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SGI-USA: Fort Worth, Texas

Fundamental Object of Devotion

The Gohonzon, the Supreme Object of Devotion, embodies the Dharma, the law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The characters on the Gohonzon include historical persons, mythical figures, and Buddhist gods. The Daishonin used them to represent the functions of the universe and of our own lives. The Gohonzon is the essence of Buddhism, and the embodiment of the Buddhahood within us.

Care of the Gohonzon

Every morning and every evening, SGI members perform Gongyo and chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo (daimoku) before the Gohonzon. But caring for the Gohonzon involves more than chanting before it.

Offerings

Basic offerings of candles, evergreens, and incense are placed in front of the altar where the Gohonzon is enshrined.

One or two candles are lit, as are 1 to 3 sticks of incense, burned in a flat position from left to right. Tradition holds 1 vase of greens/1 candle or 2 vases/2 candles.

A fresh cup of water is placed in front of the Gohonzon every morning, just before morning Gongyo, and removed before evening Gongyo. After removing the water, it can be placed in another container and drunk.

Food is also offered before the Gohonzon, usually a simple offering, such as fruit. Cooked food can be offered as well, but is not required. When offering food, ring the bell three times, place palms together, and chant daimoku three times as a gesture of deep appreciation and respect. The food can be consumed after it has been offered. Fruit offerings do not have to be changed every day. It can be left in front of the Gohonzon as long as it does not spoil.

A bell is needed for performing morning and evening Gongyo. The bell need not be loud or elaborate; in fact, if you live in an apartment complex or with others, be careful not to ring the bell so loudly that it disturbs them.

It is important to remember that the most significant aspect of the altar is the object of worship itself. The accessories can be adapted to the times and individual preference. Artificial, silk, or potted plants have become common alternatives to evergreen cuttings. Also, parents of small children may want to avoid lighting candles and/or incense, as might people with pets or allergies.

You should not place photos inside the altar, nor things on top of it. Refrain from hanging anything on the wall above the altar. Photographs should never be taken of the Gohonzon and should be destroyed if accidentally done.

Clean and dust the altar every day, being sure to remove the water and anything perishable in the evening.

To clean the altar and offer fresh water each day, to make offerings of greens and fruit, and to light candles and burn incense while doing Gongyo and chanting daimoku are all forms of service to the Gohonzon. These actions serve to honor the Gohonzon and dignify the place where it is enshrined. Nichiren Daishonin, in his Gosho, "On Attaining Buddhahood", states: "Whether you chant the Buddha's name, recite the sutra, or merely offer flowers and incense, all your virtuous acts will implant benefits and good fortune in your life. With this conviction, you should put your faith into practice."

"Never seek this Gohonzon outside yourself. The Gohonzon exists only within the mortal flesh of us ordinary people who embrace the Lotus Sutra and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo."
-Nichiren Daishonin

Source-Originally Gosho.net, now available at:

Official SGI-USA site