Japanese Buddhsim has a word for “object of devotion”, it is “Honzon”.
What is your honzon? We all have one and there is nothing wrong with loving a football club, material possessions or a romantic partner. However, an object of devotion is ultimately what we identify with at the most intimate level. Is it fixed and finite or does it allow limitless potential to express through the unfolding of daily life events?
Having an external object of devotion, whether it be a person, material possession, or a specific idea, can be a recipe for disaster for several reasons. Firstly, placing one’s emotional well-being or sense of fulfilment solely in external entities makes one vulnerable to disappointment and instability. If the external source is lost or doesn’t meet expectations, it can lead to profound emotional distress and a sense of emptiness.
Relying on external objects for validation or happiness relinquishes control over one’s own well-being.
It places the power to dictate emotional states in the hands of external factors, making individuals susceptible to the unpredictable nature of life. In contrast, cultivating internal sources of contentment, such as self-love and personal growth, provides a more stable and resilient foundation for emotional well-being.
Healthy relationships and personal growth require a degree of autonomy and self-sufficiency. External objects of devotion can be impermanent or subject to change. People evolve, circumstances shift, and material possessions can be lost. Relying on the transient nature of external sources for stability can result in a constant cycle of upheaval and disappointment and therefor relying solely on them for fulfilment is a risky endeavour. By cultivating inner stability, individuals can navigate life’s challenges with greater ease and create a foundation for lasting well-being.
In the Nichiren* School of Buddhism, today embodied by the lay movement Soka Gakkai which has shared this teaching worldwide for the past 50 years, the Gohonzon plays the role of reminder of what should ultimately be an object of devotion (Go is a prefix meaning “great”), and that should indeed be the law itself (the dharma, the wheel that brings the unseen to be manifested in one’s life experiences)…
The Gohonzon, fruit of Nichiren Daishonin’s insight and realisation, is a representation of the practitioner’s inherent Buddha nature or infinite potential. The emphasis is on the idea that the Gohonzon is not an external deity or idol but a symbolic reflection of the enlightened state within oneself. The inscription on the Gohonzon, typically consisting of Chinese and Sanskrit characters, is believed to embody the universal law and the essence of the Lotus Sutra. By chanting the mantra “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” and focusing on the Gohonzon, practitioners aim to tap into their own Buddhahood, unlocking their inherent wisdom, compassion, and courage. The practice is seen as a means of cultivating one’s positive qualities and overcoming obstacles in life.
The rejection of idolatry is consistent with the broader Buddhist teachings that emphasize self-realization and the understanding that enlightenment is an inherent potential within every individual. The Gohonzon serves as a tool or a mirror to help practitioners recognize and manifest their own Buddha nature rather than worshiping an external deity.
*Nichiren: Buddhist monk of the 13th century who fulfilled predictions made by Shakayamuni Buddha and established himself as the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.
Learn more here: https://sgi-uk.org/Philosophy/History/Nichiren
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