Volume 2, No. 12 –
December 14, 1992
Local chief priests and their temples continue to secede from Nichiren Shoshu. Three more have made clear their intention to work for the reformation of Nichiren Shoshu by doing so. They are Chief Priest Jodo Nishida, 44, of Hoten-in temple and Chief Priest Kansho Hamaguchi, 44, of Tozen-ji temple, both from Aomori Prefecture, who seceded on Nov. 10; and Chief Priest Sendo Narita of Joen-ji temple in Tochigi Prefecture, who seceded on Nov. 12. Chief Priest Nishida was also a deputy parish chief for the ‘Tohoku #1 propagation district.’
In November alone, five local temples seceded from Taiseki-ji. So far, 21 local temples, 22 certified priests and 15 student priests have left the head temple and expressed their desire for the sect’s fundamental reformation.
In his statement, Chief Priest Nishida strongly urges Nikken to stop lying about his direct involvement in the priesthood’s plot (Operation C) to destroy the Gakkai and his impropriety in Seattle. He also points out the deceitful way Nikken has been directing priests to attack the Gakkai, using the so-called wooden Gohonzon incident. In his letter to Nikken, Mr. Hamaguchi describes his feelings as follows:
Since the Seattle incident and [the high priest’s direct involvement in] Operation C were recently revealed, I now feel I have reached a deadlock. The more the priesthood stresses its righteousness, the more deeply my heart sinks into the abyss of distrust and suspicion….
The priesthood and believers have been long waiting to hear you say: ‘I swear before the Gohonzon that I am not lying’ regarding the Seattle incident and Operation C. But we have heard no such words from you.
Upon leaving the head temple, Chief Priest Narita commented:
High Priest Nikken repeatedly and unilaterally has been punishing priests [who express different views from the current administration]. Without even attempting to have face-to-face dialogue with Honorary President Ikeda, he has passed judgment on the Gakkai. This is truly regrettable. I have decided to secede in the hope that my action will somehow lead to the reawakening of the priesthood.
The following is a translation of the entire text of Chief Priest Nishida’s statement as published in the Nov. 13 Seikyo Shimbun.
Mr. Nishida’s Statement:
Observing the current state of the priesthood, I can no longer remain silent. Irrepressible feelings have compelled me to write this statement.
High Priest Nikken, I ask you to lie no longer. Please stop leading Nichiren Shoshu into ruin. For whom do you think Nichiren Shoshu existsÊfor your sake only?
I have always felt the greatest pride as a Nichiren Shoshu priest. I wish to strive for the protection of Nichiren Shoshu more diligently than anyone else, thus spreading the great Law. As such, I can no longer follow you. I simply cannot watch you lead Nichiren Shoshu to ruin with your lies. I cannot possibly allow this to happen.
Discharging the head of all Nichiren Shoshu lay organizations [in December 1990], which started the recent series of incidents, was clearly part of Operation CÊa basely motivated stratagem that had been carefully planned well in advance. Along with a few top executive priests, you conspired to disrupt and destroy the lay organizationÊan act that should never have been conceived by those who call themselves religious practitioners. Yet, in utmost secrecy, this plot was planned and then implemented.
Although you could not disclose such an evil design to the rest of the priests, the details of the planning conferences at Taiseki-ji’s Nishikata office in Tokyo and at the head temple have now been exposed (please see Nov. 2 World Tribune for details). Now that nearly the entire picture of Operation C has been revealed, do you still deny your involvement? The truth is that you masterminded Operation C.
Nichiren Shoshu and the office of high priest have been seriously disgraced in both a societal and religious sense, and the responsibility lies solely with you.
While Operation C is a breach of trust regarding your public office, the Seattle incident is a breach of trust regarding your private life. Your lies about the Seattle incident could have been kept private, but since you continue to cling to the office of high priest, the incident will no doubt become an international scandal involving all of Nichiren Shoshu and society. As long as you remain in office as high priest, your private behavior is a matter of public interest. Don’t you know this by now?
I am truly astounded to hear that the Administrative Office is still boasting that it can win the lawsuit. ‘I did not set even one foot outside the hotel’Êyour initial defense has already been disproved and its credibility within the priesthood is crumbling at your feet.
According to the story leaked from the Nichiren Shoshu Internal Affairs Department, you already have been served a summons to make a sworn statement in court. The lawsuit has begun. Your circumstances are becoming increasingly worse. The rest of the priesthood, however, has been informed of nothing. Yet, I admit, you cannot possibly make such things known.
In any case, you must be making light of the situation, thinking that you can either refuse to appear in court or postpone your appearance. It is, however, only a matter of time. Your legal counsel must have already told you that efforts to avoid a court appearance would affect the verdict negatively.
High Priest Nikken, your lies have been revealed. To me, you are like the emperor from the tale ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes,’ who exposes his nakedness without knowing it. I cannot bear watching your misery anymore, and I am not the only one who feels this way.
One lie in particular for which I can never forgive you concerns the Gakkai’s wooden Gohonzon. Ignoring the facts and the former high priest’s decision, and at the same time reversing your own previous position in this matter, you have instructed all priests to use the so-called wooden Gohonzon incident to attack the Gakkai. Furthermore, you used this incident as one of the reasons for excommunicating the Gakkai. How base!
You may be able to deceive young chief priests who didn’t witness the struggle to create harmony between the priesthood and the Gakkai from 1977 until the Shoshinkai incident. They do not know the late High Priest Nittatsu’s fundamental compassion toward the Gakkai and how he painstakingly built harmony based on profound mutual trust. But you can no longer fool priests of our generation or older.
To us, it is pitiful to watch young chief priestsÊunaware of the background of the wooden Gohonzon incidentÊbeing led to think that the Gakkai was entirely to blame.
Those young chief priests who were not yet ordained or who were acolytes in 1977 could not possibly understand the truth of the matter. As everyone knows, active Shoshinkai priests at one point launched an attack on the Gakkai using the wooden Gohonzon incident as a weapon. In the final phase of the Shoshinkai incident, however, even the top Shoshinkai priests suddenly changed their stance and stopped referring to it.
This is because even they realized that due to the issues surrounding the wooden Gohonzon incident, it could not be used to attack the Gakkai. Nittatsu Shonin’s guidance affirmed that transferring the Gohonzon from paper to wood does not constitute slander from a doctrinal viewpoint. This is also clear from a recorded statement by Nichiren Shoshu General Administrator Nichijun Fujimoto.
You are well aware of all this. I also confirmed the details with those who were senior executive priests at that time and am prepared to disclose these details in public, although now it may not be necessary.
How can you say that you are unaware of the background of this incident, since you, as one of the senior executive priests then, attended communication conferences with the Gakkai and various meetings with the late high priest, Nittatsu Shonin. Chief priests and other senior priests from our generation understand the truth of the incident; they just keep their silence about it.
Please stop lying to us. The sight of you choked with tears at the guidance meeting on Jan. 6, 1991, remains vividly in my memory. Some of the many priests and their families who attended were moved to tears, believing that they could see your desperate determination to protect the Law. This reaction may be natural for those priests’ families who are unaware of the truth. Later, some ingratiating priests even glorified your tears and called for priests to rally behind you.
Yet I could discern the truth behind your tears when, in the same speech, you told us to use the wooden Gohonzon incident to attack the Gakkai. Because of that, I have displayed false obedience to you since then. Tormented by flames of anger, jealousy and hatred, with lies and inconsistent logic, you invented a pretext for discharging the head of all Nichiren Shoshu lay organizations. Realizing that you started an incident of tremendous magnitude, you cried, irritated and insecure.
I wanted to believe that you felt a sense of responsibility and remorse for leading the entire priesthood into the abyss of corruption. My wish, however, was futile.
Watching you nonchalantly continue to lie while ignoring chief priests of local temples who are spiritually and financially deprived, I must conclude that you did not feel an iota of remorse.
As the memorial service draws near for the 50th anniversary of the death of your father, Nichikai Shonin, information about your wife’s spending habits is quickly spreading. She recently spent Š20 million (approx. $160,000): Š5 million for a Japanese haori coat material, Š5 million for some Japanese kimono material and Š10 million for various small articles.
You may feel that ordinary priests of local temples should not discuss how these items will be usedÊwhether they are gifts for memorial service participants or for your personal use at ceremoniesÊ yet I wonder if it has ever crossed your mind that throughout the nation there are chief priests who lack money for their children’s education or medical expenses and who are racking their brains to find ways to make ends meet.
In Hirosaki, the peak season for crimson leaves has passed; in no time at all, the severe winter will be upon us with cold winds blowing down from the peak of Tsugaru Fuji. Men have started leaving town for big cities to get winter jobs, leaving mostly the elderly and children in town.
In such an area, an ordinary priest like myself is compelled to put his thoughts down on paper out of his desire for the earliest restoration of Nichiren Shoshu. The sincere voice of a chief priest of a local temple may never reach your heart.
Still, let me ask you again. Does Nichiren Shoshu exist only for your sake? Nichiren Shoshu should also include ordinary priests at local temples, like me.
Nichiren Shoshu has been constructed through the successive efforts of outstanding high priests and other priests, along with lay believers, based on profound ties of trust. The legacy of Nichiren Shoshu must be passed down and developed by the priesthood and laity in the future.
Do you think it is right for you to lead priests into the abyss of corruption and destroy Nichiren Shoshu with your lies? All your lies about Operation C, the Seattle incident and the wooden Gohonzon incident will soon be revealed. If more of your lies and schemes are brought to light and criticized by the public, you will clearly have no escape.
High Priest Nikken, the time has come! I cannot follow you any longer! Though you continue to lie, I do not have the stomach to keep lying to local believers who sincerely wish to restore Nichiren Shoshu to its original state. Believers are angry. They can no longer tolerate your lies.
Why don’t you realize this? It is absurd for you to criticize those believers, calling them ‘a disrespectful lot who say priests are unnecessary.’ You are the one who first called believers ‘unnecessary’ and proceeded, without discussion to implement Operation C, in an attempt to do away with the lay organization?
Did any previous high priest ever excommunicate believers who embraced and practiced to the Gohonzon of the orthodox lineage? I must say not! Yours is an outrageous act that dishonors the orthodox lineage to which you acceded.
No believer could help but express, with justifiable indignation, that ‘We don’t need these priests’ after suddenly being excommunicated.
The priesthood and laity must admitÊ regardless of their likes or dislikesÊthat countless believers have dedicated themselves to the development of the priesthood and have made Nichiren Shoshu what it is today. Out of their sense of pride and responsibility, believers are opposing and reproaching the priesthood.
Let me risk redundancy by asking you once again to stop lying, since I believe that all priests share my feelings. Before Nichiren Shoshu is destroyed, I sincerely ask for your support for the sake of the sect’s earliest possible restoration.
As an ordinary priest, I hereby humbly express my thoughts and offer them to you. I pray for you to understand my sincerity.
Nov. 10, 1992
From Jodo Nishida,
chief priest of Hoten-in temple
To High Priest Nikken
FUJINOMIYA CITY, Japan
Citing the illegal development and sale of some 1,350 graves by Nichiren Shoshu Head Temple Taiseki-ji and its chief executive, Nikken Abe, four residents of Shizuoka Prefecture officially lodged a complaint with the Fujinomiya Precinct Office of the Prefectural Police today.
The complaint charges that the head temple unlawfully converted its land holdings to expand the cemetery, established on the eastern periphery of Taiseki-ji in 1969, and sold new graves without obtaining proper permits from the prefectural governor’s office. The complaint alleges that this occurred in 1969, 1976 and 1990. In the most recent period, the head temple allegedly reaped illegal profits when it sold 350 grave plots on 17,500 square meters of land (57,417 sq. ft.) for Š1 million (approx. $8,065 ) each.
The four seek to check the actions of Nichiren Shoshu officials who allegedly made financial gains by violating both the law and social ethical standards. The Prefectural Police will now commence investigations.
Tateo Ishii, a resident of Fujinomiya City where the head temple is located and one of the four who lodged the complaint, alleges recklessness on the part of some 20 Nichiren Shoshu temples in their management of grave sites and columbariums (a vault with niches for urns containing the ashes of the deceased) without legal permits.
He also alleges that Taiseki-ji, the head temple, which is responsible for guiding local temples, has expanded its cemetery illegally for many years. Mr. Ishii states: ‘It is now very clear that Nichiren Shoshu’s disregard of the law permeates the entire sect, including the head temple. We have lodged this complaint with the belief that unless we reprimand the sect legally, we cannot help the priesthood change its fundamental tendency to even break the law in order to profit monetarily.’
Based on a translation
from the Seikyo Shimbun
I would like to share some experiences I’ve had regarding the situation with the priesthood. When the issue first arose, I guess I was in the same boat as most other people.
I remember the night I first heard about it. It was around the same time that war broke out in the Persian Gulf. A leaders meeting had been called together very quickly. It was a Tuesday night, I think. We were given a very thick packet of documents. I thought the meeting was called because of the outbreak of the war. Actually, the meeting was called to inform us of the letter of inquiry that had been issued by the priesthood to the Soka Gakkai.
A few weeks later, we received another packet of documents at least as big as the first. I read a little here and a little there, but there was so much information to go through. There were four big fat binders kept at the community center as a main reference source.
There was so much to read that I didn’t even want to start. With the passing days, the binders just kept getting bigger.
At that time, I really had no idea what was happening. A Nichiren Shoshu priest conducted our wedding ceremony in April of 1991 at the Seattle Community Center.
I remember that people were asking why President Ikeda wasn’t addressing the priesthood issue in his guidance. This made me really want to study his speeches. I figured he was light years ahead of me in this situation, so I just read his guidance and tried to absorb it with my life. In retrospect, I realize that President Ikeda spent more than a year giving us ‘background’ guidance on subjects like freedom and authoritarianism before he even mentioned the priesthood directly.
In December 1991, I was asked to be on the planning committee for our March 16 Youth Division General Meeting. We had about three months to prepare. Somehow, I found myself in charge of the committee. I didn’t know anything about the significance of March 16, so I had to start studying and play ‘catch-up.’
As a group, the committee studied the poem ‘A Blue Deeper Than the Blue of the Indigo Plant Itself.’ I decided to make this poem my base. I read through this poem many times, one word at a time. I chanted intensely for hours about it. I was determined that somehow I was going to connect my life with President Ikeda. I didn’t know how, but I knew that I had to do it. Somehow, I was going to, as the poem said, ‘beautifully scale unprecedented rugged summits.’
Finally, the day of our general meeting arrived. The meeting was an incredible success. Many people told me it was the most enjoyable, encouraging, emotional and all-around good-time SGI activity they had ever participated in.
During the height of this campaign, I found out that I was going to attend the first SGI training seminar to be held in Japan that April. For me, this was actual proof of my prayers to connect more with President Ikeda.
Around this time, a committee was being formed in Seattle with the purpose of holding dialogues with those people who had joined the temple. A leader said to me that because I was on this committee, I might have to discuss Buddhist doctrine to refute what the priesthood had been espousing. I smiled calmly on the outside, but on the inside I was screaming: ‘What, are you crazy? I don’t know anything about Buddhist doctrine.’
The general feeling among the committee members was that we needed to educate ourselves on the issues first and foremost. In June, we started holding weekly seminars that were open to all members in the Seattle Joint Territory. We still conduct these seminars every Saturday. Since we started, we have prepared many presentations on Buddhist doctrine and the Gosho. At times, it has been a tremendous struggle, but somehow we all felt it was something we absolutely had to do.
Because we were the ones giving these presentations, we were forced to study the issues completely and sincerely. I was finally forced to confront something that had been a dark spot in my life for several years. I knew deep down that my study of the Gosho was very shallow, even shamefully so. Nonetheless, up to this year, even though I had participated in many activities since I began practicing in 1984, I still didn’t really feel a need to study the Gosho in a serious way. I certainly didn’t feel any great passion to study it.
After the March 16 campaign, the training session in Japan and participation on that committee, this feeling completely changed. I thought a lot about the speeches President Ikeda had given since the priesthood issue arose. I sincerely asked myself how serious I was about kosen-rufu and accomplishing my own human revolution.
While chanting daimoku, I asked myself, ‘What does it mean to be a disciple of Nichiren Daishonin?’ What is the correct action when the third of the three powerful enemies appears and attempts to create confusion and doubt in believers’ hearts?
The answer became clear to me that there was one thing that I needed to do: STUDY, STUDY, STUDY! I began to read the Gosho as if for the first time. Also, for the first time, I felt I was making a genuine connection with the spirit of Nichiren Daishonin.
To prepare these seminar presentations, we had to research all the information from the SGI-USA Newsletter from 1991-92. I really hadn’t studied them the first time around, so I went back to them, one by one. The whole essence of the priesthood issue and the reason we need to refute High Priest Nikken is very clearly explained in those newsletters, especially from the standpoint of the doctrine of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism.
The more I studied the Gosho and learned about Nichiren Daishonin’s spirit, the more I could see that the SGI is definitely taking the correct course in this situation.
At first, I was like the guest in the ‘Rissho Ankoku Ron’ who believed the priests of the day were respectworthy and who was shocked and offended that anyone would speak negatively of them. But, like the guest, something changed the more I studied. My confidence in the SGI and in this practice soared almost overnight.
It’s like when you first start practicing and you get mega-benefits right away. It’s as if the Gohonzon is telling you that chanting is good for you. Well, I went through a similar kind of experience participating in the seminarsÊI went through a renaissance of faith. Of course, I still have a long way to go in my study of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, but because of this period of intense study, I went from being afraid to look at the situation to feeling confident that I could speak with anyone about the SGI’s correct action regarding the priesthood.
In facing a situation such as we are right now, Nichiren Daishonin is very clear about what the correct course of action is. He leaves no room for doubt. When I look at what the SGI has done over the last two years and put that alongside the Gosho (the ‘Rissho Ankoku Ron’ or ‘The Opening of the Eyes,’ for example), I can clearly see that the SGI has been following the Gosho exactly.
It was an extraordinary moment for me when I realized this. Something I could not see for many months and was now clear. Many other people who have been participating in the seminars have gone through similar kinds of experiences.
This priesthood issue is such an incredible opportunity to study the Gosho. There are things described many times in the Gosho that are happening right now. I believe this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I think the main thing to do is to sincerely study the Gosho and discuss thoroughly among ourselves the situation with the priesthood. Based on the Gosho and lots of determined daimoku, we can clearly see for ourselves what is the correct action to take.
By Bill Lawrence