Why are Nikken and the other priests wrong in demolishing the Grand Main Temple?
They are wrong because their act is a betrayal of the 8 million people whose sincerity, correct faith in the Daishonin’s teachings and dedication to kosen-rufu made the Main Temple possible. More than 30 years ago, these millions of people believed the priests when they said that they would cherish the Main Temple as the high sanctuary and would house the Dai-Gohonzon there for hundreds of years. These believers donated to its construction trusting the priesthood’s intentions.
Now these priests are completely betraying that trust. After years of proclaiming it as the high sanctuary, Nikken is now contradicting himself and the previous high priests, saying it is not. The Dai-Gohonzon has been moved; the Main Temple is coming down.
In April, when Nikken announced his plan to transfer the Dai-Gohonzon from the Main Temple and then demolish the building, he said that he would do so in order to “completely refute the great slander of [SGI President] Ikeda and others.” In effect, Nikken is saying that he’s demolishing the Main Temple to reject and debase the long-standing efforts of SGI members to support the priesthood and widely spread the Daishonin’s Buddhism.
The wrongness of this stance can also be seen in the priesthood’s unwillingness to be up front about it from the outset.
They felt they needed a more reasonable sounding pretext. Therefore, first, stories of corrosion, faulty construction and seismic danger were floated in temple-related publications such as Emyo.
But when these assertions were solidly refuted, the high priest himself began citing the fact that it was built by Daisaku Ikeda and SGI members as the reason for destroying it.
In short, by demolishing the Main Temple, the priesthood is trying to demean the faith of the SGI members and the SGI movement; it is a childish act.
This symbolic action is meant to discourage SGI members in their faith and amounts to an attempt — an obviously failed one — to undermine this harmoniously united order of believers, an offense that Buddhism regards as the most serious of all.
Whose idea was building the Main Temple?
The construction of the Main Temple was originally conceived by the late Josei Toda, the Soka Gakkai’s second president, and achieved by his successor, President Ikeda. In 1964, President Ikeda proposed a plan, which was accepted with delight by both Soka Gakkai members and the priesthood, to actualize his mentor’s dream to create a grand sanctuary where people from around the world could come to worship the Dai- Gohonzon. In 1965, some 8 million people donated ¥35.5 billion ($100 million at the time; $270 million at today’s exchange rate) for the project, which was completed in 1972.
Regarding the religious significance of the building, Nittatsu Hosoi, the 66th high priest (Nikken is the 67th), stated in an “Admonition” dated April 28, 1972, that it indeed was “the supreme edifice that shall be the high sanctuary of the temple of true Buddhism.”
In the late ’60s and early ’70s, the priesthood repeatedly stated that the Main Temple would fulfill this role of the high sanctuary — in accord with the Daishonin’s mandate, expressed in his writings such as “On the Three Great Secret Laws” and the “Minobu Transfer Document,” that such a sanctuary be established.
This interpretation of the building’s significance — agreed on by both laity and priesthood — became an integral part of the construction and opening of the Main Temple.
What does ‘high sanctuary’ mean?
The high sanctuary is one of the Three Great Secret Laws (called secret because they had never been revealed before); that is, one of the three core elements of the Daishonin’s Buddhism. They are the object of devotion of true Buddhism (the Gohonzon), the invocation of true Buddhism (chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo) and the high sanctuary of true Buddhism.
High sanctuary originally meant a place of religious practice where people accept various ascetic precepts — rules of practice and discipline — which they agree to uphold to achieve enlightenment.
In the Daishonin’s Buddhism, however, there is no need to keep such austere precepts, because having sincere faith in the Gohonzon is alone equivalent to accepting all the Buddhist precepts. All we need to attain enlightenment is our faith and practice.
For this reason, wherever people practice the Daishonin’s Buddhism with faith in the Gohonzon is generally regarded as the high sanctuary of true Buddhism. But the Daishonin also talks of the high sanctuary in the specific sense in documents like the “Minobu Transfer Document”:
“When the sovereign of the nation establishes this Law, the high sanctuary of the temple of true Buddhism shall be built at Mount Fuji” (Gosho Zenshu, p. 1600).
So, while the high sanctuary is generally wherever people practice this Buddhism correctly, he also imagined a very specific place where those committed to the propagation of the Mystic Law would gather.
What does “When the sovereign of the nation establishes the Law” mean? In a democratic age like ours, the people are sovereign. Since the Daishonin’s mandate is that the high sanctuary be built on the condition that the sovereign of the nation — in our day, the people — establish the Law, the raison d’être of this temple’s establishment is that the people are widely spreading the Daishonin’s Buddhism.
Put simply, the Daishonin established the Gohonzon and Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and entrusted his future disciples to spread his teaching widely — as a result of which the high sanctuary would be built.
The Main Temple was built, then, to be the high sanctuary, testifying to the unprecedented spread of the Daishonin’s Buddhism through the efforts of Soka Gakkai members after World War II. It was, as well, the crystallization of their resolve to continue their efforts on a global scale.
Now that the demolition, which we have protested, is well under way, what is the SGI-USA’s stance toward this action?
The rallies that we held last summer to protest the demolition were a great success; we raised awareness both inside and outside the SGI-USA of the priesthood’s unjust action. As a direct result of our protest, many non-members, including noted architects, politicians and scholars, also started to voice their opposition to the priesthood’s plan.
It is important, both from the standpoint of Buddhism and from that of ordinary human conscience, to not allow the Main Temple’s demolition to proceed unchallenged. If this action goes unopposed, faced with no vehement voice of protest, people both now and in the future will think that the priesthood’s action was simply tolerated. Worse yet, they will fail to see the priesthood’s grave betrayal of the Daishonin’s intent to always cherish those dedicated to spreading his Buddhism.
To set the record straight, we will continue to raise our voices of protest against the priesthood’s action. It may be too late to save the structure, but it is never too late to save people, including future generations, from unfortunate misunderstandings of this event and, more important, from misunderstandings of the Daishonin’s Buddhism itself.
(Originally published, World Tribune, Oct. 30, 1998)