Soka Spirit
Seven Priests Leave Head Temple

Volume 2, No. 2 February 10, 1992

On Feb. 3, 1992, seven Nichiren Shoshu priests announced in a press conference in Tokyo that they had officially left Nichiren Shoshu.

The seven priests are: Gen’ei Kudo, chief priest of Choei-ji temple in Tokyo (and former chief priest of Myoho-ji temple in Los Angeles); Shojun Ohashi, chief priest of Daisho-ji temple in Wakayama; Kodo Yoshikawa, chief priest of Kenbutsu-ji temple in Kyoto; Takudo Ikeda, chief priest of Seyuji temple in Shiga; Yubin Kushioka, chief priest of Noken-ji temple in Aichi; Yushin Yoshikawa, chief priest of Zenko-ji temple in Nagano; and Yuho Miyagawa, assistant priest of Choei-ji temple in Tokyo.

They have stood up to awaken all within Nichiren Shoshu in hopes that Nichiren Shoshu will restore the original spirit of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin. The following is a translation of their ‘Letter of Remonstration’ to High Priest Nikken one day earlier.

Letter of Remonstration

The ‘Rissho Ankoku Ron’ reads: ‘The host said: Though I may be a person of little ability, I have reverently given myself to the study of the Mahayana. A blue fly, if it clings to the tail of a thoroughbred horse, can travel ten thousand miles, and the green ivy that twines round the tall pine can grow to a thousand feet. I was born as the son of the one Buddha, Shakyamuni, and I serve the king of scriptures, the Lotus Sutra. How could I observe the decline of the Buddhist Law and not be filled with emotions of pity and distress?

‘Moreover, the Nirvana Sutra states: ‘If even a good priest sees someone slandering the Law and disregards him, failing to reproach him, to oust him or to punish him for his offense, then that priest is betraying Buddhism. But if he takes the slanderer severely to task, drives him off or punishes him, then he is my disciple and one who truly understands my teachings” (The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 30).

The dispute between the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood and the Soka Gakkai, which surfaced at the end of the year before last, has been worsening, contrary to the sentiments of many Nichiren Shoshu priests and believers who yearn for the earliest solution of the dispute. Nothing could be more pathetic and regrettable.

Nowadays, the pure current of the Fuji school has been greatly sullied. The Nichiren Shoshu executives have taken merciless, cruel, crooked and counterproductive actions one after another until, in November of last year, they took the outrageous action of meaninglessly excommunicating the Soka Gakkai, the organization that the late high priest, Nittatsu Shonin, praised as ‘incomparably pure and burning with utmost sincerity to selflessly protect the Law.’

‘The Opening of the Eyes (I),’ reads, ‘As mountains pile upon mountains and waves follow waves, so do persecutions add to persecutions and criticisms augment criticisms’ (MW-2, 117). This passage exactly portrays how the priesthood is exacerbating the current dispute with the Soka Gakkai.

Degeneration, caused by the executives’ foolish errors, spreads through not only local temples but the head temple as well. Voices of pain and indignation from priests everywhere decry the authorities of Nichiren Shoshu. As ‘the sons of the one Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin,’ who revere his great desire of kosen-rufu and follow the successive high priests’ direction of harmonious unity between priesthood and laity, we can no longer overlook this devastating decline of Buddhism in Nichiren Shoshu.

Therefore, with truly unbegrudging determination, we hereby remonstrate with you, High Priest Nikken, and the executives of Nichiren Shoshu for the sake of the revitalization of the sect, and we make the following appeal to all people within and outside of Nichiren Shoshu.

We are convinced that the current issue is a manifestation of the Buddha’s great intent. This is a case of doshu shogi (when the Buddha causes his followers to doubt a particular situation for a positive cause), in which we believe the Daishonin wants us to revitalize the pure current of faith in the sect, eliminate harmful customs that have been building up in Nichiren Shoshu over centuries, and reform the school in tune with the basic doctrines of Nichiren Daishonin.

The 21st century will start in only eight years. World events show we are now in a time of great change, and, in terms of Buddhism, the 750th anniversary of the establishment of true Buddhism will be celebrated in just 10 years. The Gosho ‘Great Evil and Great Good’ reads in part: ‘Great events do not have small omens. When great evil occurs, great good will follow’ (MW-5, 161). We cannot help taking the eruption of the current dispute as a harbinger of a new development of kosen-rufu. We deeply believe that the time has come to reform Nichiren Shoshu.

What is the reformation we speak of? First, we contend that Nichiren Shoshu should become a religion truly for the believers. Returning to Nichiren Daishonin’s spirit to save the people, and restoring the pure current of faith initiated by Nikko Shonin, we must bring the light of revitalization into Nichiren Shoshu.

Both Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin took people’s suffering as their own and cherished each believer with all their hearts. They severely admonished us to not engage in desultory pleasures or random conversation without the aim of kosen-rufu. And they themselves lived in modesty, showing great examples as noble priests.

However, frankly speaking, many priests of Nichiren Shoshu have the attitude that they are a step higher in class than lay believers. As has been pointed out by the Soka Gakkai, you cannot deny that many priests, far from living modestly, indulge in luxurious and corrupt lifestyles. It is obvious that if you stray from the noble spirit of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin, yet continue to misguide the priesthood, the pure current of the Fuji school will soon dry up and even become extinct. Deserted by the people, Nichiren Shoshu will ultimately witness the extinction of the Law and its own death.

We worry about how much Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin are deploring the degeneration of Nichiren Shoshu. We are also afraid they are indeed angry about what you have done. In any case, we continue to pray ceaselessly for the recovery and revitalization of Nichiren Shoshu. We contend that this is the time for the priesthood to base ourselves upon our original mission as priests, to change authority and suppression into compassion and seeking spirit based on faith, to dedicate ourselves to modest lifestyles, to support the common people’s efforts for propagation, and to develop Nichiren Shoshu into a sect that will serve the believers.

Second, we insist that Nichiren Shoshu eliminate its tendency toward discrimination. Discrimination by family lineage in Nichiren Shoshu is well known, as is status consciousness based upon priests’ ranks in the sect.

Those who were born into prestigious families in Nichiren Shoshu, regardless of poor conduct, deficient ability or inadequate accomplishments, tend to be dispatched to temples with favorable circumstances while those who do not enjoy such family lineages are usually sent to temples in remote areas. This phenomenon has been conspicuous in Nichiren Shoshu. When a priest causes a scandal, if he is from a prestigious family in Nichiren Shoshu, he tends to receive minor punishment; but if he has no such family connection, he must face extremely severe punishment. Inequality in this area is also very conspicuous. Also, severe senior-junior relationships exist based upon differences in rank and in one’s tenure. This discrimination completely disallows free discussion.

We believe that we should cast off from Nichiren Shoshu such feudalistic manners and customs and renovate the sect where factionalism and inequality currently abound, thus developing Nichiren Shoshu into a democratic organization where a noble spirit and beautiful harmony prevail.

Third, we must free ourselves from tyranny. As a result of the repeated amendments of the Bylaws and Rules of Nichiren Shoshu, the high priest now reigns like a despot over all Nichiren Shoshu. No opinions will be accepted in the current priesthood if they go against the high priest. Once a priest expresses such an opinion, he is doomed to be punished immediately. This appalling case of fear politics now dominates Nichiren Shoshu. The atmosphere within Nichiren Shoshu cannot help growing more and more rigid. We contend that now is the time to change dictatorship into democracy, conservatism into progressivism, rigidity into flexibility and closeness into openness.

As priests of Nichiren Shoshu, we have been suffering immeasurably since this issue erupted. As high priest you had been praising the Gakkai, teaching the importance of harmonious unity of priesthood and laity, and admonishing the danto movement as an improper way of propagation. Overnight, however, you suddenly changed your stance 180 degrees, which deeply perplexed us and, presumably, many believers as well.

We once left our homes to become priests, and now we may be criticized for opposing the high priest. We also may be branded as individuals who have forgotten our indebtedness to him. However, our intent is based on nothing but our passion to protect the original pure current of faith in Nichiren Shoshu, no matter what. In this regard, even if you are high priest, from the standpoint of Buddhism, if you are wrong, we cannot obey you.

In our impartial view as Nichiren Shoshu priests, the unilateral actions by you, the high priest, and other executives against the Soka Gakkai, are wholly unacceptable. We are afraid we may sound presumptuous, but as we thoroughly review how this dispute evolved, we cannot help concluding that the fundamental cause is your emotionally flawed guidance, the errors you committed in giving direction, and especially your personal grudge against Honorary President Ikeda and the Soka Gakkai as a whole.

As pointed out by the Gakkai’s letter of inquiry, it is a fact that your lecture on the significance of the Sho-HondoÊin which you implied that the honorary president is arrogantÊwas erroneous in many ways. You distorted the meaning of Nittatsu Shonin’s admonition and intentionally altered many historical facts simply to defame the honorary president. Also, you deviated from the doctrines of Nichiren Shoshu when you built your ancestors’ tomb on the grounds of a Zen temple and erected toba (memorial tablets) there during a memorial service for your late father, Nikkai Shonin, the 60th high priest of Nichiren Shoshu. As the high priest who is responsible for guiding the entire sect along the path of correct faith, your slanderous action can never be overlooked.

We have to say that the doctrinal corruption of Nichiren Shoshu is utterly pitiful as well. Wrong views, such as treating the high priest as equal to the original Buddha or regarding the guidance of the high priest as absolute while slighting the significance of the Gosho, are prevalent in the current Nichiren Shoshu. Yet you as high priest make no effort to rectify these wrong views. Such doctrinal confusion is unprecedented in the 700-year history of Nichiren Shoshu.

You also greatly changed the appearance of the head temple that was a product of harmonious unity of priesthood and laity during the time of Nittatsu Shonin. Among others things, you remodeled the Mutsubo, the Six-Compartment Lodging, and Daikejo temple, which was totally unnecessary in our view. As a result, a traditionally clean, healthy atmosphere disappeared from the head temple. Instead, an abominable atmosphere in which priests pursue gaudy styles began to prevail. Your direction in this area stems from your personal grudge against the late high priest, Nittatsu Shonin. You seem to be attempting to undermine every aspect of the late high priest’s achievements. We cannot tolerate your alteration of the tradition of Nichiren Shoshu of which we as its priests were uniformly proud.

These represent only a tiny portion of your misdeeds. Many priests in Nichiren Shoshu uniformly doubt your judgment. They are deeply concerned about the confusion and regression in Nichiren Shoshu today. As the Daishonin writes, ‘The Buddha taught that, even if it is his teaching, if you doubt its validity, you should not use it.’ We cannot follow unreasonable direction, even if it is given by you, the high priest.

Nichiren Daishonin mentions in the ‘Rissho Ankoku Ron,’ ‘Rather than offering up ten thousand prayers for remedy, it would be better simply to outlaw this one evil doctrine that is the source of all the trouble!’ (MW-2, 24). In disobeying guidance that runs counter to the principles of Buddhism, we believe we are replying to the heart of Nikko Shonin, which is expressed in the following article of his admonitions: ‘Do not follow even the high priest if he goes against the Buddha’s Law and propounds his own views.’

In light of the guidance of the late high priest, Nittatsu Shonin, and in light of the timing of its appearance and actions, it is clear that the Soka Gakkai is endowed with the mission to realize the Buddha’s mandate, the achievement of kosen-rufu.

Nichijun Shonin, the 65th high priest of Nichiren Shoshu, writes in his thesis titled, ‘On the Occasion of the 704th Anniversary of the Establishment of True Buddhism’: ‘In retrospect of the 700-some-year history of Nichiren Shoshu, and comparing its past to the current situation surrounding our sect, I think we are in a totally new age. Thanks to the Soka Gakkai’s efforts in shakubuku, the True Law has spread throughout the country to an unprecedented degree. We can now witness the unheard-of expansion of Nichiren Shoshu. It seems to me that future historians will define the first 700 years of Nichiren Shoshu as an age in which the priesthood protected the Law, after which it becomes an age of the propagation of the Law for kosen-rufu. In the past there were times when Nichiren Shoshu achieved a certain degree of prosperity, but it happened only within the realm of protecting the Law.’

Here, Nichijun Shonin distinguished between the age of protecting the Law and the age of propagating the Law. He notes that this distinction was punctuated by the 700th anniversary of the establishment of true Buddhism.

In the ‘Rissho Ankoku Ron,’ Nichiren Daishonin states, quoting the Ninno Sutra, ‘The Buddha announced to King Prasenajit, ‘Thus I entrust the protection of my teachings to the ruler of the nation rather than to the monks and nuns. Why do I do so? Because the monks and nuns do not possess the kind of power and authority that the king has” (MW-2, 34). In ‘The True Object of Worship,’ Nichiren Daishonin writes: ‘Since such noble bodhisattvas received the Mystic Law and made a solemn oath to Shakyamuni Buddha, Taho Buddha, and all the other Buddhas, is it possible that they will not appear now at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law? Know this: in the time for shakubuku, the Four Bodhisattvas appear as wise kings who rebuke and convert evil kings, and in the time of shoju they appear as priests to protect and spread true Buddhism’ (MW-1, 80).

Due to the emergence of the Soka Gakkai and its efforts in shakubuku, the time of kosen-rufu has dawned, punctuated by the 700th anniversary of the establishment of true Buddhism. Nichiren Shoshu has developed into an international religion thanks to the unsparing efforts for the Law on the part of the successive presidents of the Soka Gakkai. They can be compared to the wise kings mentioned in the above passage of the Gosho.

However, as we stated before, the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, failing to cast off its feudalistic tendency, has indulged in factional politics and the enslaving of believers. The priesthood has been totally negligent in taking actions to promote kosen-rufu. As soon as this fact was pointed out by the Soka Gakkai, you took on an authoritarian attitude, expressing your discomfort with words like ‘Why do you mere believers dare say such a thing to us priests?’ Your foolishness thus led to the outrageous decision to excommunicate the Soka Gakkai and prohibit anybody sponsored by Gakkai members from receiving the Gohonzon.

Nichiren Daishonin desired to save all people of the world by enabling them to receive the Gohonzon. In ‘The True Object of Worship,’ Nichiren Daishonin mentions, ‘The Buddha…summoned the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. He entrusted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to them for the salvation of all mankind’ (MW-1, 73). In the same Gosho, he also states, ‘Showing profound compassion for those ignorant of the gem of ichinen sanzen, the true Buddha wrapped it within the single phrase Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, with which he then adorned the necks of those living in the Latter Day’ (MW-l, 82).

In opposing the great compassion of Nichiren Daishonin, you chose to prohibit the bestowal of the Gohonzon upon people who sincerely seek faith in the Daishonin’s teachings. Your decision, which tramples upon the heart of Nichiren Daishonin, must be called grave slander and betrayal. We assert that your conduct exactly destroys the Three Treasures of true Buddhism.

Up until this moment, we repeatedly protested to you and the Administrative Office out of our sincere concern for the sect and for the Law, with the conviction that we will never be able to achieve the mandate of Nichiren Daishonin without harmonizing with the Soka Gakkai.

When you insisted we sign the ‘Demand for Apology,’ a document in which you groundlessly order Honorary President Ikeda to apologize, we directly responded to you that this policy should be retracted and that you should speak with the honorary president face to face. However, you refused to lend an ear to what we had to say. Instead, you accused us, demanding that we follow you with absolute faith in you. Your refusal to dialogue with the Gakkai deeply disappointed us.

We repeatedly suggested in a reasonable manner that we should solve the issue through dialogue, but you labeled our idea as slanderous simply because we differed from you. Each time you ignored our proposals.

We have been wishing for your compassionate response, but not only have you refused to listen to our appeals, you continued your irrational actions, which finally led us to conclude that the soul of the Daishonin no longer dwells in your heart.

We can envision how to solve the current impasse. As the Daishonin states, ‘You may be saved if you exercise profound Buddhist apology.’ You as high priest should retract all your unjust actions against the Soka Gakkai and exercise Buddhist apology. Also, the Nichiren Shoshu authorities should admit their mistakes and apologize to all priests and lay people within Nichiren Shoshu. Moreover, they should promptly retract their decision to excommunicate the Soka Gakkai. Taking responsibility in this way, all executive priests should then resign.

As long as the Nichiren Shoshu authorities continue to act contrary to the spirit of the Daishonin and oppress the believers without taking sincere, proper action, we, as his disciples, have decided we can no longer remain within Nichiren Shoshu.

Nikko Shonin writes in his ‘Reply to Hara-dono’: ‘It is difficult to describe the indignation and vexation I felt when I had to leave Mount Minobu. On further thought, however, the essence of what I have to do, wherever I may be, is to inherit the teachings of the late master and spread it throughout society. While I entertain such thoughts, his many other disciples act contrary to his teachings. I feel I am the only one who correctly understands the teachings of our master and feels responsible to realize his true purpose. I will never forget the true intent of our late master. I am delighted as you all understand his correct teachings.’

Nikko Shonin was forced to leave Mount Minobu when it became a slanderous place. Making his profound spirit our own, we dare leave Taiseki-ji. However, we will never stop carrying out our difficult task to reform the sect. From now on, as priests of Nichiren Shoshu and with great hope for the future, we will continue to stake our lives on this reformation. We pledge to return the original purity of faith to Taiseki-ji.

Our action is the first step to realizing this great objective. It is our conviction that both Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin are delighted over our determination and actions. When the day has come that the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood stands up in a manner suitable for the disciples of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin, we will gladly return to the head temple and make a new advancement with harmonious unity of priesthood and laity for the realization of the Daishonin’s mandate of kosen-rufu.

It is our deepest wish that many comrades who are willing to strive to achieve the great desire of kosen-rufu will follow us one by one.

February 2, 1992

Gen’ei Kudo
Shojun Ohashi
Kodo Yoshikawa
Takudo Ikeda
Yubin Kushioka
Yushin Yoshikawa
Yuho Miyagawa

To: High Priest Nikken

The Seven Priests’ Declaration

We seven priests of Nichiren Shoshu sent High Priest Nikken, the chief administrator of Nichiren Shoshu, a Letter of Remonstration yesterday, Feb. 2, to notify him of our decision to leave Nichiren Shoshu. We thus sever our relationship with the umbrella religious corporation of Nichiren Shoshu and free ourselves from the Bylaws and Rules of Nichiren Shoshu.

Since Dec. 27, 1990, when the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood unilaterally and unreasonably executed the effective dismissal of Honorary President Ikeda from the position of sokoto, head of all Nichiren Shoshu lay organizations, and President Akiya and other leaders from positions as daikoto, senior lay representatives, we have repeatedly protested to High Priest Nikken and the Administrative Office, pointing out the irrationality of their actions against the Soka Gakkai. Our action stemmed from our deep concern for the future of Nichiren Shoshu and our deep conviction that kosen-rufu, the mandate of Nichiren Daishonin, is impossible without harmonious unity with the Soka Gakkai.

In March of last year when the Administrative Office insisted we sign the ‘Demand for Apology,’ a document that groundlessly ordered that Honorary President Ikeda apologize, we responded directly to the high priest that this demand should be retracted and that he speak face to face with the honorary president. However, the high priest flatly refused to listen to what we had to say. Instead, the high priest accused us, claiming what we suggested is slanderous and demanding that we follow him with absolute obedience to and faith in him.

On Nov. 28 of last year, the high priest and the current Nichiren Shoshu executives abruptly notified the Soka Gakkai that Nichiren Shoshu would excommunicate the lay organization for no justifiable reason. Taking this notification of excommunication as an ultimate absurdity that undermines the progress of kosen-rufu, we are convinced that we can no longer follow the high priest and other executives of the Administrative Office. We are resolved to stand up for the reformation of the sect.

Later, we seven comrades discussed what we should do from here on. We concluded that we should leave Taiseki-ji for now, and that by doing so we can take the first step to awaken the many conscientious priests within Nichiren Shoshu toward the reformation of the sect. Our departure from Nichiren Shoshu was wholly supported by the chief lay representative at each one of our temples.

The Temple’s Response

Nichiren Shoshu, which received a ‘Letter of Remonstration’ from the seven priests, issued the following notice under the name of the Administrative Office.

February 3, 1992

Nichiren Shoshu Administrative Office

Each Teacher within Nichiren Shoshu

Urgent Notice

It has been reported by various media that Gen’ei Kudo, Shojun Ohashi, Kodo Yoshikawa, Takudo Ikeda, Yubin Kushioka, Yushin Yoshikawa and Yuho Miyagawa sent a ‘Letter of Remonstration’ to the high priest to notify him of their decision to leave Nichiren Shoshu, and that they held a press conference at 3 p.m. today.

Departure from this sect is a fundamental betrayal of Nichiren Shoshu’s creed, which can never be tolerated.

Their action is meant to justify their allegations. It is ridiculous conduct unsuitable for a religionist.

These priests, ever since the eruption of the Gakkai issue, have repeatedly made statements and taken action in favor of the Soka Gakkai. Despite our consistent effort to guide them to correct faith, they refused to the last moment to follow the policy of this sect.

Hereafter, we as Nichiren Shoshu will take them severely to task both legally and in terms of faith.

It is our sincere hope that each of you, as a teacher of Nichiren Shoshu, will further unite with the high priest to thwart the manipulation of the devils and dedicate yourselves to fulfilling your duties.