Soka Spirit
Former L.A. Priest: An Insider's Story by Rev. Gen'ei Kudo

April 01, 1994

Reverend Gen’ei Kudo was the Chief Priest of Myoho-ji Temple near Los Angeles until 1988 and had made many close friends among the SGI membership. Nikken had originally ordered Reverend Kudo to return to the head temple, but when the SGI was expelled, Reverend Kudo immediately wanted to return to the United States to encourage his friends of the SGI-USA. As one of the leaders of the Association for the Reformation of Nichiren Shoshu, he is fighting against the heretical teachings of Nikken and was most animated and enthusiastic during his interview with the Seikyo Times staff.ST: Why did you become a priest?

GK: I chose to become a priest to protect the Soka Gakkai, which is an important organization to promote kosen-rufu, and also to prove the justice of the Soka Gakkai in light of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. I received personal guidance from President Toda on this matter and my feeling is that we wanted to fight together for kosen-rufu, together with members of the SGI with a deep sense of camaraderie.

As a member of the first Soka Gakkai YMD corps, I was a hancho and the chief was President Ikeda. I had joined the Soka Gakkai in 1953, when I was 17 years old. Three years later, I joined the priesthood.

ST: Was it difficult for you to be a priest while there was so much turmoil in Nichiren Shoshu over the over 30 years that you belonged to the priesthood?

GK: Before I became a priest, President Toda had explained to me what was happening within Nichiren Shoshu, and his concern about the priests’ faith deviating from the Daishonin’s spirit.

And, as I am a very critical who expresses myself; whenever I felt something was wrong, I pointed out. One time I spoke straight from my heart to the then-general administrator of Nichiren Shoshu saying that I could sense that the mentor and disciple relationship is being practiced in the Gakkai very sincerely while I didn’t feel such a sense of mentor and disciple among the priests. When I first became a priest, they were pretty negligent in their practice of morning gongyo. Having been well trained in the youth division of the Soka Gakkai, I felt I was slandering Buddhism when doing gongyo with them.In my case, I was very close to the 65th high priest, Nichijun. As soon as I became a priest I had a chance to serve him as an attendant. High Priest Nichijun really understood and protected me. I really felt he cherished me, partly because I was from the Gakkai. The high priest was so conscientious and considerate, that, for example, when he knew there were guests from my hometown of Hokkaido visiting the head temple, he encouraged me to meet with them. President Toda often visited the head temple and each time he met with High Priest Nichijun, I was always there, so I was fortunate to witness their beautiful harmony.

In October 1991, a memorial ceremony was in the planning stages for the late high priest, Nichijun, to be held on November 17, 1991. It was a matter of course that priests like myself and the Reverend Shojun Ohashi, who were the immediate disciples of Nichijun, would be involved such a service. However, we were prohibited from attending the ceremony.

ST: At what point did Nikken become intolerable to you? At what point did you recognize that he was functioning as the Devil of the Sixth Heaven?

GK: I can talk about a few points. The harmony between priests and lay people is ideal in the Daishonin’s Buddhism. High Priest Nichijun and High Priest Nittatsu pursued this objective. President Toda and President Ikeda, too, made efforts to this end. However, Nikken, from the inception of his being high priest, had the idea to separate lay people from the priesthood.
Now it is clear that the plot called Operation C existed within the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, which is intolerable in light of Buddhism, and I had a chance to talk to Nikken about this point. During my audience I had with him in 1991, he admitted the existence of this plot. He ordered this, which is simply appalling. Later he excommunicated the Gakkai, which is the worst of the series of actions he took against kosen-rufu. Secondly, he allows priests to call him one with the Dai-Gohonzon — he continues to allow them to regard him as such. This is sheer arrogance on his part.

Thirdly, he has destroyed the principles expounded in the Gosho through the series of actions he took against the Gakkai. For instance the concept of shin puku zuiju meaning to follow with absolute obedience — this concept applies to the Law, but in this case he used it to make priests and believers follow him with absolute obedience.

In other words, he let priests apply this concept to the person himself. His theory is that because the Gakkai is a lay organization, they have to be subordinate to the priesthood all the time. I think we can point out much more but these are the three major areas.

ST: Obviously this answers the question about why you left the temple. In the history of Buddhism, what would you say is the significance of this issue?

GK: I feel the temple issue is a necessity — it was an unavoidable occurrence, which had to happen to further the great flow of kosen-rufu. In the Gosho, Nichiren Daishonin says:

Know this: in the time for shakubuku the Four Bodhisattvas appear as wise kings who rebuke and convert evil kings, and in the time for shoju they appear as priests to protect and spread true Buddhism. (The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, 80).

The time has come for that. In this passage, wise kings mean leaders or a lay organization. This passage of the Gosho reveals the point that the priesthood is not the major factor in achieving kosen-rufu. Rather, in the Latter Day of the Law, the time of shakubuku, it is the lay organization, the lay leaders who must play a chief role in this endeavor.

ST: What do you see as the future of the priesthood?

GK: The most important point for each SGI member, including myself, is to reflect upon our faith: what is correct faith and what do we have to do now to carry out correct faith? President Ikeda gives guidance all the time that the SGI is the organization directly connected with the Daishonin based upon the Dai-Gohonzon, centering on the Gosho.

This is the time, too, for us priests, who left Nichiren Shoshu, to reconfirm the prime point of faith as we look to the future of kosen-rufu, and also as we strive to strengthen our bonds of camaraderie for the cause of kosen-rufu stood up to reform. This is the time for us to renew genuine determinations to open up a great new phase of kosen-rufu together with the members of the SGI. I feel very excited because after we defeat this great evil, a great, great future of kosen-rufu will emerge as we follow President Ikeda’s guidance, and do human revolution based upon his guidance. I can foresee a great unfolding of a new phase of kosen-rufu we have to show a victory in this battle with the negative forces of the priesthood.

President Ikeda said at one time that kosen-rufu is to let each country reveal its own features, characteristics — in other words, thinking how, for instance, America can become a happy country in the true sense. That is a vital perspective. The saying, When in Rome, do as the Romans do is the principle in guidance used by President Ikeda in opening up our kosen-rufu movement in the respective countries. Of course, the essential part of Buddhism is changeless, the fundamentals that apply to any country.

We have to protect that area regardless of differences in cultures. Of course, we shouldn’t bend the principles of Buddhism. Otherwise people misinterpret the Daishonin’s Buddhism. But as we live the fundamental principles of Buddhism we can be very open-minded and flexible in carrying out our movement of kosen-rufu in each country.

ST: The principle of the mentor-disciple relationship is one everyone has been trying to study and understand. I personally feel it is crucial that all of us deepen our understanding of this point. If you were asked to explain this principle to our membership, what would you say?

GK: Whether we are priests or lay believers, our primary mentor in faith is Nichiren Daishonin. Even though kosen-rufu is being substantiated by the members of the SGI, for a long time the priests claimed that there also could be a mentor and disciple relationship between the priests and lay believers, meaning that priests are mentors and lay believers are disciples.

However, they did not admit that there could be a mentor and disciple relationship within the laity. The roots of the priesthood’s thoughts lie in the notion, which does not exist, in the Gosho—–that priests are superior and laity are subordinates. In my case, President Toda was my mentor in faith before the time I became a priest. After I became a priest, my mentor in the priesthood was the 65th high priest, Nichijun. Even though I became a priest I do not deny my relationship with President Toda as mentor and disciple—it did not vanish and it won’t.

I am proud of the fact that I once had two mentors in faith, President Toda and High Priest Nichijun in those days. Immediately after President Toda passed away, I took President Ikeda as my new mentor. Who you choose as your mentor is a job of the disciple. Even though you are taught the significance of the mentor and disciple relationship, unless you have a desire to make somebody your mentor, this relationship will not be achieved or created.

Generally speaking, not only within the Daishonin’s Buddhism the relationship between mentor and disciple transcends the three existences of past, present and future. Even though you have created a mentor and disciple relationship in this lifetime, if you abandon it in this lifetime, the relationship is going to perish for good.

In practicing faith, you cannot ignore this concept of mentor and disciple. As you know, Mr. Makiguchi and Mr. Toda’s relationship was one of mentor and disciple. The same is true with the relationship between President Toda and President Ikeda, which was very deep. You know this through reading The Human Revolution I’d like to say that this concept of mentor and disciple is vital; it is premised upon the objective of kosen-rufu.
First of all we have to realize that the SGI organization is not one where people of similar hobbies get together or act according to likes and dislikes.

In our objective promoting kosen-rufu, we have to make sure if our faith is precise in view of the mentor and disciple relationship.

There is a saying that a mentor’s mandate is severe, and the disciple most reverently follows it. I heard from President Ikeda on many occasions how severe the training was he received from President Toda.

President Toda really trained him well in faith, sometimes admonishing him deeply, even though President Ikeda didn’t know what he had done wrong. However, when President Ikeda recalls those days he expresses his wish that he could have been trained even more by President Toda. We might see similar scenes between President Ikeda and the leaders of the SGI, a scene in which President Ikeda is very strict with the leaders.
I know various examples of mentor and disciple relationship in the United States between President Ikeda and the SGI-USA members. If you become shallowly emotional when President Ikeda is strict with you, then you are not fulfilling the way of mentor and disciple. I was very happy when President Ikeda was strict with a certain leader in this country.

This means the SGI-USA is getting into a new, true phase of kosen-rufu, because President Ikeda can say anything he wants to say as mentor in faith. Of course, this organization has to continue to improve itself by each member’s growth.

ST: I feel that at this time there are quite a few members who have studied the priesthood issue to a certain extent and are asking the question: What can I do to fight against Nikken if, in fact, I don’t have any members who have gone to the Hokkeko or I don’t think it’s a problem that relates to myself? I hope our readers can somehow see your perspective about why it is important to study this issue.

GK: There is a passage from the Gosho, The Treatment of Illness (MW-3, 279; 997). It talks about us who embrace the Gohonzon:

Both good and evil are inherent even in those at the highest state, that of myogaku or enlightenment. The fundamental nature of enlightenment manifests itself as Bonten and Taishaku, whereas the fundamental darkness manifests itself as the Devil of the Sixth Heaven. The gods hate evildoers, and demons hate good people.

In talking about the priesthood issue in terms of my own faith. Everyone possesses fundamental darkness and enlightenment. This fundamental enlightenment and darkness exist even in the life condition of Buddhahood.

This is very important. Nikken, as high priest of Nichiren Shoshu, is supposed to display the life condition of Buddhahood. Despite the nobility and supremacy of his position, what he displays is the fundamental darkness. Therefore, we can define him as the King Devil of the Sixth Heaven under the current circumstances. What a shame. That he excommunicated the Soka Gakkai, which promotes kosen-rufu, clearly signifies he embodies the function of the Devil of the Sixth Heaven. He is in the darkness of his emotionalism. However, this Gosho is very strict and very revealing, because we possess a similar life condition to that which Nikken displays.

In the Gosho Nichiren Daishonin says, Faith alone is capable of breaking through fundamental darkness. (Gosho Zenshu, p. 751). It is not a matter of technique to defeat fundamental darkness. You have to arouse strong faith in order to win over your fundamental darkness. We have to strengthen our faith so that we can strongly refute the evil of Nikken. This is a very important point. When you try to refute Nikken’s ills you can refute your own fundamental darkness. In this regard we have to sharpen our faith, that is, our perspective of what’s happening in issue of faith. In this regard we are in a very important period.

If you take the temple view objectively, you are missing a chance to break through your own fundamental darkness. Winners in the battle against fundamental darkness should be the leaders of kosen-rufu. Those people who take the lead for kosen-rufu should be victorious in this battle for their own human revolution.

ST: Other questions are more theoretical or technical. One is whether or not the ultimate Law can be transferred from high priest to high priest. The temple claims that the heritage of the ultimate Law can only be transferred from one high priest to another. Because there was not very much openness in terms of the Nichiren Shoshu tradition, some members feel there is some kind of secret code or something that they don’t know about––that only the high priest knows about that they would be missing if they are just members of the Soka Gakkai. Maybe from a very common sense, practical standpoint or from your own experience, what light can you shed on this question to give the members confidence in this point?

GK: Mysticism like this, a concept of the lineage from high priest to high priest, confuses the temple members, attracts them to a wrong thought. I would like to make one point about this. We have to grasp the definition in Buddhism correctly. High Priest Nichijun made a very interesting, meaningful definition of the time.

He made the 700th anniversary of the establishment of true Buddhism a dividing line, before that and after that. He defined the age before the 700th anniversary as the age to protect the Law. The age after the 700th anniversary is the age of propagation of the Law. This is a very practical perspective in light of the passage I quoted a while ago from the Gosho, The True Object of Worship. During the age of protecting the Law, the priesthood played a central role. In the age of propagating the Law, wise kings — which means wise leaders — are going to play very important roles.

This is a very important fact: During the age of protecting the Law, for 700 years, Nichiren Shoshu only had 10,000 believers. The Daishonin’s Buddhism didn’t spread but the Law was maintained. Even though they possessed the Dai-Gohonzon, they only had 50 temples, 50 priests, 10,000 believers, far from the picture Nichiren Daishonin presented in talking about worldwide kosen-rufu, when President Toda stood alone for kosen-rufu after World War II.

I personally feel that using mysticism within Nichiren Shoshu was appealing to those small numbers of people. Nichiren Shoshu used mysticism to maintain or keep those believers without being able to teach them the great power of the Dai-Gohonzon. This happened not only in Nichiren Shoshu but also in many other sects of Buddhism — using mysticism to try to keep believers with their temples. This is one area President Toda wanted to clarify, to get rid of mysticism from true Buddhism.

The Daishonin’s Buddhism is supposed to be the Buddhism anybody can understand, it is good common sense. Otherwise, if it is taken as mysticism then it cannot be practiced by people of the world.