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

April 01, 1998

14. As for practitioners who treasure the Law more highly than their own lives, even if they are but humble teachers of the Law, you must hold them in great esteem, revering them as you would the Buddha.

ARTICLES 14, 15 and 16 concern faith, practice and study, respectively.
With these three admonitions, Nikko Shonin teaches that faith is concerned with the individual’s practice and real ability. It is not a person with outward status or position but one who is actually spreading the teachings and advancing kosen-rufu who should be respected.

Article 14 admonishes us that we should revere as a Buddha those who spread the teachings without begrudging their lives.

This is an anecdote I have mentioned before, but a television program once aired footage of a woman Soka Gakkai member propagating this Buddhism, making her a target of ridicule.

Nittatsu explained that he was so moved at viewing the TV program that he cried and bowed his head to the woman, “because I saw in this poor woman a noble Buddha working to save the people.”

Nittatsu also once remarked, “The offense of those who speak ill of and obstruct the votaries of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law—we who embrace faith in the Daishonin’s Buddhism—is in fact more serious than the offense of Devadatta, who for a long time bore great malice toward Shakyamuni in his actions, words and thoughts.”

The phrase practitioners who treasure the Law more highly than their own lives refers to SGI members. Who apart from SGI members could it possibly indicate? The offense of evil priests who disdain and seek to plunge respectable SGI members into difficulties far exceeds that of Devadatta.

15. You should revere a teacher of the Law who engages in its propagation as a sacred priest, even though he may be your junior.

AS the testimony of priests who have severed ties with the head temple makes clear, discrimination along hierarchical lines pervades the priesthood to an extreme degree.The current priesthood is totally out of accord with Nikko Shonin’s admonition that persons excelling in faith and practice should be respected, even though they may be of low rank or junior in age or position.

The SGI, by contrast, treasures those who practice in earnest, even though they may have joined only recently, prays for their growth and seeks to give them guidance and training in faith. For precisely this reason, we have succeeded in creating a steady stream of capable people for kosen-rufu and have raised many young successors.

The appellation a teacher of the Law who engages in its propagation refers to the SGI. However, inspired by contempt for the SGI, the priesthood excommunicated us.

16.Even though they may be lowly, you should deeply respect and regard as your teachers those whose understanding of Buddhism surpasses your own.

SESSON Doji learned the Law from a lowly demon. Herein lies the Buddhist spirit of seeking the Law.

This spirit, too, is entirely lacking in the priesthood, which is dominated by authoritarian and discriminatory attitudes.

The SGI is a world where people study together and support one another in seeking the Law—irrespective of social standing, profession or age—as members of the Soka family. Further, it is a realm where seniors apply themselves to raising their juniors, burning with a sense of responsibility to enable them to become more capable than they are themselves.

It is a world of equality; a world where one’s real ability counts; a world based on the Law.

17. Do not follow even the high priest if he goes against the Buddha’s Law and propounds his own views.

NIKKO Shonin strictly warns that we must not follow a high priest who undermines Buddhism and the Law.

Nikko Shonin’s inclusion of this article among the twenty-six admonitions clearly demonstrates that he did not think that the high priest was infallible.

On the contrary, we can infer that Nikko Shonin was concerned about the emergence of the kind of high priests who should not be followed. For this reason, we have refused to follow Nikken, who propounds his own views, and we have strictly taken him to task for his slander of the Law; in so doing, we have been carrying out a practice that exactly accords with the admonitions of Nikko Shonin.

President Toda once wrote:

In June 1943, Soka Gakkai leaders were ordered to the head temple. The Rev. Jikai Watanabe, on behalf of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, suggested that the Soka Gakkai direct its members to temporarily accept the Shinto talisman [to appease the authorities]. This suggestion was made with the current and retired high priests on hand as witnesses.

Again, in the “Twenty-six Admonitions of Nikko,” Nikko Shonin states that we should not follow even the high priest if he goes against the Buddha’s Law and propounds his own views. In this spirit, President Makiguchi flatly refused to accept the Shinto talisman and then left the head temple. (—from “The History and Conviction of the Soka Gakkai”)
It is precisely because President Makiguchi refused to go along with the authorities, persevered in following the true teaching and stood by the admonitions of Nikko Shonin to the end that the path of kosen-rufu was not lost.

Again (in August 1951), shortly after his inauguration as the second Soka Gakkai president, Josei Toda spoke as follows:

At this time 700 years after the founding of true Buddhism, the entire body of Nichiren Shoshu believers amounts to a mere 10 or 20,000 households throughout the country. The present reality shames us before the two masters [Nichiren Daishonin, founder of true Buddhism, and Nikko Shonin, founder of the Head Temple Taiseki-ji].

My heart is filled with trepidation at the thought of how the two masters would decry this situation and take us to task were they here today. My sense of unworthiness and shame pains me mentally and physically….

It is truly most unfortunate that at such a time as this there should be some in the priesthood who obstruct the advance of propagation out of senseless feelings of jealousy.

President Toda felt personally responsible for kosen-rufu. He stood up alone in the vanguard and took direct leadership of the propagation campaign.

However, far from cooperating with the Soka Gakkai, the priesthood at the time refused to show any understanding whatsoever. In addition, some priests, succumbing to irrational feelings of jealousy, actively obstructed efforts to propagate this Buddhism.

For President Makiguchi, too, the lack of understanding and obstructive actions of priests had been a constant source of irritation. And, in the end, he died in prison as a result of the priesthood’s betrayal.

President Toda continued: “The long tradition of this school (Nichiren Shoshu), dating back 700 years, is on the one hand noble and pure, truly something that is worthy of respect. Nevertheless, it is bound to be plagued by ‘mice and stray cats.’ But eventually it will be rid of them, so there is nothing to worry about.”

Sadly, the priesthood today has been overrun “by mice and stray cats.” Odious priests, who prey on the Daishonin’s Buddhism like so many stray cats and hungry mice and spend their time frantically jostling for offerings, must be driven off from the world of faith directed toward advancing kosen-rufu.

And what in fact has happened is that these corrupt priests, finding it impossible to remain in the pure world of kosen-rufu, have left it of their own accord.

18. Even if a view is set forth unanimously by a conference [of believers], the high priest should repudiate it if it goes against the Buddha’s Law.
THIS warning article is paired with Article 17. The phrase if he [it] goes against the Buddha’s Law is found in both.

The basic point is that truth or falsity should be determined neither by authority (i.e., by the high priest) nor by the weight of the view of the multitude (i.e., by a conference of believers). In all matters, what counts most is whether something accords with the correct Buddhist teaching. And it goes without saying that the Daishonin’s golden words are the standard to be used in making any such determination.

In using his authority as high priest in an attempt to crush the correct views of the believers based on the Gosho, Nikken is going completely against this admonition.

19. Black robes should not be worn [by priests].

SINCE the time of Nichiren Daishonin, it has been part of the code of the Fuji school that priests should wear robes of a light-grey color [contrary to the black robes worn by priests of other sects]. In the first place, the reason for this was to protect the correct teaching. A sutra passage states, “Wearing black robes is slanderous; those who do so will certainly fall into hell.”

By admonishing priests to wear garments different in color from those of the priests of other sects, Nikko Shonin taught that they should always conduct themselves in a manner befitting followers of Nichiren Daishonin. Being immediately recognizable as priests of the Fuji school, they would have to be careful to conduct themselves properly and in an upright manner. The spirit of this warning article is that followers of the Fuji school, as the Daishonin’s followers, should be careful to ensure that their conduct and their faith are free of any blemish.

However, priests of the Nikken sect change their priestly robes to be less conspicuous in their immoral pursuits, with some going so far as to use pseudonyms to further conceal their identity.

The conduct of Nichiren Shoshu priests has become so deplorable that lightgrey robes have now come to symbolize the height of priestly decadence. How Nikko Shonin would deplore the current state of affairs.

20. Jikitotsu should not be worn [by priests].

JIKITOTSU are ornamental garments, pleated from the waist down, that are generally worn by priests of other sects. Nikko Shonin admonishes that priests must not wear ornate robes, but should be simple in their attire.
Thus, even though he may not be wearing a jikitotsu per se, a priest who wears such costly and luxurious robes as Nikken does is going completely against the spirit of this admonition.

21. You should not sit together with slanderers of the Law [at religious ceremonies] for fear of suffering the same punishment as they.

IN October 1922, a Nichiren Shoshu high priest (the fifty-seventh, Nissho) sat down together with the high priests of the Nichiren sect (Minobu school), the Kempon Hokke sect and other schools of the Nichiren sect and read the “Juryo” chapter and chanted daimoku in a ceremony led by the high priest of the Minobu school.

This high priest had joined representatives of other Nichiren schools in petitioning the government to grant the Daishonin the title of “Great Teacher (Daishi).” They gathered at a ceremony held to commemorate the conferral of the title of “Great Teacher of the Establishment of the True Teaching (Rissho Daishi).” [By joining the leaders of these heretical sects in this undertaking,] this high priest, in stark contrast with the conduct of the Daishonin, sought to ingratiate himself with the authorities.

After this, there was also a high-ranking priest (the sixtieth high priest, Nichikai, Nikken’s father) who drafted a memorandum stating that the Daishonin’s sacred tomb was at Minobu and submitted it to the government authorities.

Trampling on the sublime spirit of Nikko Shonin, who departed from Minobu [because of slander], these former high priests aligned themselves with the slanderers of Minobu. By acting in such a manner, they incurred the same offense as the Minobu school; they committed great slander.

22. You must not accept offerings from slanderers of the Law.

TO accept offerings made by slanderers is to condone their slander. The result of accepting offerings from slanderers, as with the previous warning article, is that one suffers the same retribution as they.

For this reason, priests who do not refute the mistaken views of lay followers who enshrine slanderous objects of worship, yet accept offerings from such followers, are turning their backs on this admonition.

Also, after the war, to increase the revenues of the impoverished head temple, the priesthood at one time planned to follow the example of other slanderous temples and turn Taiseki-ji into a tourist site. It was President Toda who stopped them from doing this. Thus the Soka Gakkai saved the priesthood from accepting the offerings of non-believers.

In light of this warning article, the contradictions in the priesthood’s stance— in accusing the Soka Gakkai of slander while at the same time accepting the donations of Soka Gakkai members and living in temples donated by the Soka Gakkai—become apparent. In short, their true motive lies not in abiding by Nikko Shonin’s admonitions but in amassing wealth; they have not the slightest interest in the distinction between correct and erroneous Buddhist teachings. Some people even believe that money is the current priesthood’s object of worship.

23. Carrying a sword or staff in order to protect the Buddhist Law is permissible. However, [weapons] should not be worn when presiding over religious services, though accompanying priests may be permitted to carry them [to protect themselves and others].

NICHIKO commented on this warning article, saying, “This article applied to weapons of self-defense during certain periods of social unrest and turmoil in feudal times.”

We should ponder the solemn spirit of Nikko Shonin conveyed by the clause “in order to protect the Buddhist Law.” No matter how dangerous the circumstances, to protect the Buddhist Law, we must not begrudge our lives.

The SGI has persevered in protecting the Buddhist Law while undergoing great persecutions to pioneer kosen-rufu in the midst of the harsh realities of society. In this sense, we have truly put the spirit of this admonition into practice.

By contrast, the members of the priesthood, having completely relied on the SGI’s efforts to protect Buddhism and Nichiren Shoshu, have grown decadent. They know nothing of the spirit to protect the Buddhist Law. All that concerns them is their own base self-preservation.

24. [At religious ceremonies] young acolytes should not occupy seats lower than those of high-ranking lay followers.

NIKKO Shonin instructs priests on the fundamental attitude they must take. He says that priests must not flatter or curry favor with lay followers who lack faith, even if they be of high social standing, because to do so would amount to degrading the Law.

In explaining this warning article, Nichiko once pointed out: “During times of strife, the warrior was all-powerful. In religious circles, the ordinary non-ranking priests faced poverty and hardships in their daily lives; therefore they tended to show the powerful feudal clans special treatment, which led the warrior to grow arrogant.”

Simply put, though they might be impoverished, priests must not court money. Placing Buddhism above the mundane concerns of their daily lives, priests must possess the dignity to win the respect of lay followers. They should respect not people of high standing or power but people of faith. This is the spirit that Nikko Shonin stresses in this article.

However, not only have the members of the Nikken sect gone money-mad, but taking advantage of the respect and reverence that SGI members showed them, they discriminated against and looked down on lay followers.

Furthermore, they have denigrated and persecuted the SGI—a most praiseworthy organization of faith made up of ordinary people who have no special standing in society.

They are going completely against Nikko Shonin’s admonition to make Buddhism the standard and not to fawn upon people of high standing.
25. My disciples should conduct themselves as holy priests, patterning their behavior after that of the late master. However, even if a high priest or a priest striving for practice and understanding should temporarily deviate from [the principle of] sexual abstinence, he may still be allowed to remain in the priesthood [as a common priest without rank].

THIS admonition is clear documentary proof that Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin absolutely prohibited priests from marrying.

The term holy priests, which may also be interpreted as pure priests, denotes priests who refrain from marrying and eating meat. That Nichiren Daishonin himself had neither wife nor children, nor ate meat, is clear from the Gosho passage, “I, Nichiren, have neither wife nor children, nor do I eat fish or fowl” (MW-5, 6).

Again, to his follower Sairen-bo, he wrote: “Even a priest who belongs to one of the provisional sects should do so [observe the precepts not to marry or eat meat]. It goes without saying that it applies even more so to a practitioner of the True Law” (Gosho Zenshu, p. 1357).

Nichiko, touching on this admonition, once remarked: “I see the present situation as a temporary anomaly…. Eventually and as a natural development, I pray, we will reform ourselves and return to the conditions that prevailed during the time of our founder, Nichiren Daishonin, and Nikko Shonin, who succeeded him and established the head temple.” [Nichiko himself observed the precept of celibacy throughout his life.]

Based on the premise that a priest who has relations with a woman should by rights be defrocked and made to return to secular life, Nikko Shonin here stipulates that, in the event that a high priest temporarily deviates from the principle of sexual abstinence, his rank should be reduced to that of common priest.

Nichiko comments on this admonition, “It can only be interpreted as meaning that the person should lose the position of high priest and descend to a low status.”

Far from “temporarily deviating,” Nikken, by his repeated shameless conduct and the fact that he is married, has long continued to defile the character of the school and bring disgrace upon the chair of the high priest. Nikko Shonin clearly directs that such a person should be removed from his post and stripped of his rank. Those who go against this admonition are traitors of Nikko Shonin.

26. You should treasure those practitioners who are skilled in difficult debate, just as the late master did.

THE phrase skilled in difficult debate is from a passage of the “Yujutsu” (Emerging From the Earth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. These are words spoken in praise of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

Nichiren Daishonin devoted himself to raising people of outstanding ability, comparable to those described in this sutra passage. For example, in a doctrinal debate with a scholar of the Tendai sect, the Daishonin appointed Nichimoku to represent him. To the astonishment of many, the youthful Nichimoku completely refuted the learned priest.

There are many masters of propagation in the SGI who have developed formidable skill in difficult debate. All along, we have highly praised, respected and honored the courageous practitioners of kosen-rufu who refute false teachings and spread the true teaching, thereby leading people to take faith in the Gohonzon. This is the tradition of the SGI.

For this reason, while spreading the True Law throughout the world, we have been able to prosper along with the Law.

Without people who spread the Law, kosen-rufu would never be anything more than an empty dream. In this final admonition, Nikko Shonin reiterates the point that those who spread the Law should be treasured.
The Nikken sect, however, looked down on, used and ultimately excommunicated the Soka Gakkai—an order of emissaries of the original Buddha and practitioners of propagation.

In reading each of these warning articles, it becomes clear that the present priesthood has gone against every one of Nikko Shonin’s admonitions and trampled on their spirit.

Nikko Shonin states, “Those who violate even one of these articles cannot be called disciples of Nikko.” This is the strictness of the path of master and disciple. The priesthood, which has violated not one but every article, is an “anti-Nichiren Daishonin” and “anti-Nikko Shonin” group who has separated itself from the lifeline of the True Law.

Today, there is no legitimate body apart from the SGI—no body that inherits and carries on the correct teaching and practice directly connected to Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin. In light of Nikko Shonin’s articles of warning, in light of the Gosho, and in light of the reality of worldwide kosen-rufu, this is something that no one can deny.

The priesthood recovered its legitimacy thanks to the Soka Gakkai. The Soka Gakkai made Nichiren Shoshu the correct school (shoshu) again. However, by excommunicating the Soka Gakkai, the priesthood has of its own accord completely cut itself off from the world of correct faith. Without the Soka Gakkai, it has become a heretical school.

The SGI is the order of the original Buddha. Those who advance together with the SGI will definitely enter the path of attaining Buddhahood. Their lives will be bathed in great benefit and fortune over the three existences. o1. Six difficult and nine easy acts: A series of comparisons set forth by Shakyamuni in “The Emergence of the Treasure Tower”(eleventh) chapter of the Lotus Sutra to show how difficult it will be to embrace the sutra in the evil age after his death. (Refer to A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts, p. 400–01.)