Volume 1, No. 5 (Part 2) November 11, 1991
Soka Gakkai President Einosuke Akiya gave the following speech at the 41st Soka Gakkai Central Executive Conference held on Oct. 23, 1991.
Today, I will discuss and clarify the essence of the current issue involving the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood.
Scholars who are affiliated with neither the priesthood nor the Soka Gakkai clearly perceive the true nature of the issue from a dispassionate, third-party point of view. For instance, Prof. Atsumi Ibaraki of Kyoto Junior College states, ‘The current dispute is not a problem of the Soka Gakkai; rather, it is a problem of the priesthood itself, which has failed to cope with a changing society.î In other words, while it might seem that both the priesthood and the Soka Gakkai share responsibility for the current issue, this is not in fact the case. The priesthood created the problem by itself.
On a more fundamental level, it can be said that High Priest Nikken′s extraordinarily authoritarian attitude has been the basic cause of the problem. I myself have met with the high priest many times over the last 10 years, but not even once during these private audiences with him have I heard him express appreciation for the Soka Gakkai members′ devoted efforts toward kosen-rufu, nor have I received heartwarming words of encouragement from him.
We can now see that the high priest has been consistently thinking of ways to control the Soka Gakkai and turn it into an organization similar to the Hokkeko groups with their meek obedience.
The threatening remarks he made on July 21 of last year during the audience that I had together with SGI President Ikeda are typical examples of his authoritarian stance. High Priest Nikken was infuriated at the slow progress of the construction of new temples that were to be donated to Nichiren Shoshu by the Soka Gakkai, and at the poor attendance at ushitora gongyo. Looking at me, he shouted, ‘You have committed the slander of extreme arrogance,î and to President Ikeda, he said, ‘I will put the issue of your impeachment before the disciplinary committee.î Later, the high priest repeatedly denied having made these remarks to Mr. Ikeda and myself, but they were overheard by vice presidents Yasuo Morita, Yorio Yahiro and Keima Hirano, who were then waiting downstairs. Even though there were witnesses, the high priest still denies the fact that he said such things.
As is well known to many Nichiren Shoshu priests, the current high priest loses his temper as easily as he forgets things that he has said and done. The high priest thinks that he can get away with this by saying he has forgotten, but for me, being angrily reprimanded by the high priest is an experience I will never forget.
The high priest′s denial of having stridently scolded Mr. Ikeda and myself possibly stems from fear that an admission would undermine his authority or cause him to lose face. In retrospect, his adamant denial of having threatened impeachment would seem to indicate that he wanted to cover up the fact that already at the time he had been ruminating over possible ways to attack Mr. Ikeda, and that this had slipped out inadvertently in his angry outburst.
Instead of impeaching Mr. Ikeda through due process, five months later High Priest Nikken unilaterally dismissed him from the position of chief lay representative of Nichiren Shoshu (sokoto) and myself from that of senior lay representative (daikoto) by orchestrating certain changes in the Rules of Nichiren Shoshu. Judging from the fact that this revision of the rules and the ensuing dismissals took place so abruptly, it is obvious that the high priest must have already had this outcome in mind when he made his remarks during our audience in the summer of last year.
The second Soka Gakkai president, Josei Toda, while deeply respecting correct priests, was very strict with evil priests. He once stated, ‘I will respect noble priests, admonish evil priests and refute slanderous priests.î Distinguishing correct priests from evil and slanderous priests, and being prepared to admonish the latter who look down on and exploit lay believers for their selfish purposes, have been unchanging principles of the Soka Gakkai since the days of the first president, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. It should still remain the same today. Members from the days of Mr. Makiguchi say that Mr. Toda was perhaps a hundred times stricter toward such priests than Mr. Ikeda is. On more than one occasion, priests of the head temple were taken aback by the strictness of Mr. Toda’s admonitions.
When the Soka Gakkai was established as an independent religious corporation in 1952, Nikken Abe, the current high priest, and Nichiji Hayase, the current executive advisor, were most outspoken in opposing the idea. I clearly remember that President Toda was very strict with them at that time.
Compared to Mr. Toda, Mr. Ikeda has been very broad-minded and generous toward the priesthood, expecting that although criticism may be raised against some of its members for unacceptable conduct, the priesthood would eventually correct such priests by itself. With this understanding, Mr. Ikeda maintained a low profile toward the priesthood.
At the nationwide chief priests′ guidance meeting in January of this year, High Priest Nikken, while praising Mr. Toda′s loyalty, alleged that the Soka Gakkai today has departed from the spirit of its earlier days. This is not true.
High Priest Nikken only praised Mr. Toda in order to defame President Ikeda. If Mr. Toda heard about this, he would surely be appalled.
Regarding the origins of the current issue, the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood purports that it was triggered by a speech that President Ikeda made at the Headquarters leaders′ meeting on Nov. 16 of last year. However, this trumped-up accusation was made as part of a plot by the priests to undermine the influence of Mr. Ikeda′s leadership so that they could gain control over SGI members. The accusations made by the priesthood proved to be nothing more than an excuse to justify its betrayal; such actions are indeed unbecoming of the clergy.
During the summer last year, the priesthood was developing an Operation C, a plan to ‘cut’ the Soka Gakkai and Honorary President Ikeda off from Nichiren Shoshu. The goal was to dismiss Mr. Ikeda from the position of chief lay representative and to publicly state that Nichiren Shoshu has severed all ties with the Soka Gakkai. In this way the priesthood thought it could completely destroy the organization of the Soka Gakkai. The existence of this plot was accidentally revealed by the secretary of the Nichiren Shoshu Overseas Department [the Rev. Kido Fukuda] at the start of this year, and an original manuscript outlining this operation was recently exposed through the investigation of television journalists.
Indications of the existence of a plot against the Soka Gakkai have been appearing since the middle of last year. In August of last year, a former member and leader of the Soka Gakkai, Genjiro Fukushima, wrote a postcard on which he stated: èThe priesthood finally has begun to take action. Soon it will happen.î Rumors of the impending dismissal of the chief lay representative began to spread among the families of the priests in September of last year.
A journalist [Isao Dan], who has made a name for himself by slandering the Soka Gakkai, published an article about a meeting he had with High Priest Nikken at the end of last year. In the article, he states, èThe high priest felt they should have taken action to solve the problem of the Soka Gakkai much earlier, and regretted that their preparations to this end had taken so long.î
From this, we see that the priesthood, centering on the high priest, has been plotting to dismiss Mr. Ikeda from the position of chief lay representative since the summer of last year. Exactly as set forth in Operation C, the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood revised its rules on Dec. 27, 1990, thus effectively dismissing Mr. Ikeda, myself and other leaders from our positions as Nichiren Shoshu lay representatives.
Before taking this step, the priesthood made an issue out of President Ikeda′s Nov. 16 speech, sending a questionnaire, dated Dec. 16, 1990, to the Soka Gakkai Headquarters. In it, the priesthood demanded a written reply from the Soka Gakkai within seven days. On Dec. 26, the Nichiren Shoshu Administrative Office issued a notification that the priesthood had determined that the Soka Gakkai had no intention of providing written answers to the questions. The dismissals were enacted the following day, Dec. 27. While rejecting every form of dialogue, the priesthood took rapid and extreme action against the Soka Gakkai. It is clear that the priesthood referred to Mr. Ikeda′s speech only to justify taking actions that it had already decided upon. The questionnaire was based on a surreptitiously obtained tape that was mistranscribed either out of ineptitude or, as now seems more likely, malice.
Faced with the cogent answers provided by the Soka Gakkai, the priesthood had no choice but to acknowledge the existence of errors in the tape′s transcription, retracting portions of the letter that were based on three misquotations of Mr. Ikeda, and another portion that was based on hearsay. While apologizing for the inaccuracies, the priesthood insisted, quite illogically, that the document was still valid.
In fact, however, five major errors, including the one based upon hearsay, were acknowledged in the transcription of the tape. Therefore, the five basic questions that constituted the main part of the document had lost all meaning, rendering the entire questionnaire invalid. Common sense dictates that if even a portion of a document is found to be fallacious or fabricated, then the entire document legally becomes invalid.
In the first place, this questionnaire was in the form of a document that General Administrator Nichijun Fujimoto attempted to hand me during the Administrative Office and Soka Gakkai Communication Conference on Dec. 13, 1990. However, at that time I told him: èIn the event that this document is based on unfounded accusations from an altered tape and if it is used as an official document, you may later have to take responsibility for it.î I also strongly suggested that we conduct dialogues rather than communicate through written documents, and requested that the Rev. Fujimoto clarify the source of the tape. He agreed and withdrew the document, promising that he would think about other approaches. However, a few days later, the priesthood suddenly sent this document, dated Dec. 16, to the Soka Gakkai Headquarters, along with the claim that after carefully comparing the tape in its possession to other tapes, it had deemed the tape to be genuine.
From a legal standpoint, the fact that the priesthood sent a questionnaire (virtually a litany of accusations) to the Soka Gakkai based upon unconfirmed information represents a case of libel. The priesthood′s fatal mistake was in taking the series of actions, including the dismissal of President Ikeda from his position as chief lay representative, based on the claim that the Soka Gakkai had failed to respond to its questionsÊquestions that were not based on fact. Indeed, the mistakes committed by the priesthood cannot be just written off as an error of hasty judgment.
The portions of the letter withdrawn by the priesthood included a number of misleading observations, such as: ‘The honorary president′s statements are seriously opposed to Buddhism; he denies Nichiren Daishonin′s noble character and his doctrines,î or èHe interprets the Daishonin′s teachings in his own way; hence his are the doctrines of the ‘Ikeda Sect’.’ Thus, the unfounded sections contained remarks that gave the impression that Mr. Ikeda was creating his own doctrines and thereby seriously going against those of Nichiren Daishonin.
General Administrator Fujimoto attempted to groundlessly libel the person who has made the greatest contributions to the prosperity of Nichiren Shoshu. Furthermore, although it was pointed out that he might later be held accountable if the contents of the document proved erroneous, even after this proved in fact to be the case, he has never apologized to Mr. Ikeda, nor has he taken any official responsibility for his misconduct. On the contrary, he continues to make slanderous remarks against the Soka Gakkai.
The current executive priests of Nichiren Shoshu have disregarded Mr. Ikeda′s civil rights. This is a serious offense for religious leaders who are supposed to protect the people. Moreover, who is it that has distorted Nichiren Daishonin′s teaching by claiming that the high priest is èthe Daishonin of modern timesî? Who is it that is committing grave slander by opposing Buddhism and denying èNichiren Daishonin′s noble character and his doctrinesî? A scholar of religious studies has deplored the plight of Nichiren Shoshu, stating that what the priesthood these days insists to be the correct teaching should be branded as èthe doctrines of the Nikken sect.î
Some in the media have reported that the current issue was triggered by Mr. Ikeda’s Nov. 16 speech. This is completely incorrect. In that speech, Mr. Ikeda, while congratulating members on the successful conclusion of the year marking the Soka Gakkai′s 60th anniversary and encouraging them to look toward the 70th anniversary, confirmed many fundamental and significant points. His speech should be regarded as an important guideline for those who are thinking seriously about the future of kosen-rufu. I believe it was a revelation of Mr. Ikeda′s ideas about what modern religion should be, and contains universal principles that apply to all teachings. The priesthood′s accusations relative to this speech indicate that its current members have not been promoting kosen-rufu and therefore lack an understanding of the difficulties involved in this undertaking, as well as of the differences in the cultures and religions of the world.
In referring to guidance on the difficulty of propagation that the 65th high priest Nichijun Shonin gave at the Soka Gakkai′s general meeting in 1955, Mr. Ikeda confirmed the validity of the Soka Gakkai’s ingenuity and efforts in advancing kosen-rufu.
Mr. Ikeda, quoting the guidance of successive high priests, confirmed their deep understanding of the significance of the Soka Gakkai′s movement for peace and culture. Among others, he cited the following words of High Priest Nikken (in 1982): ‘In particular, the believers who have accepted the Gohonzon of Nichiren Shoshu, beginning with the honorary head of all [Nichiren Shoshu] lay organizations, Mr. Ikeda, have achieved excellent results in the global propagation of the True Law through their practice. [I believe] their efforts for true peace and for the promotion of culture are the proper way to repay the great compassion of Nichiren Daishonin, Nikko Shonin and Nichimoku Shonin.’
President Ikeda then cited remarks of Dr. Johann Galtung, a world-famous scholar of peace, referring to the profound relationship between Buddhism and the peace movement. He also quoted a passage from the Gosho, èConversation between a Sage and an Unenlightened Manî: èHaving received life, one cannot escape death. Yet though everyone, from the noblest, the emperor, down to the lowliest commoner, recognizes this as a fact, not one person in a thousand or ten thousand truly takes the matter seriously or grieves over itî (The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 5, p. 41).
He then quoted the passage, èI thought that I should first learn about death, before learning about other things’ (Gosho Zenshu, p. 1404). Mr. Ikeda thus confirmed the greatness of Nichiren Daishonin′s Buddhism, which enables one to solve the problems of life and death, and the greatness of those who embrace this teaching.
Mr. Ikeda then proposed that the ‘Ode to Joy’ (lyrics by Schiller) from Beethoven′s Ninth Symphony be sung by 50,000 people on the occasion of the Soka Gakkai′s 65th anniversary, and again by 100,000 people on the occasion of its 70th anniversary.
Promoting peace and culture and providing a solution to the problems of life and death are the ultimate issues that any religion must address. They are the issues that we must squarely tackle in developing our kosen-rufu movement. The Nov. 16 speech dealt with how modern religions should respond to these questions. In this context, the logic of President Ikeda′s speech is clear and its content perfectly correct from the standpoint of the Daishonin′s Buddhism.
However, the priesthood, instead of grasping the entirety of the speech and its basic import, picked up on a few words used by Mr. Ikeda and, taking them out of context, used them to attack the Soka Gakkai. What was worse, the attack was based on a deliberate alteration of the tape, distorted facts and mere hearsay. Prof. Ibaraki of Kyoto Junior College states: èGenerally speaking, there are some in the priesthood who do not want lay believers to be as well informed as they are. There is a tendency within the priesthood to crave unenlightened individuals. As seen in the current issue, the priesthood excerpted parts of Mr. Ikeda′s speech and tried to make an issue out of them. Such an attitude is a clear manifestation of the priesthood′s tendency to look down on believers.î As it turned out, the leading members of the priesthood did not attempt to understand a speech of profound validity. Instead they used it to try to break up the Soka Gakkai and force its members to follow them blindly. They have revealed their true colors; they have themselves lost sight of the goal of achieving kosen-rufu and are exulting in the abuse of their own authority.
Now that the facts about this scheme to destroy the Soka Gakkai by using the Nov. 16 speech have come to the surface, the priesthood will never be able to escape the responsibility of having created tremendous confusion among the believers. If it were to be found that the high priest himself had ordered the questionnaire to be written and sent to the Soka Gakkai, it would be a serious matter indeed. Destroying the harmonious unity of believers who are dedicated to promoting kosen-rufu is a grave offense that Nichiren Daishonin strictly prohibited.
Let us clearly discern the true nature of the priesthood that now hinders the progress of kosen-rufu, crush its plot, and forge on dauntlessly to fulfill our mission as followers of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.
At the end of last year, the priesthood, using President Ikeda′s Nov. 16 speech as a pretext, suddenly revised the rules of Nichiren Shoshu, thereby effectively dismissing Mr. Ikeda from the position of chief lay representative and other leaders from that of senior lay representative.
However, as it turned out, two days before the extraordinary meeting of the Nichiren Shoshu Council to revise the rules was convened, the high priest secretly met with a journalist [Isao Dan] who has written numerous slanderous articles concerning the Gohonzon. The purpose of this meeting was to elaborate a scheme for attacking the Soka Gakkai.
The fact that this top-secret meeting took place during a formal audience with the high priest provides clear and indisputable proof that the high priest has taken a direct hand in devising the plot that has resulted in the current problem. What other high priest in the history of Nichiren Shoshu has been responsible for such a disgraceful episode? Clearly High Priest Nikken has left a blemish of unprecedented proportions on the history of Nichiren Shoshu.
During this meeting, the high priest made no attempt to take the journalist to task for the various acts of grave slander that he had committed. Rather, the priesthood justified the meeting by claiming that it focused on a discussion of classical Chinese poetry.
In his ‘Twenty-six Admonitions,’ Nikko Shonin clearly states, ‘You should refrain from indulging in poetry or non-Buddhist works, or from engaging in desultory pleasures or random conversation without [having the aim of] rebuking slanderî (Gosho Zenshu, p. 1617); and, èYou should not sit together with slanderers of the Law … for fear of suffering the same punishment as theyî (Ibid., p. 1618). The high priest′s behavior clearly runs counter to the admonitions of Nikko Shonin, the immediate successor to Nichiren Daishonin, and it constitutes intolerably lenient behavior toward slander.
Representing the Soka Gakkai youth division, Youth Division Chief Masaaki Masaki has so far submitted three letters to the high priest questioning his words and actions, particularly with regard to his formal meeting with the journalist, yet has not received a single reply. The high priest′s complete disregard for the sincere voices of lay believers is a matter of great regret. We can only assume that he is trying to avoid confronting his own errors.
Before all else, the leaders of the priesthood should first call the high priest to account for this slanderous act.
It is unconscionable that, while ignoring the high priest′s slander, they should make an issue of Mr. Ikeda’s Nov. 16 speech, which contains no fault. In that speech, Mr. Ikeda discussed important topics such as the correct manner of propagation, the significance of the Soka Gakkai’s movement for peace and culture, and the universal problems of life and death an understanding of which is indispensable from the standpoint of promoting kosen-rufu.
One of the main themes of the speech was propagation, the reason being that propagation is the will of Nichiren Daishonin and the very lifeline of religion. The Joju Gohonzon bestowed upon the Soka Gakkai by the 64th high priest, Nissho Shonin, bears the inscription, ‘For the fulfillment of the great desire of the propagation of the Great Law through the compassionate practice of shakubuku.’ ‘Propagation of the Great Law [the Daishonin′s Buddhism]î is the very foundation of the Soka Gakkai.
In his speech, Mr. Ikeda also quoted Nichijun Shonin′s guidance that ‘Propagation is a very difficult task…. There is no end to discovering better methods and ways for imparting understanding of this Buddhism,’ and ‘Efforts should be made to propagate the Law, and we should work to devise ways to facilitate it.’ Through these words, Mr. Ikeda reaffirmed the significance of the Soka Gakkai, which has devised the way, and has been making tenacious efforts, to spread the Daishonin′s teaching.
At this point, Mr. Ikeda touched on the fact that propagation had not advanced very much over the course of the 700-year history of Nichiren Shoshu, up until the Soka Gakkai’s advent. This is a historical fact that no one can deny.
In fact, Nichijun Shonin also gave guidance to the effect that, while throughout its history Nichiren Shoshu had been unable to promote shakubuku to any great extent and thus resigned itself to being a small religious order, he saw the 700th anniversary of the Daishonin′s establishment of his teaching (1952) as a long-awaited turning point from an èage of protecting the Lawî to an èage for its widespread propagation.’
However, the priesthood intentionally twisted the meaning of Mr. Ikeda′s remarks, claiming his inference to be that Nichiren Shoshu has never carried out shakubuku or propagation activities at any time during its 700-year history, and charged that his statements blasphemed the propagation efforts of priests and lay believers in the past. This is nothing but a purposeful distortion, intended to malign the lay leader with the aim of toppling him.
In his capacity as chief lay representative, Mr. Ikeda has thoroughly devoted himself to propagation over many years, but the priesthood, instead of appreciating his endeavors, has contrived to denounce him by, for instance, distorting his words, and then taking punitive actions against him and the Soka Gakkai. Justifying unreasonable punishment is an old trick employed by dictators. We see evidence of this with the Nazis and Stalinists, who oppressed the people by concocting false charges. In this light, it is understandable why many Nichiren Shoshu priests refer to the high priest as èHitlerî behind his back and regard him with fear.
Next, I would like to say a few words about the nature of our movement for peace and culture. Activities for peace and culture based on Buddhism open the way in a practical manner for introducing the Daishonin′s teaching to society.
Even though such activities may not bring people into direct contact with Buddhism, they will naturally help people recognize the underlying spirit of Buddhism that upholds the sanctity of life. Should it permeate and become deeply rooted in the global community, everlasting peace will prevail without fail. This is how we are carrying out the mission with which we have been entrusted by the Daishonin.
In the Gosho, ‘The Opening of the Eyes,’ the Daishonin quotes Miao-lo as stating: ‘The propagation of Buddhism truly depends on this. The doctrines of propriety and music [indicative of education and culture in those days] must first be set forth, after which the principles of truth [Buddhism] can be introducedî (MW-2, 75). I believe that it is with this in mind that Mr. Ikeda stated in his Nov. 16 speech that the movement for peace and culture will be an important theme in aiming at the milestone of the Soka Gakkai′s 70th anniversary.
Yet, in its questionnaire regarding the speech, the priesthood, asserting on the one hand that it ‘does not deny the value of the movement for culture and peace,’ on the other hand claims that to sing the èOde to Joy’ from Beethoven′s Ninth Symphony in the original German as Mr. Ikeda proposed would amount to praising non-Buddhist teachings and, therefore, constitute slander, because the lyrics contain the word ‘gods.’
Such remarks only prove how embarrassingly immature is the priesthood′s understanding of other cultures. As many scholars have pointed out, it is widely acknowledged that the èOde to Joy’ is not a Christian song, but rather a paean to the common people, a song praising humanity. The priesthood′s prohibition on singing this German song reveals its own disrespect for culture and humanism.
The surprise and chagrin of members at this taboo was particularly strong. One person decried the priesthood′s statement, saying: ‘It is a typical example of ignorance and prejudice. This shows just how it [the priesthood] is standing in the way of Nichiren Shoshu becoming a world religion.î
German members in particular expressed amazement at the ignorance of the priesthood, making such comments as: ‘What language would they like us to sing it in then?’ ‘If we follow the priesthood’s instruction and do shakubuku, we would have to say to the person, ′After you take faith in this Buddhism, you cannot sing the ‘Ode to Joy′ in German any more, but would you like to join anyway?′ ‘We won’t be able to enjoy much classical music.’ This is absolutely ridiculous, isn’t it?
We wonder if the priesthood is in effect seeking to deny all of Western civilization, of which Christianity is one of the main pillars. Each country has its own history, traditions, culture and customs. A religion that denies the value of any culture will fail to gain popular acceptance.
The priesthood did not take such a self-righteous and dogmatic attitude during the time of the last high priest, Nittatsu Shonin. Under High Priest Nikken, Nichiren Shoshu stands hardly any chance of gaining recognition in society.
Regarding the Soka Gakkai’s movement for culture and peace, Professor Nur Yalman of Harvard University has remarked that when we are able to perceive the universal human truths that exist in the depths of traditional teachings, and develop this as the wisdom of humanism, those traditional teachings are reborn in a contemporary setting. There, they become a rich source of sympathy uniting the peoples of the world, transcending time and overcoming cultural differences. In this way, our movement for culture and peace serves as a great driving force for achieving worldwide kosen-rufu.
While the priesthood has been criticizing the Soka Gakkai′s cultural activities as constituting slander because of offering èpraise for non-Buddhist teachings,î we have witnessed numerous highly questionable acts committed by Nichiren Shoshu priests. To begin with, the high priest himself (in 1989) erected a costly gravestone for his ancestors in the cemetery of a temple of a Zen sect, which Nichiren Daishonin refuted as èthe teaching of devils.’ Previously the high priest had instructed lay believers to build tombs only in Nichiren Shoshu cemeteries. Also, priests have made donations to a Shinto shrine for the construction of festival floats, and have failed to give guidance to Hokkeko members in the vicinity of Taiseki-ji on their slanderous practices of maintaining Shinto altars in their homes and their negligence in the practice of gongyo and shakubuku.
What turned out to be the worst offense is that the priesthood has distorted the doctrine of the Daishonin′s Buddhism by claiming that the high priest is equal to the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary, and is therefore absolute. Isn′t it perfectly obvious that priests who are themselves committing the most serious slander and creating false teachings, and who are accommodating when it comes to slander perpetrated by other priests, are totally unqualified to give guidance on slander to lay believers who maintain pure faith and are earnestly striving to realize kosen-rufu?
Professor Emeritus Kin’ichi Higuchi of Kyoto University states: ‘The Japanese version of monotheism tends to be ambiguous about what should actually be taboo, and to be intolerant when tolerance is in fact called for. The Nichiren Shoshu priesthood′s acceptance of Shinto talismans during the war, taken together with its recent condemnation of the singing of the ′Ode to Joy′ from Beethoven′s Ninth Symphony, is symbolic of this tendency.î His remarks ring true, indeed. It can probably be said that those who do not understand the role of culture and lack self-discipline tend to take a careless attitude toward slander.
In any event, let us proudly sing the èOde to Joyîon the occasions of the 65th and 70th anniversaries.
As we have seen, the foundation of the priesthood′s questionnaire has utterly collapsed, and the accusations themselves have become invalid. Nevertheless, the priesthood still clings to one question to justify its accusations. It is the question about Mr. Ikeda′s remark discussing the role of the high priestÊa statement about which they are making a great deal of fuss.
But what exactly is problematic about this statement?
What President Ikeda said in his Nov. 16 speech was: ‘The high priest must think about the happiness of believers. The high priest has nothing to do with power or authority.î This remark appears within a quotation of Nittatsu Shonin′s words. Mr. Ikeda cited the words to praise the high priest′s great spirit of compassion. There should not be the least problem about this statement. Rather, it is incomprehensible why the priesthood should be making such a great commotion about this interjection.
However, recently we have begun to understand the cause for this commotion as we observe highly questionable statements and actions of the high priest on various occasions.
At a nationwide gathering of chief priests, High Priest Nikken, talking about how priests should instruct lay believers, recently said: èIf they [lay believers] become disenchanted with faith, or whatever, that′s irrelevant! . . . You should bash them a little on the head those people who act this way!î He has also exploded in anger at priests and physically struck them. Many people who have learned of these incidents have come to question seriously whether this is the correct way for the high priest, who is responsible for guiding the entire school, to act.
It is obvious that a high priest who wishes for the happiness of believers never speaks or acts in this fashion. The priesthood, believing that Mr. Ikeda’s speech criticized the essential nature of the current high priest, reacted impulsively.
In its questionnaire the priesthood charged that Mr. Ikeda’s statements displayed ‘an arrogant lack of humility as a believer of Nichiren Shoshu.’ However, I believe that the priesthood′s arrogance in seeking to destroy the faith of Nichiren Shoshu is all too evident in the high priest′s remark, èYou should bash them a little on the head!î
Nichiren Daishonin′s teaches, ‘The real meaning of the Lord Shakyamuni Buddha’s appearance in this world lay in his behavior as a human being. How profound! The wise may be called human, but the thoughtless are no more than animalsî (MW-2, 281).
Humanity and character that are polished through Buddhist practice are becoming increasingly important conditions for developing Nichiren Shoshu as a world religion in an age of democracy. Our gravest concern is that such statements and actions by the high priest, which run directly counter to the tide of the times, far from being appropriate to the person who inherits the lineage of the Daishonin′s teaching, will only wreak havoc on the Daishonin′s Buddhism.
The present state of the priesthood, which, as is seen in the high priest’s behavior, has become largely dehumanized and completely estranged from the spirit of Nichiren Daishonin, leaves us no alternative but to firmly seek its reformation.
Since abruptly sending a questionnaire to the Soka Gakkai Headquarters at the end of last year, the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood has stubbornly refused to engage in dialogue with the Soka Gakkai. Their adamant rejection of discussion has only served to aggravate the dispute.
Before the missive from the head temple, SGI President Ikeda and myself met with the high priest once a month to discuss various issues. Monthly communication conferences between the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood and the Soka Gakkai were also held. Consequently, anything that needed to be discussed could quite easily have been brought up and thoroughly explored during these regular meetings. The priesthood′s unexpected attack in letter form indicates without a doubt that they had been nurturing a dark plot against us for some time.
Their behavior is unbefitting of Buddhists and members of the priesthood. For years they had readily accepted our offerings, then all of a sudden turned around and began making one-sided accusations. Had they had any genuine intention of discussing the matter with us, they could have done so at any time.
On Jan. 2 of this year, Soka Gakkai General Director Kazuya Morita and I visited the head temple and respectfully asked to have an audience with the high priest. However, the Rev. Shin′ei Yagi, executive director of the head temple, told us that we were not permitted to see the high priest.
When the priesthood later announced that it was relieving the Soka Gakkai of its responsibility of coordinating pilgrimages to the head temple, we again asked permission to hold frank discussions with the high priest. This was particularly pressing we felt, since the introduction of a new system for pilgrimages would have serious repercussions on parties outside the organization as well. However, the head temple told us that we were ‘not worthy of receiving an audience with the high priest.’
Although we continue to call for dialogue with the priesthood, it shows no sign of wanting to meet with Mr. Ikeda and other top-level leaders of the Soka Gakkai, who have been exemplary in their efforts to protect and develop Nichiren Shoshu. One would be hard pressed in today’s world to find an insularity equal to the priesthood’s.
We are saddened by the priesthood’s arrogant and totally inappropriate declaration that the leaders of the Soka Gakkai are unworthy of receiving an audience with the high priest. Surely no past high priest has ever said such things to a believer. Such behavior is the ultimate height of conceit and arrogance and lends testimony to the fact that all the priesthood′s recent actions have been part of an insidious scheme.
When we study the Gosho, we can see that Nichiren Daishonin always listened intently to the doubts and questions of his believers and gave guidance and encouragement with a spirit of unstinting generosity. Compared to this, the priesthood’s rejection of dialogue demonstrating as it does an utter lack of compassion Êis completely divorced from the spirit of the Daishonin.
President Ikeda′s Nov. 16 speech was used as a pretext to accuse the Soka Gakkai of insulting the high priest and the priesthood. However, we have never insulted or disparaged the high priest or other members of the priesthood who have fulfilled their mission of transmitting and preserving the True Law for future generations. We have only ever shown them our heartfelt respect.
Moreover, because of our profound respect for this important role of the priesthood, the Soka Gakkai has put forth great effort toward building new Nichiren Shoshu temples. These past 40 years, we have not only protected and expanded the head temple, but we have donated a total of 340-odd local temples. It is patently absurd to claim that we have insulted or looked down on the priesthood.
Why, then, did the pivotal figures in the priesthood become so obsessed with finding a means to entrap and, thereby bring down an individual who has done more than anyone else to further the cause of kosen-rufu? The reason is that many of the priests have grown degenerate and corrupt.
Consumed by making money, they exploit the believers′ pure-hearted emotions, making unreasonable demands that cause grief and suffering.
The priests ought to set an example for believers. Yet seeing their unpardonable behavior, we hold grave fears that the correct spirit of Nichiren Daishonin will be lost if the situation remains as it is. It is out of this concern that we, as believers, have asked the head temple to take measures to rectify the situation within the priesthood. However, they refuse to discuss the matter and merely issue unilateral responses, saying that our requests are insulting and condescending.
The priesthood′s behavior shows a tremendous lack of compassion and reflection on their part. By failing to earnestly reflect on itself, the priesthood becomes none other than the personification of authoritarianism which treats the believers with contempt.
A disputed comment made by Mr. Ikeda in his Nov. 16 speech was clearly directed toward the aberrant Shoshinkai priests, who acted in an authoritarian manner toward believers, imagining themselves to be superior. Yet the Rev. Nichijun Fujimoto interpreted these statements to be a criticism of the current Nichiren Shoshu priesthood and claimed that the Soka Gakkai looked down on the priesthood. These claims are emotional and entirely unwarranted.
Particularly preposterous is the priesthood′s interpretation of a remark Mr. Ikeda made about priests having wives and children. The priesthood states defensively: èHonorary President Ikeda implies that priests who obey the precepts of Hinayana Buddhism are honorable, while priests who marry are going against the precepts of Buddhism. However, the priest′s wife and children play a role of no small significance within the temple.’ Thus, the priesthood made an issue out of Mr. Ikeda’s remarks, claiming that he was discrediting the reputation of Nichiren Shoshu.
Upon hearing this, our first thought was that perhaps the priests and their families had to endure hardships of which we had no inkling. This concern proved unwarranted, however, as was recently evidenced by reports in a certain newspaper [the Chugai Nippo, a newspaper exclusively dealing with the religious circles of Japan] recently that have left members shocked and amazed.
Featured were details of how the wives of high-ranking priests of Nichiren Shoshu, including the high priest and the general administrator, have apparently squandered huge sums of money on haute couture clothing, visits to exclusive beauty salons, and other expensive diversions. This is what I call expenditure of ‘no small significanceî! Is this the kind of hardship that priests′ families had to endure?
Furthermore, we have heard that some priests and their wives do not even do gongyo consistently, and that some priests’ wives hire maids to do all the housework. Despite this, they draw high salaries as employees of the temple and live in unimaginable luxury far removed from the struggles of ordinary, working people. The more one learns about the true situation, the more surprised one is by just how extraordinary it really is.
Certainly, it takes considerable nerve to justify the marrying of priests by stating that the priests’ families play a role of èno small significance’ within the temple when the reality of the situation is as we have just seen.
The priesthood also questioned a statement made by Mr. Ikeda on a tape it had received of his Nov. 16 speech. It later retracted this question, admitting that the tape had been altered and interpolated. The statement in dispute was, ‘If you wake up in the morning and parrot only the phrase, ‘Shingon will ruin the nation and Zen is the teaching of devils.’… [By saying this,] you only degrade the Law.’ This, the priesthood maintained before their retraction, went against the Daishonin’s teachings and his doctrine that true Mahayana is superior to provisional Mahayana, because it advocated shoju1 rather than shakubuku.
What manner of person is the Rev. Fujimoto, the author of questionnaire, that he would attack someone based on fabricated information? One has but to look over the events of the past year to realize quite clearly who in fact has gone against the Daishonin′s four dictums.
When High Priest Nikken erected a new tombstone for his ancestors in the cemetery of a temple of a Zen sect, did he refute the priest of the Zen temple, saying, Zen is the teaching of devils’? No. In fact, the high priest even brought other high-ranking Nichiren Shoshu priests with him. Entering furtively by the back entrance to the Zen temple compounds, they consecrated the tombstone and conducted a memorial service for the high priest′s father, Nichikai Shonin [the 60th high priest].
After the service, showing not the slightest compunction [at having just committed slander against the Law], the high priest and his entourage enjoyed a sumptuous meal and entertainment at an expensive Japanese restaurant.
The Buddhist law of cause and effect is very strict. The intrigue that the priesthood had spun without any justification a year ago to try to ensnare President Ikeda has already failed, trapping the priesthood in its own web instead.
Now that the tape of the Nov. 16 speech has been discredited and the high priest himself found guilty of acting contrary to the spirit of the four dictums thus invalidating the two main pieces of èevidenceî used to support the priesthood′s accusations the high priest has been shamed in the eyes of the whole world.
Someone remarked that the current problem with the priesthood is a classic example of the offense of harming the Lotus Sutra returning to its originator. I was again solemnly reminded of the strictness of the causal law. And, indeed it is as the sutra states.
As is obvious from their initial questionnaire and the subsequent chain of events, the priests have not reflected on their errors at all, and are solely concerned with suppressing the voices of believers.
Where does the priesthood’s irrational lack of repentance come from? It stems from the feudalistic attitude of the priesthood regarding who is master and who is follower. Where do the Soka Gakkai and the priesthood stand in relation to one another? Who is the superior, priests or believers? These are the primary concerns of the priesthood.
In other words, they can only see things from their narrow perspective of priestly superiority. That is why they will go to any length to harass and upset believers who belong to the Soka Gakkai.
High Priest Nikken has gravely contradicted himself with his recent frantic efforts to recruit danto2 members, when in the past he refuted this practice as an erroneous method of propagation, saying: èYou shouldn’t say to believers who belong to a lay organization, ′You will not receive any benefit if you practice faith in your organization,’ or ‘You will receive only negative effects because the way you practice faith in your organization is not correct,′ thus attempting to win them over to your side.
In other words, I believe the so-called danto movement contradicts the way Buddhism should be propagated. It is wholly erroneous for a person who embraces the Gohonzon of Nichiren Shoshu to speak ill of another who embraces the same Gohonzon (Aug. 28, 1980).’
He has also taken a diametrically opposed stance to the Daishonin′s teachings by praising the contributions of Hakiri Sanenaga, the steward of Minobu and a slanderous follower [of one of the five renegade priests who turned against Nikko Shonin]. In doing so, he has brought ridicule upon himself. When did the high priest of Nichiren Shoshu become a supporter of the Minobu sect?
The priesthood claims that we look down on the high priest and the priesthood. However, is it not the priesthood who looks down on and disparages the teachings of Nikko Shonin, who represents the Treasure of the Priest?
Instead of propagating the Law, key members of the priesthood, including the high priest and general administrator, steep themselves in luxury and indulge in idle diversions.
Is it not the priests’ role to protect the Daishonin′s teachings? Yet it is the priests themselves who are destroying the Treasure of the Priest.
When has the Daishonin’s Buddhism ever been placed in greater peril?
The use of the Daishonin’s Buddhism by corrupt members of the priesthood as a means for personal gain is unacceptable.
We will not tolerate the behavior of priests who have resorted to highly sophisticated rhetoric to exploit believers to the hilt and then, once they have consolidated their own fortunes [using the believers′ donations as their own private property], cut them off without a qualm.
Many scholars are giving their opinions in regard to the priesthood issue. Professor Noritoshi Aramaki of Kyoto University says: èThe monks fulfilled their role as religious professionalsÊof protecting the purity of the Law and maintaining a severely austere lifestyle, a role that lay believers could not fulfill because of their secular responsibilities. Therefore, the laity naturally came to respect the monks.’
This is a vital factor for harmonious unity between priesthood and laity. Professor Aramaki maintains that because this quality is lacking in the priesthood, the present dispute has arisen between the two groups. He goes on to say: èHowever, priests today are no longer living as monks who had renounced the secular world once did. Nowadays, priests hold values similar to those of lay believers, and their attitudes in daily life are highly secular, perhaps at times even more worldly than those of lay people.
èNevertheless, the priests continue to cling to the formality they believe is due them as priests and expect the laity to respect them as in earlier times. Now it is only natural that lay believers should want priests to be genuine, or to live in the way they are meant to live according to the original spirit of Buddhism. Therefore, I have to say that the problem lies not with the lay members, but with those priests who cannot reply to such a call.’
Professor Aramaki’s opinion is very discerning.
What has become clear from this current dispute is that the priesthood conspired closely with former members of the Soka Gakkai who backslid in faith and left the organization and who have since been actively working against us.
These are individuals who, driven by powerful ambition to become a future Soka Gakkai president or member of parliament, got involved in some kind of trouble, causing much grief to the Soka Gakkai membership. They are people who backslid in faith and turned against the Soka Gakkai, who forgot the debt they owed others and trampled on their goodwill; untrustworthy people consumed by the desire for wealth and fame and well known for their disreputable dealings.
It is an indisputable fact that a number of these individuals have been in contact with the head temple about launching an attack against the Soka Gakkai, an organization that is dedicated to the widespread propagation of the Daishonin’s Buddhism. By associating and conspiring with such corrupt people, it is obvious to everyone that the members of the priesthood cannot be trusted nor their behavior condoned.
One renowned scholar has said that the priesthood’s scheme has been a greater failure than the recent coup d’etat in the Soviet Union. He also remarked how pitiful and undignified it was to see a high priest someone who ought to be praying for the people’s happiness gripped by jealousy for a leader of the people and plotting his downfall.
Surprisingly enough, the priesthood claims that the writings of Nichiren Daishonin constitute only a portion of the doctrinal body of Nichiren Shoshu.
If they continue to make pronouncements such as the high priest’s guidance being the final word on all matters concerning the Daishonin′s Buddhism, then they are in effect creating a brand new religion.
This year marks the 701st anniversary of the founding of the head temple; it is truly a year of profound and mysterious meaning. The right and wrong in this issue are clear-cut. Let us begin advancing proudly toward the new century, toward worldwide kosen-rufu, following the spirit of Nichiren Daishonin.