On the Gohonzon: 
The Large Kanji 
Taho Nyorai 
The Top Row of Chinese Characters 
The Second Row of Chinese Characters 
The Third Row of Chinese Characters 

The Central Buddha of the Gohonzon (Great Mandala): Nam 

An Overview on Mandalas 

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The Imagery of Nichiren's Lotus Sutra: The Gohonzon - The Great Mandala of the True Dharma 
Gohonzon Translation The Fourth Row 

Starting on the far-left very bottom is Zocho (see the section on the Large Kanji). (Gohonzon map here.) 

Right of Zocho is Kore o shosha shi tatematsuru: "This is respectfully transcribed by..."; then the name of the person transcribing the Gohonzon is directly under this phrase. More on this metadata later on this page. 

To the right and above the "transcribed by" phrase is Namu Dengyo Daishi Great Teacher Dengyo. He is the person who brought T'ien-t'ai Buddhism to Japan. 

Right of Dengyo is Nam Myoraku Daishi Great teacher Miao-lo.  He is T'ien-t'ai's disciple. 

Right of Miao-lo is Hachiman Dai Bosatsu Great Bodhisattva Hachiman. Hachiman evolved from a Japanese deity to a Bodhisattva. As a deity, he protected villages. As a Bodhisattva, he promotes abundant crops with the establishment of the True Law. 

Just to the right of Hachiman is Nam Myoho-Renge-Kyo Nichiren. 

Right of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo Nichiren is Tensho Daijin the Sun Goddess who is the central deity of Shinto. As a protector of Buddhism, she protects the fortune accumulated by correct practice. 

Right of the Sun Goddess is Namu Ryuju Bosatsu Bodhisattva Nagarjuna. The founder of Mahayana Buddhism. 

Right of Nagarjuna is Namu Tendai Daishi The Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai. 

Right of T'ien-t'ai is Komoku see Gohonzon Translation the Large Kanji. 

Now we will pick up those kanji (the metadata) not covered before, starting on the left at the very bottom. 

The name of the person transcribing the Gohonzon see above. 

Right of that name is the number in the succession of high priests, i.e. 26th High Priest, in the case of Nichikan. 

Right of Nichiren is Zai gohan meaning sealed. 

Next is a block of characters. Starting from the right and reading down is Butsu metsugo ni-sen ni-hyaku sanju-yo nen no aida ichinenbudai no uchi mizou no dai-mandara nari, which means: "Never in the two thousand two hundred and thirty-some years since the passing of the Buddha has this Great Mandala appeared in the world." 

This is a simple, literal translation of the Gohonzon. I hope you can find all the characters. Start from the middle and work out to the left and right. 

Updated 6/7/06 
Copyright 2002 Imagery of Nichiren's Lotus Sutra website