Volume 2, No. 9
August 24, 1992
Priest Aims for Reform From Within the Head Temple
The following is the second of a two-part interview with Mr. Kokudo Kanno, former chief priest of Jorai-bo, a lodging temple on the grounds of Taiseki-ji. (See the July 27 issue of The SGI-USA Newsletter for the first part.) It originally appeared in the Seikyo Shimbun.
Q: The other day (July 4), the priesthood notified the Soka Gakkai Headquarters that it would expel Honorary President Ikeda from Nichiren Shoshu and nullify his status as a believer of Nichiren Shoshu, despite the fact that it has already excommunicated the Soka Gakkai itself. What do you think of this?
A: I learned about it through the 7 p.m. television evening news. I was speechless. I have known how irrational the high priest and his cronies have been through the series of actions they have taken against the Soka Gakkai. But this added act of foolishness made me realize that Nichiren Shoshu has reached the epitome of deviance. To expel an individual after the entire organization has already been expelled makes no sense at all. It is ridiculous.
Q: Members of the media also appeared dumbfounded by this strange move.
A: The priesthood’s notice [expelling the SGI president] has for the first time exposed to all Japan and the world their pathetic inability to tell right from wrong or even to keep track of what they have themselves done in the past. That they have personally expelled the very person who has contributed the most to the prosperity of Nichiren Shoshu is most absurd. This appalling act will remain as an eternal blemish in the annals of Nichiren Shoshu. As a priest who resides at the head temple, I truly wish to apologize to the SGI president. Also, because of this incident, I have become even more deeply aware of the great degree of painstaking care and effort the SGI president has been exerting to sincerely support these very priests for the sake of kosen-rufu and harmony between priesthood and laity.
Q: Since the end of 1990, the priesthood has taken a series of unilateral actions that include: Dismissing Honorary President Ikeda from his position as head of all Nichiren Shoshu lay organizations (sokoto) and Mr. Akiya and other executive Soka Gakkai leaders from their positions as senior lay representatives (daikoto); groundlessly demanding an apology from President Ikeda; enforcing a new, restricted pilgrimage (tozan) system; ordering the dissolution of the Soka Gakkai; excommunicating the Soka Gakkai, and notifying it of Nichiren Shoshu’s intent to personally expel the honorary president from Nichiren Shoshu. Each one of these anti-Soka Gakkai measures is essentially base and mean-spirited.
A: The contentions upon which the priesthood’s actions against the Soka Gakkai are based not only defy logic, but wholly deviate from Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings and spirit. This is very clear. The Soka Gakkai organization is obviously based on the Buddha’s mandate as it correctly protects and propagates the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin. For this reason, it is impossible to justify any attempt to destroy such a precious organization as the Soka Gakkai. Not only that, we can easily find all kinds of examples that prove the priesthood’s corruption. Clearly, it is the current Nichiren Shoshu priesthood that opposes the spirit of Nichiren Daishonin. The only way the priesthood can hide its inherent ills and weaknesses is to attempt to impose its will upon the Gakkai. That is why their actions are consistently sinister.
Q: When did the head temple begin to harbor ill feelings toward the Gakkai?
A: Well, as far as I know, it dates back quite a long time. Even before this current issue, anti-Gakkai sentiments were quite strong at the head temple in the summer of 1990. Rumors that something happened between the high priest and President Ikeda when they met in July immediately reached me at the Suimei dormitory. The issue became the talk of the head temple. It was being whispered among priests at the head temple that the high priest was in an ill temper. The atmosphere there was tense. I recall my great concern on the day of the culture festival celebrating the 700th anniversary of the founding of Taiseki-ji.
Editor’s note: During the SGI leaders’ audience with the high priest on July 21, 1990, Nikken screamed furiously at President Akiya: ‘You have shut me out! How arrogant! You have committed the slander of arrogance!’ Nikken then said angrily to the honorary president, ‘I have things to say to you, too. I will put the issue of your impeachment before the disciplinary committee.’
In autumn 1990, about one month after the culture festival and during preparations for the ceremony commemorating the 700th anniversary of the founding of Taiseki-ji, it was publicly rumored at the head temple that something would erupt right after the ceremonial events were over.
Q: The priesthood is quick to deny the fact that Nikken shouted at Honorary President Ikeda and President Akiya.
A: I immediately thought that it must be true that the high priest shouted at Honorary President Ikeda and President Akiya, because many have experienced being shouted at by the high priest. Nowadays priests tell lies very nonchalantly. Recently, I filed a lawsuit against the high priest. Director Shido Ogawa of the Internal Affairs Bureau made the following comment about this to a newspaper. He said, ‘We persuaded him (Kanno) to sign (our anti-Gakkai document) but we did not force him to do so.’ This is an out-and-out lie.
Q: What was the atmosphere at the head temple before this issue broke out?
A: It was around the time of the Shoshinkai incident during the late ’70s that the atmosphere at the head temple toward the Gakkai clearly changed. Until then, of course, there were some priests who harbored personal animosity toward the Gakkai. But around that time, those priests who publicly criticized the Gakkai began to gain prestige. Directors Sendo Komai and Shido Ogawa once belonged to this categoryÊthe most radical of Shoshinkai priests. During the current situation and the one that took place more than ten years ago, it is those priests who were once Soka Gakkai members who have been most vehemently critical of the Gakkai. This is not surprising. Many of the priests who came from the Gakkai became Nichiren Shoshu priests out of impure motives. That is, many were of the type who could not get along with their fellow Gakkai members and therefore chose to become priests so that they could lord it over the lay believers. Also, it is commonly thought at the head temple that priests who are ordained as adults are inferior to priests who have grown up in priests’ families. To state it another way, those who entered the priesthood as adults are believed to be tainted from having lived a longer time within secular society. Of course, such ideas do not accord with Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. However, those priests who come from priests’ families prosper in Nichiren Shoshu, while those who come from the Gakkai become desperate to do away with their unfavorable image. This prompts them to attack the Gakkai. In short, they do not understand the significance of kosen-rufu, the mandate of Nichiren Daishonin. All they seek is acceptance and recognition within the small world of Nichiren Shoshu. The high priest takes advantage of such priests and manipulates them to attack the Gakkai.
Q: What was it like right after the current high priest took office?
A: After the current high priest’s tenure began, a feeling developed throughout Nichiren Shoshu that one should not praise Honorary President Ikeda or the Soka Gakkai. Our way of referring to Honorary President Ikeda changed from ‘Honorary President Ikeda’ to ‘Mr. Ikeda’ or ‘Mr. Honorary,’ and then simply ‘Ikeda.’
Q: Meanwhile, you were gradually ostracized, weren’t you?
A: Yes. They harassed me in many ways just prior to my removal from Jorai-bo in the spring of 1989. Nittatsu Shonin once told priests that when President Ikeda visits the head temple, we should greet him most courteously wearing our formal attire. I faithfully practiced this guidance even during the tenure of the current high priest. I thought it only natural that we greet a representative of the laity who has contributed so much to kosen-rufu in the most respectful fashion. I made it a practice to greet him with a deep bow, and the honorary president would respond by bowing deeply to me. This natural exchange of courtesy between the honorary president and the priests became rare at the head temple. Somebody reported to the high priest that ‘Kanno is too polite in greeting the honorary president.’ As this demonstrates, the priesthood became cold toward the honorary president.
Q: What a horrible case of jealousy!
A: A friend of mine who is a Gakkai member once visited me at Jorai-bo. Strangely enough, the high priest somehow knew a great deal about the contents of our conversation. One day, the high priest high-handedly scolded me, ‘It seems that you receive gifts from the Gakkai all the time at Jorai-bo. What are you doing down there?’ I replied to him that this was not the case. Nevertheless, my natural association with Gakkai members bothered him deeply. Among the priests who understand the anti-Gakkai sentiments of the high priest, some intentionally give him biased reports. Sadly enough, the high priest loves to hear such distorted rumors. In recent years the head temple has become a place where malicious rumors are readily given credence.
Q: What else can you say about the atmosphere surrounding the head temple right after Nikken’s inauguration?
A: On July 22, 1979, Nittatsu Shonin passed away unexpectedly. People at the head temple wondered who would become the next high priest. Suddenly, Mr. Abe asserted that he had inherited the Law from the former high priest. Our impression was that Mr. Abe’s declaration seemed rather abrupt. That is how people at the head temple felt in those days. To be honest with you, according to the consensus of the priests at the head temple, former Study Department Chief Abe, who was the General Administrator of Nichiren Shoshu in those days and is now High Priest Nikken, didn’t have a good reputation within the priesthood. Few people respected him. Of course, no one publicly discussed who would become the next high priest, but it is always of interest to the priests at the head temple. We had no inkling that the next high priest was to be Mr. Abe. It was rumored at the head temple that Mr. Nichiji Hayase, the chief priest of Hodoin temple, or Mr. Jiun Sugano, the chief priest of Daisen-ji temple, would be next. However, Nittatsu Shonin had repeatedly asserted, ‘I won’t quit.’ No one expected him to die so quickly.
Q: The death of Nittatsu Shonin was so sudden, and the priests who were later to form the radical splinter group, the Shoshinkai, were dominant at the head temple at that time. Taiseki-ji was in extreme confusion, wasn’t it?
A: High Priest Nikken may have been conscious of the confusion. Right after he became high priest, I remember him saying rather emotionally, ‘Who else can become the high priest of Nichiren Shoshu?’ In those days, I didn’t know much about his character, so I simply assumed that he was a man with a strong sense of responsibility.
Q: Could you describe your impression of Nikken right after he became high priest?
A: He would often emphasize the importance of honesty. At first, he was very friendly, with a smile on his face, saying, ‘You priests at the head temple are all quiet and obedient people, aren’t you?’ In retrospect, I can now say that he was watching how people acted toward him. I still remember that in his early days as high priest, the people surrounding him treated him very coolly. Because I thought the high priest of the time always played a vital role, I faithfully followed his instructions and would often travel throughout Japan in an to attempt to dissuade the Shoshinkai priests. I was shocked to hear from many of them that they wouldn’t have met with me if I had been High Priest Nikken. Those who worked under Mr. Abe at Heian-ji temple in Kyoto when he was their chief priest overtly said they did not want to give in to him. At that time, I started to think that the current high priest might not possess such great virtue as a human being.
Q: In other words, his status was shaky when he took office. Is this correct?
A: He was in a very difficult situation with the Shoshinkai issue. In 1979, the Shoshinkai priests launched a vehement campaign criticizing Nichiren Shoshu and its Administrative Office. The issue settled down after High Priest Nikken expelled a number of Shoshinkai priests. He then began to speak out aggressively.
I heard comments from the acolytes’ teachers that in his first two years as high priest, Nikken didn’t have a solid foundation upon which he could initiate new programs for the education of the acolytes. However, three or four years after he took office, he successfully expelled the priests who opposed him and steadily consolidated his power within Nichiren Shoshu. Subsequently, we began to observe him getting very angry at the acolytes in public.
Q: Do you mean he began to seriously tackle the education of acolytes?
A: No, this was not the case. I think his true colors were being revealed. At first, he merely screamed at acolytes, but later he began to hit them with his fan, using intimidating and condescending language. In watching his behavior, I thought from the outset that the high priest did not possess the ability to guide people as he did not have deep consideration for others. He became more and more temperamental, and his outbursts became frequent. He even began to scold people in public. That is why the acolytes always looked so nervous around him. They always felt intimidated while working on their assignments and began to wear stern expressions.
Q: Are you saying that the high priest’s authoritarian and arrogant nature began to reveal itself?
A: When we had security watch at midnight and were responsible for the security of the temple grounds and in charge of ushitora gongyo, if the high priest noticed something he considered wrong with our behavior, he would take it personally and order us into another room to scold us and even hit us with his fan. I had this experience once when I sat directly behind him in the Gohonzon room of a lodging. As soon as I sat down, he looked back and hit me in the face with his fan. It all happened so quickly. Many acolytes saw this. They were all shocked to see a chief priest being hit by the high priest for no clear reason. It was humiliating for me.
Q: Without saying anything about why he hit you. Is that what happened?
A: He didn’t say anything before he hit me. I suspect that I hadn’t made proper eye contact with him when he took his seat. However, I am compelled to say that he did this just to humiliate me as I had sided with the Soka Gakkai.
Q: In other words, the high priest was illustrating what would happen to other priests if they showed any support for the Gakkai. How is the executive priests’ conduct at the head temple nowadays?
A: Those who have regular access to the high priest are the Directors of Internal Affairs of Taiseki-ji. They exchange information on various matters. The problem is that those surrounding the high priest take advantage of his power and use it as a shield to wield authority and to do anything they want to. As long as one follows the directors exactly as they instruct, they will be happy with him and his requests will be easily granted. In contrast, once any one of the directors develops some kind of animosity toward someone, then that person is in trouble. They take whatever he may say in a negative manner and report it that way to the high priest, who has absolute power. His case will be prejudged. This is the structure that has gradually been created.
Q: How did the high priest surround himself with such priests?
A: It has taken place over the last 10 years. In August 1979, right after Nikken Shonin became high priest, Director Shinryo Isshii was called in from Saga in Kyushu. Then, Senior Director Shimpo Yagi and the chief of the Administration Department, Kaido Arai, were brought to the head temple. Directors Shido Ogawa and Sendo Komai were also promoted. The high priest began to surround himself with those who would blindly follow him, and the head temple became their nest. High Priest Nikken kept only those priests whom he and Senior Director Yagi favored. Anyone who had opposed them in any way was traded for those willing to curry favor. Everyone who remained at the head temple thus became worried about what the high priest and Director Yagi thought of them.
Q: This clearly illustrates the fatal corruption of an authoritarian regime, and the unprecedented decline of the sect.
A: Yes, you are right. What made things worse was the families, especially the wives, of the powerful executive priests. If they didn’t like someone, that person would be in trouble as a Nichiren Shoshu priest. In the past, during the time of Nittatsu Shonin, wives didn’t exercise any power, but now, led by the high priest’s wife, all the wives of senior priests indulge themselves in extravagant living. They lack any spirit to deepen their faith. I have been at the head temple for the last 20 years and only once in that time have I witnessed the wives of the senior priests gathering to chant daimoku. They chanted for 30 minutesÊit was during some official event and they were stuck there for that time.
Q: Are there senior-junior relationships among the priests’ wives?
A: The wives’ relationships are based on their husbands’ positions. The wives of newcomers are often chastised. On one occasion, it was suggested that a wife of a chief priest take a higher seat, and when she followed that direction, she was ridiculed by the wives of the executive priests behind her who later said, ‘That woman doesn’t know the customs of the head temple.’ Speaking of the priests’ families, the junior priests’ wives are expected to give expensive giftsÊsuch as fancy handbagsÊto the wives of senior priests.
Q: This illustrates the head temple’s money-first tendency, doesn’t it?
A: In a nutshell, their standard of judgment is not based upon faith. The high priest’s tyranny, backbiting by the executive priests, and their wives meddling with matters of the priesthood Ê all have mushroomed as dire problems within Nichiren Shoshu. Beneath the head temple’s pure and serene outer appearance, they have built a community more obsessed with worldly matters than secular society.
Q: Many readers contributed their impressions of your interview, which has been serialized in the Seikyo Shimbun. They were deeply impressed by your choice to remain at the head temple and fight against the Nikken sect.
A: Is that right? I feel very grateful. I am the one who has been encouraged by the warm hearts of the Gakkai members who have dedicated their lives day and night to kosen-rufu. Your compassionate support validates my judgment to stand up and fight resolutely against the slanderous actions of the high priest.
Q: A member who had worked as a Soka Group member assigned to the head temple for many years shared his memories of having received warm hospitality from you and your wife.
A: The Jorai-bo lodging was a haven for members who visited the head temple. Every day I witnessed their pure-hearted faith and strong, seeking ichinen. There is one thing I can assert from my observations over the past 20 years; it is the Gakkai members who have been yearning to see the Dai-Gohonzon with faith. Honorary President Ikeda in particular has genuinely cherished and protected the head temple. I am very much aware of this.
Q: The Gakkai would often use the Jorai-bo lodging as a meeting place during the summer training course at the head temple.
A: As I watched the Gakkai youth division members participate in their meetings, I dreamed that someday all of these young people would grow to become leaders for kosen-rufu and that kosen-rufu would truly progress as a result. This thought delighted me more than anything else. I have been watching them in hopes that many splendid leaders would emerge from their ranks. At the Jorai-bo, Honorary President Ikeda made speeches about faith and kosen-rufu. I watched him wholeheartedly raising these future leaders.
I sensed that he couldn’t have done this without a tremendous sense of passion and responsibility toward raising the youth. Former High Priest Nittatsu and his predecessors trusted the honorary president and Soka Gakkai members more than anyone else for their practice dedicated to kosen-rufu.
As a matter of fact, until recently many priests at the head temple recognized the great passion for kosen-rufu evinced by the Gakkai members for what it was.
Q: Are you saying that Nikken is the one who unilaterally destroyed this relationship of trust between Gakkai members and the priesthood?
A: Yes. Particularly over the last few years, the relationship between the Gakkai and the priesthoodÊonce based upon mutual trustÊ has suffered damage under the reign of High Priest Nikken. Needless to say, the fundamental cause for this is the high priest’s jealousy of the honorary president. He developed a stubborn sense of competition toward Mr. Ikeda. I feel strongly that this is the essence of the current temple issue. It is not complicated; a high priest has foolishly became jealous of a representative leader of the laity. Without the high priest’s base thinking, the current issue would not have arisen.
Q: It’s unheard of for a high priest to feel jealous of a believer.
A: Mr. Taiko Narita, a former chief priest who has since passed away, once related his concerns to me.
Editor’s Note: Mr. Narita, at the encouragement of second president Toda, became a Nichiren Shoshu priest in 1953. He was the chief priest of Shomyo-ji temple in Takasaki City, Gumma Prefecture, from 1954 through 1983. Unlike many priests who were critical of the Soka Gakkai, he persistently pursued harmonious unity between priesthood and laity throughout his life. Mr. Kanno worked under Mr. Narita for many years at Shomyo-ji temple.
Mr. Narita and then-Study Department Chief Abe [Nikken] differed in their opinions about harmony between priesthood and laity. At that time, Mr. Abe criticized Mr. Narita, saying, ‘Your way of thinking is Gakkai style.’ In reply, Mr. Narita said, ‘I have been a priest for the last 20 years, so I know what I am talking about.’ He thus maintained his understanding of the significance of the Soka Gakkai based on his years of experience as a priest. Mr. Narita at one time expressed his concern about Mr. Abe’s attitude toward the Soka Gakkai, saying: ‘Why does Mr. Abe have such a negative view of the Soka Gakkai? This is a problem.’ Mr. Narita often said that Study Department Chief Abe held negative thoughts against the Gakkai deep in his heart. That is why there was disagreement in many matters they discussed.
Q: Recently, Nikken insulted the late Narita.
Editor’s Note: Mr. Narita’s brother, Yugu Narita, once worked at the head temple. He later became the chief priest of Koryu-ji temple in Yubari, Hokkaido. In February of this year he left Nichiren Shoshu. On one occasion when Mr. Narita was still stationed at the head temple, Nikken confronted him, asking, ‘Are you going to side with Nichiren Shoshu or with the Soka Gakkai?’ At that time he further shouted, ‘The Narita family is rotten to the core!’ Nikken went on to say: ‘I heard that your brother Taiko of Shomyo-ji temple used President Ikeda’s book of lectures in his sermons. What about you? Are you going to do the same thing? Make up your mind now.’
A: To tell the truth, the current high priest abhors those who have any empathy with the Soka Gakkai. I often thought of quitting because the chief priest of the temple where I used to work was so horrible.
The late Mr. Narita’s behavior made me feel as if I had finally met a Nichiren Shoshu priest genuinely worthy of the title. In those days many believers were very poor; Mr. Narita often would say; ‘If you have no money to offer to the Gohonzon, then offer even ten pieces of white paper with all sincerity to the Gohonzon.’ When believers visited his temple, he would warmly greet them and prepare tea. He did shakubuku together with the lay members.
Q: What a contrast to the current Nikken sect within Nichiren Shoshu. It sounds like you are talking about a priest from another school. There seems to be two different kinds of priests, two sects within Nichiren Shoshu.
A: Whenever two or three of the priests get together, their discussion goes as follows: ‘How many funeral ceremonies are you going to have this month?’ ‘Are you getting substantial offerings? What about memorial services? How much are you making in offerings?’ The priests see times of mourning for the believers as a means of making money. They also say such things as ‘How many toba tablets are they going offer? How much do you make at your oko lectures?’ There has been criticism recently about the blatant reuse of toba (wooden memorial) tablets. Such conversations have led to the idea of shaving the toba tablets so that each tablet can be used many times. Gakkai members these days are holding funerals with their fellow members. Priests are protesting this because if they do not attend such ceremonies, their income is dramatically reduced. Though Nichiren Shoshu priests wear sacred robes, their state of life is based in the world of Animality. When I was ordained, it is a fact that the way in which acolytes were educated was extreme. We were ordered to sit upright for two hours at midnight on the stone pavement in front of Hoanden temple, where the Dai-Gohonzon was housed. However, an atmosphere still existed where people were permitted to be human, openly discussing matters which concerned them.
Q: The other day, a priest of the Nikken sect denied the humanism of the Gakkai.
A: I believe Buddhism exists in the behavior of human beings. I will share a story with you that happened during the time of Nittatsu Shonin. There had been a large earthquake in Shizuoka prefecture where the head temple is located. Suddenly, the telephone rang in my lodging and a woman’s voice asked: ‘Are you OK? We just had an earthquake.’
My wife did not know who it was, and was astonished to discover that it was Nittatsu Shonin’s wife. In contrast to Nikken’s wife, Nittatsu Shonin’s wife was very reserved and quiet. My wife had never spoken with her until that day. Because she happened to be at the head temple when the earthquake hit, I believe that she called every temple lodging out of her sincere concern for the people living there. This would never be seen today.
For instance, right after I was ‘exiled’ to the Umamizuka dormitory, the wife of Senior Director Yagi drove by my lodging. The road from Taiseki-ji deadends in front of my residence. She was being driven by another priest who was acting as her chauffeur. In front of my house, her car made a U-turn. She made eye contact with me, as I was standing in front of the house. We greeted each other superficially, of course, but without saying a word she left. At the time I thought that while she didn’t have to get out of her car, she could have said hello, how are you, or something. Such basic courtesy is lacking.
Q: What you say makes sense. People may wonder why she came all the way out to your place. They also may assume that she came to check up on you.
A: Many at the head temple display behavior that disqualifies them as priests or even as human beings. They are unaccustomed to studying the doctrines of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, and further more, there is no one to teach them. This is why, for all practical purposes, they have no idea how to dispose of slanderous religious objects. In fact, the danto families who belong to the temple lodgings have altar areas filled with such objects. Chief priests at the head temple are well aware of this. However, they feel that if they point out these problems, the membership of the temple parishes will dwindle. The priests who came from the Soka Gakkai may strictly point out the slanderous actions of the danto members, but these members would respond by saying: ‘The former chief priest never criticized us for possessing objects of worship in addition to the Gohonzon. The chief priest before him did not criticize it either; you alone are making an issue out of it. I do not understand.’ Eventually these complaints by danto members reach the high priest. However, the high priest himself is not enthusiastic about refuting such slander. Rather, he feels that to do so would create problems among the danto membership. Ultimately, the slanderous situation is allowed to continue. It is a vicious cycle. But when it comes to the Soka Gakkai, the priesthood does not mind inventing stories and crying ‘Slander!’ The fact is that the Gakkai is the only group that has been dealing seriously with the question of slanderous objects of worship. Where the priesthood is accusing the Soka Gakkai, everything is being distorted.
Q: Then what about the acolytes who shoulder the future of Nichiren Shoshu? We recently heard that many acolytes banded together and ran away from the head temple.
A: I sympathize with these acolytes. Many of those who are ordained each year are about junior high school age. Upon entry into the priesthood, they appear honest and open. After three of four years, however, their expression changes. Even if they exhibited a haughty or arrogant expression, this would not be too bad, but what they have developed is a look of slyness and cunning. Because of pressure from above to curry favor from their seniors, their faces begin to look like men who seek only to maneuver cunningly through the complexities of human relationships, protecting themselves.
Presently, people suffer because normal dialogue is impossible within Nichiren Shoshu. The more pure one’s heart, the more serious one’s determination to become an upstanding and excellent priest, the greater the suffering one will be forced to endure. More than 100 acolytes have been expelled since the current high priest assumed office. This is proof of his failure as a teacher to them. He did not raise young people with compassion, and Nichiren Shoshu will pay the price in the future. There is no doubt about it. What I’m saying applies not just to the children, but to adult priests and their families as well. Their expressions harden as time passes. Once they go wrong, it is so difficult for them to untangle themselves.
Q: We understand that during the temple issue more than 10 years ago, there were some priests who resolutely reiterated the importance of the Gakkai.
Editorial Note: More than ten years ago there was an attempted scheme by Masatomo Yamazaki, a former attorney for the Gakkai. His plans lay behind the activities of the Shoshinkai priests’ movement. The head temple was in a state of extreme confusion at the time. In the midst of this, many priests saw through to the heart of the matter and recognized the greatness of the Gakkai’s faith, and the profound dedication of the successive presidents for kosen-rufu. Over many years, these priests continued to say that it was the Soka Gakkai who restored Nichiren Shoshu in the difficult period after World War II, which they said the young priests wouldn’t understand.
A: I personally did not witness how destitute Nichiren Shoshu was after World War II. However, since I became a priest in 1963, I witnessed the tremendous rise of Nichiren Shoshu, including the construction of the Sho-Hondo. Even young priests must have clearly seen that it was the Soka Gakkai who donated the Soichi-bo lodging and the Soni-bo lodging temples, as well as the major repair work of the Sho-Hondo and Jorai-bo. All of this was accomplished thanks to the sincere offerings of Gakkai members.
Q: In order to shift attention away from their scheme known as Operation C, the priesthood asserts that the Gakkai originally had planned to become independent of Nichiren Shoshu.
A: You can tell that this is a lie by simply looking at the tremendous offerings made by the Gakkai to dignify the celebration of the 700th anniversary of the founding of Taiseki-ji. The priesthood took utmost advantage of the deep faith of the honorary president and the Soka Gakkai members. As soon as the ceremonies were over, Nikken dismissed the honorary president and the other leaders. To be aware of the baseness of Nikken’s actions, yet to share his jealously and join him in attacking the Gakkai, is the lowest form of human behavior. To behave in such a manner disqualifies one as a Buddhist. Those who do not understand the meaning of the existence of the Soka Gakkai have lost sight of the guidance of the successive high priests. Their faith has become distorted. This delusionÊonshitsuÊon the part of many priests has allowed the high priest’s insane actions to go unchecked. That is why the current priesthood issue took place.
Q: How would you go about reforming Nichiren Shoshu?
A: I think the first thing we have to do is to humbly return to the spirit of Nikko Shonin, who is the Treasure of the Priest. In so doing, we can regain our correct posture as priests, which will lead to the reformation of Nichiren Shoshu. In the ‘Admonitions of Nikko,’ the second high priest states: ‘As for practitioners who treasure the Law more highly than their own lives, even if they are but humble teachers of the Law, you must hold them in great esteem, revering them as you would the Buddha’; ‘You should revere a teacher of the Law who engages in this propagation as a sacred priest, even though he may be your junior’; ‘Even though they may be lowly, you should deeply respect and regard those whose understanding of the Buddhism surpasses your own.’ As soon as we return to this original spirit of Nikko Shonin, we will clearly see the essence of what is happening right now.
Who revived Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings in modern times? Who propagated it in the world? The current priesthood cannot perceive the answer to these questions. They do not properly understand or appreciate the efforts of Honorary President Ikeda and the Gakkai members for kosen-rufu.
This blindness on the part of the priesthood is the source of their jealousy toward Honorary President Ikeda and the Soka Gakkai. I deeply pray that the priesthood will awaken as soon as possible.
I choose to remain at the head temple out of my sincere desire to restore the purity of Nichiren Shoshu. To this end, I am going to continue to point out the slanderous acts of the high priest and put an end to this ultimate evil in Nichiren Shoshu. I am convinced that doing so corresponds to the shakubuku spirit which will be praised by Nichiren Daishonin.
Q: Thank you very much.