Chikusan's Treasure from an Antique Store

Better than ten years ago, late 1990(?), I encountered an object, brought to my attention by another member, in an art gallery in Seattle. The object was titled 'Buddhist Painting'. An object that I have called "the small 'g' gohonzon." I could not find anyone that could answer any of my questions w/o BS, so, at that time I purchsed it and put it into storage. The clearest answer I ever got was, "A crazy person did that."

I talked to the person that found it in an secondhand store in a small town in the north of Japan, on the coast near the Sea of Japan.

The total area of the inscriptions in this object measure approx. 20" wide by 46" tall. It has been framed like a picture by the art gallery. It is inscribed on a tightly woven fabric. There is a small area where it was damaged while at the art gallery. The break in the fabric has the appearence of being more like a wood or reed fiber than something like cotton, nor is it like an artists canvas. With fade and wear marks as if passing the centuries loosely rolled, it appears to be quite old, as it should. It claims to be inscribed by Nichiren, by virtue of his signature.

By it's date, it claims to be inscribed at the time Nichiren was at Sado Island. Someone read the date for me once. It is in the order of, "such and such day, month and year of Bun'ei", 1274, I think.

Yesterday, I found the Gohonzon Shu site where there are many "authenticated Nichiren Gohonzon." I looked at most of them. They do vary quite a bit, don't they?

This variance in style and inscriptions seems to be a natural progression. I tried to examine the small 'g' for both content and calligraphy. While there is variances in charateristics (in terms of brush style, which I am viewing as hand writting, and I am a novice), and some that are not present (which could be accounted for by the size of the small 'g'), there are some brush strokes, along with single characters of the kanji, that seem to be absolutely identical to some of the other Gohonzons.

Just an observation, Nichiren's signatrue, over the years, seems to have changed more than mine has. One of the Gohonzon he inscribed was so crooked, one wonders if he had an ear infection that day.

On the small 'g', I was told that the lines of characters that appear between Jyogo and Meuhengyo, on the leftside, and Jogyo and Anrugyo on rhe right, should not be there, that "Nichiren would never write that." I learnd yesterday that at a certain period, (around the time of Sado) Nichiren did infact use these characters, but they appear between Taho and Jyogyo, Shakyamuni and jogyo, respectively.

Also, there is a banner written across the top, from left to right as you face it, in fast-stroke calligraphy. This too is not inconsistant with the many Gohonzon I viewed yesterday.

There also other inscriptions, in the nature of dedications, I was once told by a friend, but it is not dedicated to a specific indiviual. (So I was told.)

Some of the kanji is archaic, which fits the time period.

So, there are the pieces to this puzzle. Does anyone here know of a way to put them together?

How is a Gohonzon authenticated? (or not) (Then I can start trying to answer the more subjective questions that this encounter has raised.)

All suggestions appreciated.

Thank you, Chikusan.

[Excerpted from Chikusan's inquiry on the Gohonzon Forum with the author's permission.]

If you have any info on this Mandala, please email Chikusan!

Note from Don: This Great Mandala is not in the GohonzonShu, but it may well be one of the 700+ Gohonzons attributed to Nichiren; or perhaps it came from one of his later followers?

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Webpage created 29 Oct 2001 ~ updated 26 Nov 2004