Soka Spirit
The Essence of the Temple Issue

Volume 3, No. 4 (Part 1) –
May 10, 1993

Ted Morino, SGI-USA Study Department chief, and Jeff Kriger of the SGI-USA Study Department staff contributed the following aarticle, which is largely based on an article that appeared in the Jan. 1 issue of the World Tribune.

Over the past two-and-a-half years, we have learned that Nichiren Shoshu has been plagued by a deeply ingrained, institutionalized attitude of superiority toward the laity. While previous high priests have, since the Soka Gakkai’s foundation, recognized the significance of its mission and the contributions of its first three presidents, there has been an undercurrent of jealousy and resentment among many priests. Many priests have viewed the appearance of the Gakkai, its activities and later its facilities, as a direct threat to their authority over the believers.

Clearly, Nikken has proven himself to be one of this school. Nikken and his supporters believe that lay believers, no matter how greatly they have contributed to kosen-rufu and protected the priesthood, are not in a position to offer any sort of advice to priests, no matter how corrupt or lax in their responsibilities those priests have become. Of course, this runs completely counter to the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin. Nikko Shonin also succinctly stated, ‘Do not follow even the high priest if he goes against the Buddha’s Law and propounds his own views.’

In spite of the Gakkai’s tremendous efforts to support, protect and contribute to the priesthood over the decades, Nikken and his colleagues have transformed themselves into the fiercest enemies of the spirit of the Daishonin’s Buddhism since the time of the five senior priests, the Daishonin’s elder disciples who betrayed him after his death.

In this sense, we have seen that the Nikken sect, which now controls Nichiren Shoshu, actually embraces a different Buddhism than does the Soka Gakkai, a different religion than that which Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin expounded. While Nikken’s followers embrace and protect a feudal ‘religion’ that espouses a lord-vassal relationship between priesthood and laity, the Soka Gakkai embraces the absolute equality of all people in accord with the Daishonin’s true spirit.

As SGI members, we share a direct connection with the Daishonin’s spirit through the Gosho and the example set by President Ikeda, who has consistently put into practice the spirit of his predecessors. As we strengthen our rhythm of faith, practice and study, the problems with the Nikken sect serve to strictly clarify the difference between a religious philosophy that strives to equally empower all people and one based on authority and the hierarchical ranking of human value according to status.

Those who derive power from human weakness always persecute those who empower the people. While Nichiren Daishonin was yet a child, he observed Japanese society and saw that while Buddhist temples and clergy appeared to prosper, the general populace wallowed in the pit of despair. Some years later, he described the agony of his society in a treatise called the ‘Rissho Ankoku Ron’ (On Securing the Peace of the Land Through the Propagation of True Buddhism). He devoted his youth to solving the question of why Buddhism in Japan seemed powerless to save people from suffering as it was supposed to do. He came to the conclusion that while Buddhism flourished in form, its original spirit and correct practice had been lost.

From the time he declared the teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo until he died, Nichiren Daishonin fought relentlessly for the people’s happiness, strictly challenging and refuting those supposed teachers of Buddhism who twisted the Buddhist teachings for their own personal status or gain. His struggle was to sever people’s attachment to ideas and philosophies that would keep them weak, helpless and locked in despair, subject to exploitation by the greedy and powerful.

His only concern was for the happiness of all people. He engaged in a lifelong struggle to reveal the true nature of the enemies of Buddhism and the people’s happiness. While his writings abound with expressions of compassion and concern for his followers, he never minced words when exposing the arrogance of those who threatened the believers or attempted to distort the correct teachings of Buddhism.

Unfortunately, since its earliest history, Nichiren Shoshu has demonstrated a tendency toward practices and actions that run counter to the essential spirit of the Daishonin’s Buddhism. Naturally, with such an innate slanderous tendency within the priesthood, it has not, of its own accord accomplished much in the way of kosen-rufu over the past seven centuries. And now in the time of Nikken, this tendency has manifested itself in the most extreme manner.

Some have expressed dismay at the directness and abundance of material assailing Nikken and his character, raising the issue, ‘Since Nikken, too, has the Buddha nature, shouldn’t we be praying for his happiness instead of criticizing him?’ Many may feel it is not ‘Buddhist’ to speak strongly of others’ misdeeds. Indeed, to harbor hatred or jealousy toward another human being runs counter to the Daishonin’s teachings. However, indignation and anger in the face of blatant injustice, when tempered with faith and courageous prayer to the Gohonzon, will enable us to break the bonds of the status quo and forge a bold new path into the future. The SGI courageously and tenaciously sheds light on the real nature of the Nikken sect with the ‘power of an attacking lion’ in order to root out the evil that has obscured the Daishonin’s spirit within Nichiren Shoshu.

Today, it is apparent that Nikken blatantly intends to destroy the Soka Gakkai, without any concern that doing so will put a stop to the progress of kosen-rufu in this age. In light of the Daishonin’s Buddhism, how can we interpret Nikken’s actions? As we have seen through our study, he has clearly manifested the behavior and function of what the sutra calls the ‘third of the three powerful enemies’ (sensho zojoman), priests revered as saints and respected by the general public who, in fear of losing fame or profit, contrive to persecute the votaries of the Lotus Sutra. If he is successful, millions upon millions of people will be denied the joy of ever learning of and realizing their own precious potential for Buddhahood.

The Gakkai’s call for Nikken’s resignation and exposure of his and the priesthood’s corruption reflects no malice or grudge. The SGI is simply trying to expose and root out the ‘evil’ that has embedded itself deeply within Nichiren Shoshu, as identifying this deep-seated evil is crucial to our practice of faith.
‘Letter from Sado’ states: ‘Only by defeating a powerful enemy can one prove his real strength. When an evil ruler in consort with heretical priests tries to destroy true Buddhism and banish a man of wisdom, those with the heart of a lion will surely attain Buddhahood as Nichiren did. I say this not out of arrogance, but because I am committed to true Buddhism’ (MW-1, 35).

True compassion lies in ousting a powerful enemy of the people’s right to happiness. Only then can the people practice faith with peace of mind. And only then will those steeped in arrogance and jealousy have any chance of exercising self-reflection and genuine Buddhist repentance, thus reconnecting with their own Buddhahood.

In the Gosho, the Daishonin writes: ‘When truth and error stand shoulder to shoulder…one must set aside all other affairs and devote one’s attention to rebuking slander of the Law. This is the practice of shakubuku’ (MW-5, 103). In another letter, the Daishonin quotes Chang-an, who writes, ‘If you befriend another person but lack the mercy to correct him, then you are in fact his enemy’ (MW-1, 158).

Priests who have already left Nichiren Shonin unanimously point out that from the beginning the priesthood had no justifiable reasons for the commencement of their overt attack on the Soka Gakkai. They readily concede that the entire situation has been triggered by Nikken’s own emotionalism. And while the Soka Gakkai’s original purpose remains unchanged, Nikken’s mercurial nature now runs counter to the noble cause of kosen-rufu. As high priest he may feel that he is the sole possessor of the Law, but the Law is not something one can possess. It is something everyone should be enabled and encouraged to live and practice.

Under the leadership of the successive presidents of the Soka Gakkai, kosen-rufu as mandated by Nichiren Daishonin has advanced steadily despite the condition of the priesthood. President Ikeda once explained: ‘The priesthood recovered its legitimacy thanks to the Soka Gakkai. The Soka Gakkai made Nichiren Shoshu the correct school (shoshu) again. However, by excommunicating the Soka Gakkai, the priesthood has of its own accord completely cut itself off from the world of correct faith. Without the Soka Gakkai, it has become a heretical school.’

We are fortunate to have taken faith at a time when we can learn, from the example of a great leader of kosen-rufu such as President Ikeda, how to recognize and challenge the devilish tendencies that have been festering and now become manifest in Nichiren Shoshu. As our movement continues to expand throughout the world and into the future, devilish functions will arise again to hinder our progress and throw people into confusion. Nichiren Daishonin predicted this in the Gosho, when he said: ‘If you propagate it, devils will arise without fail. Were it not for these, there would be no way of knowing that this is the true teaching’ (MW-1, 145).

By continuing to study the events surrounding the problem with the priesthood, we will deepen our insight and understanding of the process of kosen-rufu, of what it takes to accomplish it and the nature of those who function to impede it. We will also deepen our pride and confidence in the profound significance and mission of the SGI movement as well as the spirit shared by the three founding presidents through their relationship of mentor and disciple.

By resolving to truly understand the nature of Nikken’s behavior and the profound meaning underlying this issue, we gain the power to recognize and challenge such impediments to kosen-rufu and our own faith when they occur in the future, in whatever form. Such strength will become a source of great benefit and happiness. New and substantial development is ready to unfold in the movement for kosen-rufu Ê this is the message we can take from the temple issue.


Dear Friends:

I am writing this letter for the happiness of the more than 40 friends, family and others who have struggled together with me during these last three difficult years. As the title indicates, I have decided to rejoin the family of the SGI-USA and expose the errors of the Nikken sect based on Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings. In sharing my experience, I hope to encourage all of you to join me in returning to the one and only movement embracing the true lineage of the Daishonin’s Buddhism.

The Hokkeko in Fife, Wash., was formed when this conflict first arose in late 1990. Having just relocated from Idaho to Washington, connections with my leaders in the SGI were especially weak. I agreed to lead this group because I mistakenly accepted the authority of the position of high priest of Nichiren Shoshu as correct or legitimate, and the function of the priesthood (right or wrong) as basic to the validity of the faith. However, due to our lack of study and misunderstanding of the true nature of the conflict between the SGI and the priesthood, we decided to avoid discussion of the subject altogether, leaving our friends and members ‘in the dark’ rather than taking sides against an organization (SGI-USA) we missed being part of and a great leader of kosen-rufu (President Ikeda) for whom we still felt affection and respect.

Reflecting back, although members of our group continued their sincere efforts in learning gongyo and studying the Gosho, I began to notice their unhappiness and suffering increase. As our requests for encouragement and support from the temple continued to be ignored, struggling members began to quit practicing, and our membership decreased. At first I blamed myself and redoubled my efforts on their behalf. I began to awaken to the true problem, however, as I noticed the priesthood’s negative influence affecting all of us. The priests, especially the Rev. Takahashi, just didn’t seem to care about the members’ faith. They took no action to help us, as I was always taught in the SGI was a leader’s responsibility.

Experiencing a gradual change of heart, I began to more deeply understand the Daishonin’s guidance where he states:

Since this is so, the believers of the Lotus Sutra should fear those who plague their practice more than they fear bandits, burglars, midnight killers, tigers, wolves or lions Ê even more than invasion by the Mongols. This world is the province of the Devil of the Sixth HeavenŸ. To confound the Buddha nature which is the people’s true mind, he causes them to drink the wine of greed, anger and stupidity, and feeds them nothing but poisoned dishes that leave them prostrate on the ground of the three evil paths. When he happens on one with a seeking mind, he acts to obstruct himŸ. In each case, the Devil of the Sixth Heaven possessed these Buddhist scholars in order to deceive the believers, just as foretold in the ‘Kanji’ chapter of the Lotus Sutra: ‘The devil enters one’s body.’ (The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 135-36)

On Jan. 27, we were invited by a youth division member of the SGI-USA to attend a telecast held at the Seattle Culture Center of a meeting in Los Angeles with SGI President Ikeda. Taking this opportunity to develop our awareness, we agreed to attend. The first thing I noticed was how happy and united everyone was (in sharp contrast to our fragmented experience in the ‘organization’ of the Hokkeko).

As I turned my attention to the screen and listened to President Ikeda speak, his words scorched my heart: ‘How can a parent forget about his children?’ He was expressing his warm admiration for the youthful chorus members based on their sincere efforts for the sake of the members! My eyes burned with my held-back tears as I realized how our ‘parents’ in the priesthood had ignored us completely. President Ikeda continued, ‘If a parent forgets about a child, then he is not related to that child.’ Based on my prayer, I have come to see how unrelated we (of the Fife group) are to the negative life-conditions prevalent in the ‘Nikken sect.’

At this meeting, we were also shocked to learn (from a courageous young priest who had resigned to fight for reform) that Nikken Abe doesn’t even do gongyo half the time. Of course, his influence naturally makes it difficult for anyone following him to practice consistently or correctly. In fact, recent direction from the Nikken sect has been designed to ‘muzzle’ or ‘gag’ believers, denying them even the opportunity for free and open dialogue. The Rev. Takahashi (San Francisco temple chief priest) called me in February 1992 to say that we should not study or discuss the Gosho at our meetings because ‘none of us (as lay believers) are qualified.’ He said that we should only meet to chant and do gongyo and then immediately go home. Only priests are qualified to lecture on the Gosho, according to him.

My determination to rejoin the SGI-USA was solidified through study of the many ways in which the Nikken sect has attempted to distort the doctrine to assert their authority and stockpile their wealth. Although I have much to learn, Masahiro Kobayashi’s essay ‘On the Transmission of the Heritage of the Law’ (Seikyo Times, December 1992, pp. 26-39) was especially informative. As he explains:

Priests and lay believers of the Nikken sect hold that the high priest ‘alone’ possesses a life-condition identical to that of Nichiren Daishonin through the transmission of the heritage of the Law. Absolute and infallible, the high priest alone can transcribe the Gohonzon and interpret the Daishonin’s teachings; therefore, only through the high priest alone can believers seek and attain enlightenmentŸ. By equating the transmission of the heritage of the Law with the succession of the high priests, the Nikken sect is claiming that the high priest’s life-condition (referred to in their new silent prayers as ‘the Living Essence’) is, in itself, the heritage of the Law. Nikken, by deifying himself, is trying to win absolute obedience from priests and lay believers alike.

Through various historical examples, the author effectively refutes this doctrine, shedding light on the insidious nature of religious authority. His research uncovered the following:

ä The ‘temporary custody’ of the heritage of the Law, which occurred when Nichiei, the 8th high priest, transferred the heritage of the Law to a lay believer.
ä The infallibility of the high priest, which was first proposed in order to solidify support for the 12th high priest, Nitchin, a boy high priest appointed at the age of 14. Nitchin was followed by Nitchiin, who was appointed high priest at age 10.
ä The slander of Nissei, the 17th high priest, who encouraged believers to worship a statue of Shakyamuni and recite the entire Lotus Sutra.
ä Nisshun, the 22nd high priest, who promoted believers’ reverence toward a distorted understanding of the treasure of the priest in order to solidify the parish system and ensure continuous financial support.

He concludes: ‘A careful scrutiny of Nichiren Shoshu history and Nikken’s own sermon on Aug. 29, 1992, suggests that what he calls ‘the transmission of the heritage of the Law’ boils down to the appointment of a next high priest and the transfer of the office of the high priest.’

Further: ‘The heritage of the Law is not something that has been transferred from one high priest to another in utmost secrecy. As the original Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin states, it is his disciples’ mission to dedicate themselves to the battle of kosen-rufu to help all people share the heritage of the Law and reveal their own Buddha nature, thus establishing absolute happiness in their livesŸ. The transmission of the heritage of the Law is for the people and their happiness; it is the Daishonin’s teaching based on absolute equality.

Actually, the heritage of the Law is transmitted through our own continuous faith and practice to the Gohonzon, as the Daishonin states, ‘The heritage of the Lotus Sutra flows within the lives of those who never forsake it in any lifetime whatsoever Ê whether in the past, the present or the future’ (MW-1, 23).

Sadly, I recently learned that Nikken had viciously completed the systematic felling of 280 cherry trees donated by the SGI from 1967 to 1972, leaving the garden in front of the general lodging looking like a wasteland.

The priesthood’s claim that these trees were diseased is merely the latest in a series of excuses they have given. Each time the Gakkai pointed out the error in reasoning, the priests came out with a new excuse.

Those beautiful cherry trees embodied the sincerity of the faith of millions of believers who joyfully participated in the construction of the Sho-Hondo, the most significant edifice in the history of Buddhism.

Unfortunately, Nikken’s deep sense of resentment and jealousy toward the accomplishments of Nittatsu Shonin, President Ikeda and the SGI compelled him to destroy these heartfelt offerings.

In any event, please join me at this significant time in our challenge to secure Nikken’s resignation and campaign for much needed reform, thereby opening the way for the accomplishment of worldwide kosen-rufu. Thank you!

Rickie Jean Armitage
Tacoma, Wash.



Ready Reference:
Between the Traditional Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin and the ‘New’ Teachings of the Nikken Sect

Part 1: The Three Treasures

Historically, the concept of the three treasures dates to Shakyamuni’s original teachings. The three treasures Ê the Buddha, the Law and the Priesthood Ê come from the Sanskrit terms, Buddha, Dharma and Samgha. The word samgha indicates a gathering or meeting and traditionally indicated the Buddhist Order, or all followers Ê both priests and lay believers. The traditional understanding of the three treasures in Nichiren Shoshu has two meanings; specific and general. Specifically, the three treasures are (1) Nichiren Daishonin, (2) the Gohonzon and (3) Nikko Shonin (only). Generally, they are (1) Nichiren Daishonin, (2) the Gohonzon and (3) all priests and lay believers. We are all, high priests, priests and lay believers alike, part of the Treasure of the Priesthood.

Traditional Doctrines
In Nichiren Shoshu, the three treasures, as set forth in the regulations of our school, are as follows: The Great Mandala (the Dai-Gohonzon) is the Treasure of the Law; the founder Nichiren Daishonin is the Treasure of the Buddha; and Nikko Shonin, the second high priest, who directly inherited the lineage of the Daishonin’s teachings, is the Treasure of the Priesthood. (Nittatsu Shonin, Dai-Nichiren, July 1977)

New’ Teachings of the Nikken Sect
The three treasures of Nichiren Shoshu are: the Treasure of the Buddha,… the Treasure of the Law,… and the Treasure of the Priest, who is first and foremost, the only one who was able to share the Daishonin’s Buddhahood, the second high priest, Nikko Shonin, who was followed by the third high priest, Nichimoku Shonin, and each successive high priest…. (Dai-Nichiren Special Edition (II), 1991, p. 10)

Treasure of the Priesthood:

Traditional Doctrines
The Treasure of the Priest is Byakuren Ajari Nikko Shonin, the second high priest, who received the pure lineage of true Buddhism in its entirety directly from Nichiren Daishonin. (Nittatsu Shonin, Dai-Nichiren, July 1977)

New’ Teachings of the Nikken Sect
[W]ith Nikko Shonin as the first, the Treasure of the Priest includes all of the successive high priests, who are the only ones who can receive the Bestowal of the Living Essence of the Law. (Dai-Nichiren Special Edition (III), 1991, p. 1-3)

Role of the High Priest:

Traditional Doctrines
By contrast, Nichimoku Shonin is regarded as a ‘chief priest’ (zasu). Nichimoku Shonin’s role is to manage and preserve the Daishonin’s Buddhism, and to correctly receive the lineage of the Daishonin’s teachings and transmit them to the next chief priest [of Taiseki-ji]; thus [the position of chief priest] denotes management…. (Nittatsu Shonin, Dai-Nichiren, May 1977)

New’ Teachings of the Nikken Sect
Further, all of the priests of this sect, that is, those common priests of this sect who absolutely believe in and strictly obey the high priest, also become a part of the Treasure of the Priest. However, the significance of this is that only when common priests form this relationship with the high priest can they exist as part of the Treasure of the Priest. (Dai-Nichiren Special Edition (III), 1991, p. 1-3)

Worshiping the Three Treasures:

Traditional Doctrines
It [the Gohonzon] is the embodiment of the life of the founder Nichiren Daishonin. Thus, when we enshrine the Gohonzon, we are enshrining the three treasures.

The Gohonzon is in itself the embodiment of the three treasures. You have the Gohonzon enshrined in your altar at home, and each morning and evening you carry out your practice of faith [gongyo]. Through this practice you fully revere the three treasures…. (Nittatsu Shonin, Dai-Nichiren, July 1977)

New’ Teachings of the Nikken Sect
In other words, because the enlightened life of Nichiren Daishonin, or the Body of the Law of the Three Treasures of the Buddhism of the Sowing continues to exist through the transmission of the Face to Face Bestowal of the Living Essence of the Law to the only one who is to receive it, we are being strictly directed to believe in the existence of that enlightened life within the body of each high priest. (Dai-Nichiren Special Edition (III), 1991, p. 1-4)

High Priest as Proxy for the Daishonin:

Traditional Doctrines
If someone says that the high priest is the proxy or substitute for the Daishonin, it will immediately invite criticism from the outside. (Nittatsu Shonin, Dai-Nichiren, May 1977)

Fundamentally, however, we regard Nikko Shonin alone as the Treasure of the Priest. From this standpoint, although to say that [the high priest] is a reincarnation of the Daishonin or to refer to him as the Daishonin of the present time might seem to be a way of showing great respect, in fact it can often engender exactly the opposite sentiments. (Nikken, Dai-Nichiren, March 1983)

New’ Teachings of the Nikken Sect
Nikken Shonin is the Daishonin of modern times. (Dai-Nichiren,
June 1991)

Nikken Shonin possesses the entity and function of the Dai-Gohonzon. (Letter from senior priests to top Gakkai leaders, Sept. 6, 1991)

In the past the Buddha and the Law were in the forefront and the Priest, Nikko, was in the background. But, since the Daishonin has passed away the high priest should be in the forefront and the Buddha and the Law in the background. (Letter from senior priests to top Gakkai leaders, Sept. 6, 1991)

Part 2: The Heritage of the Law

Traditional Doctrines
Therefore, to chant Myoho-renge-kyo with this realization is to inherit the ultimate law of life and death. To carry on this heritage is the most important task for Nichiren’s disciples, and that is precisely what it means to embrace the Lotus Sutra….

All disciples and believers of Nichiren should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with one mind (itai doshin), transcending all differences among themselves to become as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim. This spiritual bond is the basis for the universal transmission of the ultimate law of life and death….

Be resolved to summon forth the great power of your faith, and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the prayer that your faith will be steadfast and correct at the moment of your death. Never seek any other way to inherit the ultimate law and manifest it in your life…. Without the lifeblood of faith, it would be useless to embrace the Lotus Sutra. (The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 22-25)

New’ Teachings of the Nikken Sect
[W]ith Nikko Shonin as the first, the Treasure of the Priest includes all of the successive high priests, who are the only ones who can receive the Bestowal of the Living Essence of the Law. Further, all of the priests of this sect, that is, those common priests of this sect who absolutely believe in and strictly obey the high priest, also become a part of the Treasure of the Priest. However, the significance of this is that only when common priests form this relationship with the high priest can they exist as part of the Treasure of the Priest. (Dai-Nichiren Special Edition (III), 1991, p. 1-3)

In other words, because the enlightened life of Nichiren Daishonin, or the Body of the Law of the Three Treasures of the Buddhism of the Sowing continues to exist through the transmission of the Face to Face Bestowal of the Living Essence of the Law to the only one who is to receive it, we are being strictly directed to believe in the existence of that enlightened life within the body of each high priest. (Dai-Nichiren Special Edition (III), 1991, p. 1-4)

Traditional Doctrines
Faith, the heritage of the Law and the pure flow of the entity of the Law are identical. Unswayed faith indicates the unbroken lineage and thus the correctly transmitted heritage of the Law and the uninterrupted pure flow of the entity of the Law. (Nichiu Shonin, 9th high priest, ‘On the Formalities of True Buddhism,’ quoted in Seikyo Times, Feb. 1993, p. 20)

This lifeblood of faith is inherited not only by a high priest. It is also inherited by all priests and lay believers who inherit the true teaching. When these priests and lay believers carry out pure faith in the true teaching and practice accordingly, they unlock the pure water of the Law within their lives and equally attain enlightenment through believing and understanding the Law. (Nikken, Dai-Nichiren, April 1987)

‘New’ Teachings of the Nikken Sect
It follows that the Treasure of the Priest(s) was first received by Nikko Shonin through the Bestowal of the Living Essence of the Law by the Daishonin, and after that, the Pure Law was passed to each successive high priest in the lineage of the Heritage, spanning the generations up until the present day. And now the Pure Law is born by the current high priest. In addition, as well as in a broader sense, the Treasure of the Priest includes all of the head priests and assistant priests who, with absolute faith in and obedience to the instruction of the high priest, are dispatched to each local temple as his representatives. (Dai-Nichiren Special Edition (II), 1991, p. 13)

Part 3: Equality of Priesthood and Laity

The priesthood is now asserting that there does exist a fundamental distinction between priests and lay believers; that priests are in fact superior to lay believers. This mistaken view is the basis for their claim that lay believers are arrogant; that lay believers have forgotten their place.

Traditional Doctrines
When one chants the daimoku bearing in mind that there are no distinctions among those who embrace the Lotus Sutra, then the blessings he gains will be equal to those of Shakyamuni Buddha. (Nichiren Daishonin, MW-3, 208).

It follows, therefore, that those who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, irrespective of social status, are themselves [the] Treasure Tower and likewise they themselves are Taho Buddha. (Nichiren Daishonin, MW-1, 30)

‘New’ Teachings of the Nikken Sect
Next, concerning the relation between the priesthood and the laity,…a difference does exist between a priest and a lay person…an absolute difference between priest and layperson exists in the lineage of the master and disciple. (Dai-Nichiren Special Edition (III), 1991, p. 1-17)

Traditional Doctrines
Irrespective of whether they be high or low in rank or whether they be priest or laity, because people who have faith [in the Gohonzon] are all entities of Myoho-renge-kyo, they are all equal…. In terms of faith, because everyone is essentially a Buddha and will attain Buddhahood in his present form, there must be no inequality between priesthood and laity. (Nichiu Shonin, 9th high priest, ‘On the Formalities of True Buddhism’)

‘New’ Teachings of the Nikken Sect
It is only natural that there is an original distinction between priesthood and laity in accord with the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism…. If lay believers speak as if they are equal to priests, they lack courtesy and propriety, and will destroy the order between priesthood and laity…. (Nichijun Fujimoto, Chief Administrator of Nichiren Shoshu, in a letter to the SGI, Jan. 12, 1991)

Traditional Doctrines
Where do we see a person of truly high status? Everyone is equal as a human being today. We are living in such an age. Even priests are common mortals who didn’t necessarily perform outstandingly great deeds in the past. If you look upon priests as noble bodhisattvas, such a view smacks of a provisional teaching. (Nittatsu Shonin, Dai-Nichiren, May 3, 1966)

‘New’ Teachings of the Nikken Sect
To talk about the priesthood and the laity with a sense of equality are expressions of great conceit. In fact, they correspond to the five cardinal sins Ê to destroy the unity of Buddhist practitioners. (Nichijun Fujimoto, Chief Administrator of Nichiren Shoshu, in a letter to the SGI, Jan. 12, 1991)

Traditional Doctrines
Just as there are joints in the bamboo tree, naturally there are differences between priests and lay believers. However, they are equal in that they share the same objective, and in that their roles are of equal significance. (Nikken, ‘Brief Explanation of Nichiren Shoshu Doctrines,’ compiled when he was Study Dept. chief)

‘New’ Teachings of the Nikken Sect
A priest who wears this robe is special and different from lay believers. He is always seated with the Gohonzon behind him, but whatever the priest may do on other occasions and no matter how luxuriant his lifestyle, it is totally all right. You lay believers are confused about this point. These matters are of no account. (Seido Oyabu, Horin-ji temple, at oko lecture in Jan. 1991)

Part 4: The ‘New’ Faith of the Nikken Sect

Traditional Doctrines
(See quote below:) This quotation incorrectly defines the relationship between lay believers, priests and the high priest. There is no basis for these assertions anywhere in the traditional doctrines of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism.

‘New’ Teachings of the Nikken Sect
This is the bloodstream of the Nichiren Shoshu believer’s attitude, which has existed for 700 years. The only way to get benefit is to worship and be obedient to the priest in your local temple. The local priest must worship and be obedient to the high priest as the Daishonin’s replacement. Believers cannot worship the high priest directly. This order cannot be changed. Therefore, the ‘teacher’ for local danto believers is their local priest. Your local priest is your teacher representing the high priest who is equal to Nichiren Daishonin. This is shitei sotai (mentor/disciple relationship). Believers’ only concern should be to worship the priest, obey instructions and give gokuyo (contributions). This is the practice of correct faith and the path to enlightenment. (This section appears in the supplement of the Japanese original of the Dai-Nichiren Special Editions, 1991.)

Traditional Doctrines
(See quote below:) This quotation teaches us to worship the person of the high priest and clearly violates Nichiren Daishonin’s admonition to follow the Law, not the person. Neither Nichiren Daishonin nor any of the successive high priests until today ever propagated a teaching that encourages us to worship a person. The words strict obedience do not appear in the Daishonin’s Gosho, for example.

‘New’ Teachings of the Nikken Sect
When the priests and lay believers of the faith of Nichiren Shoshu have the occasion to be in the presence of the high priest, with palms pressed earnestly together in sincere gratitude, we pay prayer-like reverence to him as the Master who embodies the Living Essence of the Body of the entirety of the Law of all existence, which has been passed down through the generations since the lifetime of the Daishonin. It is therefore important that, from the viewpoint of acquiescing to his possession of the Body of the Law, which should be thought of as the source of the significance of the Daishonin’s Buddhism, we not just listen to, but, deep within our lives, truly hear the high priest’s messages of guidance to us.

In short, with perfectly sincere faith and self-imposed, strict obedience, we should hold the high priest’s instruction in deepest reverence Ê and we must realize that it is right there that the great, direct path of the true relationship of unfiltered, unrestricted faith between Master and disciple, which leads to ultimate enlightenment in this lifetime, is to be found. (Dai-Nichiren Special Edition (II), 1991. pp. 13-14)

Traditional Doctrines
(See quote below:) Here, not only are we taught that we must worship the person of the high priest, we are also told to be strictly obedient to and have absolute faith in our local priest, as our direct master. This is a distortion of both the heritage of the Law and the mentor/disciple relationship. As in the previous quotes, one wonders what happened to Gohonzon, gongyo, daimoku, propagation and study. These basics have been replaced by a personal relationship with our local priest and the high priest. This is definitely not correct.

‘New’ Teachings of the Nikken Sect
As explained earlier, because a common priest who absolutely believes in and strictly obeys the high priest establishes a connection with the Living Essence of the Law within the high priest and thereby becomes a part of the Treasure of the Priest, members of the faith of this sect must view the Head Priest of the local temples they belong to with the attitude that their local priest is the Tetsugi Master who possesses the pure Living Essence of the Law. The priests of this sect train following the observances of the established rules of this sect, receive their charges from the high priest and wear both an unlined pale gray silk robe and a five-paneled surplice. These religious robes are truly expressions of the Daishonin’s Buddhism of the Sowing…. Because priests wear the robes of the Buddhism of the Sowing of the True Cause, both their bodies and minds become part of the Treasure of the Priest, and they serve as the Tetsugi Master who has received the pure Living Essence of the Law. (Dai-Nichiren Special Edition (III), 1991, pp. 1-6, 1-7)