The Soka Gakkai, the Body of Believers Dedicated to Kosen-rufu
After Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin’s deaths, their spirit and doctrine were compromised by many of those responsible to uphold them. During Japan’s Edo Period (1600-1865), the government established what is known as the Temple Parish System. [In this system, people were legally required to belong to a local Buddhist temple, regardless of their personal religious beliefs. Priests, as proxies of the government, exercised authority over residents of their parishes.] Under this system, the authority of priests over the laity increased dramatically. The discriminatory thinking that priests were considered superior and lay believers inferior became institutionalized.
Within Nichiren Shoshu, also known as the Fuji School, three disturbing tendencies emerged: (1) the view that priesthood is superior to laity; (2) the view that the high priest is infallible; (3) the overemphasis on rituals and formalities.
Within Japanese Buddhism in general, rites and ceremonies such as funerals and memorial services came to be viewed all-important. Even within the schools originating from Nikko, core tenets and convictions were lost. With the Temple Parish System, funerals and memorial services and other rites were central. Nichiren Shoshu gradually transformed itself along with Japanese Buddhism in general into “funeral Buddhism,” a description that addresses the tendency of Buddhism in Japan to focus almost exclusively on funerals and memorial services.
Recognition that Buddhism is a means to enable people to become happy amid the realities of life was gradually lost. Instead, priests became preoccupied with their own authority and worked to establish a clear distinction between themselves and the laity.