Volume 4, No. 3 (Part 1)
June 20, 1994
New York Temple Chief Priest Refuses To Hold Open Debate
As reported in the June 13 issue of “The SGI-USA Newsletter,” a group of youth division members in New York began a correspondence with the chief priest of Myosetsu-ji temple. The youth took a clear stand for the righteousness of Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings. The second and last volley of letters presented in this issue clearly reflects the victory of the youth division members, which they eloquently state in their “Declaration of Victory” (see page 8).
The youths’ action arose from their concerted prayer and effort to meet and talk with many of those who had been influenced by the deceptions of this priest. The format they decided upon was that of an open letter, requesting that the priest, Jisei Nagasaka, provide written support for his many statements distorting the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin. In writing this open letter, the youth hoped to make public Nagasaka’s erroneous statements and refute them in a precise way based on the Three Proofs of Buddhism — documentary, reason and actual fact — so that they could leave a clear record of the rightness of the SGI and its practice.
At the same time, they hoped to illuminate the real intention of Nikken and his supporters like Mr. Nagasaka, so that those following them might have an opportunity to understand more clearly the real position of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood.
In this issue of “The SGI-USA Newsletter” we print, unedited, the second letter of the New York youth division members, in which they ask the priest to face them in open debate, and Mr. Nagasaka’s letter rejecting the debate. The language of the letter may seem harsh or cutting, but this is an expression of the passionate conviction of the writers in addressing someone who, they are fully convinced, is knowingly engaged in deceit.We congratulate the New York youth division members for their victory in confronting the priesthood and clearly illuminating the insubstantial foundation on which the priesthood stands.
The Youth Division Responds to the Chief Priest’s Letter
May 14, 1994
Mr. Jisei Nagasaka
143-63 Beech Avenue
Flushing, New York 11355-2176
Dear Mr. Nagasaka:
ON April 23, 1994, we received your response to our open letter of April 2, 1994 (see “The SGI-USA Newsletter,” June 13). In accordance with the Daishonin’s instruction to “accept what is clearly stated in the texts of the sutras but discard anything that cannot be supported by the text” (The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 5, p. 65), we have clarified right and wrong based on documentary proof.
On the other hand, you ignored the Daishonin’s instruction, as well as historical facts and documentary proof, and contented yourself with empty criticism. The fact that you boast to having responded to the open letter is appalling. The Daishonin said, “The most important thing in practicing Buddhism is to follow and uphold the Buddha’s golden teachings, not the opinions of others” (MW-1, 102).
We will demonstrate in the following pages that you did not provide answers to our questions, but instead used twisted logic to fit your needs. Your behavior fits that described in the Gosho of a person who “cleverly uses lies and flattery to capture the hearts of those of little knowledge and destroy the goodness within them” (Gosho Zenshu, p. 7).
If you at all consider yourself to be a priest who upholds the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, let us determine right and wrong in public by engaging in an open debate. Should you refuse, the Hokkeko members will come to know that you have again avoided and ignored our request for an open debate. Consider this to be a challenge to an open debate.
The following is our refutation of your response to our letter:
1) Your equating the Soka Gakkai, an organization dedicated to the promotion of kosen-rufu, and the Shoshinkai, a group of priests who exist to destroy true Buddhism, is outrageous. Until now, we have remained silent about your having been an active Shoshinkai priest. But you have taken advantage of this silence and equated the Soka Gakkai with the Shoshinkai in order to deceive those who do not know the truth.
2 We want you to reflect upon your own life as a priest. Your father was able to represent the Komei party and to hold a political office in his township due to sincere support by Soka Gakkai members. Utterly lacking in any sort of appreciation, you began to engage in Shoshinkai activities around 1978. Actively criticizing the Soka Gakkai, you ultimately drew your parents-in-law out of the Soka Gakkai.
However, when Nikken became the high priest in 1979, you suddenly turned into a Nikken supporter and betrayed your fellow Shoshinkai priests, who later were excommunicated by Nikken. In contrast to those excommunicated Shoshinkai priests, your position within the priesthood was saved due to your last-minute betrayal.
Having done this, you visited Soka Gakkai community centers in the area in Hokkaido where you were posted, and with tears in your eyes, apologized, saying, “I will dedicate my life for the sake of the Soka Gakkai.” Shoshinkai priests at that time, including your former senior in faith, Jikei Sasaki, labeled you a traitor.
After this incident, both the priesthood and the Shoshinkai ceased to trust you. Subsequently, you were assigned to a temple in the United States. Is this just a coincidence?
When the priesthood issue surfaced, you completely forgot the apology you made to the Soka Gakkai, and turned against it. This pattern of behavior makes us seriously question your integrity as a person. You have no personal standards with respect to these issues. You simply change your mind and attitude like a chameleon, based on the surrounding environment. This is not the kind of behavior for a person practicing true Buddhism.
You’re someone who owes a debt of gratitude to the Soka Gakkai. Instead you betrayed it. You then joined the Shoshinkai, but betrayed it as well. Thereafter, you apologized to the Soka Gakkai, but ultimately betrayed it a second time. You have no right to engage in any sort of criticism of the Soka Gakkai. You should know that no one in either the Soka Gakkai, the Shoshinkai or the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood trusts you. (The above information was provided by Jikei Sasaki as related around 1986, and by your former associates and now reform priests, the Revs. Gen’ei Kudo and Shojun Ohashi).
3) Taking advantage of the fact that not many Hokkeko members know the true background of President Ikeda’s resignation in 1979, you are misusing the essay “Reconfirming Our Fundamental Mission” to justify your own distortions. You intentionally ignore President Ikeda’s utmost sincerity in protecting the correct path of propagating true Buddhism at any cost, and instead launch yet another baseless attack against the Soka Gakkai. This is most outrageous. The background and truth that led to publication of the essay is attached heretofore (see page 3) your reference, entitled “The Soka Gakkai’s True Path, the History of the Priesthood’s Corruption and the Shoshinkai Incident.”
4) You accused the Soka Gakkai of distributing “counterfeit” okatagi Gohonzon, alleging that the side script was “erased,” and called this a slander. The reality is that these Gohonzon are based on a Gohonzon transcribed by Nichikan Shonin, and offered to the Soka Gakkai by the chief priest of Joen-ji temple in Tochigi Prefecture. However, omitting a side script, which does not constitute the essence of the Gohonzon, does not in the least go against the Daishonin’s teachings. Based on his great compassion, Nichiren Daishonin inscribed the Dai-Gohonzon for the sake of all people. Based on a correct understanding of the significance of kosen-rufu, the Soka Gakkai has omitted the name of Honshobo during the printing process for the okatagi Gohonzon, which are being distributed to new SGI members throughout the world. [Editor’s note: See also the article by SGI-USA General Director Fred Zaitsu on the so-called Nichikan Gohonzon on page 7 of the June 20 World Tribune.]
You must be aware of a few Gohonzon, including one transcribed by Nikko Shonin, at the head temple whose side scripts are torn and missing. If we follow your argument, then these Gohonzon at the head temple also become counterfeits. Haven’t you noticed that the more you accuse the Soka Gakkai of slander, the further you sink into a swamp of self-contradiction?
5) You pretend that you have answered all our questions, but in reality you just repeated the same words, without any explanation. Your statements lack documentary proof:
“This is the unchangeable creed of Nichiren Shoshu for 700 years.”
“This is an unchangeable creed that has been handed down for 700 years at Head Temple Taiseki-ji.”
“This is the 700-year-old traditional faith and practice of Nichiren Shoshu.”
“[I]t is better that we avoid making comments about the content of the Face to Face Bestowal of the Essence of the True Law….”
“It is difficult to believe in, or understand the Daishonin’s teaching.”
Do you consider these answers? They are nothing but empty theories to subjugate lay believers. We believe the reason you did not publish your answer to our questionnaire in the “Myosetsu-ji Temple News” is that you did not want the Hokkeko members to know how poor your answers were.
6) The fact that Nikken erected a tombstone in a Zen temple, a sect that the Daishonin refuted as a teaching of the Devil of the Sixth Heaven, is a grave slander that will remain in the history of kosen-rufu. You have completely ignored the historical facts delineated in our questionnaire. Because you could not provide any answer, you simply called us slanderers, using the position of priest to do so. Your behavior is no different from that of people in power who utilize their position to persecute others.
We challenge you to an open debate that befits the American tradition of freedom and openness. We propose the early evening of June 11 as a date, but are ready to discuss details regarding time and place forthwith.
This letter will be made widely available to all SGI members, as well as the Hokkeko members of Myosetsu-ji temple.
New York Youth Division
The Soka Gakkai’s True Path, the History of the Priesthood’s Corruption and the Shoshinkai Incident
DESPITE the priesthood’s many efforts to complicate the Daishonin’s Buddhism, the essential part of our faith and practice is surprisingly simple. We regard Nichiren Daishonin as the original Buddha, worship the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary as the true object of worship for the Latter Day of the Law and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to it with strong faith. If you keep this in mind and examine each allegation that the priesthood brings against the SGI, you will find that the SGI has always held fast to this foundation of the Daishonin’s Buddhism, and that there is no self-contradiction in the SGI on the fundamental level of doctrine and spirit.
Since his inauguration as the third president of the Soka Gakkai on May 3, 1960, President Ikeda has exerted himself in propagating the Daishonin’s Buddhism on a global scale and in protecting the head temple and the priesthood. During the 1960s and early 1970s, the Soka Gakkai donated several buildings to the head temple: the Daikejo Hall (1960), the Dai-bo hall (1962), the Grand Reception Hall (1964), the old structure of the Mutsubo hall (1965), the Tenrei-in hall (1969), and the Sho-Hondo (1972), as well as many lodging facilities on the head temple grounds.
In just 10 years after his inauguration, the Soka Gakkai, led by President Ikeda, donated a huge expanse of land to the head temple, enlarging the head temple grounds by seven times. Furthermore, during President Ikeda’s leadership, the Soka Gakkai donated 320 branch temples. All these were nothing other than an expression of President Ikeda’s sincere dedication to the priesthood’s development.
On the other hand, prior to the early 1970s, the Soka Gakkai did not have enough facilities to meet the needs of its rapidly growing membership, and its legal structure needed to be modernized. After the completion of the Sho-Hondo in 1972, with the support of Nittatsu Shonin, the Soka Gakkai declared it would build more community centers and improve its legal structure.
In the area of Buddhist study as well, the Soka Gakkai started to shed light on the Daishonin’s Buddhism, making it accessible to a wider range of people. This new phase of the Soka Gakkai’s development was called the “Second Phase of Kosen-Rufu.” The Soka Gakkai firmly believed that by developing itself and promoting propagation, it could better spread Buddhism into society and protect the priesthood.
However, the priesthood did not fully understand the Soka Gakkai’s true intent in the “Phase II” movement. It was misinterpreted as a sign of the Soka Gakkai’s preparation for its eventual separation from the priesthood. Animosity toward the Soka Gakkai grew, and was especially strong among many of the young student priests. The source of their discontent may be in their fear that the Soka Gakkai would not build enough local temples where they could be assigned as chief priests when they finished their training and became certified priests. From this group was later born the Shoshinkai, the group of priests who were excommunicated by Nikken for questioning the legitimacy of his accession to the office of high priest.
In 1977, the priesthood’s resentment and doubt toward the Soka Gakkai, which had been growing over the years as the Gakkai grew, intensified. At the ninth study department meeting in January, President Ikeda gave a lecture titled “On the History of Buddhism.” During his lecture, President Ikeda touched upon the corruption prevailing in the established Japanese Buddhist clergy and identified a cause of the Buddhist clergy’s corruption as its separation from the common people. He also stated that in light of the original significance of a temple as a place where believers gather together to practice and study Buddhism, Soka Gakkai community centers could be considered as temples in the modern day. To this speech, the priesthood responded emotionally, charging President Ikeda with lack of respect for the priesthood and the function of the temples.
In February 1977, President Ikeda gave a speech in which he emphasized the Gohonzon and the Gosho as the most important basis of faith and practice. The priesthood condemned President Ikeda for disregarding the role of the successive high priests. In April, President Ikeda contributed to the Seikyo Shimbun a series of lectures on the Gosho “Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life.” The priesthood complained that President Ikeda put too much emphasis on the “lifeblood of faith” as opposed to the “heritage of the Law only passed on by the successive high priests.”
President Ikeda’s statements were absolutely correct in light of the orthodox doctrines of the Daishonin’s Buddhism. Unfortunately, the priesthood interpreted everything President Ikeda said in a defensive and negative way, based on their malicious preconceived judgment of the Soka Gakkai. Attacks intensified from the mass media, secretly orchestrated and manipulated by the Soka Gakkai’s then-legal counsel, Masatomo Yamazaki. Using his position as a point of contact between the priesthood and the Soka Gakkai, he exerted all possible efforts to undermine relations between the two and profit personally from the situation.
In June 1978, the priesthood accused the Soka Gakkai of deviating from the orthodox doctrines of the Daishonin’s Buddhism and demanded that the Soka Gakkai apologize. This action was based on a document written by Yamazaki, but read aloud at a meeting of the priesthood as an anonymous “Letter From a Certain Believer.” On June 30, the Soka Gakkai published in the Seikyo Shimbun a statement acknowledging its “doctrinal deviations.” This is the so-called June 30 agreement. (The translation of this document was published in the Feb. 5, 1979, issue of the World Tribune, pp. 8-10.)
If the Soka Gakkai had refused to comply with the priesthood’s demand, the situation would have been irreparable. It could be easily imagined then that the rift between the priesthood and laity would deal a fatal blow to the progress of kosen-rufu, and would result in confusion and a flood of “taiten” among many sincere Gakkai members.
The priesthood’s tactics here were similar to those of kidnappers or terrorists, taking the progress of kosen-rufu and Gakkai members’ faith hostage, and demanding as ransom an “apology.” Using the apology as leverage, coupled with the threat of excommunication, the priesthood demanded more and more to gain complete control of the Soka Gakkai.
None of the issues brought up in this June 30 agreement, however, dealt with “doctrinal deviations” as the priesthood asserts; they are basically matters of expression. For instance, the priesthood questioned the statement that the enlightenment President Toda attained constituted the foundation of Soka Buddhism. In the agreement, the Soka Gakkai agreed not to use expressions such as “Soka Buddhism” as it could be taken to mean that the Gakkai was advocating a different Buddhism from the Daishonin’s. The term has not been used since.
But it is undeniable that the conviction the second Soka Gakkai president, Josei Toda, gained during his imprisonment became the driving force behind the development of the Soka Gakkai after World War II. In The Human Revolution, vol. 1, President Ikeda writes:
He [Toda] removed his glasses and scrutinized each character, bending so close it seemed his face would touch the scroll.
“It was just like this. No mistake. Exactly, just as I saw it.”
Murmuring silently, he satisfied himself that the solemn and mysterious ceremony in the air which he had witnessed in his cell was indeed inscribed on the Gohonzon. Profound delight surged through him and tears streamed down his face. His hands shook. He cried out from the depth of his being:
“Gohonzon! Daishonin! I, Toda, will accomplish kosen-rufu!”
He felt that this resolve was burning in his soul with an incandescent glow. It burned in spite of him, a flame nothing could extinguish, like the eternally glowing sunrise of kosen-rufu. (The Human Revolution, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 26-27)
As depicted here, while he was in prison, President Toda gained the great conviction that the Gohonzon is the basis of everything.
This agrees with the original teachings of the Daishonin, which can be summarized as the One Great Secret Law, or the True Object of Worship of True Buddhism. The enlightenment President Toda attained rekindled the spirit of Nichiren Daishonin in modern times. In this sense, the expression that “President Toda’s enlightenment became the foundation of Soka Buddhism” is in no way doctrinally incorrect.
In April 1979, the priesthood’s relentless onslaught, which had continued over several years, forced President Ikeda to step down from the presidency of the Soka Gakkai. He relinquished his administrative responsibilities and took the position of honorary president. The priesthood demanded that unless President Ikeda stepped down, there would be no way for the priesthood administration to silence discontent among the priests.
Again, President Ikeda did not step down from his position because he reflected on a “series of mistakes,” but because the priesthood demanded that he do so. Therefore, your implied assumptions of President Ikeda’s motives are wrong.
It is also interesting to note the four conditions that were set on President Ikeda at the time of his resignation. They were: 1) President Ikeda could not attend any meetings; 2) the Seikyo Shimbun could not report any of his activities or speeches; 3) members were prohibited from calling him “Sensei”; and 4) no reference was to be made to a mentor/disciple relationship existing in the Soka Gakkai.
Knowing that the strength of the Soka Gakkai derives from the heart-to-heart bond between President Ikeda and members, the priesthood attempted to sever this spiritual tie of mentor and disciple and thus weaken the Soka Gakkai.
In July 1979, Nittatsu Shonin passed away. Nikken then became the high priest, but his position was very unstable, as many priests (including those in the Shoshinkai) actively criticized and slandered him.
In March 1980, the terms of the Nichiren Shoshu Council members were due to expire, and in June, an election for Council members was scheduled. It was expected that many of the radical anti-Gakkai priests, who were not sympathetic toward Nikken, would become Council members and form a majority faction. In order to solidify his position, Nikken needed to elicit further apology from President Ikeda to appease these active priests.
In January 1980, President Ikeda met with Nikken. At this meeting, Nikken demanded that President Ikeda apologize again, under the pretext that other priests were demanding of Nikken that the Soka Gakkai apologize again for their actions. From this point on, tremendous pressure was applied to the Soka Gakkai to issue an apology.
Under these circumstances, the Soka Gakkai’s executive leaders prepared a manuscript based on the priesthood’s instructions, and asked President Ikeda to publish it under his name. To this, President Ikeda consented.
This essay, titled “My Thoughts on the 23rd Anniversary of the Death of My Late Master,” was published in the April 2 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun. The translation of this article was published under the title of “Reconfirming Our Fundamental Mission” in the May 1980 issue of the Seikyo Times. President Ikeda, who was not allowed to review the article, published it solely to protect Nikken and the rest of the priesthood from further falling into the abyss of political turmoil.
Therefore, the passage that you have quoted in your answer to Part I, Question 4 does not reflect President Ikeda’s true intentions. It was written by others, based on instructions from the priesthood.
We have presented a brief history of key events that occurred around the late 1970s. Because of President Ikeda’s wise and unbegrudging leadership, SGI members have continued practicing and studying up to this day, building lives of great fortune. This has happened even as they sometimes found themselves in the midst of events whose true meaning or significance could not be immediately discerned.
On reviewing all these facts, the difference is clear. On the one hand is the SGI, whose unchangeable desire accords with the Daishonin’s will: to allow every single human being to achieve absolute happiness. On the other hand lies the priesthood, which, instead of making the Daishonin’s Buddhism open and accessible to all people, uses the Daishonin’s Buddhism and the Dai-Gohonzon to further their goals of self-preservation and authoritarian rule. The conclusion must be that the divergence between the SGI and the priesthood was not only natural, but inevitable.
Before specifically refuting each of your points, we declare that your sparse use of the Gosho in your document is testimony to the low priority you place on the Gosho as a standard for judgment on doctrinal matters.
Cover Letter. Paragraph 6: Regarding Dedications and Side Scripts (Jpn. ‘wakigaki’) on the Gohonzon.
In the cover letter of your rebuttal, you say the SGI “disrespectfully erased the name of Honsho-bo Nissho,1 the chief priest of Joen-ji temple, from the Gohonzon…. Erasing Honsho-bo Nissho’s name from the Gohonzon is injuring the heart and the body of the Buddha himself.”
First, let us make it clear that Honsho-bo Nissho’s name was not “erased” from the Gohonzon. The Gohonzon transcribed by Nichikan Shonin in 1720 remains in exactly the same condition as it always was. To say that the Gohonzon or any part of it was “erased” constitutes simply another example of the way you distort facts to fit your needs at the moment.
You insist that an essential aspect of the Gohonzon is the name of the person on whom it was bestowed, or the side script. This viewpoint is invalid and bears no relationship to Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, as evidenced below.
In the Gosho “The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,” the Daishonin makes a clear statement regarding the meaning of the inscriptions on the Gohonzon:
This mandala is in no way Nichiren’s invention. It is the object of worship which perfectly depicts Lord Shakyamuni in the Treasure Tower and all the other Buddhas who were present, as accurately as the print matches the woodblock…. Dwelling in the Gohonzon are all the Buddhas, bodhisattvas and great saints, as well as the eight groups of sentient beings of the two realms who appear in the first chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Illuminated by the five characters of the Mystic Law, they display the enlightened nature they inherently possess. This is the true object of worship.” (MW-1, 212)
The essence of the physical appearance of the Gohonzon is the Daimoku and the true Buddha (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo Nichiren) as the center, surrounded by the ten worlds and the beings within them. This expresses in concrete form the embodiment of the life of the true Buddha as manifested through the principle of ichinen sanzen. For this reason, we worship the Gohonzon as the Daishonin’s body and mind. There is no Gosho that states that the recipient’s name or the side script is an essential part of the Gohonzon. It was with full knowledge of this fact that the name of Honshobo Nissho was omitted during the printing process for the okatagi (paper image) Gohonzon distributed by the SGI.
On the Dai-Gohonzon, the name of Yashiro Kunishige is inscribed as the recipient. If the side script is an essential part of the Gohonzon, why did the successive high priests not include the name of Yashiro Kunishige on all the Gohonzon they transcribed?
The form and content of side scripts and dedications on Gohonzon vary greatly. To cite just one example, an extant Gohonzon contains the names of five generations of recipients; each name was added as the Gohonzon changed hands. This lack of uniformity with the Dai-Gohonzon, which bears just one person’s name, is irrefutable evidence that side scripts bear no relation to the appearance of the Gohonzon or its power.
The side script “Conquer Russia” appears on an okatagi Gohonzon transcribed by the 56th high priest, Nichio Shonin, during the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. One wonders whether encouraging war contributes in any way to the Gohonzon’s power.
There are many examples of Gohonzon which are missing the side script. These include three Gohonzon held at Josen-ji temple and one transcribed by Nichifu Shonin where the side script is torn and missing.
Nikko Shonin explained the reason for putting side scripts or dedications on the Gohonzon as follows:
Even if the parents have strong faith and receive Gohonzon, their children may abandon it. Teachers may receive Gohonzon due to their sincere service, but their disciples may abandon them…. Therefore, to add the name of the recipient [to the Gohonzon] is done for the purpose of honoring and illustrating the recipient’s strong faith for future generations. (Gosho Zenshu, p. 1606)
This is the true reason why side scripts and dedications are sometimes added. SGI members’ strong faith in the Gohonzon entirely accords with Nikko Shonin’s spirit as expressed here.
The fact that side scripts vary in content, are missing from extant Gohonzon, and can be added at a later date indicates that they bear no relationship to the power of the Buddha and the Law contained within the Gohonzon.
Question 1: High Priest’s Possession of the Essence of the Daishonin’s Teachings
In our open letter, we asked you to provide doctrinal justification for your assertion that the high priest has inherited the life of Nichiren Daishonin, and therefore has the ability to transcribe the Gohonzon.
Where is the documentary proof for your assertion?
In your response, you state “…the high priest possesses in his heart the essence of the Daishonin’s teachings, and this is why he can transcribe the Gohonzon.”
However, in “On the Formalities of True Buddhism,” Nichiu Shonin, the ninth high priest, states:
Those at branch temples who have disciples and lay patrons may transcribe the mamori [Gohonzon]. However, they should not place their seals on it…. Those at branch temples who have disciples and lay patrons may transcribe the mandala [i.e. the Gohonzon] yet may not place their seals on it. (Essential Writings of the Fuji School, vol. 1, p. 71)
During this era, branch temples transcribed Gohonzon for their believers, subject to the condition that local priests not place their personal seals on the Gohonzon.
These facts contradict your assertion that only the high priest has the life-condition and authority to transcribe the Gohonzon. “The heritage of the Law that only the successive high priests inherit” is by no means an absolute condition for the transcription of the Gohonzon.
Your statement reflects yet again your desire to confuse sincere believers by turning formalities into essentials, and essentials into formalities.
Merely by citing the historical fact that the high priest transcribed the Gohonzon, you cannot assert that the high priest holds the essence of the Daishonin’s teachings within him. Doctrinal, theoretical and actual proof are required to support such a statement, and we have ample material on hand that demonstrates the falsity of your thesis. We insist that you provide supporting evidence.