Volume 1, No. 6 (Part 3) November 18, 1991
Soka Gakkai President Einosuke Akiya elaborates on the Grave Slanders of the Nichiren Shoshu Priesthood
This speech was delivered to the nationwide prefecture chiefs conference held on Nov. 7, before the Soka Gakkai received the letter from High Priest Nikken urging the Soka Gakkai to dissolve (see the Nov. 11 issue of the World Tribune).
Almost one year has passed since the current problem with the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood broke out. In that time the priesthood has hatched a variety of schemes with the intent of destroying the Soka Gakkai. The media has reported that the priesthood, as if to put the finishing touches on their evil machinations, has sent a document urging the Soka Gakkai to disband.
This irresponsible approach, informing the media before the official documents arrived at the Soka Gakkai headquarters, is exactly the same kind of insidious tactic the priesthood employed at the end of last year in announcing its dismissal of the chief and senior lay representatives. Such actions are wholly unbefitting for members of the clergy or, for that matter, for any Buddhist. Again, they have acted unilaterally, without consultation, refusing the Gakkai′s repeated attempts at dialogue.
Because we have yet to receive the priesthood′s document, I cannot say much at this time. But if, as we suspect, it contains word of their intent to no longer recognize us as an organization of lay believers, it would be a senseless move.
History shows that for the past 60 years, it has been the Soka Gakkai that has contributed most to the development of Nichiren Shoshu and has opened the way for the fulfillment of Nichiren Daishonin′s mandate of kosen-rufu. If the priesthood now seeks to disband the Soka Gakkai, the organization that has been entrusted with the Buddha′s will and mandate, then it is in fact seeking to destroy kosen-rufu itself. From the standpoint of Buddhism, this certainly constitutes the gravest and most evil of all slanders.
The Gakkai is clearly innocent of any wrongdoing, from a social as well as a religious perspective. Yet it seems that the priesthood has now transformed itself into a heretical ‘Nikken sect,’ which contradicts the spirit of our humanistic times and completely subverts the teachings of the founder, Nichiren Daishonin, and his successor, Nikko Shonin. We are therefore resolved to fearlessly battle these diabolical elements within the priesthood to ensure the protection and propagation of Nichiren Daishonin′s Buddhism.
The request by High Priest Nikken and his faction that the Soka Gakkai disband has absolutely no basis in reason and is meaningless legally as well.
There will be no change in our activities from the past. We will continue, as we have until today or rather, even more so to advance according to the just ideals of Buddhism, and based on the principles of Nichiren Daishonin′s Buddhism, as an organization that contributes to society while promoting peace, culture and education.
Incidentally, the ‘ten grave slanders’ of High Priest Nikken have now become quite well known. With the emergence within the priesthood of the extremely slanderous and erroneous view that the high priest is ‘true’ while Nichiren Daishonin is ‘provisional,’ another slander has been added to the list. Thus it is now the ‘eleven grave slanders.’ And now [with the priesthood′s request for the Gakkai′s dissolution] we may have to amend the list again. But I would like to give you the most up-to-date account as of this moment:
1) With the doctored transcript of an illegitimately made tape as an excuse to level false charges, the chief and senior lay representatives were summarily ousted from their positions under the pretext of a change in the Rules of Nichiren Shoshu. This is the ‘grave slander of punishment based on false charges.’
2) By adding an anti-humanistic amendment to the Rules, which provides for disciplinary actions against those who criticize the high priest; by screaming at representatives of the laity, charging them with ‘committing the slander of arrogance’ and saying ‘I will recommend your punishment’; and by trying to intimidate believers by saying that their deceased relatives will ‘fall into hell’ [if a Nichiren Shoshu priest does not conduct their funeral service], High Priest Nikken is committing the ‘grave slander of contempt and intimidation of believers.’
3) Spreading heretical doctrines within the priesthood like ‘the high priest is the true Buddha’ and ‘the Gosho is only a part’ of the Daishonin′s teachings constitutes the ‘grave slander of destroying the Three Treasures of Buddhism.’
4) Praising Hakiri Sanenaga, whose ‘four slanders’ of the Daishonin′s Buddhism were the primary cause for Nikko Shonin leaving Mount Minobu, constitutes the ‘grave slander of altering the history of Nichiren Shoshu.’
5) Contriving the scheme called ‘Operation C’ and granting a private audience with a slanderous journalist are acts utterly unbefitting a high priest and amount to the ‘grave slander of conspiracy and intrigue.’
6) High Priest Nikken′s frantic rush to create danto groups connected directly to the temples [by trying to convince members to leave the Soka Gakkai], a practice which he himself prohibited as an improper and invalid means of propagation, constitutes the ‘grave slander of destroying the harmonious unity of believers.’
7) Lending tacit approval to the forced implementation of a new pilgrimage (tozan) system upon the believers (that requires them to register with the temple) and threatening to refuse to bestow the Gohonzon upon Gakkai members amount to using the Gohonzon as a tool to induce believers to leave the Gakkai and is the ‘grave slander of using the Gohonzon as a personal possession.’
8) High Priest Nikken’s attempt to revise the significance assigned to the Sho-Hondo, thereby negating the guidance of his predecessor, and his repeated attempts to deceive the believers through duplicity and self-contradiction is called the ‘grave slander of duplicity and self-contradiction.’
9) High Priest Nikken’s construction of a new gravestone for his ancestors on the grounds of a Zen temple, and his tolerance of many forms of slander among the families directly belonging to the head temple, form the ‘grave slander of tolerance toward slander.’
10) High Priest Nikken′s planned construction of a $15 million swimming pool for himself; his tolerance of his wife’s extravagant spending sprees, and the proliferation of self-indulgent and luxurious living among the priesthood in general equal the ‘grave slander of subverting [the Daishonin′s admonition] to be ′honest priests who desire little and are happy with whatever they have.′’
11) Designating High Priest Nikken as the ‘true’ or ‘essential’ while labeling Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin ‘provisional’ amounts to denying the status of Nichiren Daishonin as the true Buddha and attempting to create his own ‘Nikken sect.’ This amounts to the ‘grave slander of denying Nichiren Shoshu.’
In this way High Priest Nikken has left an indelible blemish upon the history of Nichiren Shoshu, a blemish of a sort that has never before been witnessed.
Angry voices are now arising from the membership throughout the nation saying: ‘We cannot stand for this any longer. This ′high priest who destroys the Law′ must step down immediately.’ These members, who have been striving on the front lines of kosen-rufu, love Nichiren Shoshu. They can no longer suppress their genuine voices of deep concern over this greatest of all crises to ever plague the sect.
Petitions calling for the resignation of High Priest Nikken have already begun to circulate in some areas, and I hope that this sort of activity will spread. At the same time, utmost respect and consideration for the individuality and self-determination of those in each area should be shown.
At any rate, it is our hope that this slanderous and evil high priest will step down as soon as possible.
The clearer the diabolical nature of the priesthood becomes, the more clearly it proves that the Soka Gakkai alone is the legitimate inheritor of the Daishonin′s Buddhism. The Soka Gakkai has been advancing in exact accord with the Daishonin′s teachings, and, no matter what happens, it will never be shaken or swayed. Thus, no problem or deadlock exists. Only by sternly admonishing slander can we protect the Daishonin′s Buddhism. Let′s be convinced that herein lies the greatest virtue and benefit, and let′s advance with confidence, dignity and pride in the justness of the Soka Gakkai.
The temple has been continually comparing Honorary President Ikeda to ‘Hakiri Sanenaga’ in an attempt to defame him. Yet by trying to alter history by praising Hakiri Sanenaga, they are entangling themselves in their own web of deceit. And now, incredibly enough, it seems that they are intending to require priests to refer to President Ikeda as ‘Devadatta.’
Devadatta was a priest. Never before in Buddhism has a lay believer been referred to as ‘Devadatta.’ If we speak of Devadatta, then doesn′t this refer to High Priest Nikken himself, who nurses a deep jealously toward President Ikeda and the Soka Gakkai and is hatching diabolical schemes to destroy Buddhism? Devadatta was an atrocious villain whose enmity toward Shakyamuni Buddha caused him to fall into hell.
There is a story about Devadatta an episode that took place while Shakyamuni Buddha was visiting the region of Kosambi to preach the Law. All of the members of Shakyamuni’s retinue had received offerings from the people, with the exception of Devadatta. He was the only one to whom the people had refrained making offerings. Neither Shakyamuni nor his disciples felt any need to receive offerings. People made offerings out of their sincere sense of gratitude and appreciation. Shakyamuni and the others did not feel that people were beholden to make offerings to them, so their faces did not reveal any such expectation. In contrast, Devadatta′s facial expressions gave away his desire for material wealth. The people, somehow sensing Devadatta’s inclination, thus naturally avoided him.
As a result, Devadatta was consumed with jealously. And, while the current problem exists on quite a different level, it essentially boils down to the same thing jealousy.
His ambition fueled by jealousy, Devadatta contrived to take over Shakyamuni’s religious order by conspiring with King Ajase. Together they came up with a number of depraved schemes to disrupt the harmonious unity of Shakyamuni’s followers.
I′m sure you are aware of his attempts to do away with Shakyamuni, which included stampeding a herd of wild elephants and rolling a boulder off of a cliff onto the Buddha and his followers. If he were able to kill Shakyamuni, he thought he could control the Buddha′s disciples and followers.
On Dec. 25 of last year, the high priest granted a private audience with a journalist who in the past authored a number of slanderous articles concerning the Gohonzon. It has been reported that during that meeting, High Priest Nikken said, ‘If cutting off Honorary President Ikeda wins us 200,000 out of 2 million Gakkai members, that will be enough.’ Isn’t this exactly the same kind of scheming Devadatta was guilty of?
The malevolent acts of High Priest Nikken and his group of supporters are strikingly similar to those of Devadatta, who, attached to worldly gain and profit, committed the grave offense of maliciously trying to destroy the harmonious unity of the believers. We are thus forced to conclude that High Priest Nikken, in hindering the progress of kosen-rufu and harassing the believers, may rightfully be called the ‘Devadatta’ of the 1990s.
We have no grievance with Nichiren Shoshu itself. What we are confronting is the evil of the ‘Nikken faction’ within the head temple, which is trying to take personal possession of the Daishonin’s Buddhism and is guilty of committing a series of serious offenses toward the Law, thus threatening to sever the lifeblood of Nichiren Shoshu.
This ‘Nikken faction’ is the part of Nichiren Shoshu that maintains that High Priest Nikken is superior to the founder, Nichiren Daishonin, the original Buddha. We are believers in the Daishonin′s Buddhism, and as such, it would be tragic if we failed to challenge such fraudulent and inverted reasoning.
Over the decades, we have been practicing faith in accord with the guidance of the successive high priests of Nichiren Shoshu. During that time we have never expressed an objection about the head temple or the high priest of the time. Nevertheless, we can no longer close our eyes to the current slander, the misguided views and outrageous and unjust behavior. We have therefore been saying what must be said.
Quoting [Chang-an′s interpretation of] the Nirvana Sutra, Nichiren Daishonin emphasizes the importance of directly stating what is right in order to protect the true Law, saying, ‘He who is willing to reprimand and correct the offender is one who truly understands and defends the Law, a true disciple of the Buddha’ (The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 211). What we have been doing exactly accords with the Daishonin’s guidance.
President Makiguchi, President Toda and their disciples freely expressed whatever they felt to the respective high priests. Those high priests always embraced what the believers had to say and replied warmly. In this way there developed a sense of good will, trust and heartfelt mutual respect. However, in High Priest Nikken we cannot sense even the slightest bit of compassionate intent to listen to the believers’ sincere wishes.
In addition, many point out that the current priesthood has become extremely arrogant because of the tremendous wealth it has amassed due to Soka Gakkai members’ generosity. The high priest himself has said that the priesthood would be just fine [financially] and that it would be no problem at all if not a single person visited the head temple again. Thus, the priesthood has been taking advantage of the believers’ sincerity by reveling in their donations and now intend to simply cut them off.
Seeing this reality, even scholars have labeled their posture as ‘devilish.’ Such priests, who should ‘desire little and be happy with whatever they have,’ allow themselves to live in decadent luxury while being strict with the lay believers nearly to the point of oppression and abuse.
Nowhere else in the world of Buddhism does such a situation exist; nor did it exist in the past, nor will it in the future. Both Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin would be saddened and outraged at such behavior, which lacks even the slightest degree of compassion.
Over the past decade, I have accompanied Honorary President Ikeda time and again to meet with High Priest Nikken, yet I do not recall feeling even once a sense of ease or relief while in his presence.
Instead, he expressed contempt for the believers and arrogantly drilled us about what the Gakkai was doing.
Could Nittatsu Shonin have foreseen this when he said, ‘If there should be a priest who tries to dominate the majority of believers, or whose thoughts reflect even the slightest arrogance, then that priest is a devil’? Nittatsu Shonin′s foresight in making this statement seems truly mystic.
For the past several decades, we have found joy and profound meaning in our practice of faith while striving to protect the head temple in our capacity as laity. The priesthood is placing emphasis on the word tradition, but this indeed has been our tradition.
Yet now the believers are righteously indignant at the head temple’s actions, which, under the color of tradition, amount to committing the ‘five cardinal sins’ and ‘destroying the Three Treasures’ of Buddhism.
Many conscientious scholars and professionals have now come to clearly recognize and understand the essence of the current problem with the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood. One such scholar distinctly pointed out that the priesthood, which has reverted to a sect of ‘funeral Buddhism,’ has lost its value and purpose as a religious organization. He said that it is the Soka Gakkai that is giving life to the Daishonin’s spirit in these modern times and it is the Soka Gakkai that will ultimately emerge victorious. Indeed, it is exactly as he stated.
The gap that exists between the priest-hood and the Soka Gakkai is in a large sense unmistakable. Someone compared it to a match between a seasoned champion sumo wrestler and an immature novice. It would be ridiculous for the underweight beginner to say that he is going to ‘excommunicate’ the champion.
Another scholar reflected that, should the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood renounce its relationship with the Gakkai, it would be equivalent to committing suicide. He said that a thinking person would question whether the priesthood possessed any sound judgment.
As these scholars′ views indicate, we of the Gakkai, as well as thoughtful people within the community, can see through the intrigue and misguided views of the priesthood and perceive and grasp the fundamental essence of the problem.
I therefore hope that, as fellow members of the Soka Gakkai, we will continue to advance nobly and cheerfully while taking concrete steps toward worldwide kosen-rufu, looking down upon the childish machinations of the priesthood from the standpoint of a lofty spirit grounded in faith.
A beneficial aspect of the current problems within the priesthood has been the opportunity to study. Many members have said how this situation has caused them to study more than ever and come to a deeper understanding of their faith and of Nichiren Daishonin′s spirit.
Topics of study have included the history of Nichiren Shoshu, the history of the Soka Gakkai and the history of the relations between the two. For many, this has ‘demystified’ the priesthood and allowed people to understand that priests are human, too, and can be overrun by the negative influences inherent in everyone.
Recently, another area has come to light: the inner workings of the priesthood itself. The more we learn, the more we come to understand that one cause of the current problems in the priesthood comes from the fact that High Priest Nikken has unquestionable authority in the priesthood and that there are no effective checks and balances set up to prevent him from forcing his will upon others.
Recently, the Chugai Nippo, an independent Buddhist newspaper in Japan, ran an article that explained some of the details of the internal workings of Nichiren Shoshu. Also, the Soka Shimpo, the Soka Gakkai’s youth division newspaper, ran a panel discussion among seven priests that touched on many subjects, including some of the internal politics at the head temple. The following is based on information taken from those two sources.
In Japan, the Religious Incorporation Law was enacted in 1951, and each Buddhist sect adapted a council system based upon the spirit of this law. In accordance with this, in 1952, Nichiren Shoshu was acknowledged as an umbrella organization, making the high priest and the chief administrator of the sect one and the same person. This consolidation of authority in the body of a single person has cemented into a virtual absolute dictatorship in recent years since Nikken became high priest in 1979.
In fact, of all the changes in the Rules made since 1952, more than half have been done under High Priest Nikken, all of them efforts to consolidate the authority of the high priest.
Normally, the council functions to decentralize power; however, according to the Rules of Nichiren Shoshu, the chief administrator (High Priest Nikken) possesses the right to convene and dissolve the council at will. No matter how the council wants to deal with or pass judgment on the actions of the chief administrator (High Priest Nikken), as long as he has the right to convene or dissolve the council, the council is powerless. The council is not an independent legislative body; it exists only as a figurehead.
Some Nichiren Shoshu council members agree that Nichiren Shoshu should be more open, in line with the times of this democratic age. For instance, one council member stated: ‘Parts of Nichiren Shoshu are very closed. The council was formed with the spirit of democracy…I don’t think that being closed off is good.’ To a question about whether the original role of the council was to prevent the chief administrator or high priest from becoming a dictator, this council member replied: ‘Many council members think so. The council should be more democratic.’
Thus, among the council members are some who recognize the necessity of openness within Nichiren Shoshu and the necessity of restoring the council′s original function to point out and halt any wrongdoing within the priesthood. However, the people who dominate the council, although supposedly elected from among the priesthood, all come from the so-called prestigious families that have dominated Nichiren Shoshu since the Meiji era, when the priests were first permitted to marry. Thus, the integrity of the council itself has been lost in family power struggles and intrigue.
The following are the members of the council: Giyu Hayase, chairman; Jissei Doizaki, vice-chairman; and the 14 council members are Keido Hosoi, Hoyu Takano, Jicho Sato, Gichu Funahashi, Zendo Saito, Shinkyo Fujimoto, Eijun Ishii, Gijun Hayase, Kogyo Fujiwara, Takudo Hosoi, Shinso Abe, Shutuku Nishida, Chodo Ishibashi and Judo Hanano.
Councilman Abe is the son of High Priest Nikken. Councilman Giyu Hayase is the eldest son of Executive Officer Nichiji Hayase, and Councilman Gijun Hayase is his younger brother.
Councilman Fujimoto is General Admin-istrator Nichijun Fujimoto’s younger brother. Councilman Keido Hosoi is the eldest son of former High Priest Nittatsu, and Councilman Takudo Hosoi is his second son. Councilman Jichi Sato is the brother-in-law of General Affairs Bureau Chief Gikan Hayase. The Hayase family holds four seats, the Hosoi family holds two seats, and three others are directly related to senior executive priests.
High Priest and Chief Administrator Nikken can absolutely control the lives and futures of each of these individuals and families because his powers include:
1) The right to appoint and dismiss the general administrator.
2) The right to designate the next high priest and chief administrator.
3) The right to appoint and dismiss all local chief priests.
4) The right to appoint and dismiss the five councilors who constitute the body responsible for disciplinary action against priests and for dealing with petitions coming from within the priesthood.
5) The right to convene or dissolve the council itself.
During a recent panel discussion among several priests here designated with the letters ‘A’ through ‘G’ the following comments were voiced [the situation within the priesthood requires that these priests remain anonymous]:
B: I must say the high priest is quite ignorant of secular matters. He is actually quite childish. Because he was raised as an only child [of a high priest], he has a history of having his own way. So if things do not go as he pleases, he can′t stand it. He is very haughty. I would say, ultimately, that the current issue stems from the high priest′s character.
E: The high priest has too much power, yet many priests in the front lines just follow him blindly, without expressing their own individuality. Also, more control is being forcefully exercised over the general priesthood to get them to strengthen their unity. This is clearly a vicious circle. I believe that deep in their hearts many priests have distanced themselves from the high priest.
C: To begin with, the high priest does not trust us ordinary priests. When the current trouble broke out, we received no explanation from the high priest about it.
A: When President Ikeda was dismissed as sokoto at the end of last year, nothing was explained to us. Even the council members were not informed of what was about to happen until the very day the head temple announced the change in the Rules, which resulted in his dismissal.
D: After the council meeting was over, the majority of the council members said to each other that something terrible would follow.
E: We priests didn’t know anything about the letter of inquiry addressed to the Soka Gakkai. Not until the new year unfolded did the authorities of Nichiren Shoshu explain. It was an extremely secret matter known only to some executive priests and their confidants.
F: No one within Nichiren Shoshu can say anything to the high priest. Even though the high priest says, ‘If you have any opinions, please share them with me,’ the priests are afraid of what will happen to them if they do indeed express their opinions. That′s why they don′t say anything.
A: The current situation within the Nichiren Shoshu priest-hood is very rigid and serious.
D: No one within Nichiren Shoshu can give advice to the high priest. Even senior priests are only like decorations.
C: Of course, they cannot say anything to the high priest. Should they say anything, they would be chewed out by the high priest. Communication among priests is very poor right now.
G: Priests now mistrust each other. Their dialogue is only geared to finding out who is fighting together with the high priest and against the Soka Gakkai. It is indeed an abominable atmosphere in which priests suspiciously watch each others conduct.
E: If I get a phone call from another priest, I am apprehensive about talking because I naturally wonder if I am being tested.
F: Within Nichiren Shoshu there are two groups, one for action and one for guidance. The action group is geared to implement every policy handed down from Nichiren Shoshu, but in fact it functions more like a secret service.
B: It is indeed a case of fear politics, prompting priests to isolate themselves and eventually desert the high priest. There is no doubt that the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood will lose.
Because of this situation within the priesthood, the Soka Gakkai has made three requests since the beginning of the dispute. The requests are:
1) That the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood become open to the world in a manner that befits the age of democracy;
2) That the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood correct its authoritarian manner and condescending attitude toward lay believers; and
3) That the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood correct self-indulgence among priests and establish a tradition of modesty and wisdom.
Only by fulfilling these requests can Nichiren Shoshu become a world religion that can take the lead in the 21st century and fulfill the will of Nichiren Daishonin.