Feb. 22, 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.
On Feb. 22, the Tokyo District Court ruled in the Soka Gakkai’s favor in a defamation suit against Nichiren Shoshu related to the Seattle Incident case. The Soka Gakkai filed the suit in January 1996, after Nichiren Shoshu alleged that the Soka Gakkai had illegally planted a fradulent record (regarding High Priest Nikken Abe’s 1963 encounter with Seattle prostitutes) in a U.S. government database. The court concluded that there was no evidence of the Soka Gakkai planting a fraudulent record, further finding that the Soka Gakkai did not illegally access any U.S. government database. The court ruled that Nichiren Shoshu’s allegations were unfounded and defamatory, ordering it to pay approximately $30,000 (4 million yen) in compensation to the Soka Gakkai. (While this sum may seem small by U.S. standards, it is a large sum for a defamation suit in the Japanese system, where, until recently, 5 million yen was the maximum amount awarded in a case of this type.) Nichiren Shoshu had published its allegations and distributed more than 1,350,000 copies of these materials, not only to its temples and associates but to various political, public and educational institutions in Japan and the United States.
This is an excerpt from a series of informal discussions between SGI President Ikeda and various SGI members in 1994. It originally appeared in the Nov. 21 1994, World Tribune.
RELIGION SHOULD BE AN ARENA OF SPIRITUAL FREEDOM
Japanese people are not very good at stating their opinions directly. Our educational system or various social or historical circumstances may contribute to this, but the main reason, I think, is that spiritual freedom has never taken root in Japan as a way of life.
The 19th-century educator and writer Fukuzawa Yokichi criticized this weakness in the Japanese character as an imbalance of power. In relations between the nation’s leaders and the people, and in people’s relations with each other, there is a strong tendency for those in superior positions to bully those in inferior positions. People curry favor with their superiors, and then turn around to bully those inferior to themselves.
The imbalance of power means that the Japanese lead by forcing others to obey rather than by ethics or character. They believe that whatever comes up from elow — from the people — cannot be important. Fukuzawa described this tendency as an epidemic that had infected all parts of Japanese society. The habit of putting government above people, which Fukuzawa criticized and fought against all his life, is a manifestation of that disease. Of course, such an attitude is the very antithesis of democracy. And as long as that attitude flourishes, the spirit of the public servant, one who is dedicated to serving the needs of the people, will not manifest itself in Japan.
Fukuzawa identified Japanese religion as a major cause of this of this imbalance of power. He harshly criticized religion in Japan for allowing itself to become a slave of the government. He writes: Religion works within the hearts of men. It is something absolutely free and independent, not controlled in any way by others or dependent upon their powers. But while this is the way religion ought to be, such has not been the case here in Japan.
In other words, religion ought to be a model arena of spiritual freedom and independence. It should remain unswayed and, independent, including from secular authorities. Yet in Japan, the opposite is true. As a concrete example, Fukuzawa pointed out that all of the major Buddhist temples in Japan are government temples, built with the patronage of the ruling authorities. And though Buddhism has flourished in Japan, Fukuzawa said: If you inquire into the basis of this power [of Buddhist temples], you will find it is not religion. They have simply borrowed the government’s power. Ultimately, they are nothing but a branch of secular authority.
Japan’s religions are a part of the power structure, he says. As such, the clergy are more concerned with government requirements than their own religious beliefs. For example, in the early Meiji Period (1868-1912), when the Japanese government allowed priests to eat meat and get married for the first time, they leapt at the chance and immediately started doing both.
Fukuzawa writes, We can conclude that the monks have been slaves of the government; indeed, we can even conclude that at present there is no real religion in Japan.
Fukuzawa insists that a religion that serves the authorities — a slave religion controlled by the authorities — is not a true religion.
Four in a series.
This series contains excerpts of speeches SGI President Ikeda made in the United States which relate to Soka Spirit and are contained in the book My Dear Friends in America.
YOU CAN SEE EAGLE PEAK WITHOUT TAKING A SINGLE STEP
Nichiren Daishonin writes: Therefore, wherever we dwell and practice the single vehicle, that place will be the Capital of Eternally Tranquil Light. And, without having to take a step, those who are our disciples and lay supporters can view Eagle Peak in India and day and night will go to and from the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light that has existed for all time. What a truly inexpressible joy it is! (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 313).
Nichiren Daishonin states that the desolate island where he resides is the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light. This land does not exist off in some distant land. The Daishonin does not teach that to attain Buddhahood we must venture from where we are to some other place. Without going even a single step, the place where we live and attain Buddhahood becomes the land of eternal happiness. This is the Daishonin’s teaching.
This point is of great significance. One meaning that derives from it is that the Daishonin’s teaching directly opposes evil authoritarianism.
It is said that distance gives rise to authority. This adage assails the foolish tendency of human beings to regard as respectable people or things so distant or at such height as to make them inaccessible.
The Gosho states: As a rule, people in the world value what is distant and despise what is near, but this is the conduct of the ignorant. Even the distant should be repudiated if it is wrong, while what is near should not be discarded if it accords with the truth (WND, 155-56).
While this passage is speaking of things near and distant in a temporal sense, the same principle holds true in terms of space. People tend to overlook the value of things close at hand. In Buddhism, however, the reality of the present and of the place where we live is of the utmost importance.
To those who must travel to some special place, others who are closer to that place come to possess greater authority. Thus a hierarchy of authority evolves among people according to their relative proximity.
In a religion that teaches belief in an external deity, often the clergy, in serving as a bridge connecting the people with the distant deity and its world of heaven, comes to possess special authority.
By contrast, Buddhism teaches that the people themselves are the entity of the Buddha. The Buddha exists not in some distant other world but in the inner realm of people’s lives, and where they live becomes the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light. Among all the Buddhist sutras, the Lotus Sutra places particular emphasis on this teaching.
Viewed from this standpoint, it becomes plain that Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is no place for authoritarianism. Only the Gohonzon, the world of Buddhahood, is to be solemnly revered. The Buddha exists right at this moment, in the very place where we are.
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. The body is the Land of the ninth consciousness, the unchanging reality that reigns over all of life’s functions (WND, 832).
The Daishonin’s words about the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light, in the letter addressed to Sairen-bo, set forth the fundamental guidelines for the age of worldwide kosen-rufu and the age of establishing the identity of each locality. Wherever you are, that place is the stage for worldwide kosen-rufu. Wherever you are, that place is the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light. (pp. 144-45)
Four 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. 22 World Tribune page 8: In his article Seattle Incident Libel Case Withdrawn, World Tribune managing editor Jeff Farr reports on this recent development. For more information, you can also visit www.sgi-usa.org/sokaspirit/seattleintro.html