Imagery of Nichiren's Lotus Sutra: The Gohonzon - The Great Mandala of
the True Dharma
Nam in Chinese
has no meaning in Chinese. It is a sound construct used by early Chinese
Buddhists to imitate the sound of the Sanskrit word Namas.
The character pronounced
Nam by Nichiren Buddhists is
composed of two main Chinese characters: Nan
on top and Wu on the bottom.
Namas is interpreted
as "devotion." Well, not exactly. An old meaning of Namas is "yoke."
But if you try to go from "yoke" to "devotion," you may get lost.
Here's the connection: Before
mechanized times, people used beasts to aid them in their work. Buffaloes
or oxen were yoked together to pull heavy carts. If one of these carts
entered a small village, a watchful person might yell out "Namas!" meaning
"yoke," indicating a large cart was coming. Large carts carried riches,
food, medicine, honored people, etc. Buddhists used this term to mean,
"harken," "become aware," "pay close attention," and "show respect," when
a teaching of the Buddha was to be recited or preached. Western scholars
commonly translate "Namas" as "Hail!" And because the hearer turned his
total attention to what was being preached, the word came to mean "Devotion."
(the top Chinese character used in Nam)
is composed of three parts — Shih, Chiung,
of the time Shih
(Jp. Ju) is the number ten. It is a cross. As an element of Nan,
it is the five cardinal points. They are north, east, west, south and center;
the center being the most important because one's center determines the
other four cardinal points.
is a bottomless box, an open space,
freedom, a pasture, retirement. In making up the character
Nan, it is a frontier.
is a compound. It looks like the symbol for yen (Japanese money). It is
an upside-down person (an offense) plus a second horizontal line. The second
line indicates a repetition of offenses, or simply a repetition. The concept
of a jungle vine is used as another way of symbolizing an offense, so as
part of Nan,
the compound element means a repetition of vegetation — a jungle.
Jen combine to form a descriptive
compound that is the jungle frontier south of China. By itself it means
bottom half of Nam is
the Chinese character Wu
looks like a checkerboard with four dots under it. It is an image of men
felling a forest (the slash at the top-left is the radical for cutting).
It means vanishing, defect, want, or negation — a clearing away.
person is surrounded in all directions by jungle vines (his offenses).
They cling, trip, tear at his flesh, and block the light, making progress
difficult. He is lost, turned around, and going deeper into the jungle.
is the Nan
is the clearing.
Imagery of Nichiren's Lotus Sutra website