Volume 1, No. 5 (Part 1) November 11, 1991
A growing number of priests within Nichiren Shoshu are letting it be known that they disagree completely with the views and plans of High Priest Nikken and those surrounding him. One such priest is the Rev. Gen’ei Kudo, the former chief priest of Myoho-ji temple in Los Angeles. Other priests include the Rev. Yuki Okazaki, chief priest of Myoki-ji temple in Akita Prefecture; the Rev. Yado Sugano, stationed at the head temple; the Rev. Yubin Kushioka, chief priest of Noken-ji temple in Aichi Prefecture; the Rev. Takudo Ikeda, chief priest of Seo-ji temple in Shiga Prefecture; the Rev. Kodo Yoshikawa, chief priest of Kenbutsu-ji temple in Kyoto, and the Rev. Shojun Ohashi, chief priest of Daigan-ji temple of Wakayama Prefecture. Truly, many are standing together with us to defend the justice and purity of Nichiren Daishonin′s teachings.
Because of the current atmosphere at the head temple that punishes all views contrary to those of the high priest, many priests still feel the need to speak out anonymously, as is the case with this particular letter. Nevertheless, it contains valuable insight into the threatened severing of ties with the Soka Gakkai and on a basic tenet of the Daishonin′s BuddhismÊreligious freedom.
Surely, a new age in Nichiren Daishonin′s Buddhism is beginning. And as this letter so poignantly states: ‘To stand up with correct faith is a great challenge for each one of you. And this is a great chance to do so.î
Are you, members of the Soka Gakkai, in good spirits and devoted to faith? As a priest of Nichiren Shoshu, I have been deeply concerned about the dilemma of the priesthood, which has clearly deviated from the spirit of Nichiren Daishonin, the founder of true Buddhism, and Nikko Shonin, the founder of the head temple, Taiseki-ji. Convinced at this point that to speak out is more correct than to remain quiet, I have decided to write this letter. Due to the particulars of my situation within Nichiren Shoshu, please understand that I must at this time write anonymously.
The time is nearing when the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood will take unreasonably extreme actions against the Soka Gakkai. Since last year, the priesthood has been saying that the various actions it has taken have been to guide the Soka Gakkai toward the correct way of faith. But now, after one year, we can see that this was only an attempt to camouflage its ugly intent. I believe you can clearly see this now.
First, the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood has no intention whatsoever of guiding Soka Gakkai members toward correct faith. The bottom line is simply that they hate Honorary President Ikeda and the executive leaders of the Soka Gakkai who do not obsequiously follow the priesthood in the way it wants them to.
Have Honorary President Ikeda and the Soka Gakkai ever committed slanderous acts in light of Nichiren Daishonin′s teachings? The Nichiren Shoshu priesthood makes the following charges:
1) The Soka Gakkai issued complaints to the high priest.
2) The Soka Gakkai claimed that the priesthood and laity are equal.
3) The Soka Gakkai allowed its leaders to perform weddings and funeral ceremonies without the permission of the priesthood.
4) The Soka Gakkai turned to modern doctrinal interpretation without the permission of the priesthood.
How do these actions constitute the destruction of the Three Treasures, as the priesthood claims? The Soka Gakkai has never denied the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary, which embodies the oneness of the Law and the Person. The Soka Gakkai has never opposed the teachings of Nikko Shonin, who is the Treasure of the Priest. Nor has the Gakkai ever denied that Nichiren Daishonin is the True Buddha, that the Gosho is the basis and that the Gohonzon is the center.
In short, the priesthood is simply afraid that the traditional hierarchy within Nichiren Shoshu with the high priest above all the chief priests who are then above the lay believers will be destroyed by the emergence of a lay organization born out of the Buddha’s intent and which is in accord with the Buddha’s mandate. Thus the priesthood is creating turmoil by alleging that the faith of Gakkai believers, though it is directly connected to Nichiren Daishonin, is contributing to the destruction of the three treasures of Nichiren Shoshu.
Nothing is as contemptuous as the measures the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood is aiming to take against lay believers. Its contention is that ‘Because they don’t listen to us, we will punish them.î Did Nichiren Daishonin, the founder of true Buddhism, ever punish a believer? Nikko Shonin did not even punish Hakiri Sanenaga, the lord of Mount Minobu who repeatedly slandered the Daishonin′s Buddhism through his conduct. Nikko Shonin continually expressed his concern for Sanenaga, even after he left Mount Minobu. What Nikko Shonin did toward Hakiri was not punishment; rather, when Hakiri, using his authority as lord of the Minobu area, attempted to suppress Nikko Shonin, the second high priest resolutely persisted in his belief and chose to leave Mount Minobu.
Consequently, even though Nikko Shonin formally cut off his relationship with Hakiri, he later took the trouble to write time and again to the Hakiri family. His behavior was always based upon reason and the Law, and always in the spirit of dialogue with respect to the individual′s freedom of speech.
In contrast, what the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood is trying to do is contrary to the attitude of Nikko Shonin. Without allowing any dialogue on the issue, the priesthood is now about to unilaterally punish the Soka Gakkai. Lately, the priesthood has been claiming the primacy of High Priest Nikken, contradicting the stance his predecessors have taken in supporting the Soka Gakkai′s efforts to advance the kosen-rufu movement.
But the priesthood′s view that kosen-rufu cannot be attained unless it is in the center of the movement is questionable. The Soka Gakkai has never denied the role of the priesthood. All the Soka Gakkai did was to request the opportunity to have a dialogue with the priesthood in hopes that Nichiren Shoshu would align itself with our democratic times. The Gakkai desired not to change the formalities of Nichiren Shoshu, but to improve them.
Never before in the history of Nichiren Shoshu has such an abnormal situation arisen, where the priesthood and laity are split into factions and squared off against one another. Only a small group of believers caused the so-called Myoshinko1 incident, and certain priests alone caused the Shoshinkai incident. Even after much discussion with the high priest of the time and the administrative office, Myoshinko believers and Shoshinkai priests did not agree to amend their self-made theories, which were obviously against the teachings of Buddhism. Therefore, according to the rules and regulations of Nichiren Shoshu, the high priest justifiably decided in their respective cases to punish them with excommunication.
However, the current situation is quite different from the previous ones mentioned. First of all, no dialogue has been allowed to take place between the two sides. The priesthood and laity are equal before the Law. Because their opinions are squarely opposed, they should freely discuss their differences based upon reason. If it remains unclear as to which side is correct, then we may have no other recourse than to leave the final decision up to the Buddha wisdom.
The Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary was inscribed for all humanity to attain Buddhahood. The right to worship the Dai-Gohonzon should be equally shared by both priests and lay believers who admire the Daishonin as the true Buddha and Nikko Shonin as the treasure of the Priest. However, the priesthood, which can also be judged by how well it follows Nichiren Daishonin′s spirit, has unilaterally denied Soka Gakkai members the right to worship the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary.
Furthermore, the priesthood is now about to attempt to remove the Soka Gakkai′s status as Nichiren Shoshu believers. The priesthood′s actions are irrational and go against the spirit of Buddhism, that is, to ‘follow the Law not the person.’
According to the priesthood, because they have protected the Dai-Gohonzon, it is therefore up to them to decide whether to allow the laity to worship it.
But Nichiren Shoshu is not supposed to be merely a Japanese Buddhist sect that exists only for the priesthood and Hokkeko believers. The 65th high priest, Nichijun Shonin, once stated: ‘Nichiren Shoshu is not merely a sect, but it is a religion for all people. President Toda stood up to shoulder this valuable religion of Nichiren Shoshu. I hope you members of the Soka Gakkai will strive with the awareness that you, too, will shoulder the future of Nichiren Shoshu.’
As is clear from this statement, Nichiren Shoshu, a religion for all people, should be maintained by both priests and believers. In other words, the Dai-Gohonzon is not the possession of the priesthood. Nichiren Daishonin inscribed the Dai-Gohonzon for the people of the world. All those who wish to take faith in the teachings of Nichiren Shoshu should be able to receive the Gohonzon of Nichiren Daishonin.
It is true that the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanc-tuary has been specifically entrusted to the successive high priests. However, this does not mean the high priest has the right to prohibit from practicing, without just cause, those who want to practice the faith of Nichiren Shoshu.
Soka Gakkai members illustrate that they have correct faith in view of the teachings of Nichiren Shoshu by believing in the Three Treasures of the Latter Day of the Law and trusting the Gohonzon, which has been transmitted to the current generation through the heritage of Nichiren Shoshu. The faith of Nichiren Shoshu should be exactly that taught by Nikko Shonin.
But the current way of Nichiren Shoshu does not represent the correct way of faith. It now professes faith in the supremacy of the high priest, which is a commitment to the person, not to the Law. The priesthood now contends that those Gakkai members who do not obey the high priest absolutely are not permitted to visit the head temple to worship the Dai-Gohonzon. Some temples refuse to issue the Gohonzon to people who are introduced to Nichiren Daishonin′s teachings by Gakkai members. What the priesthood is doing is trying to make the Gohonzon its sole possession. Attempting to disconnect Gakkai members from the Soka Gakkai and convert them into danto members is nothing more than an attempt to make them its personal possessions.
A document issued by the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood arrogantly states: ‘All believers are believers in Nichiren Shoshu first. Therefore, saying that the priesthood is stealing them doesn’t make sense.’ The believers are not possessions of Nichiren Shoshu but are believers in the Gohonzon transmitted within Nichiren Shoshu. In other words, they are believers in Nichiren Daishonin. The priesthood, using such sophistry, maintains that all the members belong to the priesthood, thus attempting to deceive the people.
Originally, the job of the priesthood was to connect the lay believers to Nichiren Daishonin. However, the priesthood is now encouraging Gakkai members who are practicing correctly according to the Gosho to leave the organization where they learned about faith. This is delaying the progress of kosen-rufu. In no way is the priesthood doing what it is supposed to.
The priesthood should be branded as arrogant because it has forgotten its original role of connecting lay believers with Nichiren Daishonin. Its hypocrisy should be clearly perceived by Gakkai members.
As long as the Soka Gakkai maintains faith in the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary, is strict toward slander and protects Taiseki-ji, which inherits the correct lineage of the Daishonin’s Buddhism, the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood must not dogmatically deprive Gakkai members of their right to be believers in Nichiren Shoshu.
To Nichiren Daishonin, priests who serve the Buddha from the inside and lay believers who serve the Buddha from the outside are equally the Buddha′s disciples. A book published by Nichiren Shoshu titled Outline of Nichiren Shoshu says, ‘The difference between the priesthood and the laity is only in terms whether they are outside or inside the center.’ In other words, this difference does not stem from hierarchy but from the fact that during the gokaihi ceremony, priests sit closer to the center, the Dai-Gohonzon, than lay believers. [This can also be interpreted that priests live at the head temple, close to the Dai-Gohonzon, whereas lay believers live outside the temple.]
Therefore, even the priesthood of Nichiren Shoshu, which is supposed to be strict toward slanderous acts, should be generous toward the laity unless the laity opposes fundamental doctrines of Nichiren Shoshu.
Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism contains principles for evaluating religion, such as the five guides for propagation, or the Fivefold Comparison. Through such guides we can reasonably judge which religions are superior or inferior, and which should be adopted as the ultimate belief. In employing such yardsticks of religious evaluation, a basic premise is that each individual′s religious freedom should be guaranteed. Unless religious freedom is a given, people will be denied the benefit of choosing the correct law for themselves.
Religious freedom can be defined as the freedom to persist in a religious belief based upon a person′s own subjective judgment. This freedom should be thoroughly acknowledged and respected within Nichiren Shoshu. Otherwise, it will become impossible for believers to perfect themselves, and it will also be impossible for the True Law, which is based on reason, to be propagated worldwide.
If, for instance, the priesthood were to excommunicate people who had stopped believing in the Gohonzon, who had blatantly engaged in slander, or who had denied the heritage of Taiseki-ji, it would not be infringing on their religious freedom because such people had already chosen, by virtue of their actions, to disassociate themselves from true Buddhism. Those who reject the Gohonzon and the heritage of Nichiren Shoshu are free to pursue their own version of faith.
If the priesthood has repeated discussions with these people, attempting to teach them the correct way of faith within Nichiren Shoshu, and yet they still act like parasites within the realm of the Daishonin’s Buddhism, then those people may be justifiably expelled. But even then, vigorous attempts should be made to persuade such people to reflect upon themselves.
However, Gakkai believers still maintain their faith in the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary, still believe in the Gohonzon, still believe in the heritage of Nichiren Shoshu, and still devote themselves to kosen-rufu. Therefore, if the priesthood excommunicates such Gakkai believers, it will have deprived them of their religious freedom.
The priesthood exists to protect the religious freedom of believers from the authority of the secular world. However, what the priesthood is now doing to the Soka Gakkai is oppressing it with its own authoritarianism.
This is exactly what Honorary President Ikeda pointed to as ‘sacred insanity.’ The current conduct of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, which is opposed to Nichiren Daishonin′s heart, can be regarded as political persecution that inadvertently aims to destroy Buddhism itself.
The Nichiren Shoshu priesthood should grant the Soka Gakkai the right to continue in its own belief while worshipping the Dai-Gohonzon.
On the other hand, no matter how much the Soka Gakkai criticizes the high priest or points out the corruption of the priesthood, this does not mean necessarily that the Soka Gakkai is encroaching on the priesthood’s religious freedom or forcing its religious views upon it. The point is whether the priesthood has the willingness to listen to the opinions of the Soka Gakkai.
In his message at the beginning of this year, High Priest Nikken appealed to both priesthood and laity to establish the correct way of faith based upon reason. If so, the high priest should respect each individual’s faith, which is based on subjective judgment.
The essence of Nichiren Daishonin′s Buddhism is to help people establish their firm identity in faith. To this end, religious freedom, which is inseparable from the pursuit of reason, should be maintained.
However, the priesthood wants to force each Soka Gakkai member to choose sides without giving them a chance to employ their own reason.
It must be said that the unilateral action taken by the priesthood is directly opposed to the golden saying of Nichiren Daishonin, that ‘Buddhism is reason.’
At a recent meeting of chief priests, an opinion was shared that if the current situation was left alone, the Gakkai′s executive leaders would continue to brainwash the general membership. Therefore, some punitive action should be taken against them immediately.
People are often fooled by this argument. The priests who expressed this opinion implied that Soka Gakkai believers are blindly obedient, unable to judge things for themselves. In their minds, Gakkai members cannot make a clear judgment; so they intend to teach them how to judge by punishing the Gakkai. In this way the priesthood treats the lay believers as fools. You should not be deceived by any means.
I wonder if the priesthood can say that it has tried to do everything it could do in the past year to guide lay believers to correct faith. Nichiren Daishonin himself tenaciously emphasized public debate or the question-and-answer format. Yet the priesthood rejects dialogue with the Soka Gakkai. The administrative office says that the Soka Gakkai is not a group with which dialogue can take place.
Nichiren Daishonin, in referring to the priest Ryokan of Gokuraku-ji or the Nembutsu believers of Sado, never refused to engage such people in calm dialogue, though they even harbored a desire to kill the Daishonin. He even proposed and suggested they have a dialogue together.
In other words, Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin used common sense to refute such evil teachers. They were truly broad-minded.
What a contrast to the current priesthood′s narrow-mindedness. Knowing this, it seems that the people who should leave Nichiren Shoshu are none other than the current executive priests.
I would like to say this to all the members of the Soka Gakkai, that no matter how the executive priests of Nichiren Shoshu try to deprive you, through their authoritarianism, of the freedom to pursue reason, I hope that you will fight on with unity, exactly as Nichiren Daishonin taught, centering on Honorary President Ikeda. Then you will definitely open for yourselves a glorious, victorious life. Please have confidence in this.
Under such authoritarian persecution, each of you is now being given the greatest opportunity to polish your faith and establish a solid identity.
You can thus find out for yourselves the correct course that will lead to your enlightenment in this lifetime. To stand up with correct faith is a great challenge for each of you.
And this is a great opportunity to do so. I hope you will stand up with the spirit that all evil people are actually good influences (zenchishiki) that allow you to solidify your faith and determination.
Should the priesthood excommunicate the Soka Gakkai, I, as a priest, will arise and join ranks with you as well. Should that time arrive, let′s fight against evil side by side, believing in the Buddha′s will and believing in the immense beneficial power of the Gohonzon.
I sincerely pray for your great success.