Erroneous Doctrine and Behavior
Nichiren Shoshu bases its assertions concerning the belief in the high priest as absolutely infallible in the matters concerning Buddhism on an erroneous view of the lifeblood (lineage) or the correct transmission (or heritage) of the Law. In other words, they hold the view the lifeblood as an inscrutable and exclusive mysterious essence that is passed on only from one high priest to the next. In the aforementioned Noke Document, senior priests of Nichiren Shoshu wrote:
The foundation of this school is the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of True Buddhism and the high priest, who alone has inherited the Living Essence of the Law directly from the former high priest for the heritage of Buddhism exists in the high priest’s venerable life that is one with the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of True Buddhism. Therefore, our faith in these two fundamentals must be absolute. (Dai-Nichiren, Sept. 1991)
Further, the Noke Document also states: The lifeblood of the water of the Law, which is passed on to only one person, is surely the entity of the Law of the oneness of person and the Law (Dai-Nichiren, Sept. 1991). However, this mystifying view of the lifeblood was created generations after the Daishonin’s time to assert the authority of the high priest. It is an erroneous doctrine with no relation to Nichiren Daishonin or Nikko Shonin’s teachings.
Originally, the use of the term lifeblood became popular within the esoteric True Word or Japanese Tendai schools. This term compares the transmission of teachings from teacher to disciple to blood flowing through a blood vessel or to inheritances passed from a father to a son. The same word in Japanese refers to both kinds of lifeblood.
Japanese Buddhism during the Daishonin’s time had developed a tradition of secretly transmitting teachings to a very small group of individuals. In contrast to this, Nichiren Daishonin stated, Nichiren has been trying to awaken all the people of Japan to faith in the Lotus Sutra so that they too can share the heritage and attain Buddhahood (The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life, WND, 217).
With this statement, he denies the idea that the heritage is a secret transmission of the teachings, and declares it something open to all. In addition, in the same writing, the Daishonin says, even embracing the Lotus Sutra would be useless without the heritage of faith (WND, 217). Thus the Daishonin emphasizes that the essence of the lifeblood or heritage is faith. In other words, heritage is another name for correct faith.
Past high priests have even commented on the heritage based on the Daishonin’s view. Nichiu, the ninth high priest, stated in his writing On the Formalities, Whether we speak of faith or the lifeblood or the water of the Law, they are all the same thing. To activate faith is in essence no different from this. If we do not depart from faith since the time of the founder… our bodies and minds are themselves the bodies and minds of Myoho-renge-kyo (Essential Writings of the Fuji School. Vol. 1, p. 64). Also, Nichiko, the 59th high priest, wrote, Faith, the lifeblood, and the water of the Law are essentially the same thing. When the water of the Law is passed on in accordance with or through faith, this is called the bestowal or transmittal of the lifeblood. Because of this, so long as our faith is eternally unmovable and unperturbed, and we put that faith into action, then, this flow of the water of the Law will never subside (p. 176).
As is clear from these passages, there is no lifeblood or Heritage of the Law without correct faith in the spirit of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin’s writings. Even though one prays to the correct object of devotion, one must also practice with correct faith to manifest benefit. Rather, as Nichiren Daishonin states, Even if my counsel is heeded, if I am not given due respect as the votary of the Lotus Sutra, then the country will perish. (The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra, WND, p. 773).