Why can't you buy a Gohonzon?

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nichirenista
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Why can't you buy a Gohonzon?

Post by nichirenista » Sun Jul 27, 2014 12:52 pm

It may be hard to believe (given how controversial two of my most recent threads became), but I'm really not trying to be controversial here at all. Nor am I trying to be disingenuous. My question is very simple: Why don't Nichiren Buddhist organizations sell Gohonzons?

Before anyone gets offended, please remember…. As I've stated in previous posts, I come from a Catholic background. Go to any Catholic Church and they will eagerly sell you, and maybe even give you, a rosary. Go to any Christian bookstore, and they'd gladly sell you a cross or crucifix (though crucifixes, the cross with the body of Jesus on it, can be hard to come by in Protestant Christian stores).

This can be generalized to just about every religion, including Buddhism. It seems you can buy just about any Buddhist object from a New Age or Buddhist store -- except the Gohonzon. If you want to buy one, you have to find a used one on eBay, or print one out from a place like Gohonzon Shu.

Now, I have a Gohonzon. As I mentioned in a previous thread, I was given one by the temple I've now decided to leave. And, given my experience, I hate to sound critical, but…. I was given a Gohonzon only after I paid for it, made an additional donation to the temple, and then gave a donation for the home blessing/enshrining. In other words, my suspicion is that the reason you generally can't buy a Gohonzon in a store is because they are, well, the centerpiece of fund raising in Nichiren organizations.

Any thoughts?

Thanks. :)

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nichirenista
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Re: Why can't you buy a Gohonzon?

Post by nichirenista » Sun Jul 27, 2014 1:36 pm

(According to the Nichiren Coffeehouse, this is the only place in North America where you can buy scroll Gohonzons: http://mysite.verizon.net/kaiundo/kakejiku.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; )

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Re: Why can't you buy a Gohonzon?

Post by Myoho-Nameless » Sun Jul 27, 2014 5:18 pm

I actually did buy my gohonzon off of ebay. I would not recommend it, it did not end up "feeling" right. Other people might feel different. But now, a few years later, I am doing a bit more away from the gohonzon chanting due to time issues, and certainly believe that they are an optional piece of Buddhist culture. But if I did not have one, I would really want one, I would feel the odd man out without at least knowing I have one.....thats me.

My second one which is smaller and for travel I printed out after downloading it from a yahoo groups group specifically meant for this, I am not sure if it is still up. But it distributed them for free and you could print them just fine without doing any fancy shmancy printer hacks, and do it on standard printer paper. That did not feel bad at all. I can't explain why.


I suspect temples just want......"control" over there members, making them dependent on the org. I am sure supporters of the practice will have other things to say.
I just don't belong.

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Re: Why can't you buy a Gohonzon?

Post by DGA » Sun Jul 27, 2014 8:09 pm

nichirenista wrote:Now, I have a Gohonzon. As I mentioned in a previous thread, I was given one by the temple I've now decided to leave. And, given my experience, I hate to sound critical, but…. I was given a Gohonzon only after I paid for it, made an additional donation to the temple, and then gave a donation for the home blessing/enshrining. In other words, my suspicion is that the reason you generally can't buy a Gohonzon in a store is because they are, well, the centerpiece of fund raising in Nichiren organizations.
Well, you can't rule that out.

I think something else may also be at work here, which is visible in the three different stages you had to go through to get your Gohonzon. Each of those transactions was an instance where your interested was tested. The temple didn't want to entrust something as sacred as a Gohonzon to someone who wasn't serious, so they built in these opportunities for you to bail out on the process. You followed through, so they figured you must be trustworthy enough.

What are the consequences, karmically speaking, of giving a Gohonzon to someone who isn't serious about practice? I'm asking because I don't know the doctrinal position on this. I'd assumed from the perspective of Nichiren's Buddhism that doing so would be very bad news indeed. If so, then there's every incentive not to simply sell them like indulgences. I hope if I'm wrong here someone more knowledgeable will set me right.

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Re: Why can't you buy a Gohonzon?

Post by nichirenista » Sun Jul 27, 2014 11:21 pm

Myoho-Nameless wrote:I actually did buy my gohonzon off of ebay. I would not recommend it, it did not end up "feeling" right. Other people might feel different. But now, a few years later, I am doing a bit more away from the gohonzon chanting due to time issues, and certainly believe that they are an optional piece of Buddhist culture. But if I did not have one, I would really want one, I would feel the odd man out without at least knowing I have one.....thats me.

My second one which is smaller and for travel I printed out after downloading it from a yahoo groups group specifically meant for this, I am not sure if it is still up. But it distributed them for free and you could print them just fine without doing any fancy shmancy printer hacks, and do it on standard printer paper. That did not feel bad at all. I can't explain why.


I suspect temples just want......"control" over there members, making them dependent on the org. I am sure supporters of the practice will have other things to say.
What kind of Gohonzon? An SGI?

You are probably referring to this group, right? https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/GohonzonInfo/info" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Why can't you buy a Gohonzon?

Post by nichirenista » Sun Jul 27, 2014 11:30 pm

I hate to drag my unsatisfactory experiences at the temple I used to attend into this thread. But it was more or less made clear that all you basically had to do was hangout for a year, and they'd give you one. Granted, in my case it was quite clear I was serious and devoted. But I know for a fact this temple has given the Gohonzon out to people who aren't serious about it. One lady sat at the table in the social hall after my "Eye Opening" ceremony and said that the Gohonzon she was given isn't even enshrined in her home. It's just on the wall like a piece of art. In a situation like this, I don't see why they don't just sell them. (The woman in question wasn't a serious student at all. She knew and cared nothing about the Gohonzon.)
Jikan wrote:
nichirenista wrote:Now, I have a Gohonzon. As I mentioned in a previous thread, I was given one by the temple I've now decided to leave. And, given my experience, I hate to sound critical, but…. I was given a Gohonzon only after I paid for it, made an additional donation to the temple, and then gave a donation for the home blessing/enshrining. In other words, my suspicion is that the reason you generally can't buy a Gohonzon in a store is because they are, well, the centerpiece of fund raising in Nichiren organizations.
Well, you can't rule that out.

I think something else may also be at work here, which is visible in the three different stages you had to go through to get your Gohonzon. Each of those transactions was an instance where your interested was tested. The temple didn't want to entrust something as sacred as a Gohonzon to someone who wasn't serious, so they built in these opportunities for you to bail out on the process. You followed through, so they figured you must be trustworthy enough.

What are the consequences, karmically speaking, of giving a Gohonzon to someone who isn't serious about practice? I'm asking because I don't know the doctrinal position on this. I'd assumed from the perspective of Nichiren's Buddhism that doing so would be very bad news indeed. If so, then there's every incentive not to simply sell them like indulgences. I hope if I'm wrong here someone more knowledgeable will set me right.

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Re: Why can't you buy a Gohonzon?

Post by Myoho-Nameless » Mon Jul 28, 2014 3:34 am

nichirenista wrote: What kind of Gohonzon? An SGI?

You are probably referring to this group, right? https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/GohonzonInfo/info" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
ah, its still up, good.

I am not exactly sure which gohonzon I have, given that they are the most numerous or so I assume, it probably is an SGI gohonzon.

Though control of it's members is probably a reason you cannot just up and get one normally, there are probably beneficial psychological benefits to purchasing your gohonzon and various religious accouterments from the org to which you belong. also.....nothing gets done without monies, not even the work of the Buddha.

its one thing when non Buddhists use our junk as decorations, yard gnome buddhas and stuff, its another when Buddhists do. that is very odd.
I just don't belong.

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nichirenista
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Re: Why can't you buy a Gohonzon?

Post by nichirenista » Mon Jul 28, 2014 7:59 am

The woman who told me her Gohonzon is on the wall like a piece of art and is not enshrined, is the woman I referred to in this thread, the woman who is obviously involved at the temple only to please her father: http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=59&t=17045" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; So, I probably shouldn't generalize this experience with her.

Maybe I should put my question another way. Maybe the question is more something like this…. There seem to be many people who are not affiliated with Nichiren temples, people who may be termed independent, who would like a Gohonzon. I'm surprised someone hasn't spotted the hole in the market. I'm surprised people either have to resort to eBay, to downloading them from the Internet, or from the one place in North America that sells them in scroll form.

Maybe no one has spotted the hole in the market because overall this is a relatively obscure form of Buddhism. Zen and Tibetan Buddhism are far more popular in middle America (there are shops in my town that sell Tibetan/Bhutanese Thankgas for tens of thousands of dollars).

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Re: Why can't you buy a Gohonzon?

Post by dsaly1969 » Mon Jul 28, 2014 5:49 pm

Keep in mind that the independent folks often simply just print up a "Prayer Gohonzon" image from the Internet and frame it (or install it) or they they buy a Gohonzon scroll from Kaiundo. Most independents do without an official "eye opening" ceremony and there is some controversy about the handling and erspect towards the Gohonzon in those cases. Remember even Gohonzon scrolls from SGI or NShu or Shoshu are made at a print shop. Generally receiving a Gohonzon scroll from an organization is sort of the proof that one is an "official member" of that organization which is why each group has their own particular Gohonzon version that they issue.

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Re: Why can't you buy a Gohonzon?

Post by nichirenista » Tue Jul 29, 2014 10:32 am

I suppose my analogy of being able to buy a cross/crucifix isn't appropriate then. Maybe a closer analogy was the scapula (religious necklace) I was given after certain services/events at the Catholic Church.

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Re: Why can't you buy a Gohonzon?

Post by nichirenista » Tue Jul 29, 2014 11:09 am

Uh-oh. I posted too soon: http://kruby.tripod.com/Gohonzonsource.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; (What I mean is, you CAN buy a Gohonzon in a shop … but in Japan. Kind of a sad display, actually.)

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Re: Why can't you buy a Gohonzon?

Post by Queequeg » Tue Jul 29, 2014 4:48 pm

My experience - in the old days of NSA (Nichiren Shoshu Academy / America) which became SGI - USA, it was hard to receive a Gohonzon. Basically, you had to wait for the next time the priest (Nichiren Shoshu) came through town to perform the ceremony. I remember hearing about folks who would have to chant to an empty butsudan until the opportunity came.

Later, the distribution system became streamlined such that the local temple in NY was cooperating on 'Shakubuku Campaigns' to hand them out to anyone who showed up with the fees - $25? $50?

SGI-USA pretty much followed this formula sans temple last I know. They have gongyo every night at the community center, and as best I can gather, if you have a 'sponsor' and can pay the fee, you can have a Gohonzon.

I don't know about denominations such as Nichiren Shu, but it was a few years before I was able to receive a gohonzon from Kitayama.

Don Ross, a great figure in the independent movement, started making a high quality image file available on the net for people to get Gohonzon without having to go through an institutional source. I believe kempon folks followed suit a while later with another image file. This was the start of DIY practice. This is the the extreme edge.

Some of you all may know of Mark P. He had some woodblocks made to press Gohonzon and was going to offer these for cost on silk mounted scrolls. He had a stroke shortly after and that plan never rolled. I was given the woodblocks, but frankly, I will not print them because I don't feel I have the authority to do so.

The Gohonzon could be made into a commodity, for sure. Natural ink, acid free paper, fine silk brocade. A migty fine product could be produced. Few I think have the audacity to take this powerful spiritual object and then turn them out.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

I think each human being has things to find out in his own life that are inescapable. They’ll find them out the easy way or the hard way, or whatever.
-Jerry Garcia

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Re: Why can't you buy a Gohonzon?

Post by nichirenista » Tue Jul 29, 2014 11:59 pm

Thanks for the response. Interesting NShoshu/SGI history there….

I was given a Gohonzon, and I have a book that is a guide to it, describing each character. So, I'm not uneducated in the importance and symbolism of the Gohonzon.

But isn't a statue of the Buddha or Kuan Yin or a Tibetan thankga also a powerful spiritual object? I know of at least a dozen stores in town that sell them. I'm not advocating selling Gohonzon. I'm just wondering when the differentiation took place in the mind of US retailers.

About SGI easily handing out a Gohonzon, I had thought they actually search your house beforehand to make sure you don't have any other religious items. And I thought there were all kinds of other requirements, including a test and the requirement to return if you leave. It would be funny if I were wrong about this, because these are among the reasons I never joined SGI.

On another note, the following occurs to me…. I actually paid for my Gohonzon. I was told the cost, and then told a donation to the temple is usually customary. So, the truth is that at least in my case, Gohonzons are for sale: just from a temple, and after a waiting period, and when a donation is included. And we're back to my suggestion that, at least in part, the Gohonzon is a means of fund raising.

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Re: Why can't you buy a Gohonzon?

Post by dsaly1969 » Wed Jul 30, 2014 12:41 am

That was not my experience with SGI during the last decade. Nowadays they want folks to practice for a few months before applying for a Gohonzon. They do come out to the home - not to "search" for religious items - but to make sure the Gohonzon would be properly enshrined in a butsudan (they do have inexpensive and even homemade options). Generally local leaders come out to conduct a little enshrinement ceremony at your home. There is no "requirement" to return the Gohonzon if you leave SGI although many choose to do so.

BTW, RKK also does an enshrinement ceremony at the home of the new member.

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Re: Why can't you buy a Gohonzon?

Post by nichirenista » Wed Jul 30, 2014 2:42 am

Thanks. I may've looked in SGI if I had known that.

Which reminds me…. I have another question. What do online Nichiren sangas do? A forum member suggested the online Rissho sangha to me. Made me wonder: do online sanghas give out Gohonzon?

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Re: Why can't you buy a Gohonzon?

Post by Queequeg » Wed Jul 30, 2014 2:58 pm

Dsaly, I'll take your word about how it is now. They did use to go in to peoples houses and purge religious items. This was a practice in Japan where people were forced to get rid of family shrines and funerary tablets before getting a Gohonzon. I suppose they might have forced people to get rid of crucifixes and what not in the West, but not since the 80 at the latest, if ever. In the 90s they stopped that practice in Japan. Like I said, Gohonzon were given liberally by NSA at one point. Ask old timers about the August Shakubuku campaigns. I knew a guy who sponsored 100 people in one month. It was insane. There was no waiting period. Lots of bewildered people though.

Nichirenista- independents, as far as I know download and print. I suppose many also just practice with the Gohonzon they received from whatever institutional sources. Not that there are all that many independents. There are the affiliated, which is a relatively small number, and independents are fewer than that.

Maybe the reason Buddhist shops don't sell Gohonzon is because there isn't much market for them. I bet a lot of those thangka and other images and object are sold to people looking to add a little exotic flare to their decor. You'll see that stuff in second hand shops in 10 years. I am skeptical many of those objects ever have a ritual purpose. Not many calligraphy fans out there I don't think, and few Gohonzon are particularly interesting as examples for people who actually know calligraphy.

You can buy Gohonzon mounted on silk brocade in Japan. I don't think its a high volume business. Most people in Japan have Gohonzon handed down if they are original, I suppose, or get one directly from their family temple. The questions you're raising here are novel and particular to outside Japan.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

I think each human being has things to find out in his own life that are inescapable. They’ll find them out the easy way or the hard way, or whatever.
-Jerry Garcia

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Re: Why can't you buy a Gohonzon?

Post by dsaly1969 » Wed Jul 30, 2014 6:50 pm

Oh, I know what SGI (Soka Gakkai) used to do in Japan. My experience with SGI was in the early 2000's after the split with NShoshu. I have even seen more mellowing in SGI during the decade since I had joined (I would suspect that the post-Ikeda era will mellow them even more.)

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Re: Why can't you buy a Gohonzon?

Post by nichirenista » Wed Jul 30, 2014 11:17 pm

Queequeg wrote:Nichirenista- independents, as far as I know download and print. I suppose many also just practice with the Gohonzon they received from whatever institutional sources. Not that there are all that many independents. There are the affiliated, which is a relatively small number, and independents are fewer than that.

Maybe the reason Buddhist shops don't sell Gohonzon is because there isn't much market for them. I bet a lot of those thangka and other images and object are sold to people looking to add a little exotic flare to their decor. You'll see that stuff in second hand shops in 10 years. I am skeptical many of those objects ever have a ritual purpose. Not many calligraphy fans out there I don't think, and few Gohonzon are particularly interesting as examples for people who actually know calligraphy.

You can buy Gohonzon mounted on silk brocade in Japan. I don't think its a high volume business. Most people in Japan have Gohonzon handed down if they are original, I suppose, or get one directly from their family temple. The questions you're raising here are novel and particular to outside Japan.

And then answer is revealed. Thank you. :bow:

Excellent point. The shops in my town that sell Tibetan Thankgas and statues of Buddha, most likely end up selling them to restaurants and affluent corporate executives to decorate their homes. This is probably why I usually get an odd vibe from the shop owners. They are very suspicious, it seems, of people who go into their shops.... I often get a sense that the shop keepers (usually Bhutanese or Indian) have mixed feelings about selling these items to people that they know are only going to use them for decorations.

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Re: Why can't you buy a Gohonzon?

Post by rory » Fri Aug 01, 2014 3:12 am

I'm away at a conference but I can answer the question about online sanghas and Gohonzons, as I belonged to Kempon Hokke Shu for about 3 years via their facebook group, led by a priest in Japan and after maybe 6 months and showing I was knowledgeable about Buddhism, had faith, and was approved by the senior American disciple etc I was bestowed a Gohonzon (which Illaraza kindly mounted for me) for which I made a donation. Frankly it seems to me very sensible and also coming from my Jewish cultural background, where members of temple pay to join, support the rabbi, it seems entirely natural and normal to pay to belong to a temple and give a donation for the Gohonzon. I think it all comes down to our particular cultural background. At the same time when I left the sect I gave the Gohonzon to a member who didn't have one & made him promise if he left to give it to another sect member. He left and did not honor his promise. The Gohonzon should have been returned to the sect.

I'm very fond of Nichiren groups because they are lay-centered and people use their homes and the Odaimoku is given freely. Similarly Rissho Kosei Kai has lectures on the Lotus Sutra and their sutra book freely available on the net.

I tend to prefer statues and figurative scrolls to Gohonzons, it's just me but I just cannot develop a powerful faith relationship with an abstract icon.
Anyway, hope I've shed some light on things
gassho
Rory
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The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
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Re: Why can't you buy a Gohonzon?

Post by nichirenista » Fri Aug 01, 2014 5:10 am

Thanks for the interesting response. I didn't know online sanghas gave Gohonzon.

About Gohonzon and donation, I suppose I should clarify. The Catholic Church I grew up in didn't have membership dues, but it encouraged tithing; roughly 10% of your pretax income. So, I'm very aware of religious institutions needing to raise funds.

So, I wasn't condemning the practice of granting a Gohonzon after a donation, etc. I was just grasping for an answer to my own question. I was wondering if maybe there is an unspoken agreement in the Buddhist retail community (did I just make up a new term, "Buddhist retail community"?) to NOT to sell the Gohonzon because doing so may deprive temples of an important means of fundraising. Um; yeah; I try too hard sometimes…. LOL :thinking:

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