Soka Spirit
Cherry Trees Felled at Head Temple

Volume 3, No. 2 –
February 15, 1993

Trees Had Been Donated to Commemorate Construction of the Sho-Hondo

More than 200 trees, all of them more than 20 years old and donated by members in honor of the construction of the Sho-Hondo, are cut down, leaving garden areas looking like a wasteland.

The late 1960s and early 1970s were a time of harmonious unity between the priesthood and the laity, symbolized by the construction of the Sho-Hondo, the Grand Main Temple. To commemorate its construction, many events were jointly promoted by Nittatsu Shonin, the 66th high priest, and President Ikeda.

As part of these events, from 1967 to 1972, the Soka Gakkai donated numerous cherry trees to the head temple, including 218 in the area between the Somon Gate and the Sanmon Gate on the head temple grounds.

These cherry trees embodied the sincerity of the faith of millions of believers who joyfully participated in the construction of the Sho-Hondo, the most significant edifice in the history of Buddhism. In recent months, however, Nikken issued orders for the systematic felling of all 218 trees.

The first cutting took place in November 1992. Nikken ordered that 152 of the 218 cherry trees be cut down.

Some insiders speculate that by leaving some of the trees standing, Nikken made it appear that the trees were being cut down because they were diseased and posing a threat to the others.

On Jan. 26, however, the remaining 66 cherry trees were cut down, leaving the garden in front of the general lodging looking like a wasteland.

In addition, Nikken has rebuilt the Mutsubo temple, destroying the previous structure that had been built during the tenure of the late high priest, Nittatsu Shonin.

He also has had the Daikejo temple, another structure built by Nittatsu Shonin, demolished and has completely re-landscaped the garden of the high priest’s quarters, removing the carp that Nittatsu Shonin is known to have cherished.

Many point to these actions as indicating Nikken’s deep sense of rivalry and resentment toward the accomplishments of Nittatsu Shonin and President Ikeda.

His resentment, they say, compels him to try to annihilate every tangible accomplishment of his predecessor.

By Dave McNeill
Assistant Managing Editor



The following is the second of a two-part article based on an interview that appeared in the Soka Gakkai youth division newspaper, the Soka Shimpo, with Mr. Jisai Watanabe, chief priest of Daikyo-ji temple in Kanagawa. Mr. Watanabe, a former high-ranking official of Nichiren Shoshu, seceded from the head temple last October to protest the injustices of High Priest Nikken. During his 44 years with Nichiren Shoshu, Mr. Watanabe has witnessed both the sect’s remarkable rise under the protection of the Soka Gakkai after World War II and the recent series of questionable actions the priesthood has taken against the Soka Gakkai. The portion of the interview with Mr. Watanabe upon which this article is based appears in Japanese in the Dec. 16, 1992, and the Jan. 20, 1993, issues of the Soka Shimpo.

If I may, I would like to speak about what really happened in the so-called Matoba Incident of 1958, but first, to give some background, I will touch on the transmission of the lineage of high priest from Nissho Shonin, the 64h high priest, to Nichijun Shonin, the 65th. I think this will shed some light on how high priests of the past have wholeheartedly trusted the Soka Gakkai, conferring upon it the mission of accomplishing kosen-rufu.

In January of 1956, Nissho Shonin announced his intention to retire as high priest. Just before that, he came to the Jakunichi-bo temple to see my father after ushitora gongyo. I had been resting, and noticed that the light was on. After he left, I asked my father what they had talked about. To my surprise, he said they were discussing whether Nichijun Horigome should be the next high priest.

At that time, there were four priests who were potential candidates for the position. Nissho Shonin had pondered the future of kosen-rufu and decided to focus on the harmonious unity of priests and laity. Nissho Shonin had decided upon Nichijun Shonin as his successor because, of the four candidates, Nichijun best understood the Soka Gakkai. Nissho Shonin had come to ask my father’s advice on this question, because my father had strong influence within the priesthood.

Nichijun Shonin, who became high priest in March 1956, was a stern, dignified man. He was very strict with us and often said ‘If you have time to sleep, you should read the Gosho and the Rokkansho (the Six-Volume Writings by Nichikan Shonin, the 26th high priest).’ His character also had many gentle aspects.

One day, a new acolyte accidentally caught his robe on Nichijun Shonin’s favorite potted plant, breaking the pot. Instead of getting angry, the high priest simply said, ‘It was the potted plant’s fault for catching your robe.’ Nichijun Shonin’s character sharply contrasts with that of Nikken, who is short tempered and unmerciful.

Nichijun Shonin also trusted his subordinates and delegated responsibilities to them. Director Gisei Yoshida (now chief priest of Myoren-ji temple and currently known as Nichiyu Yoshida) was in charge of Internal Affairs, and General Administrator Hosoi (who later become Nittatsu Shonin) was responsible for the Administrative Office. Nikken, however, is so inflexible that he cannot entrust another person with anything.

What came to be known as the Matoba Incident took place during the completion ceremony for the Grand Lecture Hall at Taiseki-ji in March 1958. This ceremony was one of the most important events during Nichijun Shonin’s time. I was a witness to this incident as well as the Ogasawara Incident.

The largest special ceremony in the history of the head temple up until that time was the transfer and temporary enshrinement of the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary in the Grand Lecture Hall. The Nichiren Shoshu priesthood and the Soka Gakkai worked together to carry off the event. Members of the young men’s division stood guard around the Grand Lecture Hall in the cold of the night. President Ikeda (then Soka Gakkai chief of staff) and Director Yoshida agreed in advance that no alcohol would be consumed during the ceremonies.

However, the chief acolyte, Shojun Matoba, returned to the head temple drunk almost every night. Though it was late at night, he would create a disturbance by shouting loudly. The young men who were on guard warned him. Matoba swore at them, shouting, ‘Hey, you guys must be students doing this as a part-time job!’

Despite repeated warnings, Matoba’s disgraceful behavior continued. To make matters worse, he tormented the other acolytes, using his authority as their superior. Finally, President Ikeda encouraged Director Yoshida to request that Matoba apologize to the young men’s division members for his abusive behavior. However, [upon learning of this] Matoba himself fled the head temple.

I was then asked by Director Yoshida to find Matoba because I knew he would seek refuge in a bar that he frequented. When I got there, however, the proprietor told me he hadn’t come in. When I pressed, however, she told me he had left instructions to tell anyone who came looking for him that he wasn’t there, as I had expected. I found him hiding in a closet.

I escorted him out of the bar and took him to face the members of the young men’s division. We agreed that we would demand his apology after he became sober. So, we took him to the bank of the Urui River. Another priest, Jiun Kanno (who had arrived later), and I had Matoba wash his face in the river, which he did of his own accord. I would not allow the YMD members to touch him. He sat erect on his knees and finally apologized to them. The YMD members never used any force or violence against him.

However, in 1977, 20 years later, this case was distorted and portrayed by a weekly magazine as a ‘lynching’ of a priest by the Soka Gakkai.

Mr. Yoshida (Liaison Bureau chief of the Nichiren Shoshu Administrative Office in 1977) clearly stated in the Aug. 27, 1977, Seikyo Shimbun that the Soka Gakkai did not assault Matoba in any way, and that the magazine article had been maliciously fabricated. Nevertheless, the priesthood has used this article to attack the Gakkai.

Another article portraying the same incident as a lynching appeared recently in a weekly magazine. The author, a man named Ryu, is a former senior leader who has abandoned the Soka Gakkai.

In 1977, at the request of the Nichiren Shoshu Study Department, I submitted a report detailing the truth of the Matoba Incident, which the weekly magazine had focused on. After reading my report, the priesthood was well aware of what actually happened.

Nevertheless, Ryu called me about his fabricated article, saying, ‘I will ask the priesthood to look at the rough draft as well, but would you look at it meanwhile?’ I ignored his request because I was convinced that senior members of the priesthood, aware of the truth of the incident, would correct any inaccuracies.

Although he knew the truth, Nikken did not repudiate Ryu’s fabricated article and allowed him to submit it to the weekly magazine unchanged; this despite the fact that Nikken, on Aug. 28, 1980, had instructed that taking advantage of the media in this way is a disgrace to Buddhism.

Nikken is an utter failure as a high priest and as a human being. The successive high priests before him were great people. Nichijun Shonin wore only cotton robes and lived a very simple lifestyle. Nikken, on the other hand, always wears silk. His extravagant handmade robes cost millions of yen.

Nichiko Shonin told us right before his death, ‘When I die, I hope to have only a private funeral service, without informing the entire head temple.’ He was a person who lived a simple existence, satisfied with his humble lifestyle until the last moment of his life.

Nittatsu Shonin always tried to maintain a simple way of life. Unlike Nikken, he did not use expensive dishes. I would like to share an incident that illustrates how Nittatsu Shonin cared for the members.

In 1963, I participated in Nittatsu Shonin’s trip to conduct the opening ceremony of a temple in Shikoku. An elderly lady visited our hotel the night before we left Takamatsu City for Nakamura City in Kochi Prefecture. We asked her to leave her name, address and phone number and sent her home because it was so late.

However, the next morning, Nittatsu Shonin, who rarely scolded anyone, became severely angry with us for not informing him of the visitor. He waited until she returned, meeting with her and departing behind schedule for the temple. He was willing to delay his schedule for even a single member.

I think his behavior was an expression of Buddhist compassion and the proper attitude for a high priest as a practitioner of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. I think that we cannot expect Nikken, who forsakes his former master, to ever behave this way.

In 1952, Nikken vehemently opposed establishing the Soka Gakkai as an independent religious organization. Nikken himself admitted during a meeting for certified priests on Aug. 28, 1992, that he has been opposed to the Gakkai since long ago.

In 1952, the Soka Gakkai became an independent religious corporation. Nikken stated as follows at the August 1992 meeting: ‘To specify, I opposed it. At that time, Nichijun Horigome Shonin was chief priest of Josen-ji temple, which was across the street from Hongyo-ji temple, where I was chief priest. I told him frankly of my opposition to the creation of a separate religious corporate body.’ Until recently, Nikken has pretended to understand the Gakkai, while in reality harboring a boiling hatred toward it. This is the true manifestation of the function of the Devil of the Sixth Heaven.

Nikken’s hatred for the Gakkai, however, was occasionally apparent. He was eager to gain danto members (those affiliated directly and only with the temple) and establish a Hokkeko group by inviting those who had left the Soka Gakkai to join him during his term at Hongyo-ji temple.

When President Toda passed away, Nikken, still at Hongyo-ji temple, wrote a eulogy for him that appeared in the Dai-Nichiren. From this article we can detect Nikken’s tendency. He wrote as follows: ‘In 1959, perhaps due to my negative karma, or to what President Toda referred to as ‘a monk’s nature,’ I built a wall in my mind. This sometimes interfered with my understanding of the spirit of President Toda, who was perfectly broad-minded and strictly practiced the way of mentor and disciple.’

I think that ‘a monk’s nature’ here means a desire for monetary wealth. Nikken seemed suspicious of President Toda even then, and leapt enthusiastically into wooing members who had left the Gakkai to join his temple’s Hokkeko group.

This is in contrast to the spirit of ‘Hokkeko Shu,’ which the Daishonin inscribed on one side of the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary. The original meaning of the spirit of ‘Hokkeko Shu’ (the order of believers in the Daishonin’s Buddhism) is faith with the spirit to give one’s life for kosen-rufu in the same way that the believers involved in the Atsuhara Persecution did.

There has always been trouble within the Hokkeko (the general amalgamation of Nichiren Shoshu believers affiliated directly with local temples) in general, and in the Hokkeko of my own temple as well. Some people are hungry for fame and seek only position. Others are starving for benefit and practice solely for the sake of gaining profit. Where among these people can we find the spirit of being willing to offer one’s life for kosen-rufu?

On the other hand, the Soka Gakkai members have been devoting their lives to kosen-rufu with the correct spirit. It is just as Nittatsu Shonin once said at a Hokkeko meeting: ‘All of you must see this. Our Soka Gakkai members have been fighting with the willingness to give their lives for kosen-rufu; this is the spirit of the Hokkeko Shu’ (1st Hokkeko Federation Kansai District General Meeting, Oct. 6, 1963).

He also declared, at the 29th Headquarters General Meeting, ‘The true spirit of the Hokkeko exists among the current members of the Soka Gakkai’ (May 3, 1966). Needless to say, even without this guidance there is no room for doubt that the true Hokkeko Shu, with a direct connection to the Daishonin, is none other than the Soka Gakkai.

Since the beginning of this year, as well, Nikken has been revealing his capriciousness. His campaign to get members to quit the Soka Gakkai having reached an impasse, he stated on Jan. 6, ‘From now on we will invite those who have yet to practice faith to our temples and conduct shakubuku.’

Hokkeko members and priests, who have never conducted shakubuku seriously, have not experienced how difficult it is. Some Hokkeko members were involved in my temple’s affairs. Rather than thinking about propagation, they were only concerned with their own promotion within the Hokkeko organization. President Ikeda has met and held extensive dialogues with leading public figures. His actions are in accord with Nichiren Daishonin’s maxim: ‘The Law does not spread on its own. It must be propagated by a person, and thus both the person and the Law are worthy of respect.’ (Gosho Zenshu, p. 856). President Ikeda’s actions are examples of how to conduct shakubuku.

Needless to say, Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is the compassionate Buddhism of Sowing. The seed of the Law is implanted in the hearts and minds of people by those who practice it. This principle is clear when we observe the life of Nichiren Daishonin, who was dedicated to propagating true Buddhism. During the Kamakura period, Nichiren Daishonin fought against erroneous sects that were linked to the authorities and secular power, and continued to sow the seeds of the Law through his humanistic behavior and character, never giving in to any form of persecution. I think the formula for accomplishing kosen-rufu lies in actual example.

Nikken repeatedly slanders President Ikeda, making statements like: ‘He does not do shakubuku. What he is doing is not shakubuku. He acts only for his personal desire for fame and honor.’ Such criticism is completely misdirected. President Ikeda’s actions are filled with humanity and in accord with the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin. Nikken is unable to see the reality of these actions because he himself is bound by greed.

Once you realize that understanding of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is increasing all around the world due to President Ikeda’s character and wisdom, it becomes clear that his actions constitute shakubuku. All members engaged in Soka Gakkai activities, including President Ikeda, are the true votaries of the Lotus Sutra who practice shakubuku.

On the other hand, the priests of Nichiren Shoshu have rarely if ever practiced shakubuku, and so have fallen into a lackadaisical Buddhist practice that has won Buddhism in Japan the derisive designation, ‘Funeral Buddhism.’

This is most likely the essence of all of the problems, including the Shoshinkai Incident, that the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood has been experiencing. During that time they desperately plotted to subjugate the members by hiding the truth and touting tradition in order to protect the authority of the priests.

Up until and during the so-called 1977 Problem and the Shoshinkai Incident, the Soka Gakkai was busy promoting kosen-rufu and consistently striving for harmonious unity between priesthood and laity.

I mentioned earlier that President Toda warmly encouraged young priests. President Ikeda has also shown great care and concern for youthful priests. The first Eiko-kai (Glory Group) meeting (of youthful Nichiren Shoshu priests) was held on Sept. 24, 1968. President Ikeda ate sukiyaki with us youthful priests and listened to our opinions. There were 15 priests in attendance at the first Eiko-kai meeting, including Juken Omura, Jiun Kanno, Gikan Hayase and myself. President Ikeda gave us the name ‘Eiko-kai.’ He encouraged us many times, asking each of us to ‘please become priests who take serious responsibility for the development of Nichiren Shoshu.’ He also proposed the compilation of two books, The Life of Nichiren Daishonin and The Accounts of Nichiren Daishonin’s Disciples and Lay Believers. We did indeed publish these books.

One day President Ikeda asked the priesthood to please tell him if we had any requests of the Soka Gakkai. One priest, Juken Omura, asked that the number of participants in the monthly oko lectures increase. Immediately following this request, attendance at oko lectures increased throughout Japan. The young priests were deeply impressed by the sincerity with which President Ikeda followed through.

Nevertheless, priests have used the occasion of the oko lecture to criticize the Soka Gakkai in front of the members.

This is truly shameful. This time as well, just as in 1977, priests immediately began attacking President Ikeda once conflict arose. This sort of action reflects their deep ingratitude, and [according to the Daishonin’s teachings,] places them on a level lower than animals.

I am among the graduates of the first session of the Eiko-kai. Immediately after the second session was formed in July 1970, trouble began.

These problems are also related to the Shoshinkai Incident, which followed later. Ten people were involved, including Kotoku Obayashi, Gijun Hayase and Kosai Watanabe, who later became chairman of the Shoshinkai. President Ikeda proposed that the Gakkai and the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood work together in the area of study. However, the priesthood responded that there was no need for them to cooperate with the Gakkai in Buddhist study, claiming differences between the Gakkai’s approach to study and theirs, and citing their own busy schedule. It was amid this atmosphere that the Eiko-kai dialogues ceased.

I think this situation arose due to disrespect for President Ikeda. Before the second Eiko-kai session began, it seems that Nikken, then the head of the Nichiren Shoshu Study Department, secretly directed the priests involved to use their authority as priests to say whatever they wanted to say, no matter how brazen.

I regret deeply that this opportunity for sincere dialogue, created by President Ikeda, was lost to such appalling circumstances.

Half of the participants of the second session later joined the Shoshinkai, which was beginning to grow about this time.

Their conceit prevented them from understanding anything of President Ikeda’s intentions, particularly his desire for harmonious unity among priests and lay believers.

When the Shoshinkai Incident occurred, Nikken pretended to support the Soka Gakkai, but was already taking actions against it.

Nikken is duplicitous. This became apparent when a problem arose from a study thesis written by a Nichiren Shoshu priest. The story began when Mr. Kendo Kanno’s thesis, which criticized the Gakkai, was printed in the priesthood’s publication, the Fuji-Gakuho. Nikken, then Study Department chief, rather than reprimanding Kanno, praised his thesis as excellent. This is proof that Nikken already harbored anti-Gakkai sentiments.

In January 1977, Nikken visited the Soka Gakkai Headquarters together with Kanno regarding this matter. Judging from Nikken’s stance until then, Kanno believed that the Study Department chief (Nikken) would stand by him and refute the Gakkai’s position. Kanno therefore felt secure enough to accompany Nikken. However, as soon as they arrived, Nikken made no attempt to protect or stand up for his subordinate, but instead instructed him to apologize unconditionally. Kanno could not comprehend this behavior. Hadn’t the Study Department chief, who must have been well qualified to judge, praised his article? Yet Nikken merely reprimanded him to avoid taking the blame himself.

Under these circumstances, it was quite natural that the young priests’ distrust of Nikken increased. I would guess that one of the reasons for the Shoshinkai’s attacks on Nikken can be traced to this story.

Those days were a bitter experience for me because I had not taken an active role in criticizing the Soka Gakkai during the Shoshinkai Incident.

I was reproached by two acolytes and about 20 Hokkeko members for four or five hours for my failure to criticize the Soka Gakkai. It is now the same as it was then. A resident priest at Daikyo-ji temple summoned my wife and me to the reception hall and read aloud a list of items charging us with treating believers too kindly. From this we can sense the backwardness and insanity of their world.

However, it is absolutely impossible for me to criticize President Ikeda, to whom I am deeply indebted.

My wife and I met President Ikeda for the first time in 1961. He visited me right after I was assigned as chief priest of Ryusen-ji temple in Fuji City (which has a close connection to the Three Martyrs of Atsuhara). Since he was unaware before his visit that I was married, he told me that he would definitely bring something for my wife on his next visit. He later carried out this promise. This kind of concern shows what sort of person he is. I will never forget his thoughtful consideration.

It is pointed out that Nikken has rarely praised the Gakkai since he took office as high priest of Nichiren Shoshu. Nikken rebuts this argument by saying that he rarely had opportunities to attend Gakkai functions. However, this is wholly a case of sophistry. So long as he appreciated the Gakkai’s efforts, any praise would have been acceptable. Though he attended the openings of more than 100 temples donated by the Gakkai where he saw many Gakkai members and could have expressed his gratitude to them, he did not do so. He naturally failed to do so because burning deep within his heart was a dark desire to some day sever relations with the Soka Gakkai.

Nikken often received invitations to Soka Gakkai culture festivals. I, too, was often invited to the Gakkai’s culture festivals. Yet, whenever he attended such an event, his jealousy toward President Ikeda increased.

At each culture festival, the participants would tearfully express their heartfelt appreciation to President Ikeda after their performance. They would call out ‘Sensei!’ but not ‘High Priest Nikken!’ This intensified Nikken’s resentment against President Ikeda. In short, he could not tolerate the natural heart-to-heart exchange that exists between President Ikeda and the Gakkai members.

The warm world of the Soka Gakkai, centering on the successive presidents, is depicted in the novel The Human Revolution. I feel that Nikken and many other priests became jealous of this as well. They pressured the Gakkai to cancel the serialization of this novel. Such a negative atmosphere toward The Human Revolution certainly existed within Nichiren Shoshu.

At any rate, the priests have been too steeped in protecting their own status and have always functioned as major obstacles to the Soka Gakkai in its sincere, painstaking effort to promote kosen-rufu. There is no doubt about this. This time, Nikken revealed his true identity as the manifestation of the third of the three powerful enemies in Buddhism (sensho zojoman respected priests who appear as saints or sages yet conspire, out of self-interest, to persecute the votaries of the Lotus Sutra). In this sense, he can only serve as a harbinger to the commencement of the substantial worldwide propagation of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism.

I will continue to share the noble history of the Soka Gakkai so that I may repay my great debt of gratitude to the second Soka Gakkai president, Josei Toda, President Ikeda and the Soka Gakkai itself. I will do my best, making it my utmost lifelong mission, to fight resolutely against the unpardonable mercilessness of Nikken and his anti-Buddhist behavior, which I have witnessed over the past several decades.