Soka Spirit
2. Reformist Priests Protest High Priests New Year's Message

The Association of Youthful Priests Dedicated to the Reformation of Nichiren Shoshu.

In Jan. 2000, The Association of Priests for the Reformation of Nichiren Shoshu and the Association of Youthful Priests Dedicated to the Reformation of Nichiren Shoshu recently submitted the following Demand for an Apology to High Priest Nikken Abe. They felt that High Priest Nikken’s New Year’s message was insensitive to the victims of the 1995 Hanshin Earthquake in Japan and the earthquake in Taiwan a year earlier.

To Mr. Nikken Abe, the high priest of Nichiren Shoshu:

In your New Year’s message, which was published in various Nichiren Shoshu publications for the laity throughout the world, you trampled upon the feelings of the victims and families of victims of the Hanshin Earthquake five years ago as well as the Taiwan earthquake last year. In the message, you stated:

The Daishonin declared that the grave consequence of a large number of people’s belief in erroneous religions and false views (negative causes) is the rise of repeated occurrences of severe catastrophes caused by countless natural disasters; such as, the great earth trembling like an enormous dancing wave…. The very proof of this declaration was seen in the 1995 Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake, where thousands of people, including a large number of Soka Gakkai members, had encountered the great misfortune of losing their lives. Amidst this catastrophe, the fact stands out that Nichiren Shoshu priests and the members of the Hokkeko hardly suffered any fatalities. Still more, more recently, during last year’s Great Earthquake in Chutai, central Taiwan, many casualties were reported, however, not even one single Nichiren Shoshu believer perished; all Hokkeko members were able to escape the devastation. In sharp contrast to this, there are countless negative proofs — in fact, too numerous to cite — of unhappiness and tragedies caused by the slanders and evil karmas [sic] created by the Soka Gakkai member who betrayed the Dai-Gohonzon, the heart and core of the Three Great Secret Laws. [Translated by the Nichiren Shoshu Temple.]

Jan. 17 this year marked the fifth anniversary of the Hanshin Earthquake, which struck the densely populated areas of Osaka and southern Hyogo prefectures, killing 6,432 people and causing the damage and destruction to approximately 250,000 buildings. Those who survived the loss of their family members have been doing their utmost to overcome their sorrow. Yet your message sent around the world disregards their sentiments. We find your conduct cruel and intolerable.

On the day this earthquake hit, the Soka Gakkai immediately set up a disaster relief center and formed an emergency medical team. Soka Gakkai community centers in the affected areas opened their doors to the victims. Youth division members formed a motorcycle unit to assist in transporting relief goods. Their humanitarian efforts were highly recognized by many, including overseas media.

On the contrary, how did the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood respond? The day after the earthquake, the Nichiren Shoshu Bureau of Religious Affairs issued a notice that stated in part, Nichiren Shoshu wants to collect donations for relief efforts, especially to support affected temples and believers in each area. Put simply, this notice concerns only Nichiren Shoshu temples and their believers while disregarding the rest of the affected citizens. Due to criticism from both within and outside Nichiren Shoshu, the priesthood issued another notice three days later, stating, We intend to utilize your donations for our temples and believers as well as for the general public through various government agencies. The Nichiren Shoshu Bureau of Religious Affairs was compelled to amend its initial response, since the media were then reporting that the Soka Gakkai had opened its facilities to the public as evacuation centers, was continuing to send relief goods to the affected areas and had donated ¥100 million (around $1 million) to Hyogo Prefecture three days after the quake.

The circumstances indicate that you were not sincerely concerned about the earthquake victims nor about the salvation of the people. Furthermore, in your New Year’s message this year, you attributed the earthquakes in Japan and Taiwan to the Soka Gakkai’s slanders and evil karmas [sic] and showed no sensitivity toward the feelings of the victims — conduct utterly unfitting a religious practitioner.

The Nichiren Shoshu branch temples’ response toward the earthquake victims also reflected your selfishness and the lack of compassion in the priesthood as a whole. For example, Mr. Dojun Hasebe, chief priest of Myohon-ji, a branch temple located in Nada Ward, Kobe City, one of the hardest hit areas, kept the temple’s gate locked, making the grounds inaccessible to earthquake victims. Meanwhile, at the Soka Gakkai’s Nada Culture Center, located in the vicinity of Myohon-ji, relief efforts were conducted for the victims around the clock, regardless of whether or not the victims were Soka Gakkai members. Other religious organizations made similar humanitarian efforts.

You as high priest, however, failed to instruct the branch temple in Kobe to accept evacuees. Nichiren Daishonin, who founded Nichiren Shoshu, fought for the salvation of all people. On the contrary, you are devoid of such altruistic action. You thus disqualify yourself as a high priest of the Buddhist school named after the Daishonin.

In the Taiwan earthquake, which destroyed close to 80,000 buildings, the SGI of Taiwan also made notable efforts. The members assisted the government’s relief activities using 700 motorcycles. A team of doctors and nurses was dispatched to treat the victims. SGI members who were lawyers also provided legal services to the victims, assisting them in their applications for financial aid to rebuild their damaged houses. Furthermore, SGI youth volunteers helped earthquake victims clean up rubble, fix furniture and relocate.

The SGI of Taiwan offered its facility for a local elementary school as a classroom building. On Oct. 16 last year, the organization received a certificate of commendation from the school. The organization also held a benefit concert for earthquake victims on several occasions and received a letter of appreciation from the provincial government. SGI members’ relief efforts were numerous. The SGI of Taiwan was described by a local TV station as a model organization for the area’s rebuilding efforts.

On the contrary, what action did the Nichiren Shoshu priests in Taiwan take? How much did they contribute? The lack of the priesthood’s response in Taiwan indicates that you and Nichiren Shoshu did not learn your lesson from the previous earthquake in Japan. One may question, then, how Nichiren Shoshu could criticize the SGI members in Taiwan in spite of their dedicated efforts. Instead of recognizing their contributions and expressing condolences for the victims, you used the occasion to criticize the Soka Gakkai, thus demeaning the SGI members’ sincere relief efforts.

In his treatise On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land, the Daishonin shares the suffering of the people who have been plagued by natural disasters, famines and pestilence. This, we believe, is his spirit as well as the soul of this Buddhism. In your New Year’s message, however, empathy for the disaster victims is hardly felt; your words are instead filled with empty self-righteousness. Your sermon appears to us as empty rhetoric.

Your conduct has not only brought shame upon Nichiren Shoshu but also revealed the ignorance and indolence that allow you to remain unconcerned after trampling upon the feelings of the earthquake victims and after broadcasting your inhumanity to the world. Your behavior cannot be tolerated.

The Daishonin states, It is an undeniable fact that fire can at once reduce even a thousand-year-old field of pampas grass to ashes, and that the merit one has formed over a hundred years can be destroyed with a single word (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 636).

Your words aimed at the earthquake victims in Japan and Taiwan amount to a denial of Nichiren Shoshu’s almost 750-year-old history. How much would the founder be outraged at this?

We — the members of the Association of Priests for the Reformation of Nichiren Shoshu and the Association of Youthful Priests Dedicated to the Reformation of Nichiren Shoshu — condemn your inhumane conduct unbefitting of a Buddhist and hereby demand a retraction of your New Year’s message as well as your immediate apology to the earthquake victims in Japan and Taiwan.

Jan. 21, 2000

The Association of Priests for the Reformation of Nichiren Shoshu The Association of Youthful Priests Dedicated to the Reformation of Nichiren Shoshu
(Previously published in The Justice Chronicle, No. 23, March 2, 2000)