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.]