Soka Spirit
An Explanation of Nikko Shonin's 26 Admonitions (Part I)

April 01, 1998

The following is part of a speech SGI President Ikeda gave at the Kansai Executive Conference, held at the Kinugasa Ikeda Hall in Kyoto, Japan, on October 24, 1992. The speech was originally published in the November 23, 1992, issue of the World Tribune.

WHAT is the standard that the followers of Nikko Shonin, the heirs to the true lineage of Nichiren Daishonin, must observe? Needless to say, it is articles of warning that the second high priest set down on the thirteenth day of the first month of the third year of the Genko era (1333). These are the admonitions that Nikko Shonin, at age 88, gave to his disciples one month before his death. For what purpose did he write down these warning articles?

In the preface, he states: “I will here set forth some articles for the sake of later students of Buddhism. This is solely because I treasure the [Daishonin?s] golden words regarding kosen-rufu” (Gosho Zenshu, p. 1617).

Again, in the concluding passage, he writes, “I have set forth these 26 articles for the sake of the eternal salvation and protection of humankind” (GZ, 1619).

Until the moment of his death, Nikko Shonin?s life blazed with the great wish to accomplish kosen-rufu and lead all people to happiness—to realize the Daishonin?s decree.

Herein lies the original spirit of the correct school [of Nichiren Daishonin?s Buddhism].

Again, in the concluding passage, Nikko Shonin strictly warns: “Those who violate even one of these articles cannot be called disciples of Nikko” (ibid.). These articles of warning were originally intended for priests. Nonetheless, we in the SGI, awakened [to our mission] as Bodhisattvas of the Earth, have strictly put these admonitions into practice.

President Toda composed and dedicated the following poem to youth:

You, young people,
engraving in your hearts
the twenty-six precepts,
dedicate your lives

to the path of the Mystic Law.The “twenty-six precepts” in this poem refers to Nikko Shonin?s twenty-six warning articles. President Toda urged young people to struggle for kosen-rufu, just as the second high priest admonished, with the spirit of not begrudging their lives.

Now, I would like to read and explain each of the individual warning articles.

1. The doctrines of the Fuji school must not differ in the least from the teachings of the late master.

THE Fuji school is the line of Nikko Shonin?s followers. The “late master” is Nichiren Daishonin.

One can sense the profound spirit of Nikko Shonin in his having made this the first warning article. To not differ in the least from the teachings of the Daishonin—this is the most basic essential of the correct school. This passage is documentary proof of [what it means to have] a direct connection with the Daishonin. It is the foundation of the correct school. Today, only the SGI practices and abides by this admonition.

The Nikken sect teaches that “one must not differ from Nikken”—not that “one must not differ from the Daishonin.” The foundation is erroneous. Far from “not differing in the least,” the Nikken sect is acting completely contrary to the Daishonin?s teachings. Specific examples of this are well known to all of you.

2. The doctrines of the five senior priests differ in every regard from the teachings of the late master.

THE true nature of the five senior priests is revealed by their betrayal of the master. The members of the Nikken sect are the Latter Day followers of the five senior priests.

It must be concluded that each of the doctrines established by the Nikken sect in recent times, including their alteration of the doctrine of the three treasures, differs in every regard from the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin.

The five senior priests criticized the correct teachings of Nikko Shonin; they claimed that he was “establishing a different teaching and had lost the Way.” The priesthood [of the Nikken sect], while deeply immersed in its own slander of the Law, vilifies the correct practice of the SGI. On this point as well, the actions of the priesthood perfectly mirror those of the five senior priests.

3. There will [in the future] appear persons who slander our school, saying that the Gosho are forged writings. You must not associate with such evil priests.

IT was Nikko Shonin who treasured the Daishonin?s writings, giving them the honorific appellation Gosho, which literally means the “honorable writings.” In addition to lecturing on the Gosho himself, he collected the Daishonin?s writings and left behind many copies in his own hand for later generations.

To treasure and base oneself on the Gosho—this is the prime foundation for and the essential spirit of the followers of Nikko Shonin.

The five senior priests disregarded many Gosho, including most of the Daishonin?s letters, on account of their being written in a mixture of Chinese characters and Japanese phonetic syllabary. They also slandered Nikko Shonin for revering the Daishonin?s writings as “Gosho” and for delivering lectures on them. They went so far as to bleach the paper on which the Daishonin had written certain Gosho [so that it could be reused for other purposes], or else consigned them to flames. Further, they labeled as forged writings and repudiated those Gosho that showed their own ideas in a disadvantageous light.

Nichiko, the fifty-ninth high priest, once commented: “In deprecating the Gosho, [the five senior priests] certainly were guilty of turning their backs on the master.”

The Soka Gakkai published the Nichiren Daishonin Gosho Zenshu (Collected Writings of Nichiren Daishonin) with the editorial supervision of Nichiko, and we have applied ourselves to strict Buddhist study with discipline like that of master swordsmen. We take pride in the fact that, as followers inheriting the true legacy of Nikko Shonin, we have made the Gosho our foundation.

The priesthood is so determined to establish the high priest as the foundation that it has distorted the true path. It has even gone so far as to advance the peculiar claim that “to make the Gosho the foundation is egotistic.” As I will explain later, making the high priest of the time the foundation itself amounts to betraying Nikko Shonin?s articles of warning. Article 3 states that one must not associate with or follow such evil priests.

4. Those who produce forged writings and say that they are Gosho, or who practice with the view that the essential and theoretical teachings [of the Lotus Sutra] are the same, are parasites in the lion?s body.

NIKKO Shonin says that there will appear evil priests who use forged writings to suit their needs, who fail to distinguish between the theoretical and essential teachings and who practice false teachings.

Before and during World War II, there was a priest in Nichiren Shoshu who advocated the false doctrine of shimpon busshaku, which asserts that the Buddha of absolute freedom is a manifestation of the Shinto deity (the Sun Goddess). Even after the war, the priesthood, rather than taking this evil priest to task, instead took punitive action against the Soka Gakkai, which had confronted him for his offenses.

The five senior priests and their modern-day counterparts, unaware of the most profound concepts of the essential teaching (i.e., the Daishonin?s Buddhism) and theoretical teaching (i.e., Shakyamuni?s Buddhism), could not revere Nichiren Daishonin as the original Buddha. Today, the members of the Nikken sect, while claiming that they have inherited the tradition of Nikko Shonin, base themselves on Nikken rather than the Daishonin. Truly, they are “parasites in the lion?s body” of the Daishonin?s Buddhism.

5. You should refrain from indulging in poetry or non-Buddhist works, or from engaging in idleness and chatter without [having the aim of] rebuking slander.

THE Daishonin states: “Though one may have been fortunate enough to be born as a human being…, if he fails to study Buddhism and to refute its slanderers but simply spends his time in idleness and chatter, then he is no better than an animal dressed in priestly robes” (MW-3, 215).

Many priests, freely using lay followers? offerings and failing to carry out the practice of propagation, have succumbed to sensual pleasures. While living in the lap of luxury, they have wiled away their time in “idleness and chatter” and indulged in the crass amusements of the nouveau riche. The Daishonin says that while donning the garments of teachers of the Law, inwardly such priests are animals.

6. Lay believers should be strictly prohibited from visiting [heretical] temples and shrines. Moreover, priests should not visit slanderous temples or shrines, which are inhabited by demons, even if only to have a look around. To do so would be a pitiful violation [of the Daishonin?s Buddhism.] This is not my own personal view; it wholly derives from the sutras [of Shakyamuni] and the writings [of Nichiren Daishonin].

THE SGI has all along strictly condemned slander, exactly as Nikko Shonin admonishes; this is a fact that is known to all. President Makiguchi?s death in prison ultimately resulted from his refusal to compromise with slander.

By contrast, as successive revelations have made clear, the priesthood has become mired in slander.

The current high priest set up a family tombstone in the cemetery of a Zen temple, even conducting a ceremony to consecrate it there, and then left the temple grounds without refuting the mistaken views of the Zen priests, only to go on to a banquet. This shows just how erroneous the priesthood?s faith is.

Nichiko once remarked, “A person who puts on a show of strictly refuting slander while inwardly guilty of accommodating slander is a monster.”
Even well after the war had ended, Shinto talismans and other slanderous objects of worship continued to exist in Nichiren Shoshu temples—from local branch temples to the head temple itself. It was due to the efforts of Soka Gakkai members that these slanderous objects were discarded. Members from the early days can readily attest to this.

The Soka Gakkai instructed the priesthood to discard the slanderous objects of worship. It was due to the Soka Gakkai that Nichiren Shoshu was revived as the orthodox school of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin.

7. Disciples of ability should be allowed to devote themselves to the study of the Gosho and other doctrines of Buddhism, without being pressed to perform miscellaneous services for their teachers.

THIS is the spirit of selecting and raising capable people. The Daishonin?s way of training his disciples is not an authoritarian system of apprenticeship. What is important is that each person be enabled to manifest his or her abilities fully and freely and carry out activities for the sake of the Law and kosen-rufu.

The priesthood, instead of warmly raising people, forces people into submission, and capable people are systematically oppressed through harassment and violence reminiscent of the old Japanese army. Such practices represent a fearful deviation from Nikko Shonin?s articles of warning.

8. Those of insufficient learning who are bent on obtaining fame and fortune are not qualified to call themselves my followers.

THE Daishonin refers to priests who merely seek profit and others? reverence, while not practicing properly themselves, as “priests with the hearts of dogs” (MW-4, 93), or “Law-devouring hungry spirits” (ibid.).

Nichiko once decried conditions within the priesthood stating: “The passage at the end of the jigage (verse) section of the ?Juryo,? or 16th, of the Lotus Sutra reads, [This is my constant thought:] How I can cause all living beings to quickly attain Buddhahood?”

This refers to the immense compassion of the original Buddha who is continually active over the three existences.

“However, the desire that ceaselessly preoccupies the priests of these degenerate times over the three existences is, ?How can I increase my wealth and quickly become rich?? It is truly deplorable to hear such things.”

In view of his declaration that such priests “are not qualified to call themselves my followers,” Nikko Shonin would certainly excommunicate the present priesthood. This is all too clear.

9. Until they are well versed in the difference between the provisional and true teachings, followers of later generations should visit this temple, setting aside the debt of gratitude they owe to their parents and teachers, and undertake various studies in order to free themselves [from the sufferings of birth and death] and attain the Way.

THE purpose for visiting the head temple is to contemplate and gain freedom from the sufferings of birth and death and to attain the Way of the Buddha. It is so that, with earnest devotion to Buddhist practice, one may sever one?s attachments to the secular world and wholeheartedly devote oneself to “various studies.” In essence, it is to learn correct faith.

Yet the head temple today, much to the contrary, is even more occupied with secular concerns than lay persons in society.

Priests marry and have families [although celibacy is the traditional practice of Buddhist priests, as is indicated in Article 25] and there is no serious study of any kind. Pervaded by an air of discrimination and violence, it has become a place where the faith of acolytes is destroyed and corrupt priests are nurtured.

10.Unless you have a thorough understanding of and firm faith in the teachings [of Nichiren Daishonin], you should not study T?ien-t?ai?s doctrines.

WHILE Nichiren Daishonin?s Buddhism is concerned with “actuality,” T?ient?ai?s doctrine is concerned with “theory.” It was the five senior priests who— failing to realize the monumental difference between the actual teaching and the theoretical, a difference comparable to that between heaven and earth—called themselves “disciples of T?ien-t?ai” [when pressured by the Kamakura government after the Daishonin?s death].

If one delves into the doctrines of T?ien-t?ai before one has a profound grasp of the Daishonin?s Buddhism, there is a danger that one may lose one?s bearings and deviate from the path of correct faith.

Such admonitions notwithstanding, at the head temple, priests who have not yet made a thorough study of the Gosho lecture haphazardly on T?ien-t?ai doctrine. Moreover, priests? lack of earnestness in studying the Gosho itself runs counter to this article.

11. Followers of this school should engrave the teachings of the Gosho in their lives and thereby inherit the ultimate principles expounded by the master. Then, if they have any leisure time, they should inquire into the doctrine of the T?ien-t?ai school.

THE sixty-fifth high priest, Nichijun, clarified that this article is an admonishment of the tendency then prevalent to consider the Daishonin?s teachings from the standpoint of T?ien-t?ai?s doctrine. He made the point as follows, “The Daishonin?s teachings are determined in every respect by the Daishonin?s Gosho.”

Here, Nichijun stresses the importance of basing ourselves on the Gosho.
Nikko Shonin states that his followers should “engrave the teachings of the Gosho in their lives” and “inherit the ultimate principles from the master.”
The members of the Nikken sect have engraved not even a single word or phrase of the Gosho in their lives.

What?s more, they have completely desecrated the path of master and disciple between themselves and Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin as well as the path of master and disciple between themselves and preceding high priests. Their actions epitomize the betrayal of the master. The Nikken sect on the most fundamental level goes against Nikko Shonin?s admonition, “Followers of this school … should inherit the ultimate principles expounded by the master.”

12. You should be inclined to engage in discussion or deliver lectures [on Buddhism], and you should refrain from pursuing secular concerns.

WE can interpret this as an admonition to continually seek the Buddhist Way, persevere in our practice and study of Buddhism and advance toward kosenrufu.

Yet I wonder if there is anyone in the Nikken sect who is inclined to engage in earnest discussion or deliver lectures on the Law.

Neither spreading the teachings to others nor talking about Buddhism among themselves, they are a gathering of “Law-devouring hungry spirits.” This is the reality of the present priesthood; it has completely turned its back on Nikko Shonin?s admonitions.

13. Until kosen-rufu is achieved, propagate the Law to the full extent of your ability without begrudging your life.

THIS admonition, termed by Nichiko the “principle for all generations to come” and the “first principle of eternal im-portance,” is the unchanging standard that is the most crucial and pivotal of the twenty-six warning articles.

The sixty-sixth high priest, Nittatsu, once remarked: “It is Soka Gakkai members who, embodying the spirit of spreading the teachings even at the cost of their lives, are safeguarding Buddhism, protecting the Dai-Gohonzon of the high sanctuary and carrying out the practice of propagation for the sake of the eternal transmission of the Law.

“At the same time, by overcoming all manner of persecutions by slanderous people, Soka Gakkai members are carrying out the practice of the ?six difficult and nine easy acts?1 with their lives, and accomplishing kosen-rufu in the Latter Day of the Law.”

It is the SGI that is putting this admonition into practice. Our history is a golden record of our efforts to put this admonition into practice.

While the SGI has always put kosen-rufu first, the priesthood has always placed its own self-preservation above all else, thereby hindering the progress of kosen-rufu.

Where in the priesthood can one find people spreading the teachings “without begrudging their lives”? In stark contrast, not only do its members lead indulgent lives, but they are even seeking to destroy the SGI and to bring the flow of kosen-rufu to a halt. Such priests are enemies of the True Law and enemies of Nikko Shonin.

Without defeating these enemies of the Buddha, realizing the kosen-rufu of the True Law will be impossible. Therefore, just as Nikko Shonin admonishes, we must continue to pursue them without begrudging our lives. A person who does so will accumulate tremendous benefit.