The Eye-Opening Ceremony 

Nichiren Shoshu contends that the Gohonzon needs to have the high priest perform the eye-opening ceremony upon it, but there is no doctrinal or historical basis for this stance. The powers of the Buddha and the Law in the Gohonzon can be revealed only through the powers of our faith and practice. 

Nichiren Daishonin refutes the idea that esoteric eye-opening ceremonies should be relied on to empower Buddhist images: "It is the power of the Lotus Sutra that makes it possible to infuse such paintings and statues with a 'soul' or spiritual property" (MW-6, 161). The power of the Lotus Sutra means nothing other than the power of our faith and prayer in chanting to the Gohonzon. No special eye-opening ceremony is necessary for the Gohonzon. The Gohonzon in itself is an entity of the essence of the Lotus Sutra and of the Daishonin's enlightenment. 

In making their claim, Nichiren Shoshu states: 

"One should never worship anything as a Gohonzon that has not been authorized as such by the High Priest, who has inherited the Heritage of the Law, even if it was inscribed by Nichiren Daishonin himself ...."
(NST News, Special Issue, pp. 3-4) 
The phrase "even if it was inscribed by Nichiren Daishonin himself" is telling. It indicates that even if the Daishonin inscribed his life in the Gohonzon, the high priest has the power, according to current Nichiren Shoshu teachings, to disempower it or close its eyes to deactivate the Gohonzon. Whether this is done by a special incantation, a waving of a wand, or his sheer will, is not made clear. There is in fact no basis for this in any of the Daishonin's writings or anywhere in the history of Nichiren Shoshu. It is true that even a Gohonzon inscribed in the hand of the Daishonin will not benefit someone without faith or practice. This is why President Toda said that the Daishonin's Gohonzon possessed by schools such as the Minobu sect have no power. Because those who possess it slight the significance of the Gohonzon and lack faith, even the Daishonin's Gohonzon will not benefit them. It is not because the high priest of Taiseki-ji or anyone else has the ability to "turn off" their power, as if by remote control. 

Nichiren Shoshu contends that the eye-opening ceremony has always been conducted for all Gohonzon at the head temple. But historic fact proves this to be untrue. 

  1. From post World War II through the 1970s, all the okatagi Gohonzon of Nichiren Shoshu were printed in a major local temple in Tokyo called Hodoin and distributed to other local temples. These Gohonzon, after being mounted and put into boxes, were never transferred to the head temple and never subjected to an eye-opening ceremony by a high priest. 
  2. After 1979, the office that handles matters concerning the Gohonzon was placed within the Internal Affairs Department at the head temple. According to a priest who worked in this office: 
    1. "In the case of the okatagi Gohonzon, neither before nor after they were mounted did High Priest Nikken conduct an eye-opening ceremony for any one of the Gohonzon. They were simply sent straight to local temples as soon as they were manufactured." 


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Source: Confirming Our Path of Faith: Temple Issue Handbook, SGI-USA Temple Issue Committee (Santa Monica, CA: SGI-USA {1999})