this; unless an original exists; or there is a mention of it in authenticated records. Moreover, there may be dozens or even hundreds of authentic mandalas that have not been examined by experts, let alone published in the Gohonzon Shu.
The one looks like a simplified or abbreviated Mandala Gohonzon signed by Nichiren. Part of the Kanji is similar to that found on the Ichinen Sanzen mandala {008}, thought to be from 1272. However, the Daimoku looks like later examples, from 1278 or so. So this might be a composite; it could have been assembled from various samples of Nichiren’s writing. My thinking is that it might commemorate an event of March 20 1254.
As for the kanji itself:
The Daimoku is in the center, flanked by the two Buddhas; Shakamuni Butsu and Taho Nyorai. Nichiren’s signature with superimposed kao seal is below the Daimoku. Below Shaka is a name Kishimojin {Hariti}. It might read Kishimo-jurasetsu-nyo. Below Taho, might be a name of Tensho Daijin {Amaterasu Omikami}. Note that Namu Shakyamuni Buddha is on our left, or the mandalas right; while Namu Taho Nyorai {Tathagata} is on the opposite side.
Next, in the upper area, there is some diagonal writing on each side., flanking the Daimoku and two Buddhas This type of thing is seen on a few authenticated mandalas. Normally, these are brief notes or sutra quotations intended as encouragement for the recipient. There are also banners on top. While not common. these are seen on some on some authenticated mandalas. The banner and side inscriptions might tell us why this mandala was made.
These are being analyzed.
On the lower right {facing}, we see what might be a passage. I’m told that if you follow the stroke from Myo in the daimoku down toward the bottom right facing, or the mandala’s left, there is Komokuten, the Guardian of the West (one of the Four Guardian Kings) just above; and above that, Bimyo. On Nichiren’s standard Great Mandala, Dai Komoku tenno is always on the lower right facing, or the mandala’s lower left. On the far botton right is the date — Kencho 6 {1254} third month twentieth day (hatsuka).
Finally, there is some writing on the lower left side {facing}. Here, we would usually see some kind of transmittal or dedication. This might give the date, location, and recipient. It might also tell us the reason the mandala was written.
So this might also tell us what this mandala is about. This one appears to have
a phrase extolling the blessings of those who propagate the Lotus Sutra.
Note that Dai Zocho Tenno, Heavenly King of the South, is also usually in the lower left {facing} corner, Since Komokuten is on the other side, zochoten might be among the characters on the lower left.
These lower right and lower left inscriptions did not become standardized until 1275 or 1276. So, if my guesses are right, this would be another clue that the 1254 date is, at best, the date of an event being commemorated, rather than the date it was written.
I can not find any reference to an event on March 20, 1254. In 1254, Nichiren was residing in a hut at the Matsubayatsu Valley of the developing Nagoe Hills area of Kamakura. In that year, Nichiro Shonin, the 10 year old nephew of Nissho, became Nichiren’s disciple. Nissho Shonin, who was Nichiro’s uncle, had joined the Hokke Shu a year earlier.
I am told this mandala might relate to “Letter to Renjo”, which is in WND II, p. 172.
I would not waste a lot of time trying to decipher this one in detail, but a general idea of what the notes, the phrase, and the transmittal say would be interesting. If anyone has some skills reading Nichiren’s kanji, or knows anything else about this mandala, such as a name, please chime in.
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