Soka Spirit
Part III: 1. The Absolute Authority of the High Priest

Erroneous Doctrine and Behavior

In 1991, senior priests at the highest level known as oke (literally means, can convert), addressed a document to the Gakkai leadership (the Noke Document) which contained the following three statements:

  1. The {high priest} as the one and only recipient of the heritage or lifeblood should be viewed as an entity of veneration, inseparable from the Dai-Gohonzon of the high sanctuary.
  2. Faith toward these two fundamentals [meaning the Gohonzon and the high priest] must be absolute.
  3. The true Buddha, the Daishonin, the Dai-Gohonzon of the high sanctuary, and the successive high priests are all essentially one inseparable object of worship. (Dai-Nichiren, Sept. 1991)

Needless to say, the doctrine that the high priest, exclusively, is equally venerable as the Gohonzon and Nichiren Daishonin exists nowhere in the teachings of the Daishonin or Nikko Shonin. It is a doctrine that varies markedly from the original teachings of the school.

In addition, High Priest Nikken made the following statement in August 1997 at the head temple: Because the high priest is the living Shakyamuni and Nichiren, if you speak ill of him, you will fall into hell.

Nikko Shonin in his Twenty-Six Admonitions states, If even the high priest of the time presumes to expound his own teachings that differ from Buddhism, then you should not make use of these. (Gosho Zenshu, P.1618) In other words, if the high priest forsakes the teachings and expounds his own doctrine, do not follow him. Actual examples from history include the time that Nissei, the 17th high priest, enshrined a statue of Shakyamuni Buddha at branch temples and Nikkyo, the 62nd high priest, gave guidance to believers to enshrine a talisman of the Ise Shrine and worship to the shrine from afar. On more than a few occasions, high priests of Nichiren Shoshu have committed errors that amount to a degradation or slander of Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings.

Nikko Shonin also stated that a priest should strive to be like Nichiren did, that is, a life of utmost integrity dedicated to practicing and propagating the Buddha’s teachings. But, he further clarified, if the high priest or a priest striving to perfect his learning should engage in illicit relations with women, he should have his position removed and become an ordinary priest. It seems that Nikko Shonin was considering the possibility that the high priest at some time in the future might succumb to such weakness.

The high priest’s mission is to protect the Daishonin’s teachings and transmit them to future generations. His function is to represent the body of believers, not to promote faith in himself.

The Daishonin states, Since Nichiren’s disciples and lay supporters believe solely in the Lotus Sutra, honestly discarding expedient means and not accepting even a single verse of the other sutras, exactly as the Lotus teaches, they can enter the treasure tower of the Gohonzon (The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon, WND, 832).

Faith based on the Gohonzon is the correct way of faith and has been since the time of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin. To refer to the high priest and the Gohonzon as hese two fundamentals is erroneous and betrays the Daishonin’s intent.