The Daimoku
Back to Home

The Imagery of Nichiren's Lotus Sutra: The Gohonzon - The Great Mandala of the True Dharm 
Ho in Chinese 

"We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."  

—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The character that Nichiren Buddhists pronounce ho is fa in Chinese (and dharma in Sanskrit).  It means "rule", "law," and, by extension, "model" or "pattern." The modern form (used in the gongyo book) is composed of two elemental characters. Chu, the character to the right and Shui to the left. 
Chu looks like a music stand. The triangular base of the stand is a vessel or jug. The telephone pole-like structure above it is the jug's cover. It means to remove, to lay aside, to leave. Removing the jug's cover and contents leaves it empty. 
Shui is two dots and a semi-vertical line.  The vertical line represents a stream the two dots are whirls of water.  It means "water".
Jug?  Water?  How could this mean "Law"? 

Law (fa) removes (chu) vices and makes morals as smooth as water (shui). 

There is an older combination of elemental characters used to construct fa (Jp. ho, English "law"). Fa was composed of chi and cheng. 

Chi is a triangle. It means "union" or "junction of different elements," and "adapting to the whole." To understand this meaning, imagine the sides of the triangle converging into a single point. 

Cheng is footprints leading directly to the crest of a hill then viewing all directions.  Because the prints do not stray cheng means "righteousness." 

Fa means "adapting (chi) towards righteousness (cheng)" — therefore, "law."  

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