Gohōmon 御法門 is basically the same as sermons that other Buddhist sects’ monks or priests preach. However, its contents are about the faith in the Odaimoku, i.e. “the path to Buddhahood (to the Eternal Pure Land).” Go 御 in Gohōmon is an honorific prefix meaning respect, Hō 法 literally means “teachings of the Buddha” and Mon 門 means “gate to the Buddhahood.” Therefore, Gohōmon is a sermon to introduce and bring people to the faith in Odaimoku and have them start to walk its path.
It is difficult for us to master something without a guide or a philosophy. In a similar fashion, we cannot walk the path of the faith in Odaimoku and reach our goal of Buddhahood without any “signposts.” Gohōmon are, so to speak, the signposts on the path of HBS faith.
The faith and Gohōmon are closely connected and indivisible. We can learn the correct behavior and practice related to the faith in Odaimoku by listening to Gohōmon. Therefore, Gohōmon are preached in almost all places in which HBS members gather: Buddhist services held in temples every morning called Asa-sankei 朝参詣, memorial services for ancestors and Okō 御講, a small Buddhist service held in followers’ houses. By listening to as many Gohōmon as we can and practicing what we learned, the gate to Buddhahood opens and we can walk the path of accumulating Kudoku (the merits of Buddha’s enlightenment) and receiving Genshō no Goriyaku 現証の御利益 (the rewards that are the answers to our prayers).
In that sense, Gohōmon are not only important for followers but also for Kyōmu 教務 (priests of HBS) who preach them. It can be said that priests have a great responsibility to make sure their followers walk the “right path” to Buddhahood. That is why Kyōmu keep studying to improve their Gohōmon throughout their life and devote themselves to propagation of Odaimoku by preaching Gohōmon as often as they can.
In the Lotus Sutra it is said “listen to the Law, believe and accept it, and abide by it without violation.” [Translated from Chinese and Japanese.] This means that our Buddhist faith improves when we listen to Gohōmon and practice what we learned from them without being doubtful.
Gohōmon—a guide to the path to Buddhahood—often teach about two important practices: Kyōke 教化 (converting others to HBS, the religion of Odaimoku) and Shakubuku 折伏 (advising others to abandon their wrong faith and believe in HBS faith). Next to our main practice Kushō-gyō 口唱行 (practice of chanting Odaimoku), these two practices are also very important for the followers of HBS faith. Why don’t we learn more about their importance in the next article?