Volume 2, No. 5 April 13, 1992
On March 30, at a meeting with young priests not yet qualified to be chief priests, a group of ten young priests submitted their ‘Letter of Disassociation’ to Nikken Abe, high priest of Nichiren Shoshu. The letter outlines their concern for Nichiren Shoshu and announces the formation of The Association of Youthful Priests Dedicated to the Reformation of Nichiren Shoshu. The ten include: Yusei Sugawara, Yuiku Doi, Yusei Hashimoto, Yuchoku Okazaki, Yumo Matsuoka, Yuetsu Watanabe, Hoki Ohtsuka, Yuno Ohtsuka, Yuzo Uematsu and Yuzai Yamaguchi. (See the April 6 isssue of the World Tribune.)
At Mount Minobu, where the tomb of the great sage [Nichiren Daishonin] lies, no trace remains of the spirit and the Law bequeathed by the original Buddha. At the Nakayama Hokekyo-ji temple that houses the original of the ‘Rissho Ankoku Ron,’ no one can find even an iota of the justice that the founder upheld. Now, as disciples of the Daishonin, we youthful priests loudly proclaim: ‘At Mount Fuji, where the Dai-Gohonzon is enshrined, there lives not a single priest who upholds the True Law, the pride of the 700-year-old orthodoxy is muddied, and the lineage of the Law that was inherited by Nikko Shonin is about to be lost.’
Oblivious to the spirit of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin, the entire priesthood, including the high priest, has abandoned the sacred undertaking of kosen-rufu and, moreover, has committed the outrageous act of excommunicating the Soka Gakkai, an organization that accords with the Buddha’s intent and decree. As youthful priests, we resolve and hereby declare that we are leaving the Taiseki-ji temple and parting from the priesthood headed by the high priest in order to promote its true reformation.
The ‘Twenty-six Admonitions of Nikko’ states:
Ah, How rare it is to encounter the Buddhist Law! It is as rare as to see the blossom of the udumbara or [for a one-eyed turtle] to find a floating sandalwood log with a hollow of just the right size [to hold him]. Nay, these cannot suffice to describe the difficulty [of encountering the Mystic Law].
We have fortunately been able to encounter this sutra [i.e., the Gohonzon] due to a deep karmic connection. Accordingly, 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/World Tribune, Dec. 2, 1991).
We are supremely fortunate to have been born in the Latter Day of the Law and encounter this Buddhist Law, which is difficult to encounter. We entered the priesthood, trembling at the thought of the profundity and greatness of the Daishonin’s Buddhism, which sheds light on the darkness of humanity. Seeking the great ideal of the truly harmonious unity of priesthood and laity and with great passion for kosen-rufu, we resolved never to begrudge our lives.
Soon after, however, the unimaginable reality that exists within the priesthood viciously crushed our passionate seeking spirit.
Physical abuse committed in the name of Buddhist practice; severe discrimination based on the length of one’s tenure in the priesthood; and coerced, servile obedience to the hierarchy headed by the high priest dominate the priesthood. There exists no sense of passion for kosen-rufu, nor can we find sincere aspiration toward genuine faith or an earnest attitude to study Buddhism. This reality was unbelievable to us. We had believed that we should deepen our faith by chanting daimoku, expand our understanding of profound Buddhist principles through study, and develop our faith while refining our character by working together earnestly.
Through this experience, however, we learned that it is a great illusion to think that those who purport to function as vessels of the Law are infallible just because the Law itself is absolute, or that the priesthood’s system is free from error just because the doctrine of the Daishonin’s Buddhism is correct.
The Daishonin dedicated his entire life to the spread of his Buddhism while enduring persecutions. Nikko Shonin constantly accompanied and supported the Daishonin in his struggle for the Law. The only thing that is absolute is the entire teaching that the Daishonin spread throughout his life and transferred to Nikko Shonin based upon the state of life that ‘can only be understood and shared between Buddhas.’ The essence of the Daishonin’s teaching is something that we must protect at the risk of our lives. This truth becomes apparent when viewed in light of the actions of the Daishonin and Nikko Shonin, as master and disciple, to lead people to enlightenment.
In other words, because the Law is absolute and supreme, vessels that transmit the Law must be pure and unsoiled. Their behavior must be humble and diligent in accord with the Law that they uphold.
We must say, therefore, that it is utterly arrogant to say that priests can easily manifest an ability to lead people to enlightenment, which the Daishonin and Nikko Shonin displayed at the risk of their lives, just by wearing priestly robes and surplices and without chanting daimoku or conducting propagation.
The virtues of a Buddha can be acquired only through one’s Buddhist practice. The priesthood’s assertion that the high priest and the original Buddha are one blatantly ignores this fact. It is no more than a non-Buddhist view to deny the law of cause and effect.
Clinging to arrogance and non-Buddhist views, and devoid of faith and reason, the priesthood as headed by the high priest has been running wild. Rampant with ugly emotionalism, it is concerned solely with self-preservation. Moreover, the priesthood has abandoned its responsibility to lead people to enlightenment, simultaneously disqualifying itself from doing so. Finally, it excommunicated the Soka Gakkai, an organization that promotes kosen-rufu, thus committing the grave slander of destroying the harmonious unity of believersÊthe gravest of the five cardinal sins. This can only be called a serious betrayal of the admonitions of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin.
As the situation developed, we feared that if we remained silent, we would ourselves betray our master, the Daishonin, as his disciples and as students of the high priest. We suffered and agonized over this because we were earnestly pondering the Daishonin’s golden words, ‘Both master and disciple will surely fall into the hell of incessant suffering if they see enemies of the Lotus Sutra and fail to reproach them’ (The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, 165).
Recently, seven priests courageously chose to leave Nichiren Shoshu to promote the priesthood’s reformation, and submitted their ‘Letter of Remonstration.’ This letter gave us a ray of hope that the priesthood has not yet been completely lost. Their earnest assertions inspired us with profound conviction and courage.
We keenly feel that we must now reproach enemies of the Lotus Sutra and begin a true reformation of the priesthood in accordance with the Daishonin’s golden words. Thus, we offer these words of remonstration to the high priest out of our sincere sense of responsibility as students under him:
‘You should first rid yourself of misdirected ill feelings and vexations and retract all the unreasonable measures taken against the Soka Gakkai. You then must resign as high priest and repent to eradicate your sins while apologizing from your heart to the Gakkai and especially to Honorary President Ikeda. Furthermore, you must initiate a fundamental reformation of the priesthood in accordance with the essential doctrines of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism.’
We believe that to remain idle amid the current slanderous condition of the priesthood is to betray Nikko Shonin’s admonitions. If the high priest sincerely lends his ears to us, an opportunity for the priesthood’s rebirth will arise.
To challenge the discrimination aimed at acolytesÊan unwarranted outgrowth of feudalismÊwe hereby establish the Association of Youthful Priests Dedicated to the Reformation of Nichiren Shoshu and declare that we disassociate ourselves from the Taiseki-ji temple in hopes that we can provide an impetus for its reformation and self-awakening. By calling to priests of the same belief and fulfilling our true purpose as priests, we are resolved to repay even a fraction of the debt of gratitude that we owe to the high priest as our teacher.
We would like to present three points regarding a reformation of the corrupt priesthood based on our experiences and from our perspective as younger priests.
I. First, the Daishonin’s selfless action to spread the True Law must be recognized as the standard to judge good and evil.
‘The great desire’ is to spread the Lotus Sutra (Gosho Zenshu, p. 736).
Life is limited, and we must not begrudge it. What we should aspire to, after all, is the Buddha land (MW-5, 132).
After all, you must regard the vow to save innumerable living beings as foremost among the four universal vows1 [of bodhisattvas]. Now Nichiren and his followers are leading people to the shore of enlightenment with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This, and nothing else, is what is meant [by the vow to save innumerable living beings]. This is what is meant by ‘[This is my constant thought: how I can cause all living beings to gain entry to the highest Way and] quickly attain Buddhahood.’ (Gosho Zenshu, p. 846)
As the Daishonin states, justice lies with those who follow these golden words of propagation. Needless to say, a theory, however noble it may seem, is meaningless if it is not based on the goals of kosen-rufu and leading people to enlightenment.
Abusing the 700-year-old tradition and the authority of the clergy, however, the current priesthood as headed by the high priest has completely forgotten the Daishonin’s spirit, which should need no explanation. The most eloquent proof is the fact that the high priest himself was compelled to scream at junior priests, ordering them to solicit Soka Gakkai members to quit.
In one public display after another, the high priest has been acting in an unprincipled mannerÊfrom meeting with a slanderous journalist shortly before he dismissed the head of all Nichiren Shoshu lay organizations at the end of 1990 to an article he recently contributed to a magazine publisher who once printed articles denying the legitimacy of his own lineage as high priest.
Shutting his eyes to his own numerous faults, the high priest attacks the Gakkai, speciously asserting that he is offering ‘guidance,’ while desperately refusing any dialogue. His insidiousness filled us with shame at being part of the priesthood.
The high priest’s vanity and dark mind, which is devoid of faith, must never be tolerated. Viewed from the perspective of the Daishonin’s life and compared to his accomplishments in propagation, the high priest’s base nature becomes as clear as day.
His every action to destroy the harmonious unity among believers exactly accords with the 20-line verse of the ‘Kanji’ chapter [of the Lotus Sutra]. His true nature as the third and most powerful of the three powerful enemies2 is increasingly obvious.
The high priest should try to hold a dialogue even if he himself has to visit the Soka Gakkai Headquarters. Only then would he be recognized as a teacher fit to guide people.
We do not intend to deny the dignity of the position of high priest. The problem lies in the devilish nature of power that lurks in that position. We lament that the high priest, possessed by that devilish nature, has completely lost any desire for kosen-rufu and people’s enlightenment and is trampling upon the Daishonin’s spirit.
The Soka Gakkai has accomplished propagation on an unprecedented scale and is creating a groundswell of worldwide kosen-rufu. Furthermore, it is the Soka Gakkai’s successive presidents, especially Honorary President Ikeda, who helped the priesthood toward its present prosperity. These are undeniable facts.
If you, the high priest, wish to live up to the spirit of the Daishonin who entrusted his future disciples with the completion of the High Sanctuary of True Buddhism and the accomplishment of kosen-rufu, you should honestly and humbly accept the indisputable fact that the Soka Gakkai is practicing correctly toward kosen-rufu while leading people to enlightenment.
In the founder’s golden words: ‘It is an undeniable fact that fire can at once reduce even a thousand-year-old field of pampas grass to ashes, and that the merit one has formed over a hundred years can be destroyed with a single careless word’ (MW-2, 286). If you fear these words, you must, at any cost, avoid the folly of reducing the 700-year-old tradition to ashes by your own hand.
If there is a way for you to escape falling into hell, we must say, it would be to immediately strip off your priestly robes, prostrate yourself before the Dai-Gohonzon and apologize for your grave sins, demote yourself to an ordinary priest and dedicate the rest of your life to the people.
II. Second, the attitude now prevalent among priests and deeply rooted within their elitism is that they consider themselves the main focus of kosen-rufu. It is our urgent task to discard such a view of kosen-rufu and strive to realize the harmonious unity of priesthood and laity for kosen-rufu.
The Gosho ‘Propagation by the Wise’ states:
Buddhism can be correctly propagated only by a person of unsurpassed wisdom…. Even if there should be a person of wisdom who embraces Buddhism, how could he propagate it without believers who support him? (MW-1, 169)
Concrete activities for kosen-rufu can be promoted when priests and lay believers understand one another’s function in light of the times and strive to fulfill their responsibilities to the best of their abilities.
When the Buddha entrusted the Law to his disciples, it could be classified into three categories: propagation, transmission and protection. If we categorize functions of priests and lay believers based on these three aspects, it is thought that priests are entrusted with the transmission of the Law, lay believers with the protection of the Law, and both priests and lay believers with the propagation of the Law.
Regarding the transmission of the Law, viewed from its original meaning, what priests should transmit is the entire teaching that the Daishonin propagated throughout his lifeÊthe entity of the Law.
It goes without saying that the entity of the Law, however, is not some secret kept behind the veil of mysticism as seen in the esoteric Shingon teachings, nor is it something that priests can monopolize.
The entity of the Law can be tapped equally within the lives of all people who seek to do so with faith. All people, as long as they have the lifeblood of faith, can receive the magnificent benefits of the Dai-Gohonzon. This is the Daishonin’s compassion and also the true meaning of Buddhism.
The responsibility of priests, especially of the high priest, is to transmit the entity of the Law in a pure and undefiled manner. Treating the entity of the Law like personal property, therefore, must never be tolerated.
The current priesthood, however, while intimidating people with their power and authority, use the entity of the Law as a means for its own profit. How shameful! They are totally consumed by the three poisons [of greed, anger and stupidity]. They have allowed demons to enter their body. What can we call this except the work of a devil?
Next, we can find scriptural evidence for the protection of the Law in the ‘Rissho Ankoku Ron’:
In the Ninno Sutra we read: ‘The Buddha announced to King Prasenajit, ‘Thus I entrust the protection of my teachings to the ruler of the nation rather than to the monks and nuns. Why do I do so? Because the monks and nuns do not possess the kind of power and authority the king has.” (MW-2, 34-35)
In this present age when the sovereignty rests with the people, ‘the kind of power and authority the king has’ signifies the power that derives from the unity of an organization of believers who widely spread the Law among the people while displaying actual proof of Buddhism. It is not too much to say that the entity of the Law that has been purely transmitted can be meaningful only when it is spread widely among the peopleÊthe entity of the Law exists because of the people.
What an organization of believers must protect is the entity of the Law and the fundamental teachings of Buddhism, not the priesthood’s structure. Therefore, without being told by anyone, an organization of believers will protect the vessels (e.g., priests) and their structure as long as they accord with the entity of the Law and the fundamental teachings of Buddhism.
Now we must deeply ponder the meaning of the propagation of the Law.
The current priesthood is loudly claiming that priests are the main focus. Do they think that such an idea truly accords with the fundamental teaching of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism? Do they still insist that their attitude is suited for this international era of democratization? If so, we must say that their view is an outgrowth of a territorial mentality, devoid of a clear view of the world and understanding of history.
It is indeed true that in his commentary on ‘The Selection of the Time,’ Nichikan Shonin states that the Daishonin entrusted the propagation of the Law to Nikko Shonin in his ‘Document for Entrusting the Law Which Nichiren Propagated Throughout His Life.’ Although Nikko Shonin, the treasure of the Priesthood, was entrusted with the propagation of the Law, it is too shallow to conclude that kosen-rufu should be promoted mainly by priests in this present age.
Nichiren Daishonin’s view of kosen-rufu emphasizes reality. In the way that best suited the feudal society of his day, he strove to spread the Mystic Law among the people. In feudal society, priests exerted great influence as teachers or advisors to the sovereign. Therefore, for Nikko Shonin to convert a sovereign and become his teacher was suited for the social system of his time as a viable way to accomplish kosen-rufu.
In other words, the attitude that a high priest was expected to become a teacher to the sovereign was a temporary way of teaching Buddhism in accordance with Japan’s feudal society, thus corresponding to the first of the four ways of teaching.3 It was not meant to be the ultimate way of teaching BuddhismÊthe last of the four ways of teaching.
What the Daishonin aspired to establish is Buddhism of the people, by the people and for the people. As we try to understand his intent, we are convinced that the propagation of Buddhism should be promoted mainly by the peopleÊlay believers. We believe that this view of kosen-rufu, focusing on the people, is a fundamental teaching of the Daishonin’s Buddhism.
Characterized by democratization and international cooperation, the present age is best suited to realize kosen-rufu with the focus on the peopleÊthe view of kosen-rufu that accords with the Daishonin’s intent.
Of course, in this turbulent modern world, class struggles, ethnic prejudice, and conflicts among national interests, instead of being resolved, give rise to further crises. In light of this present situation, the significance of kosen-rufu has become greater than ever. And the difficulties entailed in its realization defy description. Yet it is the Soka Gakkai and particularly Honorary President Ikeda who have been blazing this thorny path.
In other words, it is lay believers, not priests, who have the ability and the qualification to advance worldwide kosen-rufu in society. Deeply aware of this, the previous high priests entrusted the Soka Gakkai with overseas propagation.
The duty of those who don priestly robes and surplices should be to naturally and sincerely respect and support lay believers who exert themselves in propagation. With this awareness, priests should promote the ‘kosen-rufu of substantiation.’ This is their function.
What do we truly need in order to promote kosen-rufu? A system born from a desire to answer this question results in the harmonious unity of priesthood and laity for the sake of kosen-rufu.
If you are a priest who desires the realization of world peace and the Daishonin’s intent, you must first overcome your own egoism and resolutely take a first step toward the priesthood’s reformation in order to establish an organization in which priests and lay believers harmoniously strive together toward kosen-rufu. We youthful priests strongly demand this of you.
III. Third, in order to establish the genuine harmonious unity of priesthood and laity that can accomplish kosen-rufu and thus build a new priesthood, it is indispensable to correct erroneous views of education and foster truly capable priests.
Accustomed to corruption as they are, how could the senior executive priests pioneer such an era? Rather, it is an absolute necessity to raise youthful priests who passionately seek an ideal and, at the same time, employing their wisdom for a reformation rooted in reality.
In reality, the current education of priests is characterized by violent coercion instead of compassion based on faith. No matter how constructive their opinions may be, if acolytes make even a sound, they are met only with power and intimidation. The priesthood thus destroys the progressive spirit of young priests.
You yourself believe that acolytes can never learn anything unless they are beaten. We are astonished by the low level of the priesthood’s view of education.
As far as we understand, more than 100 acolytes have been disowned as student priests or banished from the head temple and defrocked over the last 10 years or so since you became high priest. On the other hand, when other student priests who are sons of senior executive priests or those connected to them cause problems with women or run away from local temples, they are pardoned without even a reprimand. This is the reality. Cowed by unreasonable violence and intimidation, other acolytes endure servile obedience and suffer from inhumane, discriminatory treatment. Enervation and irresponsibility naturally prevail. As a result, accumulated frustration is vented on juniors and lay believers.
Children enter the priesthood hopeful and pure-hearted, their eyes sparkling. Within a few days, they begin to lose their childlike brilliance. They become obsequious. All they learn is shrewdness: ‘As long as I don’t get caught, I can do anything.’ No sensible person can bear to see this happen.
One cannot study earnestly without a sense of purpose. One cannot develop without a sense of mission. After all, unless those who foster acolytes cherish faith and a compassionate desire to nurture the youth who will shoulder the next generation, this vicious cycle will repeat itself.
What the priesthood now needs most is a spirit that all people are equal in terms of their Buddhist practice, no matter who they areÊhigh priest, senior executive priests, acolytes or lay believers. Priests should first rid themselves of their illusions that just by wearing priestly robes and surplices, they can display the ability that the Daishonin manifested to lead people to enlightenment and that just because their tenure in the priesthood is long, they have already attained enlightenment. The priesthood must stop ignoring the power of youth contemptuously.
Now that the time has come to initiate the priesthood’s reformation, we strongly assert the need for a fundamental reformation of ideals and systems to develop capable priests.
Above, we expressed our resolve and thoughts upon disassociating ourselves from the head temple, and have presented, based on our observation of the current situation, some points regarding the priesthood’s reformation.
We sincerely hope that you understand the action that we felt compelled to take out of faith and utmost sincerity. We also earnestly wish that you return to the fundamental teaching of the Daishonin and make no mistake in determining your course of action.
March 30, 1992
The Association of Youthful Priests Dedicated to the Reformation of Nichiren Shoshu:
To High Priest Nikken Abe
1. Four universal vows: Also called the four great vows or simply four vows. Vows which a bodhisattva makes when first resolving to embark upon the Buddhist practice. They are: (1) to save innumerable living beings, (2) to eradicate countless earthly desires, (3) to master innumerable Buddhist teachings, and (4) to attain the supreme enlightenment.
2. Three powerful enemies: The three powerful enemies are the three groups of people who persecute the votaries of the Lotus Sutra in the evil age after Shakyamuni Buddha’s passing. They were defined by Miao-lo on the basis of descriptions in the twenty-line verse that concludes the ‘Kanji,’ or 13th, chapter of the Lotus Sutra.
(1) Lay people ignorant of Buddhism who denounce the votaries of the Lotus Sutra and attack them with swords and staves. In practical terms, the first powerful enemy refers to ordinary people who have little knowledge of Buddhism and resort to violenceÊincluding spiritual violence such as verbal abuse and defamationÊto persecute believers of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. Bodhisattvas express their vow to spread the Lotus Sutra in the ‘Kanji’ chapter as follows:
‘In the [last] dreadful evil age,/We will proclaim abroad [this sutra]./Though in their ignorance many/Will curse and abuse us/And beat us with swords and staves,/We will endure it all.’
(2) Arrogant and cunning priests who think they have attained what they have not yet attained and slander the votaries. The second powerful enemy refers to learned priests who are believed to be well-versed in Buddhism and who use their erroneous knowledge to confuse and slander believers. The ‘Kanji’ chapter states, ‘Monks in that evil age will be/Heretical, suspicious, warped,/Claiming to have attained when they have not,/ And with minds full of arrogance.’
(3) Priests revered as saints and respected by the general public who, in fear of losing fame or profit, induce the secular authorities to persecute the votaries of the Lotus Sutra. The third powerful enemy indicates those who, having authority in the religious world as well as a fair knowledge of Buddhism, join with authorities in society at large and instigate oppression against believers of the Daishonin’s Buddhism. The third is considered to be the strongest of all three powerful enemies. The ‘Kanji’ chapter states: ‘Others in the aranya (a temple or monastery in a secluded area, such as deep mountains) /Will wear priestly robes in seclusion,/ Pretending that they walk the true path/And scorning [other] people;/Greedily attached to gain,/They will preach the Law to laymen/ And be revered by the world/As arhats of the six transcendent [powers];/ These men, cherishing evil minds,/Ever thinking of earthly things,/Assuming the name of aranyas (monks who preach at the aranya),/Will love to calumniate us.’
Describing the bodhisattvas’ vows to spread the Law in the evil Latter Day, the ‘Kanji’ chapter continues: ‘In the corrupt age, vicious monks,/Knowing not the laws so tactfully preached/As opportunity served by the Buddha,/Will abuse and frown upon us;/Repeatedly shall we be driven out,/And exiled afar from the temples and monasteries./Such evils will be our ills/For remembering the Buddha’s command,/But [we] will endure all these things./Wherever in villages and cities/There be those who seek after the Law,/We will go there and/Preach the Law bequeathed by the Buddha . . . /We thus make our vows,/And the Buddha knows our hearts.’
3. Four ways of teaching: Four ways in which the Buddha expounds his teaching, explained in the Daichido Ron.
(1) To teach Buddhism in secular terms, explaining to people that it will fulfill their desires and thus arousing their willingness to take faith;
(2) To teach according to an individual’s capacity, thus enabling that person to increase his or her store of good karma accumulated in past existences;
(3) To awaken people from their illusions so they can free themselves from the three poisons, by teaching those caught up in greed to recognize the impurity of their attachments, those dominated by anger to practice compassionate acts, and those blinded by the poison of stupidity to perceive the causal law; and
(4) To reveal the ultimate truth directly, causing the people to awaken to it. Compared to this way of teaching, the first three are regarded as temporary means.