Rebutting the Nichiren Shoshu Priesthood's Condemnation of the Soka Gakkai's Conferral of the Gohonzon 
The following is a point-by-point rebuttal to charges made by the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood in a document they published called NST News, Special Issue: Soka Gakkai Announces Issuance of Counterfeit Gohonzons, in which the priesthood argues that the Gakkai does not have the right to confer the Gohonzon on its members. Any special brackets "{}" include text we have added for clarity, based upon the full text of the NST document. "NST" is the acronym for the religious corporation "Nichiren Shoshu Temples" in the United States. 
NST allegation #9 

{Gohonzon issued by the SGI are counterfeit because} they have not received the legitimate "Opening of the Eyes" ceremony. Authority over "Opening of the Eyes" of the Gohonzon rests with the High Priest. 

These allegations by the Soka Gakkai are in direct conflict with the words of Nichiren Daishonin, who clearly recognized the "Opening of the Eyes" of an object of worship through the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren Daishonin states: 

"The offering of the 'Opening of the Eyes' for wooden or painted images can be performed using the Lotus Sutra only." 
—"Honzon Mondo Sho," [English:] "Questions and Answers on the Object of Worship," Gosho Zenshu, p. 366 
Additionally, he writes: 
"It is the power of the Lotus Sutra which makes it possible to infuse such wooden or painted images with the 'life' or spiritual properties [of the Buddha]." 
—"Shijo Kingo Shakabutsu Kuyo"
The Soka Gakkai is stating: "If one prays with faith, this is tantamount to having performed the Opening of the Eyes Ceremony for an object of worship." Carrying this argument to its logical conclusion would mean that as long as one prays with faith to any object — even the object of worship of a heretical sect — one would have performed the "Opening of the Eyes" and would thereby be able to activate the powers of the Buddha and the Law. Where in Nichiren Daishonin's Gosho is there such a teaching? The Soka Gakkai ought to present clear and detailed documentary evidence on this matter. 

The 31st High Priest Nichiin Shonin explained the source of the Opening of the Eyes Ceremony in Nichiren Shoshu by stating: 

"Although a wooden or painted image originates from plants and trees, the 'Opening of the Eyes' to infuse it with the supreme enlightenment of the actual living Buddha is performed by the ultimate transmitted secret principle of the most important matter [of the Gohonzon]. This Transmission has been passed down for thirty-one generations, from Nichiren Shonin through Nichiin. He clearly indicated that the 'Opening of the Eyes' is something that is performed according to the authority of the High Priest." 
—NST News, Special Issue, pp. 16-17
Rebuttal to allegation #9 

(i) The significance of "eye-opening" lies in opening the "eyes of the Buddha" within us — in other words, in recognizing and revealing the Buddha's life from within. To this end, the Daishonin stresses faith in the Lotus Sutra, that is, the Gohonzon. The priesthood insists that the high priest must perform an eye-opening ceremony over the Gohonzon to empower it, and even over our prayer beads if we are to derive any benefit from using them. However, the eye-opening ceremony is nothing more than a formality passed down from provisional forms of Buddhism that has nothing to do with the original spirit of Buddhism. 

In the above quotes from the Daishonin, he refers to the eye-opening ceremony applied to wooden and painted images. This indicates Buddhist statues and the like. He is not talking about the Gohonzon in these passages and nowhere in his writings spoke of an eye-opening ceremony being necessary to empower the Gohonzon. Most people in the Daishonin's day believed that such ceremonies gave power to statues of Shakyamuni Buddha and other Buddhist objects. In actuality, it had already become a popular source of income for priests, who collected offerings for performing such ceremonies. 

In the passage from the Gosho "Shijo Kingo Shakubutsu Kuyo" ("Consecrating an Image of Shakyamuni Buddha Made by Shijo Kingo," MW-6, p. 161) quoted by NST above, the Daishonin encourages Shijo Kingo, who has just offered him a statue of Shakyamuni Buddha. By saying that the eye-opening ceremony must be based on the Lotus Sutra, the Daishonin is debunking the idea that formal eye-opening ceremonies by priests are necessary and stresses one's faith in the Lotus Sutra, in other words, faith in the Gohonzon, to summoning forth the state of Buddhahood. 

In another Gosho the Daishonin writes: 

"Once we chant Myoho-renge-kyo, with just a single sound we summon forth and manifest the Buddha nature of all Buddhas; all dharmas; all bodhisattvas; all shomon disciples; all the deities such as Bonten, Taishaku, King Emma; the sun, the moon, the myriad stars, the heavenly gods and earthly deities, on down to hell-dwellers, hungry spirits, beasts, asuras, humans, gods, and other living beings. This blessing is immeasurable and boundless. 

"When we revere Myoho-renge-kyo inherent in our own life as the object of worship, the Buddha nature within us is summoned forth and manifested by our chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo; this is what is meant by 'Buddha.'" 
—MW-6, p. 207

All the phenomena the Daishonin mentions above are not "objects of worship." Yet from his words we can see that our ichinen to call forth our own Buddhahood by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon simultaneously summons the protective functions of Buddhahood in our environment. 

If the high priest alone can perform an "opening of the eyes" ceremony to empower the Gohonzon, then what does this ceremony consist of? What secret is the high priest privy to that we, as ordinary believers, are not? 

In a manual of formalities performed by Nichiren Shoshu priests called Essentials for Priests, the procedure for conducting eye-opening ceremonies for prayer beads and other objects is described as follows: "Praying with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo." In other words, the "opening of the eyes ceremony" consists of chanting daimoku with faith. 

Is the daimoku chanted by a priest somehow more powerful than that which we chant, so that a priest's daimoku, and not ours, is effective of "opening the eyes" of inanimate objects? In the Gosho, the Daishonin addresses the following question from a believer: 

"How great is the difference between the blessings received when a sage chants daimoku and the blessings received when we chant it?" 
To which the Daishonin responds: 
"To reply, one is in no way superior to the other. The gold that a fool possesses is no different from the gold that a wise man possesses; a fire made by a fool is the same as a fire made by a wise man. However, there is a difference if one chants the daimoku while acting against the intent of this sutra." 
—MW-3, p. 207
Nowhere in the Gosho does Nichiren Daishonin indicate that a priest must perform an eye-opening ceremony in order to empower the Gohonzon, prayer beads, or anything else. He resolutely declares that our chanting daimoku with faith enables us to call forth the Buddha nature not only from ourselves but from all phenomena. He further indicates that when it comes to the power of one's prayer while chanting daimoku, all people are equal, so long as they do not act against the intent of the sutra. 

If we dare to briefly summarize the intent of the Lotus Sutra, is it not to enable all people, regardless of wealth, rank or status, to attain enlightenment equally? If this is the case, then so long as a priest acts in accord with the sutra's intent, his daimoku is no different than that of an ordinary lay believer of sincere faith and practice. There is no reason to conclude, then, that the daimoku of ordinary believers is any less powerful in "opening the eyes" of the Gohonzon than that of a priest; In fact, it would be more important, since we are the ones who chant to our Gohonzon on a regular basis. 

Unfortunately, in trying to assert the supremacy of priests over laity; in attempting to destroy the Soka Gakkai; in excommunicating some 10 million believers, and through a long list of other serious transgressions, Nikken has acted against the intent of the Lotus Sutra perhaps more gravely than any one person since the Daishonin's time, or perhaps in the entire history of Buddhism. What meaning could there be for such a person to performing an "eye-opening ceremony" even if it were mandatory? 

The only way to "activate" the great beneficial power of the Gohonzon is through our strong faith. To those who have no faith, the Gohonzon is merely a paper scroll. To those who chant daimoku with sincere faith, however, the Gohonzon manifests itself as the embodiment of the Daishonin's life in accordance with the principle of the enlightenment of plants and trees. 

In this regard, the Daishonin states: 

"It is the power of the Lotus Sutra that makes it possible to infuse such paintings and statues with a 'soul' or spiritual property. This was the realization of the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai. In the case of living beings, this doctrine is known as attaining Buddhahood in one's present form; in the case of painted and wooden images, it is known as the enlightenment of plants and trees." 
—MW-6, p. 162
(ii) Immediately prior to the passage quoted by NST from the Gosho "Questions and Answers on the Object of Worship," the Daishonin states: 
"Nichiren, too, as did the Buddha and T'ien-t'ai, makes the Lotus Sutra the object of worship. This is because the Lotus Sutra is the father and mother of Shakyamuni and it is the eyes of all Buddhas.... The Buddha is that which is born, the Lotus Sutra is that which gives birth; the Buddha is the body, the Lotus Sutra is the soul." 
—Gosho Zenshu, p. 366
We can read "the Lotus Sutra" in this passage to mean the Gohonzon of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The Gohonzon itself is the "eye of all Buddhas" and our faith in it allows us to "open the eyes" of our Buddha wisdom. We need no intermediary to do this for us. 

(iii) The Daishonin states: "Now, in the Latter Day of the Law, the 'eye' is the great mandala that was never before revealed [during the Former or Middle Day]. There is no 'eye' apart from this Gohonzon" (Gosho Zenshu, p. 841). The Gohonzon of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, in other words, is itself the eye of the Buddha. A special ceremony, therefore, is not necessary to validate or empower the Gohonzon. 

(iv) The SGI never stated nor implied that believers can pray "with faith to any object — even the object of worship of a heretical sect" and still "activate the powers of the Buddha and the Law." When we pray to the Gohonzon with faith, we can tap the powers of the Buddha and the Law embodied in the Gohonzon as the Daishonin indicates when he says, "The Gohonzon is found in faith alone" 
(MW-l, p. 213). 

The Soka Gakkai has always maintained a strict attitude of faith and respect toward the Gohonzon both in spirit and in practice. The Nichiren Shoshu priesthood has, on many occasions, been lax in this area. Their acceptance of a Shinto talisman for worship by believers during the war is one example of this. In addition, enshrinement of Gohonzon together with erroneous Buddhist and non-Buddhist objects of worship has been quite common among Hokkeko families who have had a close relationship with Taiseki-ji and other Nichiren Shoshu temples for many generations. Nichiren Shoshu priests have made no attempts to correct these practices among their parishioners. The priesthood's contention that the SGI is promoting faith in erroneous objects of worship is a purely wild fantasy. 

(v) Nichiin's statement simply indicates that the Gohonzon of actual ichinen sanzen, which actualizes the principle of the enlightenment of trees and plants, had been passed down at Taiseki-ji. "The ultimate transmitted secret principle of the most important matter" is none other than the Gohonzon itself. It provides no basis for the assertion that the high priest must perform an eye-opening ceremony on the Gohonzon.
 


All material is from the booklet Reaffirming Our Right to Happiness, issued by SGI-USA, and used without permission.