The official title of Kanjin Honzon-shō is Nyorai metsugo go-gohyaku-sai shi kanjin honzon-shō (A Treatise on Contemplation of the Mind and the Principal Focus of Reverence for the Beginning of the Fifth 500-year Period after the Passing of the Tathāgata), and it is the main work in which Nichiren Shōnin explained his unique teachings. It was written in the 10th year of Bun’ei (1273), and while the Kaimoku-shō (written in the previous year) is known as “nin-kaiken” (人開顕), the work revealing the nature of the person of Nichiren Shōnin, this work is designated as "hō-kaiken" (法開顕), the work revealing Nichiren Shōnin’s Dharma Gate (hōmon 法門), or teaching.
The treatise first introduces the doctrine of ichinen sanzen (一念三千) or “Three Thousand Aspects of Existence in Each Moment of Experience”, which was explained by Zhìyǐ, the founder of the Tiāntāi School in China in his “Great Serenity and Insight” (Makashikan 摩訶止観). Ichinen sanzen holds that the many realms between hell and the world of the Buddha form a total of 3,000 aspects of existence which are all interconnected, and that all of these 3,000 aspects, including the realm of the Buddha (the “Buddha World”), are contained within each momentary movement of the mind. Because of this, the realm of the Buddha, the “Buddha World”, exists within the minds and hearts of everyone at each moment.
However this is not easy to believe…Can the highest realm, that of the Buddha, exist even in our ignorant and impure minds?
Nichiren Shōnin therefore points out that the whole of the Buddha's enlightenment, that is, the world of the Buddha, is completely revealed in the Lotus Sūtra, or “Myōhō Renge Kyō” in Japanese. In other words, the Buddha World is encapsulated in the form of only the five characters of, "Myō, Hō, Ren, Ge, Kyō" (妙法蓮華経) which make up the title of the Lotus Sūtra and appear concretely in front of us. Because of this, receiving and keeping the five-character title (daimoku 題目) of the Lotus Sūtra (“Myōhō Renge Kyō”) in our hearts is exactly the same as receiving and keeping the Buddha World in our hearts. It is for that reason that the Sanskrit word "Namu" (南無), which means "to be devoted to" and "to believe and accept in the heart," is added to these five characters to make the phrase “Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō”.
What is important to understand here is the significance of what is taught in the latter half of the Lotus Sūtra. It is a matter of fact that the Buddha died long ago, and since then the world has been absent of any Buddha, meaning the existence of the Buddha World has been discernible only doctrinally, in theory. However, in the latter half of the Lotus Sūtra, in the 16th chapter, “The Life Span of the Tathāgata”, it is explained that Śākyamuni Buddha disappeared only to encourage people's independence; he actually has an eternal lifespan extending from the distant past into the infinite future, and the Buddha World is continually unfolding.
Because Śākyamuni Buddha reveals his true, original form as the “Eternal Buddha” in the latter half of the Lotus Sūtra, it is called the “Teaching of the Original" (literally “origin gate”, honmon 本門). According to this “Teaching of the Original”, the Buddha neither died in the past nor do we need to wait for him to appear in the future. The Buddha continues to live and to reveal his world, and by virtue of this, if the Buddha world is still alive even now, we can take it in our hearts and make use of it in our hearts by means of “Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō”. The Kanjin Honzon-shō states that when we do this we can reach the point of being one with the Buddha. This is the “Buddhahood” achieved by chanting “Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō”.
Let's examine the situation when the “Teaching of the Original” was preached by looking at the description of the scene in the Lotus Sūtra: Śākyamuni Buddha sat side-by-side with the Buddha of the past, Many Treasures Buddha, in a Stūpa of Treasure floating in the air, and summoned a large number of bodhisattvas who had been taught in ancient times from under the earth. The bodhisattvas who emerged from the earth are called the “Bodhisattvas who sprang up from the earth” (jiyu no bosatsu 地涌菩薩). After declaring himself to be the Buddha of Eternity, Śākyamuni Buddha instructed the Bodhisattvas who sprang up from the earth to spread the “Teaching of the Original”.
The depiction of the Eternal Buddha at that moment, Śākyamuni Buddha and Many Treasures Buddha, followed by the Bodhisattvas who sprang up from the earth (led by Superior Practice Bodhisattva, Limitless Practice Bodhisattva, Pure Practice Bodhisattva and Steadily Established Practice Bodhisattva), that is, the depiction of the divulging of the essence of the five characters of “Myōhō Renge Kyō” (the Lotus Sūtra), was designated by Nichiren Shōnin as the principal focus of reverence (honzon 本尊) in Kanjin Honzon-shō.
Nichiren Shōnin revealed in this treatise the Daimoku of "Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō", which was developed from the theory of contemplation of the mind (Kanjin), and the principal focus of reverence (Honzon) of the “Honmon” section of the Lotus Sūtra, which is the basis for this contemplation.
As mentioned earlier, the Daimoku (the essence of the sūtra) and the scenery depicted by the Honzon are entrusted in the Lotus Sūtra to the Bodhisattvas who sprang up from the earth. So, when will they appear and spread this sacred essence of the Lotus Sūtra and its principal scene which is to be the focus of people’s practice?
According to a sūtra called the "Sūtra of the Great Assembly," Buddhism will gradually decline in 500-year stages following the passing of the Buddha, and at the beginning of the fifth 500-year period (in other words: Nyorai metsugo go-gohyaku-sai shi) the worst era called “Map’pō” 末法 (the End of the Dharma) will arrive.
Nichiren Shōnin was convinced that the Bodhisattvas of the Earth would finally appear and spread the Daimoku and the Honzon, the ultimate teachings, only when the end of the Dharma arrived and all other measures had been exhausted.
Moreover, believing the time period he was living in to be Map’pō, Nichiren Shōnin himself was trying to carry out this task, as a representative of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.
The first page of the Kanjin Honzon-shō, kept in the Treasure House at Nakayama Hokekyoji Temple.
Statues of the One Stūpa, Two Honoured Ones and Four Leaders (It’tō Ryōson Shishi 一塔両尊四士) on the altar of the Main Hall of Minobusan Kuonji Temple.
(1) Stūpa of Treasure (2) Śākyamuni Buddha (3) Many Treasures Buddha (4) Superior Practice Bodhisattva (5) Limitless Practice Bodhisattva (6) Pure Practice Bodhisattva (7) Steadily Established Practice Bodhisattva
The “Rinmetsudoji” Honzon drawn by Nichiren Shōnin in 1280 and which he requested be hung by his bed before he passed away. Kept in the storehouse of Hikidani Myōhon-ji Temple.
A copy of the Honzon known as the “Sado Shiken Daimandara” which Nichiren Shōnin himself drew less than three months after writing the Kanjin Honzon-shō.
(Copied by Enten-in Nichikō 遠沾院日亨 (1646-1722), 33rd Abbot of Minobusan Kuonji, and part of the Gohonzonkan Collection of Minobusan Kuonji)