Feb. 1, 2002
The Justice Chronicle, provided by Soka Gakkai International-USA, is a free monthly e-mail in support of the Soka Spirit movement. Soka Spirit is the SGI’s educational effort to create value and deepen our understanding of Nichiren Buddhism through increased awareness of issues surrounding the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood and the spiritual foundation of the SGI movement.
Following the Tokyo High Court judge’s strong recommendation, on Jan. 31, Nichiren Shoshu completely withdrew its claim accusing Soka Gakkai of libel in the Seattle Case. In 1993 Nichiren Shoshu had sued the Soka Gakkai for libel regarding coverage of its high priest Nikken Abe’s alleged altercation with prostitutes in Seattle in 1963. In March 2000, the Tokyo District Court had found that the incident had indeed taken place as reported, so the Soka Gakkai publications were not libelous. Nichiren Shoshu then appealed this decision.
In 1992, the Soka Gakkai bi-monthly publication Soka Shimpo had reported that, during an official trip to the city of Seattle in 1963, Abe, then head of Nichiren Shoshu’s study department, had gone out at night and become involved in a dispute with prostitutes. When Soka Shimpo published this allegation, based on an eyewitness account by a Soka Gakkai women’s division member, Nichiren Shoshu sued the lay Buddhist organization for libel.
The Tokyo District Court dismissed the lawsuit on March 21, 2000, ruling that the Soka Gakkai had presented compelling and convincing evidence to corroborate the truthfulness of the witness’s account, while Abe’s own testimony was highly ambiguous and lacked credibility. The court concluded that Soka Gakkai had published articles in the public interest and that in view of the truth of the allegations, there was no incidence of libel.
Soka Gakkai attorney, Morio Miyahara, comments, For Nichiren Shoshu to withdraw their claim brings this case to a welcome end and demonstrates the validity of the District Court’s ruling.
This series contains Soka Spirit-related excerpts of speeches SGI President Ikeda made in the United States which are contained in the book My Dear Friends in America.
THE SGI MOVEMENT FOSTERS DEMOCRACY
The noted American scholar of education, Dayle M. Bethel of the International University, Osaka, Japan, has observed: During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, democracy became the great hope of the world’s peoples. The democratic current that swept through the world during that period whispered to people everywhere that they, as individual human beings, had the ability and the potential to be the salvation of themselves and their families….
What people all over the world are having to face up to during the final quarter of this century is that democracy…has failed….
Throughout the world at the present time, people are reacting to this failure of democracy by placing their hope in various types of religious fundamentalism. In these fundamentalist perspectives, hope for salvation, for the possibility of improving conditions for oneself and one’s family, rests not in oneself and in democracy but in the authority of a deity or in the clergy or in political leaders who profess to speak for the deity. The dangers for individuals and for societies stemming from such blind following of absolutist religious authority are, I think, obvious.
As I observe the Soka Gakkai organization, I see it as running counter to this fundamentalist trend of the times. It is a movement that seeks to develop people who can think and discern for themselves; a movement that rejects authoritarianism because it impedes human growth. Two general types of religious organizations can be observed in the world: dogmatic religions that seek to gain the allegiance of the people through authority and blind faith and those who seek to develop people who are free-thinking and self-determined. For the sake of humanity’s future, this latter type of religious organization is most important….
It is important, therefore, that the people of…religious organizations engage in periodic reflection and examine themselves and the organization of which they are a part from the standpoint their original purpose….
When activities and ways of thinking that were once fresh and unique and effective in serving people become taken for granted and routinized they, ironically, wind up eventually restricting and controlling the very people they were supposed to serve. Secretive actions and oversensitivity to suggestions and criticism signify the stiffening and bureaucratization of an organization (The Soka Gakkai’s Movement Fosters Democracy, Issues Between the Nichiren Shoshu Priesthood and the Soka Gakkai, vol. 2, pp. 137Â41).
As Professor Bethel points out, self-righteous religions obsessed with making the people yield to their authority demand blind obedience from their followers and try to restrict and control them.
The original purpose of religion is to serve humanity and lead people to happiness. Toward this end, the Daishonin’s Buddhism is the ultimate teaching that espouses humanity and delivers freedom and dignity equally to all human beings, refusing to bend to any authoritarian power or force.
If anyone who embraces the Daishonin’s Buddhism looks down on the Buddha’s children and creates discrimination among believers, then they shall not deserve to be called the Daishonin’s followers.
The history of the Soka Gakkai, as Professor Bethel remarks, has been a continuous battle against authoritarianism, which hinders human growth. In its course we have taken our movement promoting true democracy to all parts of the world. For this we have been the target of constant criticism and persecution. Therefore, we must have keen perception to see through devilish functions and continue to wage our battle against evil without retreating an inch. This is the way we can protect the True Law, faith, the Buddha’s children and democracy. (pp. 118-119)
Three in a series.
SOKA SPIRIT IN THE PUBLICATIONS
This section highlights articles published in the World Tribune and Living Buddhism related to the Soka Spirit movement.
Feb. 1 World Tribune Friends for Peace p. ffp-4: In her Soka Spirit Quizzer LaVora Perry poses the question of why second high priest Nikko Shonin left the five senior priests.