On Feb. 3, 1992, seven Nichiren Shoshu priests announced in a press conference in Tokyo that they had officially left Nichiren Shoshu.
The seven priests are: Guníei Kudo, chief priest of Choei-ji temple in Tokyo (and former chief priest of Myoho-ji temple in Los Angeles); Shojun Ohashi, chief priest of Daisho-ji temple in Wakayama; Kodo Yoshikawa, chief priest of Kenbutsu-ji temple in Kyoto; Takudo Ikeda, chief priest of Seyu-ji temple in Shiga; Yubin Kushioka, chief priest of Noken-ji temple in Aichi; Yushin Yoshikawa, chief priest of Zenko-ji temple in Nagano; and Yuho Miyagawa, assistant priest of Choei-ji temple in Tokyo.
They have stood up in hopes that Nichiren Shoshu will restore the original spirit of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin. The following is a translation of their 'Letter of Remonstration' to High Priest Nikken one day earlier.
The 'Rissho Ankoku Ron' reads:
"The host said: Though I may be a person of little ability, I have reverently given myself to the study of the Mahayana. A blue fly, if it clings to the tail of a thoroughbred horse, can travel ten thousand miles, and the green ivy that twines round the tall pine can grow to a thousand feet. I was born as the son of the one Buddha, Shakyamuni, and I serve the king of scriptures, the Lotus Sutra. How could I observe the decline of the Buddhist Law and not be filled with emotions of pity and distress?
Moreover, the Nirvana Sutra states: 'If even a good priest sees someone slandering the Law and disregards him, failing to reproach him, to oust him or to punish him for his offense, then that priest is betraying Buddhism. But if he takes the slanderer severely to task, drives him off or punishes him, then he is my disciple and one who truly understands my teaching' " (The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 30)
The dispute between the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood and the Soka Gakkai, which surfaced at the end of 1990, has been worsening, contrary to the sentiments of many Nichiren Shoshu priests and believers who yearn for the earliest solution of the dispute. Nothing could be more pathetic or regrettable.
Nowadays, the pure current of the Fuji school has been greatly sullied. The Nichiren Shoshu executives have taken merciless, cruel, illegal and counterproductive actions one after another until, in November of last year, they took the outrageous action of excommunicating the Soka Gakkai, the organization that the late high priest, Nittatsu Shonin, praised as 'incomparably pure and burning with utmost sincerity to selflessly protect the Law.'
'The Opening of the Eyes (I),' reads, "As mountains pile upon mountains and waves follow waves, so do persecutions add to persecutions and criticisms augment criticisms" (MW-2, 117). This passage portrays how the priesthood is exacerbating the current dispute with the Soka Gakkai.
Degeneration, caused by the executives' foolish errors, spreads through not only local temples but the head temple as well. Voices of pain and indignation from priests everywhere decry the authorities of Nichiren Shoshu. As 'the sons of the one Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin,' who revere his great desire for kosen-rufu and follow the successive high priests' direction of harmonious unity between priesthood and laity, we can no longer overlook the devastating decline of Buddhism in Nichiren Shoshu.
Therefore, with truly unbegrudging determination, we hereby remonstrate against you, High Priest Nikken, and the executives of Nichiren Shoshu for the sake of the revitalization of the sect, and we make the following appeal to all people within and outside of Nichiren Shoshu.
We are convinced that the current issue is a manifestation of the Buddha's great intent. This is a case of doshu shogi (when the Buddha causes his followers to doubt a particular situation for a positive cause), in which we believe the Daishonin wants us to revitalize the pure current of faith in the sect, eliminate harmful customs that have been building up in Nichiren Shoshu over the centuries and reform the school in tune with the basic doctrine of Nichiren Daishonin.
The 21st century will start in only eight years. World events show we are now in a time of great change, and, in terms of Buddhism, the 750th anniversary of the establishment of true Buddhism will be celebrated in just 10 years. The Gosho 'Great Evil and Great Good' reads in part: "Great events do not have small omens. When great evil occurs, great good will follow" (MW-5, 161). We cannot help taking the eruption of the current dispute as a harbinger of a new development of kosen-rufu. We deeply believe that the time has come to reform Nichiren Shoshu.
What is the reformation we speak of? First, we contend that Nichiren Shoshu should become a religion truly for the believers. Returning to Nichiren Daishonin's spirit to save people and restoring the pure current of faith initiated by Nikko Shonin, we must bring the light of revitalization into Nichiren Shoshu.
Both Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin took people's suffering as their own and cherished each believer with their hearts. They severely admonished us to not engage in desultory pleasures of random conversation without the aim of kosen-rufu. And they themselves lived in modesty, showing great examples as noble priests.
However, frankly speaking, many priests of Nichiren Shoshu have the attitude that they are a step higher in class than lay believers. As has been pointed out by the Soka Gakkai, you cannot deny that many priests, far from living modestly, indulge in luxurious and corrupt lifestyles. It is obvious that if you stray from the noble spirit of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin, yet continue to misguide the priesthood, the pure current of the Fuji school will soon dry up and even become extinct. Deserted by the people, Nichiren Shoshu will ultimately witness the extinction of the Law and its own death.
We worry about how much Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin are deploring the degeneration of Nichiren Shoshu. We are also afraid they are indeed angry about what you have done. In any case, we continue to pray ceaselessly for the recovery and revitalization of Nichiren Shoshu. We contend that this is the time for the priesthood to base ourselves upon our original mission as priests, to change authority and suppression into compassion and seeking spirit based on faith, to dedicate ourselves to modest lifestyles, to support the common people's efforts for propagation, and to develop Nichiren Shoshu into a sect that will serve the believers.
Second, we insist that Nichiren Shoshu eliminate its tendency toward discrimination. Discrimination by family lineage in Nichiren Shoshu is well known, as is status consciousness based upon priests' ranks in the sect.
Those who were born into prestigious families in Nichiren Shoshu, regardless of poor conduct, deficient ability or inadequate accomplishments, tend to be dispatched to temples with favorable circumstances while those who do not enjoy such family lineage's are usually sent to temples in remote areas. This phenomenon has been conspicuous in Nichiren Shoshu. When a priest causes a scandal, if he is from a prestigious family in Nichiren Shoshu, he tends to receive minor punishment; but if he has no such family connection, he must face extremely sever punishment. Inequality in this area is also very conspicuous. Also, severe senior-junior relationship exist based upon differences in rank and in one's tenure. This discrimination completely disallows free discussion.
We believe that we should cast off from Nichiren Shoshu such feudalistic manners and customs and renovate the sect where factionalism and inequality currently abound, thus developing Nichiren Shoshu into a democratic organization where a noble spirit and beautiful harmony prevail.
Third, we must free ourselves from tyranny. As a result of the repeated amendments of the Bylaws and Rules of Nichiren Shoshu, the high priest now reigns like a despot over all Nichiren Shoshu. No opinions will be accepted in the current priesthood if they go against the high priest. Once a priest expresses such an opinion, he is doomed to be punished immediately. This appalling case of fear politics now dominates Nichiren Shoshu. The atmosphere within Nichiren Shoshu cannot help growing more and more rigid. We contend that now is the time to change dictatorship into democracy, conservatism into progressivism, rigidity into flexibility and closeness into openness.
As priests of Nichiren Shoshu, we have been suffering immeasurably since this issue erupted. As high priest you had been praising the Gakkai, teaching the importance of harmonious unity of priesthood and laity, and admonishing the danto movement as an improper way of propagation. Overnight, however, you suddenly changed your stance 180 degrees, which deeply perplexed us and, presumably, many believers as well.
We once left our homes to become priests, and now we may be criticized for opposing the high priest. We also may be branded as individuals who have forgotten our indebtedness to him. However, out intent is based on nothing but our passion to protect the original pure current of faith in Nichiren Shoshu, no matter what. In this regard, even if you are high priest, from the standpoint of Buddhism, if you are wrong, we cannot obey you.
In our impartial view as Nichiren Shoshu priests, the unilateral actions by you, the high priest, and other executives against the Soka Gakkai, are wholly unacceptable. We are afraid we may sound presumptuous, but as we thoroughly review how this dispute evolved, we cannot help concluding that the fundamental cause is your emotionally flawed guidance, the errors you committed in giving direction, and especially your personal grudge against Honorary President Ikeda and the Soka Gakkai as a whole.
As pointed out by the Gakkai's letter of inquiry, it is a fact that your lecture on the significance of the Sho-Hondo -- in which you implied that the honorary president is arrogant -- was erroneous in many ways. You distorted the meaning of Nittatsu Shonin's admonition and intentionally altered many historical facts simply to defame the honorary president. Also, you deviated from the doctrines of Nichiren Shoshu when you built your ancestors' tomb on the grounds of a Zen temple and erected toba (memorial tablets) there during a memorial service for your late father, Nikkai Shonin, the 60th high priest of Nichiren Shoshu. As the high priest who is responsible for guiding the entire sect along the path of correct faith, your slanderous action can never be overlooked.
We have to say that the doctrinal corruption of Nichiren Shoshu is utterly pitiful as well. Wrong views, such as treating the high priest as equal to the original Buddha or regarding the guidance of the high priest as absolute while slighting the significance of the Gosho, are prevalent in the current Nichiren Shoshu. Yet you as high priest make no effort to rectify these wrong views. Such doctrinal confusion is unprecedented in the 700-year history of Nichiren Shoshu.
You also greatly changed the appearance of the head temple that was a product of harmonious unity of priesthood and laity during the time of Nittatsu Shonin. Among other things, you remodeled the Mutsubo, the Six-Compartment Lodging, the Daikejo temple, which was totally unnecessary in our view. As a result, a traditionally clean, healthy atmosphere disappeared from the head temple. Instead, an abominable atmosphere in which the priests pursue gaudy lifestyles began to prevail. Your direction in this area stems from your personal grudge against the late high priest, Nittatsu Shonin. You seem to be attempting to undermine every aspect of the late high priest's achievements. We cannot tolerate your alteration of the tradition of Nichiren Shoshu of which we as priests were uniformly proud.
Nichiren Daishonin mentions in the 'Rissho Ankoku Ron,' "Rather than offering up ten thousand prayers for remedy, it would be better simply to outlaw this one evil doctrine that is the source of all the trouble!" (MW-2, 24). In disobeying guidance that runs counter to the principles of Buddhism, we believe we are replying to the heart of Nikko Shonin, which is expressed in the following article of his admonitions: "Do not follow even the high priest if he goes against the Buddha's Law and propounds his own views."
In light of the guidance of the late high priest, Nittatsu Shonin, and in light of the timing of its appearance and actions, it is clear that the Soka Gakkai is endowed with the mission to realize the Buddha's mandate, the achievement of kosen-rufu.
Nichijun Shonin, the 65th high priest of Nichiren Shoshu, writes in his thesis titled, 'On the Occasion of the 704th Anniversary of the Establishment of True Buddhism': "In retrospect of the 700-some-year history of Nichiren Shoshu, and comparing its past to the current situation surrounding our sect, I think we are in a totally new age. Thanks to the Soka Gakkai's efforts in shakubuku, the True Law has spread throughout the country to an unprecedented degree. We can now witness the unheard-of expansion of Nichiren Shoshu. It seems to me that future historians will define the first 700 years of Nichiren Shoshu as an age in which the priesthood protected the Law for kosen-rufu. In the past there were times when Nichiren Shoshu achieved a certain degree of prosperity, but it happened only within the realm of protecting the Law."
Here, Nichijun Shonin distinguished between the age of protecting the Law and the age of propagating the Law. He notes that this distinction was punctuated by the 700th anniversary of the establishment of true Buddhism.
In the 'Rissho Ankoku Ron,' Nichiren Daishonin states, quoting the Ninno Sutra, "The Buddha announced to King Prasenjit, 'Thus I entrust the protection of my teachings to the ruler of the nation rather than the monks and nuns. Why do I do so? Because the monks and nuns do not possess the kind of power and authority that the king has' " (MW-2, 34). In 'The True Object of Worship,' Nichiren Daishonin writes: "Since such noble bodhisattvas received the Mystic Law and made a solemn oath to Shakyamuni Buddha, Taho Buddha, and all the other Buddhas, is it possible that they will not appear now at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law? Know this: in the time for shakubuku, the Four Bodhisattvas appear as wise kings who rebuke and convert evil kings, and in the time of shoju they appear as priests to protect and spread true Buddhism" (MW-1, 80).
Due to the emergence of the Soka Gakkai and its efforts in shakubuku, the time of kosen-rufu has dawned, punctuated by the 700th anniversary of the establishment of true Buddhism. Nichiren Shoshu has developed into an international religion thanks to the unsparing efforts for the Law on the part of the successive presidents of the Soka Gakkai. They can be compared to the wise kings mentioned in the above passage of the Gosho.
However, as we sated before, the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, failing to cast off its feudalistic tendency, has indulged in factional politics and the enslaving of believers. The priesthood has been totally negligent in taking actions to promote kosen-rufu. As soon as this fact was pointed out by the Soka Gakkai, you took on an authoritarian attitude, expressing your discomfort with words like "Why do you mere believers dare say such a thing to us priests?" Your foolishness thus led to the outrageous decision to excommunicate the Soka Gakkai and prohibit anybody sponsored by Gakkai members from receiving the Gohonzon.
Nichiren Daishonin desired to save all people of the world by enabling then to receive the Gohonzon. In 'The True Object of Worship,' Nichiren Daishonin mentions, "The Buddha...summoned the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. He entrusted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to them for the salvation of all mankind" (MW-1, 73). In the same Gosho, he also states, "Showing profound compassion for those ignorant of the gem of ichinen sanzen, the true Buddha wrapped it with the single phrase Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, with which he then adorned the necks of those living in the Latter Day" (MW-1, 82).
In opposing the great compassion of Nichiren Daishonin, you chose to prohibit the bestowal of the Gohonzon upon people who sincerely seek faith in the Daishonin's teachings. Your decision, which tramples upon the heart of Nichiren Daishonin, must be called grave slander and betrayal. We assert that your conduct exactly destroys the Three Treasures of true Buddhism.
Up until this moment, we repeatedly protested to you and the Administrative Office out of our sincere concern for the sect and for the Law, with the conviction that we will never be able to achieve the mandate of Nichiren Daishonin without harmonizing with the Soka Gakkai.
When you insisted we sign the 'Demand for Apology,' a document in which you groundlessly order Honorary President Ikeda to apologize, we directly responded to you that this policy should be retracted and that you should speak with the honorary president face to face. However, you refused to lend an ear to what we had to say. Instead, you accused us, demanding that we follow you with absolute faith in you. Your refusal to dialogue with the Gakkai deeply disappointed us.
We repeatedly suggested in a reasonable manner that we should solve the issue through dialogue, but you labeled our idea as slanderous simply because we differed from you. Each time you ignored our proposals.
We can envision how to solve the current impasse. As the Daishonin states, "You may be saved if you exercise profound Buddhist apology." You as high priest should retract all your unjust actions against the Soka Gakkai and exercise Buddhist apology. Also, the Nichiren Shoshu authorities should admit their mistakes and apologize to all priests and lay people within Nichiren Shoshu. Moreover, they should promptly retract their decision to excommunicate the Soka Gakkai. Taking responsibility in this way, all executive priests should then resign.
As long as the Nichiren Shoshu authorities continue to act contrary to the spirit of the Daishonin and oppress the believers without taking sincere, proper action, we, as his disciples, have decided we can no longer remain within Nichiren Shoshu.
Nikko Shonin writes in his 'Reply to Hara-dono': "It is difficult to describe the indignation and vexation I felt when I had to leave Mount Minobu. On further thought, however, the essence of what I have to do, wherever I may be, is to inherit the teachings of the late master and spread it throughout society. While I entertain such thoughts, his many other disciples act contrary to his teachings. I feel I am the only one who correctly understands the teachings of our master and feels responsible to realize his true purpose. I will never forget the true intent of our late master. I am delighted as you all understand his correct teachings."
Nikko Shonin was forced to leave Mount Minobu when it became a slanderous place. Making his profound spirit our own, we dare leave Taiseki-ji. However, we will never stop carrying out our difficult task to reform the sect. From now on, as priests of Nichiren Shoshu and with great hope for the future, we will continue to stake our lives on this reformation. We pledge to return the original purity of faith to Taiseki-ji.
Our action is the first step toward realizing this great objective. It is our conviction that both Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin are delighted over our determination and actions. When the day arrives that the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood stands up in a manner suitable for the disciples of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin, we will gladly return to the head temple and make a new advancement with harmonious unity of priesthood and laity for the realization of the Daishonin's mandate of kosen-rufu.
It is our deepest wish that many comrades who are willing to strive to achieve the great desire of kosen-rufu will follow us one by one.
February 2, 1992From: Guníei Kudo
To: High Priest Nikken
(The SGI-USA Newsletter, February 10, 1992)
© 1992 by Soka Gakkai International Headquarters