The Gojukai Ceremony: Acceptance of the Precept

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“Gojukai” literally means the ceremony “to receive the precept.” Generally, it is the ceremony for conversion to Buddhism. In Nichiren Shoshu, those determined to start their faith and practice of true Buddhism receive this ceremony from a Nichiren Shoshu priest.

Let’s take a look at the reason this ceremony is called “receiving the precept.” There are said to be 80,000 volumes of teachings in Buddhism, but they are all condensed into the following three cat¬egories: kai (precepts), jo (meditation), and e (wisdom). “Kai” means to stem injustice and to stop evil, and has a more immediate applica¬tion in daily life. “Jo” means to concentrate one’s mind to master the profound truth inherent in all life and the universe. “E” indicates the wisdom to discriminate between right and wrong, good and evil.

The attainment of Buddhahood or enlightenment begins with one’s daily behavior. By enhancing one’s life-condition, one can accumu¬late good fortune and benefit. Therefore “kai,” or precepts, are an important element for pursuing the correct path of Buddhahood along with “jo” and “e.”

In Shakyamuni’s Buddhism many precepts were taught. For exam¬ple, there were 250 precepts for Hinayana priests and 500 precepts for nuns. In Mahayana teachings, there were ten major precepts and 48 minor precepts. All those precepts were taught as parts of the pro¬visional teachings and were derived from the five ethical precepts, which are not to kill, not to steal, not to commit inappropriate sexual acts, not to lie, and not to drink intoxicants.

Eight years before his death, however, Shakyamuni finally revealed the Lotus Sutra as the true path of life and indicated one fundamen¬tal precept by which people must abide. He taught that embracing only the Lotus Sutra encompasses all the precepts from the provi¬sional teachings. Hence, the various precepts revealed in the provi¬sional teachings are not the proper practice for people in the Latter Day of the Law (mappo).

In Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism it is taught that wholeheartedly upholding and embracing the Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws throughout one’s life is the essence of the one’s ethics.

The Lotus Sutra states:

It is difficult to keep this sutra. I shall be glad to see anyone who keeps it even for a while. So will all the other Buddhas. He will be praised by the Buddhas. He will be a man of valor, a man of endeavor. He should be considered to have already observed the precepts.

(Hokekyo, p. 419)

Nichiren Daishonin states:

Shakyamuni’s practices and the virtues he consequently attained are all contained within the single phrase, Myoho-Renge-Kyo. If we believe in that phrase, we shall naturally be granted the same benefits as he was.

(Gosho, p. 653; MW-1, p. 64)

Also Nichiren Daishonin states:

The five characters of Myoho-Renge-Kyo, the heart of the essen¬tial teaching of the Lotus Sutra, contain all the benefits amassed by the beneficial practices and meritorious deeds of all the Buddhas throughout the past, present and future. Then, how can this phrase not include the benefits obtained by observing all the Buddha’s precepts? Once the practitioner embraces this perfectly endowed mystic precept, he cannot break it, even if he should try. It is therefore called the precept of the diamond chalice.

(Gosho, p. 1109; MW-4, p. 129)

As these passages indicate, wholehearted faith and practice to the Gohonzon lead to immeasurable benefits. Furthermore, once one obtains this mystic precept through Buddhist practice, it will eventu¬ally lead to enlightenment, no matter what happens. This is true even should the person quit the practice and fall into the evil paths.

The precept of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism is called the “precept of the diamond chalice” (kongo hoki kai). The Great Teacher Dengyo inter¬prets the true entity of all phenomena expounded in the Lotus Sutra as the diamond chalice, which is impossible to break. By embracing the Gohonzon, we observe this single precept, thus manifesting the three properties of the Buddha within ourselves and receiving the benefits of observing all other precepts.

In the Gojukai Ceremony, the recipient vows to sincerely believe Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings and to practice and uphold the Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws, thus abandoning incorrect religions and all that is against the true Law. Therefore, a person who receives Gojukai should have the pure determination to practice true Buddhism wholeheartedly and to discard objects of prior religious attachments.

The Gojukai Ceremony is traditionally performed at a Nichiren Shoshu Temple. However, in areas where there is no temple, consult a priest at your local temple so he may advise you if any special arrange¬ments can be made.

(Note: This Chapter can be read in its entirety in the book: Nichiren Shoshu Ceremonies. For more information, please contact your local temple.)