Volume 2, No. 1 (Part 2) January 27, 1992
EXPLANATION OF THE ‘NOTIFICATION OF EXPULSION OF THE SOKA GAKKAI FROM NICHIREN SHOSHU’
The priesthood’s claims in their ‘Notification of Expulsion’ are basically nothing new. Over the past year, publications such as the World Tribune, the SGI-USA Newsletter and the Issues pamphlet series have published refutations of the priesthood’s false claims. For that reason, we will not go into detail here but will simply summarize and clarify the truth.
Please note that the temple’s translation of its own document contains some differences from how the Soka Gakkai has translated some terms. For instance, the word hamon in the temple’s translation appears as expulsion. But according to standard Japanese-English dictionaries, the correct English term in religious contexts is excommunication, which is the word the Soka Gakkai has used. Time magazine, covering the situation in its international edition, also uses the word excommunication. Also, for clarification, the temple’s translation uses the term Living Essence of the Law, which has been for years translated as lifeblood of true Buddhism.
I. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN NICHIREN SHOSHU AND THE SOKA GAKKAI
The claim that Nichiren Shoshu has struggled for worldwide propagation is a dubious one. SGI members are well aware that it was because of the Soka Gakkai that the worldwide movement for kosen-rufu was begun, specifically when Daisaku Ikeda first visited the United States in October 1960, shortly after being inaugurated third president. Before the Soka Gakkai’s appearance, Nichiren Shoshu was a tiny, poor sect with no impact outside its local area.
The claim that the high priest is the only one to ‘receive the Living Essence of the Law’ is untrue. As Nichiren Daishonin says in ‘Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life’: ‘Shakyamuni who attained enlightenment countless aeons ago, the Lotus Sutra which leads all people to Buddhahood, and we ordinary human beings are in no way different or separate from each other. Therefore, to chant Myoho-renge-kyo with this realization is to inherit the ultimate law of life and death. To carry on this heritage is the most important task for Nichiren’s disciples, and that is precisely what it means to embrace the Lotus Sutra’ (The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 22). Later in the same Gosho, he writes: ‘Be resolved to summon forth the great power of your faith, and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the prayer that your faith will be steadfast and correct at the moment of your death. Never seek any other way to inherit the ultimate law and manifest it in your life. Only then will you realize that earthly desires are enlightenment and the sufferings of life and death are nirvana. Without the lifeblood of faith it would be useless to embrace the Lotus Sutra’ (MW-1, 25).
Also, regarding the claim that in 1951 President Josei Toda was presented with ‘three basic rules which he promised to obey’: First of all, according to the priesthood’s own document at that time, these are not rules or conditions set up by Nichiren Shoshu. They are simply requests made by Nichiren Shoshu to the independent corporation of the Soka Gakkai. Second, as President Akiya explained in the Nov. 11 World Tribune:
1) All Gakkai members who receive gojukai have registered their names and addresses with the local temples; and by the prosperity of all the temples throughout the world it is obvious that the members have been supporting them;
2) Members have always believed in the Dai-Gohonzon and made sincere efforts to accomplish kosen-rufu. No other group has ever put the Daishonin’s teachings into practice to the extent the Gakkai has. And several high priests have offered their highest praise in this regard;
3) According to Nittatsu Shonin on July 27, 1977: ‘This school is founded on the Gohonzon that embodies the oneness of the Person and the Law. The Gohonzon is in itself the embodiment of the three treasures. You have the Gohonzon enshrined in your altar at home, and each morning and evening you carry out your practice of faith [gongyo]. Through this practice you fully revere the three treasures.’
II. THE SOKA GAKKAI’S DISOBEDIENCE IN TERMS OF DOCTRINE
The claim that President Ikeda places disproportionate emphasis on the Law rather than on the personal, inner enlightenment of Nichiren Daishonin is false. The Oneness of the Person and the Law (ninpo ikka) innate in the Gohonzon is a basic premise upon which President Ikeda and other Gakkai leaders give guidance. President Ikeda repeatedly mentions the teachings of the Oneness of the Person and the Law. Therefore, President Ikeda’s expression ‘basic Law of the universe’ means the Mystic Law to which Nichiren Daishonin was enlightened in his own life. Finally, though the priesthood claims such a description is slanderous, a similar description appears in their own book titled Nichiren Shoshu Yogi (which has not been translated into English).
The issue of wooden Gohonzon:
1) The practice of transferring Gohonzon to wooden Gohonzon has had a long-standing history in Nichiren Shoshu;
2) The Soka Gakkai never commissioned any without the permission of High Priest Nittatsu, and the engraving was carried out by a firm Nichiren Shoshu itself used in the past;
3) General Administrator Fujimoto testified in court that the making of wooden Gohonzon was not a slander;
4) High Priest Nittatsu admonished the priesthood that the matter of the wooden Gohonzon was closed. And High Priest Nikken himself said in the sermon at his formal succession ceremony on April 6, 1980: ‘Nittatsu Shonin…taking all aspects of this matter into consideration, issued a decree to the priesthood and took measures prohibiting all further discussion of the subject. Therefore, those who do not obey his decree and arbitrarily insist on arguing the propriety of the matter commit slander.’
By emphasizing that the high priest possesses the ‘Living Essence of the Law’ or lifeblood of true Buddhism, the priesthood is implying that he is the only one who does possess it and that therefore ‘he also possesses the greatest wisdom with regard to all of the teachings of Buddhism.’ Further they claim, ‘Accordingly, in terms of personal practice and the worldwide propagation of the faith, the priests and lay members of this sect must carefully follow the instruction of the high priest.’ This implies that the high priest, by virtue of his title, is infallible, a dangerous claim that clearly contradicts Article 17 of Nikko Shonin’s ‘Twenty-six Admonitions’: ‘Do not follow even the high priest if he goes against the Buddha’s Law and propounds his own view.’
They also claim that by us pointing out the high priest’s slanders, we are slandering the Treasure of the Priest. This, too, is untrue. As clarified in the ‘Essential Doctrines of Nichiren Shoshu,’ the high priest is not the Treasure of the Priest, especially when he himself has slandered the Law: ‘The Treasure of the Priest indicates none other than Nikko Shonin, who correctly inherited the Great Pure Law from Nichiren Daishonin…. In a broader sense, the Treasure of the Priest also includes all priests and lay believers of this school who embrace the True Law with faith, practice it and take responsibility to propagate it to the best of their ability.’
The expulsion document claims that the Soka Gakkai is ‘desecrating the dignity of this sect’ by pointing out the slanders of the high priest and the priesthood in general. To the contrary, the Soka Gakkai is merely following the mandate of the Daishonin when he says: ‘He who injures or brings confusion to the Buddhist Law is an enemy of the Law. If one befriends another person but lacks the mercy to correct him, he is in fact his enemy. But 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. He makes it possible for the offender to rid himself of evil, and thus he acts like a parent to the offender. Those who are willing to reproach offenders are disciples of the Buddha. But those who will not oust offenders are enemies of the Buddhist Law’ (MW-2, 212).
B. The claim that President Ikeda slighted the significance of the high sanctuary is wrong for two reasons. First, the quote they cite is from a 1964 speech in which President Ikeda referred to the construction of the high sanctuary to counter reports by the media that Nichiren Shoshu was trying to build a national sanctuary. In the speech, he stated that the high sanctuary’s construction is one goal of Buddhism and what mattered most in Nichiren Shoshu was how to build the high sanctuary. He also mentioned that in the past Nichiren Shoshu had used the term national sanctuary but that this term does not correspond to the essential meaning of the Daishonin’s mandate for the construction of the high sanctuary. He explained that in an age of democracy the high sanctuary can be more widely open to the public.
In this context, President Ikeda emphasized that the chief purpose of the kosen-rufu movement and the practice of faith is to realize the happiness of all people. In contrast to this objective, he said, the construction of the high sanctuary can be defined as secondary or a formality.
This idea of formality was also raised by Nittatsu Shonin in 1974. He said: ‘Some people think that, since the Gosho indicates that the high sanctuary is where people confirm their commitment to faith, they must build it first so that they can visit it and receive the precepts there. Therefore, they become overly attached to the building itself and get caught up in defining the nature of the high sanctuary, using such terms as national, actual or theoretical…. Ultimately, the building itself doesn’t matter.’
High Priest Nikken himself said when he was the Nichiren Shoshu Study Department chief in 1976: ‘Even when it comes to the construction of the high sanctuary described in the ‘Ichigo Guho Sho’ or ‘On the Three Great Secret Laws,’ its significance does not necessarily lie in the building itself but in its contents, that is, the object of worship to be enshrined there. Some people, who believe that the high sanctuary should be constructed by the nation, insist that construction should take place only when kosen-rufu is actually accomplished. This contention stems from ignorance of Buddhism’s essential teaching and from attachment to formalities that overemphasize the building itself.’
Second, if what President Ikeda said 28 years ago was a serious doctrinal error, it would have been recognized as such back then. Yet no one took issue with it until now. In fact, the priesthood as a body praised President Ikeda at the time for his leadership for kosen-rufu and for his profound understanding of Buddhism.
C. The ceremonies mentioned by the priesthood were never addressed by Nichiren Daishonin; they are traditions with a history of Japanese cultural significance. Funerals were not officiated by priests until around the 18th century (the middle of the Edo Period). The inscription of toba (memorial tablets), designation of posthumous names, coming of age rites, etc., are also a matter of Japanese or Chinese custom having essentially nothing to do with Buddhism.
The Daishonin never specified the role of priests at ceremonies. To him, priests were people who renounced the secular life in order to deeply study and promote Buddhism, to remonstrate with authorities and debate heretical sects. Ceremonies were established much later within Nichiren Shoshu, and as has been explained, they are cultural in origin. To say that Soka Gakkai members conducting their own ceremonies makes the priests unnecessary is a strange claim. Whether priests are necessary to kosen-rufu, or any believers, depends on the extent they work for kosen-rufu. As long as the priests deem themselves to be somehow special and try to break the unity of believers, we can say that their existence is anti-Buddhism. They themselves call into question the reason for their existence.
III. THE SOKA GAKKAI’S DISOBEDIENCE FROM THE VIEWPOINT OF FAITH
A. The Soka Gakkai growth has come about because its members all have faith in the Dai-Gohonzon. Physically making trips to see the Dai-Gohonzon are beneficial and what believers sincerely seek, but they are not an absolute for practicing Buddhism in daily life. Nichiren Daishonin himself wrote to a disciple under severe extenuating circumstances: ‘From now on, you must not come to visit me in person unless absolutely necessary. When you have something urgent to tell me, send a messenger’ (MW-1, 226). Also, to claim that the Soka Gakkai is ‘abandoning the responsibility of protecting the head temple’ is ridiculous in that it was the priesthood who unilaterally took over responsibility for the tozan system and asked the Soka Gakkai to vacate the buildings they had used for various security functions at the head temple.
B. Temples are fortresses of the Law only if the priests there teach the Daishonin’s Buddhism correctly. If they do not, then the temples are in essence heretical, an obstruction to kosen-rufu. The Soka Gakkai has never prevented any member from visiting the temples. Our society is free and people can do as they please. This does not mean, however, that leaders cannot share their personal conviction that visiting these temples or becoming danto members is wrong. Because previous high priestsÊand even Nikken himselfÊhave said that promoting danto groups is not wise and even wrong, and that priests are basically incapable of giving guidance about secular matters to believers, Soka Gakkai leaders simply are relaying this guidance so that the members they are responsible for will have no regrets.
C. Again, as in point II-A, the Gakkai is protecting the priesthood by pointing out its errors and preventing priests from distorting the doctrine. Furthermore, acts of violence are completely prohibited by the Soka Gakkai, and the spontaneous behavior of a particular individual, from among the millions of Gakkai members, cannot be used to tarnish the entire organization.
IV. THE SOKA GAKKAI’S DEVIATIONS AS A RELIGIOUS CORPORATION
A. See points I and II.
B. Here the priesthood merely brings up past incidents and myths that were sensationalized in the press. All of these incidents have been settled long ago, sometimes even in a court of law, with the Soka Gakkai’s innocence having been proven. Knowing the Daishonin’s warning that those who propagate his Buddhism will face many persecutions, the priesthood would seemingly understand, as did Nittatsu Shonin, and be able to judge the veracity of the media’s allegations. Unfortunately, this section of the expulsion notice shows all too clearly that the priesthood is base enough to take advantage of the malicious profit-conscious media to break apart the organization of the Soka Gakkai.
V. THE SOKA GAKKAI’S BETRAYAL OF THE PRIESTHOOD
Soka Gakkai members sincerely believe in and practice Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism as he himself taught it. It is unfortunate that the priesthood that is supposed to protect it is instead subverting it. As stated before, to protect the purity of Nichiren Shoshu, members throughout the world have demanded that the slanderous high priest and his followers resign.
Pointing out the devilish functions that have entered into the lives of these people at this time can only help us in our efforts to make the Daishonin’s Buddhism truly a world religion. Though we pray that the priesthood will purify itself, we must continue our work for kosen-rufu, maintaining our awareness of the essence of this issue. When the priesthood awakens itself to the original spirit of the Daishonin, the harmonious unity of priesthood and laity can once again become a reality.
The priesthood in this claim is using a document written by a convicted extortionist, Masatomo Yamazaki. He is in jail because of his blackmail of the Soka Gakkai.
The so-called Yamazaki and Yahiro Papers were written by the Soka Gakkai’s then attorney, Masatomo Yamazaki, in which he reported in April 1974 the results of his investigation of Head Temple Taiseki-ji’s incorporation and accounting records. This document was co-signed by attorney Yorio Yahiro (Mr. Yahiro actually just prepared the final copy for presentation).
At the time, Mr. Yamazaki’s manipulative nature was becoming more apparent and this document was completely disregarded within the Soka Gakkai. The priesthood uses this document, created through the delusions of a criminal, to suggest that the entire Soka Gakkai had an agenda to control Nichiren Shoshu.
And yet, it was Mr. Yamazaki himself who made an issue out of this document by releasing it to the press at the time, even though it was he who wrote it.
If the temple can criticize the Gakkai using such a ridiculous document, then it seems all one has to do is fabricate a story and it can be used to attack anyone or any institution in society.
The Hojo Papers is a document authored by the Soka Gakkai’s then vice-president Hiroshi Hojo in June 1974.
It contained his personal lamentations over the plight of Nichiren Shoshu, which was going through an internal power struggle at the time. In another part of the document, he writes:
‘The Myokankai (a group of priests who were closely connected to Nittatsu Shonin) is now strengthening its forces. Many priests are dissatisfied with these Myokankai priests. We can see a tremendous schism prevalent in the priesthood.’
He also said: ‘Exactly as Sensei (President Ikeda) has been saying, underneath it all the priesthood is unimaginably ugly. In any case, we will defiantly fight against the evil priests and the corruption within Nichiren Shoshu.’
So writing, Mr. Hojo was concerned about the situation in which many priests were involved in a factional strife rather than seeking to promote kosen-rufu and take care of the members.
Mr. Hojo then continued: ‘From a long-range view, I feel there is no choice but for the Soka Gakkai to sever relations smoothly.’
When then Soka Gakkai President Ikeda read such a statement, even though it was made while Mr. Hojo was experiencing a temporary fit of emotionalism, President Ikeda admonished Mr. Hojo and encouraged him to make further efforts to realize harmony between priesthood and laity, and to strive further to resolve misunderstandings between the priesthood and the Gakkai.
Again, as in the case of the Yamazaki papers, the priesthood is using one person’s thoughts as evidence that the entire Soka Gakkai had a malicious plot.
The notice of expulsion, although a sad testimony to the current level of delusion in the priesthood, will have no more influence on the spirit and determination of the Soka Gakkai than the priesthood’s order to adopt Shinto talismans had in the past. President Makiguchi gave his life to protect the purity of the Daishonin’s teachings against such corruption. As one American scholar recently stated, ‘By excommunicating the Soka Gakkai, the priesthood has torn out its own heart.’
The Soka Gakkai has, from its inception, been dedicated to the realization of kosen-rufu, carrying out Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings exactly as he taught. It has based everything on the Gohonzon and the Gosho and will always continue to do so.
The priesthood’s contentions of slander by the Soka Gakkai have no basis in the Gosho and are based instead on clear deviations from correct doctrine. The Gosho’s warnings about priests becoming corrupt have proven true.
The Soka Gakkai will carry on with the conviction that to embrace faith means to continue to advance fearlessly and single-mindedly, no matter what difficulties might confront us, for the sake of kosen-rufuÊthat is, in order to enable all people to realize true happiness.
Compiled by Dave McNeill, Assistant Managing Editor, World Tribune,
and Joel Drazner, Associate Editor, Seikyo Times