The Gohonzon is the object of devotion in Nichiren Buddhism. In Japanese, go means worthy of honor and honzon means object of fundamental respect. Nichiren defined the universal law permeating life and the universe as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and embodied it in the form of a mandala. In the Gohonzon, a scroll on which are inscribed Chinese and Sanskrit characters, Nichiren symbolically depicted the life state of Buddhahood, which all people possess.
SGI members chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to a Gohonzon enshrined in their own homes. The Gohonzon, together with a practitioner's faith and chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, acts as a stimulus to activate the life-condition of Buddhahood innate in one's life.
Our inner life-condition changes constantly as we come into contact with different external stimuli: everything around us--people, the weather, a piece of music, the color of the walls--creates some kind of influence on us. A painting can cause the viewer to feel enraptured, calm or disgusted, and a letter can either cause joy or shock and dismay. In order to bring out our highest potential condition of life, our Buddhahood, we also need a stimulus. Nichiren's enlightenment to the law of life enabled him to create a stimulus that would be able to activate the life-condition of Buddhahood within us.
One can still chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and experience benefit if one is not near, or unable to see a Gohonzon. The most essential element in Nichiren's practice for drawing forth one's Buddhahood is the strength of one's faith.
In his writing, "The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon", Nichiren writes:
Never seek this Gohonzon outside yourself. The Gohonzon exists only within the mortal flesh of us ordinary people who embrace the Lotus Sutra and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.