As we know, High Priest Nikken and his colleagues plotted to destroy the Soka Gakkai, the organization that has been faithfully carrying out the true Buddha’s will and intent, thus attempting to disrupt the progress of kosen-rufu. The head temple under the current high priest’s control has now completely lost the spirit of the Daishonin and has become a place of slander of the Law.
The Daishonin established the Dai-Gohonzon for all humanity. It is the object of devotion dedicated to the happiness of all people, bestowed by the Daishonin on humankind as a whole. Because Nichiren Shoshu’s current high priest has trampled on this far-reaching compassion of the Daishonin, cutting off access to the Dai-Gohonzon, he is arrogantly treating the Gohonzon as his personal possession.
In Buddhism, lending support to slanderous priests or monks is called complicity in slander and results in sharing the same negative causes as such priests. Therefore, visiting the head temple under these conditions becomes a cause for unhappiness in our lives.
In addition Nichiren Shoshu says, “There is absolutely no benefit in refusing to visit the Dai-Gohonzon…and worshipping just a household Gohonzon, which is a transcription of that Dai-Gohonzon” (100 Questions and Answers, p. 9). This idea that one cannot attain Buddhahood unless one prays directly to the Dai-Gohonzon, as Nichiren Shoshu insists, is simply not to be found in any of the Daishonin’s teachings and in fact runs counter to their spirit.
The Gohonzon we pray to each day in our homes or at our SGI community centers is endowed with exactly the same power of the Law inherent in the Dai-Gohonzon, both reflecting our inherent Buddha nature. Those who assert that one must visit a particular place to receive benefit are in effect turning on its head the very spirit of Nichiren Buddhism. The Daishonin’s teachings exist to relieve the suffering of, and bring happiness to, all people throughout the world.
(Originally published in the World Tribune, June 7, 2002)
Daishonin says, “if you are of the same mind as Nichiren, you must be a Bodhisattva of the Earth.”
By Jeff Farr
The SGI’s position is that Nichiren Shoshu is wrong. And Nichiren Shoshu’s position is that the SGI is wrong. How can we explain that the SGI is right – beyond just saying that the temple is wrong? What evidence do we have to support what we say?
The real question underlying this is whether the SGI or Nichiren Shoshu is correctly practicing Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. Which side is right about what the Daishonin’s Buddhism teaches? How do we know this for sure?
The answer can only be found in one place: the Daishonin’s writings. The SGI is teaching a Buddhist practice completely in accord with what the Daishonin writes.
For example, the SGI believes, exactly as the Daishonin writes, that all people are equal. All people are essentially Buddhas.
The Daishonin states in “Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life” that “Shakyamuni who attained enlightenment countless aeons ago, the Lotus Sutra which leads all people to Buddhahood, and we ordinary human beings are in no way different or separate from each other” (Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 216).
In “Letter to Niike,” he says, “becoming a Buddha is nothing extraordinary. If you chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with your whole heart, you will naturally become endowed with the Buddha’s thirty-two features and eighty characteristics. As the sutra says, ‘hoping to make all persons equal to me, without any distinction between us,’ you can readily become as noble a Buddha as Shakyamuni.” (WND, p. 1030).
The Daishonin’s writings are full of passages like these that declare we are Buddhas. The SGI puts these passages into practice, sharing this message with the world.
Nichiren Shoshu’s message, by contrast, is that we have to have priests – especially the high priest – to attain Buddhahood. We are incapable of doing it on our own, incomplete without that priestly intervention. But this idea is found nowhere in the Daishonin’s writings. It’s at odds with the Daishonin’s writings, almost all of which were written to ordinary people, not to priests. Yet the priests suggest that Nikken is the only real Buddha, that he’s the only one who can really understand this Buddhism, that ordinary people never can.
But we can, and we do. In “The True Aspect of All Phenomena, ” the Daishonin says, “if you are of the same mind as Nichiren, you must be a Bodhisattva of the Earth.” (WND, p. 385) Of course, we do not become of the same mind as him just by being SGI members or just by chanting. It’s when we have the same reverence for the people that he did – the same passion that he did for introducing all people to the liberation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo – that we become “of the same mind” as him. The priests have separated themselves from the Daishonin’s mind by rigidly sticking to their misconception that they are “above” us.
The temple issue calls on us to move closer and closer to the core of this Buddhism, to reverence for people. Closer and closer to the people, the one and only reason that the Daishonin founded this Buddhism. Closer and closer to the truth of this Buddhism.
(Originally published in the World Tribune, March 26, 1999)
“As the sutra says, ‘hoping to make all persons equal to me, without any distinction between us’.”
In discussing the mentor/disciple relationship, Nichiren Daishonin wrote: “As the sutra says, ‘hoping to make all persons equal to me, without any distinction between us’ you can readily become as noble a Buddha as Shakyamuni” (Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 1030). In other words, mentor and disciple are essentially equal; equality is the core of this relationship.
The Daishonin put this into practice, treating his followers as his equals and even encouraging them to become greater than him. In “The Unity of Husband and Wife,” he shares that “the Buddha surely considers anyone in this world who embraces the Lotus Sutra, whether lay man or woman, monk or nun, to be the lord of all living beings…” (WND, p 463).
Nichiren Shoshu, though, teaches that mentor and disciple are not equal; priests are thought to be mentors superior to lay believers. The priesthood claims that “an absolute difference between priest and layperson exists in the lineage of the master and disciple” (Dai-Nichiren Special Edition III, pp. 1—18). “To talk about the priesthood and the laity with a sense of equality is an expression of great conceit,” states Nichijun Fujimoto, Nichiren Shoshu’s general administrator.
The high priest, especially, is portrayed by the priesthood as intrinsically superior to all believers. He’s called the “Daishonin of modern times” to convey a sense of supreme authority. The priesthood urges us in Refuting the Soka Gakkai’s “Counterfeit Object of Worship” to “completely follow the Way of Master and Disciple to realize our road to Buddhahood. For us, to proceed to the original Master of all mankind means that we must faithfully follow the guidance of the High Priest, the general head priest” (p. 9). To follow him, believers must adhere to the erroneous teaching that they are inferior.
In “The Essentials For Attaining Buddhahood,” the Daishonin warns us “both teacher and followers will surely fall into the hell of incessant suffering if they see enemies of the Lotus Sutra but disregard them and fail to reproach them” (WND, p. 747). It’s interesting how he emphasizes both. The teachings of the Lotus Sutra cannot be protected and cannot be spread without the dedication of both parties.
In “The Essentials For Attaining Buddhahood,” the Daishonin warns us “both teacher and followers will surely fall into the hell of incessant suffering if they see enemies of the Lotus Sutra but disregard them and fail to reproach them” (WND, p. 747). It’s interesting how he emphasizes both. The teachings of the Lotus Sutra cannot be protected and cannot be spread without the dedication of both parties.
Each of us has a responsibility for kosen-rufu, then, as great as anyone’s. Our organization has upheld this understanding since its inception-we’re all equals in the realm of kosen-rufu. We’re all seeking together the Daishonin’s teachings and how to implement them in today’s society.
Because the presidents of the Soka Gakkai have always maintained this spirit, they have won the people’s respect and are regarded as great mentors by millions worldwide. They have led the way in putting the Daishonin’s ideas into action.
Again, if equality is not the starting point of the mentor-and-disciple relationship, there is no kosen-rufu. The Daishonin expresses this in “The Eight Winds,” saying, “If lay believers and their teacher pray with differing minds, their prayer will be as futile as trying to kindle a fire on water” (WND, p. 795). The same heart or mind-this is what it takes for the mentor/disciple relationship to work.
Real equality-this is what it takes for kosen-rufu to happen.
(Originally published in the World Tribune, Nov. 26, 1999)
Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism teaches the oneness of life and its environment.
Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism teaches the oneness of life and its environment – that our lives are intrinsically linked with the universe around us. When we change ourselves for the better, the environment surrounding us has to improve, too. When we quash negative attitudes, everything responds in the positive.
Given this principle, if the SGI keeps criticizing the teachings of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, aren’t we forgetting something important about Buddhist practice? Can’t the whole temple issue be seen as a reflection of our negativity? These are questions often heard from SGI members.
The concept of the oneness of life and its environment, however, doesn’t teach that we can change our environment only through self-reflection. In fact, this Buddhism emphasizes inner change plus self-motivated action.
In the case of the temple issue, what kind of action is appropriate to take? Since 1991, the U.S. temples have been trying to persuade SGI-USA members – especially inactive members – into Nichiren Shoshu. The temples have been teaching, for instance, that ordinary people are lesser beings than priests – especially the high priest, whom the Nichiren Shoshu now says is some kind of a supreme being. This goes against the Daishonin’s teaching that all people are equal, that all people are potentially Buddhas. So, what can each of us do about this situation? Following are some guidelines that are positive ways to approach this:
Each of us can offer strong prayers about this issue as part of our daily practice. We can set our own chanting goals. And those of us who know Nichiren Shoshu members can pray specifically for the happiness of those friends.
We can continue to educate ourselves about the differences between the SGI and Nichiren Shoshu. We can study the various materials available on the temple issue, such as the many additional materials available on this website.
Each of us can visit inactive members whom we know, create friendships with them, and encourage them to participate with us in SGI-USA activities. We can pursue dialogue with Nichiren Shoshu members, and through deepening our relationships with them, lead them to the true practice. We can also teach our guests to meetings the difference between the temple and the SGI as part of the introduction process.
All of these ways of reaching out are compassionate actions. The Daishonin says, “I am fully aware that if I do not speak out, I will be lacking in compassion” (Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 239). He was troubled by all the religious confusion and injustice going on around him, and to alleviate this, he took action: He distinguished all the incorrect practices from the correct practice of chanting Nam- myoho-renge-kyo. He spoke, wrote and proved the truth.
Sometimes the change in attitude that we need to make in our Buddhist practice involves mustering the courage to take action – to do something concrete about our situation. When we do this kind of human revolution, there are no circumstances that we cannot change.
This is not to say that we don’t need to self-reflect – we do, always. We continually need to self-reflect about our practice. Again, we need both: inner change plus self-motivated action.
(Originally published in the World Tribune, July 9, 1999)
SGI members have been talking about fighting the malicious and destructive forces.
For the last 12 years of the temple issue, SGI members have been talking about fighting the malicious and destructive forces of the Nichiren Shoshu – achieving victory in the temple issue.
But what exactly is this victory?
From talking to many SGI-USA leaders about this, I’ve learned that the real victory we’re seeking is assuring that everyone in our organization and everyone in the temple organization – plus anyone else who is interested – is thoroughly educated about the difference between the fundamental spirit of the SGI and the distorted views of Nichiren Shoshu.
In other words, we want everyone to learn the difference between the correct and incorrect practice of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism.
It’s important to understand that we are not seeking, in any sense, the unhappiness of Nichiren Shoshu members. We are instead seeking their happiness – their victory in their lives – through teaching them the correct understanding and practice of this Buddhism. Although both the SGI and the temple teach the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the two organizations’ philosophies are completely at odds. For example, the SGI believes, as the Daishonin teaches, that all people are equal, that all people are essentially Buddhas. All people have the Law within. This Buddhism is thus centered on the ordinary person, and the SGI is spreading it with this clear understanding.
The current Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, though, doesn’t see things this way. The temple believes that we are lesser beings than priests – especially the high priest, who has been set up as a supreme being. It’s a priest-centered religion.
The priests teach in their study publication, Dai-Nichiren, that correct practice entails “absolute faith in and strict obedience to the High Priest.” They ignore the Daishonin’s strict assertion that we should follow not the person but the Law – that we should put the Law, not any high priest, in the center.
When the priesthood first excommunicated the SGI in November 1991, many SGI members felt that it was their responsibility as disciples of the Daishonin to educate people about the growing philosophical difference. This, we felt, was the same as educating people about what the Daishonin’s Buddhism really is and is not, what it really teaches and does not teach.
In other words, this education was shakubuku, the spread of Buddhism. The true victory we seek in the temple issue is indeed found in this educational process – one that doesn’t necessarily have a clear endpoint, similar to the kosen-rufu movement not having a clear endpoint; kosen-rufu just keeps going on eternally; so does this education. The temple issue raises this question: What does Buddhism posit as the greatest victory we can seek in our practice? Ultimate victory to the Daishonin was to make continual effort for kosen-rufu, to never give up. Our ultimate victory is when we’ve done our best, throughout our lives, to educate others and ourselves about this Buddhism. To help every person attain Buddhahood.
In “Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” the Daishonin writes that “if Nichiren’s compassion is truly great and encompassing, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will spread for ten thousand years and more, for all eternity, for it has the beneficial power to open the blind eyes of every living being in the country of Japan, and it blocks off the road that leads to the hell of incessant suffering” (Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 736). This is his heart, his goal, stated simply: to educate everyone about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, to thus give everyone, “every living being,” happiness. And to block off, once and for all, “the road that leads to the hell of incessant suffering,” the road of incorrect teachings.
If we make this goal our own and do all that we can toward it, we win in life, we truly win.
(Originally published in the World Tribune, Feb. 12, 1999)
SGI members have been exchanging Gohonzon inscribed by Nikken.
For almost a decade, SGI members have been exchanging Gohonzon inscribed by Nikken for Gohonzon inscribed by the 26th high priest, Nichikan, who lived in the 18th century. Why have they been doing so?
A little history is necessary to explain: Once Nikken became high priest in 1979, he began inscribing the Gohonzon for new members of the SGI. Until 1991, the SGI happily propagated the Nikken-transcribed Gohonzon throughout the world.
But when Nikken excommunicated the SGI in 1991, started altering Nichiren Daishonin’s true teachings and began propagating his delusions worldwide, Nichiren Shoshu separated from the mainstream of the Daishonin’s Buddhism and became its own, new religion. The SGI continued to correctly carry out the teachings of the Daishonin and the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren Shoshu did not.
In “The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,” the Daishonin says that the Gohonzon is “the banner of the propagation of the Lotus Sutra” (Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 831). Conferring the Gohonzon is one way that this Buddhism can spread. Today, the Nichikan-transcribed Gohonzon is “the banner of the propagation of the Lotus Sutra” of the SGI, which is practicing Buddhism correctly.
To practice this Buddhism correctly means to practice it with the same mind or heart as the Daishonin. Of course, we do not get the same spirit as him just by joining the SGI or receiving the Nichikan-transcribed Gohonzon. It’s only when we have the spirit to educate ourselves and others about the Daishonin’s true philosophy-when we are determined to speak the truth of this Law for all people’s sake-that we can say we are practicing correctly.
Nikken’s excommunication of all SGI members in 1991 and again in 1997 made it clear that he had no desire to save people; excommunicating these millions of people, he said at the time, guaranteed them a trip to hell.
From 1991 to 1993, no one could receive the Gohonzon from Nichiren Shoshu unless they promised to part with the SGI. In 1993, reformist priests thus came up with the idea of the SGI starting to confer the Nichikan-transcribed Gohonzon. (Nichikan is known as a high priest who brought the Daishonin’s spirit back to the priesthood at a time when it had been forgotten.)
First, new SGI members received the Nichikan-transcribed Gohonzon. Soon, there were many requests from other members to exchange their Nikken-transcribed Gohonzon for the Nichikan-transcribed; this began in 1994.
There’s a lesson to this history: The temple issue is not the case of two different organizations both practicing the Daishonin’s Buddhism and simply not being able to get along with each other.
It’s the case of two organizations that both say they are practicing the Daishonin’s Buddhism-but one is not.
Nichiren Shoshu has become its own religion; one that actually has nothing to do with the Daishonin’s Buddhism.
(Originally published in the World Tribune, June 4, 1999)
We already pray for this victory every day, every time that we do morning gongyo: In the fourth prayer, we pray for the development of the SGI and for our organization to accomplish kosen-rufu, the global propagation of the Daishonin’s teachings. The SGI’s success in temple issue-related education is a crucial step in this kosen-rufu progress. How is that?
The priesthood has attempted to alter the Daishonin’s Buddhism, a religion that offers the greatest hope to the world’s people, presenting it as something it’s not. Nichiren Shoshu’s version plays on people’s inferiority complexes, reinforcing their self-doubt, telling them that priestly intervention is essential to their becoming happy. This directly conflicts with the Daishonin’s assertions that we only attain Buddhahood through our own efforts in faith.
Since the Nichiren Shoshu’s version still has the potential to confuse many more people than it already has, it is a problem for the kosen-rufu movement.
Chanting daimoku for the SGI to be victorious is something concrete that any of us can do, anywhere, at any time, toward a solution. And it’s something very important for us to do – in fact, the fundamental determinant of victory, as in all our challenges, will be daimoku.
Also, because chanting about the temple issue is such an essential part of our larger effort for kosen-rufu, we should know that we are sure to benefit from doing so. As the Daishonin says in Reply to Kyo’o: Muster your faith and pray to the Gohonzon. Then what is there that cannot be achieved? (Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 412).
We should have no doubt that great benefit lies in being part of the SGI’s education efforts; daimoku can be a starting place for each of us to participate.
(Originally published in the World Tribune, April 30, 1999)
When Nikken excommunicated the SGI, our organization could have been to walk away from the mess.
When Nikken, current Nichiren Shoshu high priest, excommunicated the SGI in 1991, one choice our organization could have made would have been to walk away from the whole mess, ignoring all the terrible things that he was doing. We could have devoted all our energies to making the best SGI possible.
Why, then, have we kept talking about Nikken? Why has the SGI kept such a strong spotlight focused on him-on pointing out his bad points-for all these years?
Nichiren Shoshu, under Nikken’s leadership, is negating Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism by spreading a twisted version of it throughout the world. Nichiren Shoshu’s religion is not the Daishonin’s religion at all-but Nikken is still pretending that it is. He is in charge of this spiritual con game, enticing people away from correct Buddhist practice.
The SGI’s Soka Spirit efforts have been, in the face of Nikken’s efforts to confuse, all about clarifying the Daishonin’s Buddhism-what exactly this Buddhism is and is not. An important component of this has been letting people know that Nikken’s lead has taken Nichiren Shoshu far, far off-track.
True Buddhist leaders lead through their behavior. The Daishonin teaches that the real meaning of Buddhist practice lies in one’s behavior as a human being (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 852). In the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni expresses the three virtues this way: Now this threefold world / is all my domain, [corresponds to sovereign] / and the living beings in it / are all my children. [parent] / Now this place / is beset by many pains and trials. / I am the only person / who can rescue and protect others. [teacher] (The Lotus Sutra, pp. 69—70).
Do we see these virtues in Nikken’s actions? First, Nikken has not been the kind of sovereign Shakyamuni is talking about. Instead of embracing all of us, Nikken has tried to destroy our unity and turn us on one another. In 1991, he ordered the Soka Gakkai to disband and excommunicated 12 million lay believers; he split the body of practitioners in two.
Second, the Lotus Sutra says that a true teacher directs people to enlightenment by instilling in them the correct teachings. It is in this area that we see perhaps the worst thing about Nikken: the way he has discarded the Daishonin’s teachings. He has tried to fool people into taking his new ones-which revolve around deference to him as an intermediary between the Gohonzon and us-as the real deal on the Daishonin’s Buddhism. When he had the chance to teach, Nikken chose to miseducate.
Third, Nikken has failed to show us the immense parental compassion, which a Buddhist leader must. The Grand Main Temple, for example, was the crystallization of 8 million members’ sincere offerings of more than $360 million (which would be triple that today, somewhere around a billion dollars). The destruction of this edifice of peace was a slap in the face to each one of these 8 million people.
So, do we pay no attention to someone who does the things that Nikken has done and just proceed toward kosen-rufu? Or is facing this kind of person-denying his or her slander outright-the quickest, surest way of achieving our dreams for kosen-rufu?
The Daishonin devoted his life to refuting slander. And all of his efforts, all his writings, are our greatest education. The SGI’s Soka Spirit movement, based entirely on these, is the same education for a new era.
As the Daishonin writes: It is a time when…truth and error stand shoulder to shoulder, and when Mahayana and Hinayana dispute which is superior. At such a time, one must set aside all other affairs and devote one’s attention to rebuking slander of the correct teaching. This is the practice of shakubuku (WND, 126).
It’s clear, then, what the Daishonin thought we should do when someone set on slandering the Law appears before us: something. We must say something, we must do something, and we must prove the truth.
(Originally published in the World Tribune, Jan. 21, 2000)
This warning makes it clear that the high priest is not infallible.
Juan Diego Hincapie
The most unfortunate victims of the scheme to attack the SGI by Nikken Abe, the current high priest of Nichiren Shoshu, are the Hokkeko members, those practicing under the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood.
Since 1990, when High Priest Nikken changed the rules and regulations of Nichiren Shoshu dramatically and started to promote the erroneous doctrine that the high priest is infallible in matters of faith, the Hokkeko members have been led further and further astray from the correct practice of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism and the chance to become truly happy.
This idea of the high priest’s infallibility completely violates the Daishonin’s teachings and is, in fact, one of the points that Nikko Shonin, his immediate successor, warns against in his Twenty-six Admonitions. Article 17 states, Do not follow even the high priest if he goes against the Buddha’s Law and propounds his own views (Gosho Zenshu, p. 1618).
This warning makes it clear that the high priest is not infallible. The possibility for the arbitrary and authoritarian abuse of the position of high priest is precisely why Nikko Shonin cautions future believers in this way. With the betrayal and slander of the five senior priests after the Daishonin’s death, Nikko Shonin no doubt foresaw the very real potential for such abuse of power.
But the Hokkeko members are not the ones who have abused this power-they are the ones who have been abused. The Daishonin continuously states in his writings the importance of having compassion for those who have been deceived by authority and taking action for their happiness.
Therefore, as his disciples, it is our mission to strive along the path of compassion that leads directly to enlightenment not only for us but also for everyone. The act of highest compassion is to lead people who are unknowingly being misled by these priests to the correct path of faith. The current high priest’s excommunication of the SGI in 1991 completely betrayed the Daishonin’s compassionate intent. High Priest Nikken’s actions constitute the most serious offense in Buddhism-disrupting the harmonious body of believers in the Law.
Why is this so bad? It blocks innocent people from the road to enlightenment. It confuses people about where their happiness lies, ultimately leading them down the wrong path. The Daishonin thus states, It is the way of the great devil to assume the form of a venerable monk or to take the position of one’s father, mother or brother in order to obstruct happiness in one’s next life (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 81).
The Daishonin lived in a time of strife and confusion, when priests of heretical sects were confusing believers and destroying their chance for happiness. At such a time, he writes, one must set aside all other affairs and devote one’s attention to rebuking slander of the correct teaching. This is the practice of shakubuku (WND, 126). To reach out to the members of Nichiren Shoshu-to encourage them, to share the truth with them-is shakubuku. We ebuke the slander of the Law through our own human revolution and developing this kind of true friendship.
With strong faith and prayers for their happiness, it is our duty to engage our friends in warm, patient dialogue; friends who are being deceived by the false image of priestly authority.
(Originally published in the World Tribune, April 13, 2001)
When we say that Nichiren Shoshu is teaching a practice at odds with the Daishonin’s, thus leading people to a life of endless, painful sufferings, how do we back that up? Why do we say that Nichiren Shoshu’s teachings are slanderous, even evil?
The Holocaust, slavery, environmental destruction-these are evil. But a band of misguided priests who have never killed anyone? Wrongheaded, unfair, petty…words like these better describe the actions of Nichiren Shoshu, some feel.
But the Daishonin states that a hundred, thousand, ten thousand, million times more than mad elephants, vicious horses, fierce bulls, savage dogs, poisonous snakes, poisonous thorns, treacherous bluffs, steep cliffs, floods, evil men, evil countries, evil towns, evil dwellings, bad wives, wicked children and malicious retainers, the people of Japan today should fear those high-ranking priests who keep the precepts and yet hold distorted views! (WND, 621).
Why is this so? Viewed from the perspective of the eternity of life, the loss of one’s present life is a relatively minor suffering compared to the sufferings one must endure in lifetime after lifetime if one destroys one’s seed for attaining Buddhahood by becoming a slanderer of the Law.
There is little doubt, as this passage attests, that the Daishonin considered slander of the Law to be the greatest evil. The conclusion that Nichiren Shoshu, which is now spreading the erroneous understanding that a priestly intermediary is necessary between believers and the Gohonzon, is not evil betrays a misunderstanding to the Daishonin’s thinking and his life-how he spent his lifetime fighting this kind of evil.
Some suggest that, if he were alive today, the Daishonin would take a much different stance toward Nichiren Shoshu than the SGI has. In today’s America, for instance, a country that enjoys much greater freedom of religious expression than Japan did in the 13th century, the Daishonin would not feel the need to direct such strong words against those in error, some have argued. The Daishonin would simply have stated his position and left it at that, they say.
The Daishonin’s intent, however, was not to establish religious freedom; it was to establish this Buddhism. This is not to say that he was against religious freedom-the point is that his prime focus was sinking the roots of this Buddhism in his followers’ hearts and in his society. An important part of this to him was differentiating correct Buddhist practice from erroneous forms of Buddhism and vigorously refuting those teachings. This is why he repeatedly called upon government officials to even outlaw those teachings. He was saying, We need to correctly understand what Buddhism is in this country.
If we are to be of he same mind as Nichiren, if we are to be Bodhisattvas of the Earth, we need to understand his intent and share it. At the very heart of the Daishonin’s Buddhism is the refutation of erroneous teachings. To save suffering people, to make this Buddhism accessible to the people, clarifying the truth is the only way.
The Daishonin writes: Even though one may resort to harsh words, if such words help the person to whom they are addressed, then they are worthy to be regarded as truthful words and gentle words. Similarly, though one may use gentle words, if they harm the person to whom they are addressed, they are in fact deceptive words, harsh words…(WND, 178). Of course, we should not take this as license to be nasty or disrespectful in spreading this Buddhism. But with hearts of compassion and respect for others’ lives, we should say what needs to be said. This is practicing with he same mind as Nichiren.
(Originally published in the World Tribune, April 7, 2000)
When Nichiren Shoshu announced that the Grand Main Temple was to be destroyed, the SGI protested.
After Nichiren Shoshu announced in 1998 that the Grand Main Temple (Sho-Hondo) was to be destroyed, the SGI protested. We could have paid no attention to this move specially designed to anger our members – and to the many other annoying things that the priests have done in recent years, from cutting down the cherry trees to excommunicating all of us twice.
Why validate the priests by making a big deal about the mean-spirited actions that they take?
The SGI has chosen not to remain silent out of a deep respect for the SGI membership, to protect all the SGI members. The Lotus Sutra says that [if you see a person who accepts and upholds this sutra,] you should rise and greet him from afar, showing him the same respect you would a Buddha (The Lotus Sutra, p. 324). This is the basic spirit of the SGI.
One lesson of the temple issue, then, is that this Buddhism takes a strong stance on respecting people. When great, wonderful people like the SGI members are being disrespected, we have to do something, say something.
As Buddhists, we can’t just ignore that this is going on.
While Buddhism seeks to embrace all people, believing all of us equal, all of us potentially Buddhas, it also declares that those (especially those in positions of power) who abuse the people should be countered. As the Daishonin puts it: [My disciples] are like an infant emperor wrapped in swaddling clothes, or a great dragon who has just been born. Do not despise them! Do not look on them with contempt! (Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 789).
Throughout the Buddhist scriptures and the Daishonin’s writings, there are many examples of ill-intentioned influential people who looked down on good people. In the Lotus Sutra, there is Devadatta; the Daishonin had Hei no Saemon; today, Nikken and his fellow priests resemble these men.
The appearance of these enemies also accords with the Lotus Sutra’s prediction that as the Law spreads, those who are leading the way for it are sure to be attacked. Nichiren Shoshu’s actions are one proof, then, of the SGI being on the right track. The temple issue is something for us to be very happy about.
At the time of the Atsuhara Persecution, the Daishonin writes: From a mundane view, I, Nichiren, am the poorest person in Japan, but in light of Buddhism, I am the wealthiest person in all Jambudvipa. When I consider that this is all because the time is right, I am overwhelmed with joy and cannot restrain my tears (WND, p. 977). We can experience the same joy now because of the current situation.
The SGI has introduced the offensive acts of Nichiren Shoshu to the world not because we’re just miffed, not because we’ve given in to anger and emotionalism, but because we have this joy: We are facing today what was predicted 2,500 years ago by Shakyamuni.
Based on our respect for all people, we’ll continue to show the world who we are and what we’re contributing – and how hard we’re working for all people’s happiness.
(Originally published in the World Tribune, Aug. 6, 1999)
Buddhism stands for tolerance.
Buddhism stands for tolerance. Our religion seeks to build bridges among all people, among people of extremely different backgrounds.
The Preamble of the SGI Charter expresses this in saying that our organization will aise high the banner of world citizenship, the spirit of tolerance. We will, eased on the spirit of Buddhist tolerance, respect other religions.
If this is an important part of the SGI’s mission, why is the SGI so critical of Nichiren Shoshu? Why doesn’t the SGI show more tolerance toward the priesthood? Are we contradicting ourselves?
There is something fundamentally different about Nichiren Shoshu, then, from other religions in the world: It is the one and only religious group taking action to eradicate the Daishonin’s Buddhism by attempting to destroy the SGI-the only organization that has successfully propagated Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism throughout the world. Nichiren Shoshu is against the Daishonin’s Buddhism-but it’s pretending to be the Daishonin’s Buddhism. And it’s spreading.
The SGI Charter’s Preamble expresses our desire to work with other religions toward common goals like protecting the people, to work with other religions based on mutual respect. The Preamble never says that we want to work with religions that share no goals with us, that hold our philosophy in contempt or that are trying to bring about the end of our religion.
Buddhism seeks to embrace all people, but when people act unfairly, unjustly-when they don’t respect others and try to corrupt them-Buddhism does not ignore it. The Daishonin thus spoke up against the many religions of his day that were confusing people and leading them into deep suffering. He even says, I am fully aware that if I do not speak out [against such sects], I will be lacking in compassion (Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 239). His intolerance of religious injustice was an expression of his great heart; he attacked slanderous teachings to save people from misery.
We would cut ourselves off from the heart of this religion if we just let Nichiren Shoshu’s corruption of Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings and spirit occur right in front of us and did nothing.
(Originally published in the World Tribune, Sept. 17, 1999)
The current course of Nichiren Shoshu requires a response of active, educated tolerance. Not of passive, ill-informed indifference.
After excommunicating the SGI in November 1991, Nichiren Shoshu stopped issuing Gohonzon to SGI members. However, Nichiren Daishonin inscribed the Gohonzon for the purpose of saving all humanity. By using his authority to prevent conferral of the Gohonzon on sincere believers, High Priest Nikken goes against the Daishonin’s intent.
Therefore, Sendo Narita, the chief priest of Joen-ji, a temple that severed its ties to High Priest Nikken and the head temple, Taiseki-ji, offered to make the Nichikan-transcribed Gohonzon available to SGI members in 1993. Narita believed that making the Gohonzon available to the harmonious body of sincere practitioners was in accord with the Daishonin’s will, since his purpose in propagating the Mystic Law was to enable all people to attain Buddhahood.
As to the question of the necessity of having the high priest’s permission to distribute the Gohonzon, it is only recently that Nichiren Shoshu came up with this rule. It has been the norm, for instance, for local priests to bestow Gohonzon reproduced in their temples. Priests other than the high priest often reproduced and issued Gohonzon from their local temples.
Moreover, nowhere in his writings does the Daishonin indicate that we need the high priest to empower the Gohonzon. Nichiren Shoshu claims that the high priest must perform an eye-opening ceremony on the Gohonzon; however, the Daishonin makes it clear that the eye-opening takes place nowhere but within our lives, when we open our own eyes of the Buddha. He states, ‘Single-mindedly desiring to see the Buddha’ may be read as follows: single-mindedly observing the Buddha, concentrating one’s mind on seeing the Buddha, and when looking at one’s own mind, perceiving that it is the Buddha (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, pp. 389—90).
The Daishonin clarifies in his writings that the eye-opening ceremony was simply a formality passed down in provisional Buddhist teachings and is not part of the original spirit of Buddhism. It is one’s faith in the Lotus Sutra, the Gohonzon, that brings forth Buddhahood in our lives. As he states, When we revere Myoho-renge-kyo inherent in our own life as the object of devotion, the Buddha nature within us is summoned forth and manifested by our chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo (WND, 887).
It is not a high priest, nor his sanction, nor his capacity to perform an eye-opening ceremony that gives a Gohonzon the power to work. As the Daishonin admonishes, Even though you chant and believe in Myoho-renge-kyo, if you think the Law is outside yourself, you are embracing not the Mystic Law but an inferior teaching (WND, 3).
The magnitude of tremendous benefit that SGI members have received from our practice to the Nichikan-transcribed Gohonzon is actual proof that we are putting these teachings into practice.
(Originally published in the World Tribune, Oct. 19, 2001)