Volume 3, No. 5 (Part 2) –
November 08, 1993
REBUTTING THE NICHIREN SHOSHU PRIESTHOOD’S CONDEMNATION OF THE SOKA GAKKAI’S CONFERRAL OF THE GOHONZON (continued)
NST Allegation #6
Gakkai’s counterfeits constitute slander towards Nichikan Shonin.
In an explanation of reverence for the Three Treasures of the Latter Day of the Law in his work ‘On the Three Robes of Nichiren Shoshu,’ Nichikan Shonin discussed the Treasure of the Priest as follows:
I offer my sincere devotion to Nikko Shonin, the great master of propagation, the primary High Priest of the ten thousand years of Mappo and the founder of the Head Temple Taisekiji. I offer my sincere devotion to the High Priest Nichimoku Shonin, the master of the seat of the Law and to each of the successive High Priests to whom the Law is transmitted. In this way, one should single-mindedly chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and fix one’s mind on the Three Treasures, fingering the prayer beads.
In short, Nichikan Shonin taught that the Buddhism of the Heritage of the Law means chanting Daimoku with faith in the Three Treasures, which are the true Buddha Nichiren Daishonin (Treasure of the Buddha), the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary (Treasure of the Law) and Nikko Shonin and the successive High Priests (Treasure of the Priest). According to Nichikan Shonin himself, this is the direct path to attaining enlightenment.
In other words, Nichikan Shonin revered all the successive High Priests, who each received the legitimate Heritage of the Law, as the Treasure of the Priest. There can be no worse defilement of Nichikan Shonin than for the Soka Gakkai, a dissident organization that repudiates the Heritage, to maliciously take advantage of a Gohonzon transcribed by Nichikan Shonin to commit one slander after another (NST News, Special Issue, pp. 13-14).
Rebuttal to Allegation #6
(i) In this passage, Nichikan Shonin discusses the successive high priests after Nikko Shonin as those who are supposed to protect and spread the Daishonin’s Buddhism – the function of the Treasure of the Priest. Actually, all believers who perform this function – the protection and spread of the Daishonin’s Buddhism – are included in the Treasure of the Priest as Nichikan Shonin states in ‘On the Three Treasures’: ‘Believers of this school shall be included [in the Treasure of the Priest] as well’ (Complete Writings of the Successive High Priests, vol. 4).
In his work ‘The Practice of This School,’ however, Nichikan Shonin clarifies that the Treasure of the Priest in which we should place our faith when chanting daimoku is Nikko Shonin alone. Nichikan Shonin states, ‘The Treasure of the Priest from time without beginning is the founder of Taiseki-ji [Nikko Shonin]’ (Six-volume Writings, p. 226). With regard to the remainder of the successive high priests, Nichikan Shonin revered them to the extent that they lived up to the spirit of the role of the Treasure of the Priest to protect and spread the Daishonin’s Buddhism as Nikko Shonin did.
Nichikan Shonin’s statement that the Treasure of the Priest includes lay believers as well as priests is completely in accord with the original meaning of the ‘treasure of the priest.’ Actually, the Japanese character so translated as ‘priest’ in ‘Treasure of the Priest’ fundamentally indicates the Samgha, or the Buddhist Order, which included the ‘four types of believers’: monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen.
In general, the treasure of the Priest is understood in Buddhism and even in Japanese society in general to mean ‘all those who uphold and propagate the Buddha’s teachings.’ This is the definition that appears in standard Japanese dictionaries. In this sense, the SGI accords with this general definition of the ‘Treasure of the Priest,’ while Nikko Shonin is the specific ‘Treasure of the Priest’ – whose exemplary faith and practice as a disciple of the Daishonin we should all emulate. Nikken and his supporters, through his behavior that has betrayed the spirit of Nikko Shonin, has severed any relationship he might have had with the ‘Treasure of the Priest.’
(ii) Nichikan Shonin was well aware that not all of the successive high priests lived up to the spirit and role of Nikko Shonin. For example, Nichikan Shonin authored a treatise called ‘Teachings for the Latter Day’ to refute erroneous doctrines brought into Taiseki-ji from another Nichiren school temple by Nissei, the 17th high priest. These errors included the worship of a statue of Shakyamuni and the recitation of the entire Lotus Sutra, practices that completely countered the instructions and intent of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin.
When we study the life and accomplishments of Nichikan Shonin, there is no doubt that he would praise the SGI’s decision to make available the Gohonzon he transcribed from the Dai-Gohonzon for those who seek to sincerely practice the Daishonin’s Buddhism. He certainly would rejoice at the SGI’s efforts to reproach Nikken’s injustices and schemes in exact accord with Nikko Shonin’s admonition: ‘Do not follow even the high priest, if he goes against the Buddha’s Law and propounds his own views’ (Gosho Zenshu, p. 1618).
NST Allegation #7
‘Counterfeit Gohonzons’: a repeat of the Gakkai’s 1977 heresy of the reproduced wooden Gohonzon.
The Gakkai deceived its members by reporting in the Seikyo Shimbun on October 24, 1978 that: ‘With the permission of High Priest Nittatsu Shonin, we have respectfully made wooden Gohonzons.’
Afterwards, Nittatsu Shonin addressed the issue of those objects of worship manufactured by the Gakkai saying: ‘The Gakkai transformed some of its Gohonzons into wooden form, but I knew nothing about it.’ (Renge, July 1978). As he stated here, these ‘Gohonzons’ were made without Nittatsu Shonin’s permission.
Receiving strict direction from the priesthood, the Gakkai was forced to publicly disclose:
We have received repeated direction from the High Priest on the matter of the Gohonzons that we impudently had carved, and have surrendered them to the Hoanden (Taisekiji’s storehouse). From now on, in matters that concern the Gohonzon, such as handling and procedures, as well as the concerns of the present situation, we will deeply respect the tenets of Nichiren Shoshu and redouble our efforts as we proceed forth in strict conformity. (special study meeting text)
At that time, with the Gakkai’s apology, and on the premise that it would never make any such mistakes again, Nittatsu Shonin closed further discussion on the matter of the creation of the imitation ‘Gohonzons.’ The Soka Gakkai is now trampling on the generous spirit of Nittatsu Shonin. The Gakkai is once again acting arrogantly and maliciously in arbitrarily reproducing the Gohonzon transcribed by Nichikan Shonin and distributing the copies. The Gakkai is committing a grave slander (NST News, Special Issue, pp. 14-15).
Rebuttal to Allegation #7
(i) In 1974, the Soka Gakkai asked Nittatsu Shonin for permission to have several of the Gohonzon in its possession, including the joju Gohonzon enshrined at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters, transferred into wooden form in order to preserve them. At that time, Nittatsu Shonin responded that because these Gohonzon belong to those who received them, they may be transferred into wood in order to cherish them based upon faith, indicating that it was up to the Soka Gakkai if they wished to do so. Nittatsu Shonin stated that this was not something for others to meddle in. He further stated that transferring paper Gohonzon into wooden form is an accepted practice from the past and that there is no particular problem with the procedure.
(ii) Upon obtaining Nittatsu Shonin’s permission, the Soka Gakkai proceeded, in 1974, to have eight Gohonzon reproduced in wooden form. The Gakkai’s newspaper, the Seikyo Shimbun, in the issue dated Jan. 4 and July 17, 1975, reported that the joju Gohonzon at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters and the Kansai Headquarters had been transferred to wood. The priesthood expressed no complaint or objection to this at the time.
(iii) In 1977, two years after the Gakkai transfer of these Gohonzon to wood had been made public, a group of young priests – who were later expelled from Nichiren Shoshu and formed a group called the Shoshinkai – began using this issue as a pretext to attack the Gakkai in league with Masatomo Yamazaki, a former Soka Gakkai legal counsel who was later found guilty of extortion and sentenced to prison.
(iv) In 1978, these Shoshinkai priests gained so much influence within the priesthood that the Nichiren Shoshu Administrative Office could no longer ignore them. Pressed by these Shoshinkai priests about the Soka Gakkai’s wooden Gohonzon, Nittatsu Shonin stated at a certified priests’ guidance meeting in June 1978: ‘The Gakkai transformed some of its Gohonzons into wooden form, but I knew nothing about it.’ He then said: ‘However, I understood and acknowledged it afterwards. Therefore, I ask that you please do not fight with one another over this matter.’
Taking Nittatsu Shonin’s statement ‘I knew nothing about it’ out of context, Shoshinkai priests continued to blame and attack the Gakkai. On a later occasion, Nittatsu Shonin stated regarding the same issue: ‘I had received a request from the Gakkai. I thought that I would receive an official document of request later, but I did not.’ At that time, however, the priesthood had no prescribed procedure or instructions regarding such a request.
(v) On Sept. 2, 1978, Soka Gakkai leaders met with Nittatsu Shonin and asked him about the handling of the wooden Gohonzon. On that occasion Nittatsu Shonin stated, ‘It is all right if all [the wooden Gohonzon] are kept at the Gakkai headquarters as treasures of the Soka Gakkai.’ When the Seikyo Shimbun reported this the next day, Shoshinkai priests pressed Nittatsu Shonin again, stating, ‘The high priest was deceived and taken advantage of again by the Gakkai.’ To help the priesthood resolve its internal turmoil, the Soka Gakkai returned the seven wooden Gohonzon to the head temple, except for the wooden joju Gohonzon at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters.
(vi) Nevertheless, the Shoshinkai priests continued to attack the Gakkai on the pretext of these wooden Gohonzon. Therefore, Nittatsu Shonin issued an Oct. 3, 1978 memorandum, stating, ‘All discussions about the Soka Gakkai’s wooden Gohonzon will be prohibited henceforth.’
(vii) On Nov. 7, 1978, at a representative Soka Gakkai leaders meeting, Takehisa Tsuji, who was then a Soka Gakkai vice president and is now chairperson of the Soka Gakkai Executive Advisors Conference, made the following comments:
In this sense, as far as the wooden Gohonzons which the Soka Gakkai carelessly allowed to be inscribed, we have already dedicated them all to the Treasure House of the Head Temple based on the guidance we received from the high priest. Henceforth, regarding the treatment of the Gohonzon and the procedure for receiving it, we will value the time-honored way of Nichiren Shoshu in a much stricter manner. (World Tribune, Feb. 5, 1979, p. 6)
Regarding this statement, Mr. Tsuji has since testified that on the night before this meeting, the priesthood requested strongly that he insert the word carelessly [impudently in NST’s translation] in order to silence the clamoring of the Shoshinkai priests and settle the priesthood’s internal turmoil. The Soka Gakkai accepted this request solely to protect Nittatsu Shonin and help the priesthood to resolve its internal confusion.
(viii) Regarding these wooden Gohonzon, at a meeting with priests and their families on May 29, 1979, Nittatsu Shonin said: ‘The Gakkai’s wooden Gohonzon were transcribed and engraved exactly after the Gohonzon of Nichiren Shoshu. Therefore, they are not counterfeit.’ Nichiren Shoshu General Administrator Nichijun Fujimoto also testified in a Tokyo District Court on July 8, 1982: ‘Upon receiving permission from Nittatsu Shonin, the Soka Gakkai had its eight paper Gohonzon transferred into wooden form. This is something neither to be criticized nor to be called a slander of the Law.’
It may be noted that the group of priests known as the Shoshinkai had expressed virulent anti-Soka Gakkai sentiments for quite some time. In this sense, their use of the wooden-Gohonzon issue was actually an expression of their general animosity toward the Gakkai, fearing that the Soka Gakkai and its facilities would supplant their future authority as chief priests. These priests later sued Nikken and the priesthood, alleging that Nikken did not actually or legally inherit the office of High Priest from Nittatsu Shonin.
While in the past supporting the Soka Gakkai’s right to have produced these Gohonzon – as in the above testimony by Nichijun Fujimoto – the priesthood under Nikken is now contradicting itself simply to support its own agenda against the Gakkai.
(ix) Mr. Takeshi Akazawa, president of Akazawa Choyo, Inc., and the Buddhist craftsman directly involved in making the wooden Gohonzon for the Gakkai, made the following statement in an interview for the Seikyo Shimbun:
Nittatsu Shonin had known about the Gakkai’s wooden Gohonzon from the beginning. I heard about it directly from both Nittatsu Shonin and President Ikeda. I heard from President Ikeda in January 1974.[Question: Was this before you started to transfer the Gohonzon into wooden form?]
Yes, it was. At the end of 1973, I heard from the Soka Gakkai Headquarters that it wished to transfer several of its Gohonzon into wooden form. At that time, I replied, ‘If you let the high priest know, it would be reassuring for us.’ In January 1974, when I met President Ikeda, he spontaneously told me: ‘I have reported to the high priest about the Gohonzon. The high priest has told me that it would be all right [to transcribe the Gohonzon into wood] because it is being done in order to protect and cherish them. So please rest assured.’
On a different occasion, I directly confirmed that Nittatsu Shonin had agreed to this from the beginning. In autumn 1974, I had an audience with Nittatsu Shonin to discuss a matter of business in a reception room in the high priest’s living quarters. After discussing the business at hand, just as the high priest was about to leave, he suddenly turned to me and asked: ‘By the way, Akazawa is carving the Gakkai headquarters’ Gohonzon, isn’t it?’ I replied, ‘Yes.’ The high priest then asked, ‘Are you doing others?’ I replied: ‘Yes, we have. Actually, President Ikeda told me that he had already reported this to you.’ The high priest said: ‘Yes, I heard about it from President Ikeda. He asked me if he could have five or six more Gohonzon done.’ He then left the room. (Seikyo Shimbun, Sept. 30, 1993)
(x) The transfer of paper Gohonzon to wooden has been a common practice in Nichiren Shoshu. For example, Nichiko Shonin, the 59th high priest, had the Gohonzon that Nichiren Daishonin inscribed for the Imperial Palace reproduced in wooden form and worshipped it. This procedure has also been common at branch temples of Nichiren Shoshu as well. Myohon-ji temple in Chiba Prefecture reproduced 10 wooden Gohonzon based on a photograph of one paper Gohonzon.
In a similar procedure, Jozen-ji in Miyazaki Prefecture had seven wooden Gohonzon made. The Soka Gakkai’s reproduction of wooden Gohonzon in 1974 was done in exact accord with the doctrines, traditions and procedures of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood and was done by the craftsman commonly employed by Nichiren Shoshu to carve its wooden Gohonzon.
NST Allegation #8
Worshipping counterfeits while preaching slander: the Gakkai is no different from the Nichiren Shu Denomination.
The believers of the Nichiren Shu Denomination of Minobu worship Shakyamuni as the true Buddha and claim that teachings of Nichiren Daishonin do not include the doctrine of the Transmission from one single individual (High Priest) to another. They view the pure orthodoxy of Taisekiji with enmity. Even if followers of the Nichiren Shu Sect pray day and night to a mandala inscribed by the Daishonin, it is evident that they will never be able to attain enlightenment.
In the same way, the Gakkai today looks up to Mr. Daisaku Ikeda as if he is the true Buddha and views Taisekiji as an enemy. If the members pray to the Gakkai counterfeit object of worship, they will not only be barred from attaining enlightenment, they will certainly fall into hell.
However sacred the Gohonzon transcribed by Nichikan Shonin, a reproduction of this Gohonzon made without legitimate permission has utterly no relation to the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary, and is nothing more than a material object. Such objects of worship are similar to counterfeit bank notes made by copying real bank notes. The members of the Gakkai, who will pray to these counterfeit objects of worship and inevitably fall into hell, are pitiable indeed (NST News, Special Issue, pp. 15-16).
Rebuttal of Allegation #8
(i) Other Nichiren denominations do not view Nichiren Daishonin as the original Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law but instead regard him as a Bodhisattva-priest subordinate to Shakyamuni Buddha. For this reason, they fail to recognize the Gohonzon, which embodies the oneness of the Person and the Law, as the fundamental object of worship. Confused, they worship statues of Shakyamuni and other objects along with Gohonzon.
The SGI firmly believes in Nichiren Daishonin as the original Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law and, since its inception, has been declaring so without compromise to the rest of the world. Furthermore, the SGI embraces nothing other than the Gohonzon as the fundamental object of worship. The faith of the SGI is solely based on the orthodox teachings of the Daishonin’s Buddhism and is clearly different from that of other Nichiren schools including Minobu. It was the Soka Gakkai, in fact, represented by Daisaku Ikeda and other youth, that thoroughly refuted the Minobu sect in the famed Otaru Debate of 1955.
(ii) Although believers of other Nichiren sects may chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to Gohonzon inscribed by the Daishonin himself, because their understanding of the Daishonin’s teachings is shallow and distorted, as mentioned above, they are unable to tap the beneficial power of the Gohonzon.
Likewise, even if Nichiren Shoshu priests and Hokkeko members pray to the Gohonzon (though it has become clear through the testimony of many that priests at Taiseki-ji tend to be extremely lax in this area), because they believe their enlightenment depends on the authority of the high priest – an erroneous teaching that has no basis in the Gosho – and because they support an individual who actively attempts to destroy kosen-rufu, they will not benefit from their practice.
Our sincere faith and practice dedicated to kosen-rufu are what are most important in tapping the powers of the Buddha and the Law embodied in the Gohonzon. As Nichikan Shonin states, ‘Those who exert the powers of faith and practice will accomplish the practice of observing one’s mind through the powers of the Buddha and the Law’ (Selected Commentaries of Nichikan Shonin, p. 455). ‘Observing one’s mind’ means to call forth Buddhahood from within one’s life.
(iii) The Nichiren Shoshu priesthood’s own recorded history indicates that Nichiren Shoshu priests themselves very often have been ‘no different from the Nichiren Shu Denomination.’ In 1922, for example, other Nichiren sects, including Minobu, petitioned the emperor to bestow the title ‘Great Teacher Rissho’ upon Nichiren Daishonin. At that time, Nissho Abe, the 57th high priest of Taiseki-ji, willingly signed the joint petition along with the other, slanderous Nichiren schools.
At the ceremony to celebrate the emperor’s bestowal of that title, High Priest Nissho joined a group of priests from these errant sects in the recitation of the sutra, which was led by the high priest of the Minobu sect (to which the NST News is now comparing the SGI). According to the clear guidelines of Nikko Shonin, Nissho’s conduct clearly constitutes shameless complicity in slander of the Law.
To begin with, the petition to the emperor to bestow the title of ‘Great Teacher’ upon Nichiren Daishonin gravely debased the Daishonin’s spirit. The title ‘Great Teacher’ is the highest honor an emperor can bestow upon a priest. The fact that Taiseki-ji petitioned the emperor to bestow this title upon the Daishonin means that Taiseki-ji must have complied with Minobu’s and the other sects’ view of the Daishonin as merely a priest-Bodhisattva. This deprecated the Daishonin’s status as the original Buddha of the Latter Day, subordinating him to the ruler. This act clearly betrays the priesthood’s desire at the time to ingratiate itself with the authorities and be accepted by the other Nichiren schools, no matter what the Daishonin or Nikko Shonin would have thought about the matter.
(iv) On Sept. 29, 1941, the Nichiren Shoshu Study Department issued a memorandum instructing the deletion of passages from the Gosho. Targeted were those passages that place the Sun Goddess, which Shinto considers a supreme deity, or the nation’s sovereign, in a role subordinate to the Buddha or the Buddhist Law. For example, the priesthood deleted the following Gosho passage where the Daishonin declares himself to be the original Buddha of the Latter Day, stating: ‘I am the foremost sage in the entire world’ (MW-2, 259).
This Nichiren Shoshu study department memorandum also prohibits the use of the deleted passages, stating, ‘Do not quote [them] in sermons or lectures.’ Nichiren Daishonin never quailed before authority, nor did he ever court favor of any kind from the rulers of his nation. When offered status and his own temple by the authorities of his day in exchange for his silence about the errors of other sects, he adamantly refused. The actions taken by the priesthood cited above are grave betrayal of the Daishonin’s Buddhism and are no different from other erroneous Nichiren denominations, including the Minobu sect.
(v) In his letter titled, ‘On the Buddha’s Behavior,’ the Daishonin states, ‘One may make use of my counsel, but if I am not given due respect as the votary of the Lotus Sutra, then the country will perish’ (MW-1, 190). Although, on the surface, some may appear to practice the Daishonin’s Buddhism, if they go against the true intent of his teachings, they will in effect be slandering the Law itself thereby bringing suffering not only upon themselves but also inviting destruction upon society.
High Priest Nissho, who signed the joint petition requesting bestowal by the emperor of the title of ‘Great Teacher’ upon the Daishonin with Minobu and other Nichiren sects in 1922, developed a malignant tumor in his lower jaw and died the following year. In June 1945, High Priest Nikkyo, who instructed the deletion of the Gosho passages, accepted a Shinto talisman and tried to get the Gakkai to accept it as well to escape government pressure, died tragically in a fire at the head temple. Had he lived, he would have witnessed the utter destruction and defeat of Japan’s military machine, which to appease he had been willing to compromise the Daishonin’s Buddhism.
The Buddhist Law elucidated by the Daishonin does not discriminate based on status or position. Even a high priest will suffer retribution if he slanders the Law or betrays Buddhism. If an ordinary believer with no rank or status practices with the same sincerity, spirit and courage as the Daishonin did, then the state of life he or she manifests will not be inferior in the least to any of the successive high priests.
(vi) The priesthood’s analogy, comparing Gohonzon issued by the SGI to ‘counterfeit bank notes,’ is puerile, at best, and may even be said to shortchange the dignity of the Gohonzon. Yet if the priesthood insists upon using this analogy, let us try to view it in the proper perspective based upon the events that have taken place.
First, it is important to note that the high priest has never inscribed Gohonzon. He transcribes or copies them based on the Dai-Gohonzon. Following the priesthood’s contention, if the Gohonzon being issued by the Gakkai are counterfeit because they are copies, all Gohonzon produced by Nichiren Shoshu, including those transcribed by Nikken, would be counterfeit as well.
Genuine bank notes are reproductions of an original template. As long as they are printed in accord with the rules to which the people of the nation agree and have adopted, they are accepted as real bank notes bearing monetary value, which can be used to pay for goods and services.
Imagine the following scenario: The president or prime minister of a democratic country attempts to usurp power through a coup. He dissolves the congress, the people’s representatives, and declares himself as the absolute authority. The treasury secretary, part of his cabinet, announces: ‘Only money with my signature on it will have any value from now on. Any other currency will be invalid. Only those who pledge allegiance to this administration will be issued these notes!’ The people, however, resist and re-establish an electoral system of government, which votes to issue money once again on behalf of the people. Forced into exile, the president-turned-dictator and his treasury secretary continue to cry that the people’s notes are counterfeit. Yet the people are able to go back to their former state of prosperity using the new currency, which differ only in that they are signed by a different treasury secretary. These notes, produced by the mandate of the people, are valid based upon the good faith the people and businesses have placed in them.
The people entrust the treasury secretary with the responsibility of printing and circulating bank notes to contribute to the welfare of the people. Even though the treasury secretary is directly involved with the printing of bank notes, the authority to issue bank notes fundamentally rests with the government, that is, the people.
The analogy of bank notes certainly does not do justice to the power and the dignity of the Gohonzon. Traditionally, however, successive high priests at Taiseki-ji have been entrusted with the role of transcribing Gohonzon and issuing them to those who sincerely seek to practice the Daishonin’s Buddhism. Yet the responsibility for reproducing the Gohonzon fundamentally derives from the will of the Daishonin to accomplish kosen-rufu. Now that the priesthood has abused and betrayed its role, this responsibility naturally rests with those who unstintingly practice the Daishonin’s Buddhism in harmonious unity toward kosen-rufu.
Nikko Shonin spent the major part of his life transcribing the Daishonin’s Gohonzon for the benefit of believers. There even exists a Gohonzon, the ofude-dome Gohonzon (Gohonzon of the Last Writing), that Nikko Shonin transcribed while practically on his deathbed. This Gohonzon’s weak brush strokes attest to Nikko Shonin’s waning life force at the time. In contrast to Nikko Shonin’s selfless dedication in providing the Gohonzon to believers, Nikken has opted to use the Gohonzon as a bargaining chip, as a trump card to lure believers into his fold. Out of this motivation, he has refused to confer the Gohonzon upon members of the SGI. Under such circumstances, the Soka Gakkai has risen to its responsibility to provide the Gohonzon for those who sincerely seek it. If it failed to do so, it would be betraying the spirit of Nikko Shonin. The SGI’s conferral of the Gohonzon is in exact accord with the Daishonin’s original intent in inscribing the Dai-Gohonzon for all people.