Serving means to prepare meals and do errands,
always standing by for someone. For our daily practice, this signifies making
offerings to the Gohonzon, such as serving fruit or sweets and cleaning the
Butsudan. We call this “serving the Gohonzon.” Nikko Shonin and Nichimoku
Shonin never left the Daishonin, no matter how difficult their circumstances
became. Everyday, they learned important doctrines from their master. They came
to learn true Buddhism not only intellectually, but also with their bodies.
This is called “jozui kyuji.”
We must learn from their examples.
When you serve the Gohonzon at home, it is exactly the same as serving the
Daishonin. Therefore, it is important always to serve sincerely. We offer
candles, incense, and evergreens to the Gohonzon. In many sutras, it is written
that the benefit we receive from making offerings to the Buddha is tremendous.
We truly are fortunate, because we are able to make offerings and serve the
Gohonzon every day when we do Gongyo and chant Daimoku.
Butsudan is where the Buddha (the Gohonzon) resides. Therefore, we should never
put any personal decorations around it, such as pictures. We also should not
put pictures of the deceased on the altar. Let’s clean the Butsudan every day.
water we offer to the Gohonzon is called aka.
This is an old Sanskrit word, and it means “benefit water.” In India where
Shakyamuni Buddha was born, water was an extremely precious commodity. Humans
and animals are not able to live without water. Therefore, we offer this
precious water, which keeps us alive, to the Buddha.
In his writing, On
(Kegi-sho), the Ninth High Priest Nichiu Shonin states, “Tea
should not be offered.” Therefore, we place only pure water on the altar. Every
morning, we offer water to the Gohonzon in a water-offering cup before morning
Gongyo. The water remains on the altar during the day, and then we remove it
before evening Gongyo.
Those who eat rice may offer
it to the Gohonzon. This is called Buppan
Buddha’s rice). Do not place uncooked rice
on the altar. This, unlike water, should not be left all day. After the rice is
cooked, the first portion should be offered to the Gohonzon. When offering the
rice, observe this silent prayer:
I offer deepest gratitude to
the three treasures of the Buddhism of sowing. Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. (Namu geshu sampo goho on shatoku Gokuyo no
Ring the bell three times and chant Daimoku three times.
Ringing the bell three times signifies appreciation for the three treasures. Then, remove the rice from
the altar. The rice may then be eaten.
Other offerings to the Gohonzon include items such
as wine or sake, cakes, candy, fruits, and vegetables. We do not offer any fish
or meat, and we avoid offering foods with a strong odor, such as garlic,
ginger, and onions.
The Memorial Book (Kakocho)
some Japanese Buddhist sects, followers may place ashes or memorial tablets on
their altars. But this is not done in Nichiren Shoshu. The ashes of the
deceased may be brought to the temple when the priest conducts the Memorial
Service. Believers may request a memorial book (Jpn. Kakocho
) from their local temple, which is placed at the left side
of the altar. The priest will inscribe the names of our deceased family members
in our memorial book. Every morning and evening during Gongyo, we offer prayers
for the deceased while reading the names that have been inscribed for that
particular day of the month. The memorial book also contains the dates of the
passing of each of the successive High Priests. If you do not have a memorial
book, please submit a request at your local temple.
Our faith and practice to the Gohonzon and our
sincerity will be reflected by how we serve the Gohonzon. Therefore, we should
always serve the Gohonzon wholeheartedly.