Explanation of the
Kito Prayer Gohonzon

Prayer Gohonzon inscribed by Nichiren in 1277

Details about this Gohonzon:
Original Size: approx 53 inches by 40 inches

This Gohonzon was inscribed in April of the second year of Kenji (1277). It is listed in the Gohonzon Shu (Gohonzon Collection, compiled and annotated by Yamanaka Kahachi. Nichiren Shu: 1947.). The Gohonzon Shu is the photographic compilation of 128 authenticated extant Gohonzons in Nichiren's handwriting. This Gohonzon has a black mark of residue ink on its lower right side. A similar Gohonzon is housed at Honkokuji Temple in Kyoto. The Gohonzon at Honkokuji was inscribed for Nichiro.

In the Great Saint Chronological History, it says "...this month (April of the second year of Kenji), [Nichiren] inscribed Honzons and gave them to Nissho and Niccho. In the New Edition of Chronological History, it is noted as follows: "The one [gohonzon] that was given to Nissho is housed at Tamasawa. Another similiar [gohonzon] given to Niccho is housed at Nakayama."

Words of Praise from the Lotus & Nirvana Sutras
Located around the central portion of the Gohonzon at various angles.

Right Side of the Gohonzon

Luigi Fino, author of an upcoming book about the GohonzonShu writes:
From the "Medicine King" chapter 23 of the Lotus Sutra, "This Sutra is good medicine for the sicknesses of those in Jambudvipa. If a sick person gets to hear this Sutra, his sickness will be cured immediately. He will not grow old or die." This passage is also inscribed on other mandalas, namely numbers 38, 39, 40, 47 and 49.
The Maltzes translate this same passage as:
"This sutra is truly a splendid medicine for the diseases of the people of Jambudvipa. The sick person who hears this sutra will be immediately cured of his disease. He will not grow old and die before his time."
Luigi on the next section:
Various passages from the "Life span" chapter 16 of the Lotus Sutra, "Because they drank the poison, some of the sons have lost their senses / Seeing their father at a distance, they are all greatly happy / In our foolishness, we took some poison by mistake. We pray that you will rescue and heal us / I will now leave this good medicine here for you to take. Have no worries about not recovering." (This is not a literal translation. The meaning has been expanded for clarity).
The Maltzes write:
If a child who has lost his original mind, upon seeing his father return from a far, greatly rejoices and yet when the Father gives him the medicine to heal his illnesses, he is unwilling to swallow it. Thereupon the Father says, "This good excellent medicine I now leave here. You should take and swallow it. Do not worry that you will not be cured."
Next Luigi writes:
A famous parable from the Nirvana Sutra tells of the parents which take special care of their sick son although they love all their children equally. In the same way, the Buddha particularly cares for sinners. The seven sons are likened to mankind, devas, sravakas, pratyeka-buddhas and the three kinds of bodhisattvas. The passage itself can be translated as, "If parents have seven children and one of them falls ill, the love of the parents is equal for all the children, but they are especially attentive to the one who is sick."
The Maltzes translate this as:
Imagine for example if parents have seven children and one of them falls ill. Although the love of the parents is equal for all the children, they are especially sympathetic and attentive to the one who is sick.
The Maltzes continue the translation:
This is the Great Unprecedented Mandala [Japanese: Mandara], never yet been in the whole of Jambudvipa for the more than 2220 years after the Buddha's extinction. [Jap: Enbudai (Jambudvipa); the world in which we are living.]

Left Side of the Gohonzon

Luigi writes:
Another passage from the Nirvana Sutra reads, "There are three kinds of people whose illnesses are very hard to cure. First, those who slander Mahayana teachings, second those who commit the five cardinal sins, third, those who are persons of incorrigible disbelief (icchantika). These three kinds of serious illnesses are difficult to cure in this world."
The Maltzes expand on this translation thus:
There are three kinds of people whose illnesses are very hard to cure:
1. One who speaks ill of Mahayana teachings.

2. One who commits the five cardinal sins [killing one's father, killing one's mother, killing a saint or arhat, injuring the body of a Buddha, causing disunity in the community of monks].

3. One who is an icchantika [Jap: issendai, a sentient being who, being inherently unreceptive to the teachings of the Buddha, will never attain enlightenment. In the Lotus Sutra, an icchantika could ultimately attain Buddhahood.]
These three kinds of illness are extremely serious and difficult to cure in this world. [Only the Lotus Sutra can cure them.]

Prayer Gohonzon Map

Central Portion of Gohonzon

1. Namu Muhengyo-bosatsu
2. Namu Jogyo-bosatsu
3. Namu Zentoku Nyorai
4. Namu Taho Nyorai
5. Namu Shakyamuni Buddha
6. Namu Jippo Bunshin
7. Namu Jyogyo Bosatsu
8. Namu Anrugyo Bosatsu
9. Asura Ten no
10. Ten Rin no
11. Dai Nitten no
12. Dai Bonten
13. Namu Sharihotsu Bosatsu
14. Namu Miroku Bosatsu
15. Namu Monju Bosatsu
16. Namu Fugen Bosatsu
17. Namu Yakuo Bosatsu
18. Namu Kasho
19. Sengan Tenno
20. Dai gatten no

21. Naga-raja
22. Twelve Gods Heavenly King
23. Amateratsu-omi Kami
24. Namu Great Master Chih-i (T'ien-t'ai)
25. Namu Ryuju Bosatsu
26. Kishimo-jin
27. Ju Rasetsu Nyo
28. Namu Great Master Myoraku
29. Namu Great Master Dengyo (Saicho)
30. Namu Great Hachiman Bosatsu
A) Daibadatta Ten no
B) Fudo
C) Dai Komoku Ten no
D) Bishamon-ten
E) Aizen
F) Nichiren's signature and ka-o
G) Second Year of Kenji, April (1277)
H) Dai Zocho Ten no
I) [Conferment]: Nissho, Sramana
[Japanese: shomon] of the
great sun country of Japan

Explanation of Terms on this Gohonzon

1. Muhengyo Bosatsu (Sanskrit: Anantacaritra; English: Limitless or Boundless Conduct) One of Four Leaders of the Original Bodhisattva Disciples of the Original Buddha.

2. Jogyo Bosatsu (Sanskrit: Visistacaritra; English: Superior or Eminent Conduct) The principle leader of the Four Leaders of the Original Bodhisattva disciples, with whom Nichiren is identified, in his own words and inscribed as such on one particular gohonzon.

3. Zentoku Nyorai (English: Buddha Good Virtue) One of the emanation Buddhas (Japanese: Jippo Bunshin)

4. Taho Nyorai (Sanskrit: Prabhutaratna-tathagata; English: Abundant Treasures Buddha)Ancient Buddha appearing in the 11th Chapter of the Lotus Sutra and remaining until the 22nd Chapter [Entrustment].

5. Shakyamuni Buddha (Sanskrit: Sakyamuni; English: Sage of the Sakya Clan) Often cited as Seson, 'the Enlightened One.' This refers to both the historical Shakyamuni and the Eternal Buddha of the 16th Chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

6. Jippo Bunshin
Jippo: the ten directions, east south, west, north, southeast, southwest, northeast, northwest, up [zenith] and down [nadir].
Bunshin: limitless emanation Buddha bodies.

7. Jyogyo Bosatsu (Sanskrit: Visuddhacaritra; English: Pure Conduct) One of the Four Leaders of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

8. Anryugyo Bosatsu (Sanskrit: Supratisthitacaritra; English: Steadfast Conduct) One of the Four Leaders of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

9. Ashura Ten no (Sanskrit: Asura Rajas; English: Titan or Mighty Demon Kings) Originally in Brahmanism this was a devil who fights with gods headed by Indra or Sakra. Asura was introduced into Buddhism and came to be regarded as a devil who is fond of fighting by nature.

10. Ten Rin Jo-o (Sanskrit: Cakravartin, Cakravarti-raja) A universal sage monarch, so called because he rules the world by rolling the wheel which he is given by heaven at his enthronement. He represents one of the human-realm laity on the gohonzon.

11. Dai Nitten No (Sanskrit: Surya; English: Great Heavenly Sun King) One of the Gods of the Three Lights.

12. Dai Bon Ten (Sanskrit: Sikhin, Lord of Maha-Brahman Heaven) According the Hindu tradition, he is the Creator of the Universe.

13. Sharihotsu (Sanskrit: Sariputra) One of the major historical disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha in India. On the gohonzon he is a representative of the Sravakas (Sanskrit). (Japanese: shomon; English: voice hearer)

14. Miroku Bosatsu (Sanskrit: Maitreya-bodhisattva; English: the Kindly One) Living in the Tusita (Japanese: Tushita) Heaven, waiting for the time when s/he will appear as the next historical Buddha, according to the prediction of Shakyamuni in the Lotus Sutra. It is often held that s/he will appear 5,675,000,000 years after the parinirvana of Shakyamuni.

15. Monju Bosatsu (Sanskrit: Manjusri-bodhisattva; English: the Bodhisattva Wonderful Virtue) The Bodhisattva of Meditation or of Supreme Wisdom, the left-hand attendant of Shakyamuni Buddha, mounted on a lion. The name, Manchuria, is derived from Manjusri.

16. Fugen Bosatsu (Sanskrit: Samantabhadra-bodhisattva; English: Universal Virtue Bodhisattva) He typifies teaching, meditation and practice of the Buddha. He is mounted on a white elephant and is the right-hand attendant of the buddha. He is contrasted to Manjusri. His practice is associated with repentance for one's evil karma, purifying body, speech & thought, & realizing the true nature of things.

17. Yakuo Bosatsu (Sanskrit: Bhaisajya-raja-bodhisattva; English: Medicine King Bodhisattva) A bodhisattva who dispenses medicine and cures illnesses.

18. Kasho (Sanskrit: Kasyapa) One of the historical disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha in India.

19. Sengan Ten No (Sanskrit: Sahasrabhujavalokitesvara; English: Thousand Eyed King of Heaven)

20. Dai Gatten No (Sanskrit: Candra; English: Great Moon God) One of the Gods of the Three Lights.

21. Nanda, Dai Ryu-o (Sanskrit: Naga-rajas; English: Dragons Kings) A snake-shaped demigod who brings clouds & rain and who protects Buddhism.

22. Twelve Gods Heavenly King (English: 12 Gods Kings)

23. Amaterasu-O-mikami (Great Sun Goddess of Japan) Representative of the Japanese deities who functioned as Buddhist deities according to the theory of honji-suijaku-setsu whereby Japanese Shinto gods are identified as reincarnations of Buddhas or bodhisattvas.

24. Great Master Chih-i (Chinese: T'ien-t'ai, 538-597 CE) The founder of the Chinese T'ien T'ai (Tendai) Sect. He is the author of Hokke-mongu, Hokke-gengi, Maka-shikan, & thirty other existing works.

25. Ryuju Bosatsu (Sanskrit: Nagarjuna-bodhisattva, 2nd or 3rd century CE) One of the chief philosophers of Mahayana Buddhism in India. He is regarded as thirteenth in the lineage of the transmission of the Dharma.

26. Kishimo-jin (Sanskrit: Hariti) Daughter of a yaksa (demon) and called the Mother Demon. She had 500 children and she fed them on the babies of others, but repented and vowed to protect Buddhism after being converted by the Buddha. She is the mother of the Ju Rasetsu Nyo, and a representative of those demons who utter incantations and dharani spells.

27. Ju Rasetsu Nyo (Sanskrit: raksasa, raksasis; English: ten cannibal demon women) The daughters of Kishimojin and the demon witches who utter spells and dharanis (magical chants and incantations).

28. Great Master Myoraku (Chinese: Chan-jan, anothr name for Miao-le-ta-shih 711-782 CE) Revived the Chinese T'ien-t'ai sect in the T'ang Dyansty.

29. Great Master Dengyo (Saicho, 767-822 CE) Founder of the Japanese Tendai sect.

30. Hachiman Dai Bosatsu (Hachiman-bodhisattva) A representative of Japanese Shinto deities.

Outer Portion of Gohonzon

A. Daibadatta Ten No (Sanskrit: Devadatta, literally "gift of the devas" [gods]) He represents the "Apostate," hence a hell dweller, but his enlightenment is predicted in the Lotus Sutra. Devadatta was Shakyamuni's cousin and chief rival. He divided the samgha (community of monks) and sought to kill the Buddha. He is said to have fallen alive into the Avichi Hell.

Devadatta or Dai Jigoku? See contraversy details below

B. Fudo (Sanskrit: Acalanatha; English: the Immobile One) Found in Shingon Buddhism and esoteric Tendai Buddhism in the form of the 'bija' (sacred Sanskrit letter) "Vam." He took a vow to destroy the evil in the world, and he is one of the few frightening members of the Buddhist circle. In his right hand he hold a sword to smite the wicked and in his left he holds a lasso to bind the wicked. Behind him rises a mass of red flames.

C. Dai Komoku Ten No (Sanskrit: Virupaksa) He is the Guardian King of the Western Quarter. He lives on the sky on the western side of Mt. Sumeru. He rules the nagas (dragons) and the putanas (type of demon) and guards the western continent in Buddhist cosmology.

D. Bishamon Ten (Sanskrit: Vaisravana, Tamon) One of the Four Quarter Kings, he protects people in the northern quarter. He also protects the preaching place of the Buddha and hears the Law.

E. Aizen (Sanskrit: Vajrarajapriya, Ragaraja; English: King of Love) Generally has three faces and six arms, he holds a bow and arrow and his face shows anger. His name comes from the facts that he loves the Buddha and is, in turn, protected by the Buddha. His esoteric bija (Sanskrit letter) on the gohonzon is in the form of "Hum."

F. Nichiren, ka-o (English: flower stamp) Nichiren's signature in kanji (Chinese characters) and ka-o (resembling flourished Sanskrit cursive writing).

G. Date: Second year of Kenji, April [1277]

H. Dai Zocho Ten No (Sanskrit: Virudhaka) One of the Four Guardian Heavenly Kings. He protects the southern quarter.

I. Conferment: Nissho, Sramana (Japanese: Shomon) of the Great Sun Country of Japan

Translation copyright by Bruce & Stephanie Maltz, 1999.
Edited by the late Rev. Senchu Murano, 1999.
Alternative translations copyright by Liugi Fino, 2008.

Devadatta or Dai Jigoku Heavenly King?

Current public opinion is that Bruce and Stephanie were mistaken in this translation and mistook a transliteration of the Sanskrit name [Skt: Dhrtarastra = Dai-Zurata Tennou = Dai Jigoku Tennou] who appears in a number of Nichiren's Mandalas as a Heavenly King, to be Devadatta. Robin, Luigi and others share this opinion and so I believe their interpretation of the characters should be given great weight. They say it should be quite obvious for anyone with eyes to see. This may well be so.

However, the view that this is the one and only appearance of Devadatta in the position of a Heavenly King, did not come from the Maltzes. It came from the editor, the late Most Rev. Senchu Murano. Thus I feel loathe to discard the views expressed by one of the greatest Lotus Sutra translators of the 20th century, even though he too is not without his errors. It is my understanding that he felt that this was Devadatta in his future incarnation as a Heavenly King. However he is deceased now and so this cannot be confirmed first hand.

Perhaps it is as some have said, that I am attached to the view that Davadatta appears here like no where else, but the case is not so clear to my bleary eyes. The Kito Prayer Gohonzon does, after all, explicitly state the causes and conditions of the most difficult illnesses to overcome. What better archtype than Devadatta as a Heavely King, who has here at last expiated his negative karma and attained enlightenment; or at the very least, earned a heavenly respite from his karmic suffering, to represent one's innate ablity to cure oneself through self reflection and devotion to the Wonderful Dharma.

Even so, I cannot in good conscience dismiss Luigi's and Robin's research. Therefore, I humbly present both views here for your consideration.
Don Ross, 2008.

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Updated 30 July 2008
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