Soka Spirit Editor
Posted on November 02, 2012
On Nov. 29, 1991, the Soka Gakkai received a notice of excommunication, dated Nov. 28, from the priesthood of Nichiren Shoshu.
The following day, Nov. 30, at a Soka Gakkai leaders meeting, SGI President Ikeda referred to Nov. 28 as the Day of Spiritual Liberation, or “spiritual independence day” for the Soka Gakkai and the SGI. It signaled a fresh era of unprecedented development.
This action of the Nichiren Shoshu high priest at the time, Nikken Abe, was a culmination of a series of repressive measures by the priesthood against the Soka Gakkai. The Soka Gakkai later learned that the high priest had devised a scheme named “Operation C”—“C” standing for “cut.” The aim was to “cut,” or sever, the relationship between President Ikeda and the members. The high priest began to implement his plan by first dismissing President Ikeda from his post as head of all Nichiren Shoshu lay organizations.
The priesthood, primarily concerned with formality and its own authority, could no longer tolerate the Soka Gakkai, whose members focused on Buddhist practice and study, and spreading Buddhism and its ideals throughout society.
Nikken surmised that he needed only to win 200,000 members from the Soka Gakkai to maintain the priesthood’s livelihood without the organization.
His plan failed, and a year later, Nikken resorted to mass excommunication. Claiming absolute religious authority, he hoped in this way to win enough followers from a ruined Soka Gakkai. But the numbers he hoped for never materialized.
President Ikeda at the Nov. 30 meeting declared Nov. 28 a date of profound significance: 28 represents the number of chapters contained in the Lotus Sutra. He quoted a passage from a letter Nichiren Daishonin wrote on Nov. 28, 1278: “Since in any case my body will in the end be tossed aimlessly in the fields, I wish to give my life for the one Buddha vehicle of the Lotus Sutra…and, just as King Sen’yo and King Possessor of Virtue had their names remembered in latter ages…to be spoken of and included in the Lotus Sutra of the future” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 336).
Nichiren’s name is certainly remembered, and his writings, like the Lotus Sutra in ages before, constitute a faultless guide for the practice of Buddhism in this age.
Second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda referred to the Soka Gakkai itself as a Buddha. Like Nichiren, it has also faced one form of opposition after another. But with each obstacle, the organization and its members have grown to new levels. Its name, President Ikeda said, will be clearly and permanently recorded in the Buddhist scriptures of the future.
In the realm of Buddhist practice, growth invites more obstacles, which when challenged become fuel for further growth. Regarding the essential Buddhist teaching, Nichiren states: “If you propagate it, devils will arise without fail. If they did not, there would be no way of knowing that this is the correct teaching” (WND-1, 501).
Devils represent functions of the fundamental ignorance innate in life. They work to impede one’s faith and practice or to move others to try and do so. They hinder those who propagate the Mystic Law. Such devils arise in “confusing form” (WND, 770)—that is, in the place and form least expected.
A commentary on the Lotus Sutra describes three powerful enemies of the correct Buddhist teaching, the third and most formidable being arrogant monks, Buddhist priests “who pretend to be sages” (see The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism, p. 720). When encountering earnest practitioners of the Lotus Sutra, the priests become fearful of losing fame or profit and induce secular authorities to persecute practitioners.
Thomas Jefferson, a father of America’s independence, wrote: “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.” The kind of priest he describes seems to accord with that identified in the Lotus Sutra and its commentaries about a powerful enemy.
Jefferson also wrote: “They [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
The Soka Gakkai, under the leadership of its three founding presidents, has consistently conveyed the power of hope, courage and wisdom to millions of ordinary people. As a result, it has been opposed both from within and outside of Buddhism by those concerned first with their personal profit, status or fame.
In the same Nov. 30 address, President Ikeda elucidated six requirements for a global religious movement, or world religion: 1) administration of the religious body in an open, democratic fashion; 2) strict adherence to the fundamentals of faith and the guarantee of free speech; 3) involvement of believers, with respect and equality among believers; 4) emphasis on individual faith as opposed to formality; 5) rejection of hereditary privileges, and commitment to gathering capable people from throughout society; and 6) universal doctrines that are propagated using methods appropriate to the times.
Like the founders of our own nation, who fought both religious and political tyranny to establish a new open and democratic society, the members of the SGI, on Nov. 28, 1991, through their persistent, courageous struggle gained spiritual independence. And since that day, the SGI and its members, together with President Ikeda, have soared to new historic accomplishments, which will be forever recorded in the history of Buddhism.
(World Tribune 11/24/2006 p. 7)