The Ceremonial Offering of Food to the Gohonzon
The High Priest makes kenzen offerings during the various ceremonies performed in the Miedo and Reception Hall (Kyakuden) at the Head Temple. Three times each month kenzen is offered during the Oko Ceremony in the Miedo. On the 7th of each month, an Oko is celebrated for Second High Priest Nikko Shonin. On the 13th of each month an Oko is celebrated for the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin, and on the 15th of each month, there is an Oko Ceremony for the Third High Priest, Nichimoku Shonin.
Also, at the local Nichiren Shoshu Temple, each month during the Oko Ceremony, and at all Nichiren Shoshu special ceremonies, such as the Koshi-e, Tanjo-e, and Risshu-e Ceremonies, the Chief Priest makes a ceremonial offering of food to the Gohonzon. This is called kenzen. It is an offereing to the three Treasures of True Buddhism. While the Chief Priest makes the offerengs, the assistant priest ringst the bell, and the believers chant Daimoku.
Kenzen is an offering of a vegetariean meal to the Three Treasures of True Buddhism. There are four offering trays, plus a sake pot and a single cup of rice.
The first tray is an offering to the Treasure of the Law, the Gohonzon. The tray has the crest of the Treasure Wheel. This symbol is common in Buddhism and signifies the great Buddhist Law. In Nichiren Shoshu, it is the symbol od the Gohonzon. On this tray are two metal cups filled with rice.
The second tray is an offering to the Treasure of the Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. The tray has the symbol of the Circular Crane. On it are a bowl of rice, a cup of soup, a bowl of beans, a plate of boiled vegetables, and a plate of pickles. All the cups and bowls except the pickle plate have a lid on them.
The third tray is an offering to Nikko Shonin, the first of the Treasure of the Priesthood. This tray bears the symbol of the tortoise shell, which is the crest of Nikko Shonin. It contains the same food offerings as the tray for Nichiren Daishonin.
The fourth tray is an offering to Third High Priest, Nichimoku Shonin, and all of the successive High Priests. It bears the symbol of the pine, bamboo, and plum, which is Nichimoku Shonin's crest. This tray has the same offerings as those for Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin, but also has an extra cup of rice as an offering to the successive High Priests of Nichiren Shoshu.
There is also a metal cup of rice that is offered without a tray. This is an offering to the entity of all life in the realm of the ultimate reality.
A sake pot is also used in the Kenzen offering.
As Daimoku is chanted, the Chief Priest offers the first tray of rice to the Gohonzon, kneels and offers his prayers. He then opens the lids on othe tray for the Nichiren Daishonin and makes a plate of rice, beans, begetables, and pickles, and places it on the altar. He then stirs the soup with the chopsticks and puts the chopsticks upright in the rice. He then kneels and offers his prayers while assistant priest rings the bell, completing the offering to the True Buddha. This is repeated several times for the various trays. Sake is also poured from the sake pot and offfered with each tray.
After the offerings are finished, the Chief Priest pours the sake back in the sake pot, and removes the chopsticks from the rice cups. The assistant priest then removes the trays, sake pot, and metal cup of rice. Usually the trays are carried away from the altar by volunteer members.
The kenzen offering is usually done at the beginning of the ceremony before the recitation of the sutra begins. It is important to keep in mind that kenzen is a very important part of the ceremony itself. All the believers are encouraged to chant Daimoku together as the Chief Priest makes the kenzen offerings.