A Letter From The Rev.
to The High Priest
On March 30, ten youthful priests expressed their views upon leaving the priesthood. Five of them, appearing personally before the high priest, admonished him for his grave slanders and declared their disassociation with the Head Temple Taiseki-ji. The youthful priests handed Nikken a document titled 'Letter of Disassociation' reflecting their mutual resolve to reform Nichiren Shoshu from without, and one of the young priests, Rev. Yumo Matsuoka, handed the high priest his 'Letter of Separation' -- a long letter describing his thoughts upon leaving the head temple and his own experiences within the priesthood. With the Rev. Matsuoka's approval, the Seikyo Shimbun published the following letter in several installments between April 4-11. The following is a translation of that letter.
Letter of Separation
I sincerely hope this letter finds you, the high priest and my teacher, in excellent health in this season of cherry blossoms.
Though I am merely a student priest, I felt compelled, due to my circumstances, to send you this letter of remonstration. It truly pains me, and is a matter of deep regret, to have to do so.
On March 28, 1986, I entered the priesthood as a member of the seventh class of the 'adult acolyte training program.' I was thus allowed to become a member of the priesthood. For the past six years, from the time of my initial feelings of excitement and hope until today, I have been striving in faith, practice and study with passion and pride as a student under you, the high priest.
Then, in 1988, you compassionately allowed me, though I was still an acolyte, to work in the archive section of the Buddhist Study Research Bureau at the head temple. Later, you also permitted me to attend the Fuji Seminary. Your kindness and consideration will be my lifelong memory, and for this, I offer my heartfelt appreciation.
How then can one such as I, who owe you a great debt of gratitude, risk impudence by expressing my thoughts to you as I feel compelled to do? It is solely because I fear the rebuke of my master, Nichiren Daishonin.
You once gave us, your students, much guidance regarding the great mission of the Soka Gakkai. You once stated, "Because of the advent of the Soka Gakkai, the priesthood could return to the days of old, when lay believers possessed the strict spirit to rebuke slanderers of the Law." On another occasion you said, "I cannot imagine the worldwide development of kosen-rufu we see today without the existence of the Soka Gakkai."
Indeed there were times when you supported the Soka Gakkai. Above all, I felt joy and appreciation at such words. I was originally a Soka Gakkai member, and your words gave me great spiritual support, enabling me to continue on as a priest.
I was especially appreciative because my other seniors in the priesthood, particularly the chief priests and their families at the local temples where I worked, harbored a warped kind of prejudice toward the Gakkai. Everyday, wherever I went, I had no choice but to listen to their calumny toward Honorary President Ikeda and the Gakkai members.
I thought, "The Soka Gakkai that I know is different!" Yet although I wanted to express such feelings, I was not even allowed to reveal them in my facial expressions, since it was demanded that acolytes show absolute obedience to seniors. If an acolyte kept Soka Gakkai publications in his room, he would be immediately ridiculed with statements like, "Do you belong to the Ikeda sect?" With an intimidating tone, seniors always suppressed the acolytes, saying such things as: "Mr. Ikeda is a lay believer. It's silly to respect him. Never call him Sensei!"
I firmly believe the Soka Gakkai is an organization that has been established by Bodhisattvas of the Earth for the great purpose of kosen-rufu and thus accords with the Buddha's intent and decree. As one who dons priestly robes, I feel that now, in the time of the "kosen-rufu of substantiation," it is the mission of priests to respect and praise this group, which has arisen in accord with the Buddha's intent and possesses the mission to validate the Buddha's prophecies. It is also the responsibility of priests to attest to the validity of such an organization.
I was born a Soka Gakkai member and that is where I learned the meaning of faith. The relationship with Buddhism I formed there led me to become a priest. Above all, it is not too much to say that I am who I am today due to the guidance and encouragement I received from Honorary President Ikeda, who is also the founder of Soka university, my alma mater, and who over the years has shown me compassion that even surpasses that of my parents. It was therefore unbearably painful for me to be forced to address Honorary President Ikeda in less than a respectful manner, let alone to call him "Ikeda."
Where else do we find an organization that forces its members to call their respected teachers by their last names only? To carry this further, suppose a respected teacher from the priesthood decided to become a lay believer. Would his former students within the priesthood now refer to him disrespectfully, by only his last name? This would go against common courtesy let alone the behavioral standards for priests. Even if one's teachers were to commit an error in Buddhism, a priest who refers to such a teacher by his last name alone would be unworthy as a member of the clergy.
Moreover, has Honorary President Ikeda committed any slander? Is he guilty of any secular crime? Is it not true that the priesthood has attained its present state of prosperity because of the honorary president's strenuous efforts night and day? Since his dismissal as head of all Nichiren Shoshu lay organizations, more than a year has passed. With the disclosure of 'Operation C,' the current situation and the intent behind the priesthood's actions have been virtually entirely explained. It is thus clear as day the Honorary President Ikeda is completely innocent and that the priesthood's accusations are entirely groundless.
The more I exerted myself in chanting daimoku, studying the Gosho and living earnestly, the more keenly I sensed how great Honorary President Ikeda is. At the same time, I became aware of the lack of faith that exists among many priests and felt indignant at their corruption and indolence. These feelings are genuine and emanate from the depths of my life. I cannot change how I feel simply because I am told to do so by others.
The conclusion I reached after agonizing and suffering over these matters for the last six years as a priest is that the Daishonin's lifeblood of faith exists nowhere but in the Soka Gakkai.
Every day I witnessed for myself how corrupt the priests and their families are. Yet I continued to tell myself: "High Priest Nikken alone will continue to trust the Soka Gakkai. Whatever happens, he certainly must share on a deep level the honorary president's resolve to establish true harmonious unity between priesthood and laity." Thus I have continued until now without abandoning hope. I tried to believe that there was a bond based upon faith between yourself and the honorary president. For this reason, since this issue broke out at the end of 1990, I have been praying earnestly that you awaken as soon as possible from your insane state of mind. As I did so, I probably felt at least twice as much pain as other priests, since I am originally from the Soka Gakkai.
My only ray of hope, however, was completely shattered when the priesthood issued its notice of excommunicating the Soka Gakkai last year. The priesthood thus tried to sever the Bodhisattvas of the Earth from the Dai-Gohonzon and schemed to obstruct the kosen-rufu movement by refusing to grant the Gohonzon to Soka Gakkai members. Such actions, which surpass even the most serious of the five cardinal sins (to destroy the harmonious unity of believers) must be acknowledged as the gravest slander of the Law ever committed in the history of Buddhism.
Today, at a time when kosen-rufu has achieved unprecedented global advancement, this act of cutting off the Soka Gakkai, an organization of the original Buddha's emissaries, subverts the ultimate purpose of the transmission of Buddhism over the past 3,000 years. That purpose is to save all humanity through the seed of essential teachings hidden in the depths of the ìJuryoî chapter of the Lotus Sutra -- the Gohonzon of Nichiren Daishonin's 'Buddhism of sowing.' What can be greater offense or insult to Buddhism than to withhold the Gohonzon from those who believe in it?
Nichiren Daishonin, in his transient identity as Bodhisattva Jogyo, received the heritage of the Lotus Sutra from Shakyamuni Buddha. And the Daishonin, as the original Buddha, entrusted the Gohonzon -- the essence of the Lotus Sutra -- to Nikko Shonin who in turn transmitted it to successive high priests. The sole purpose of this transmission is for all people of the world, without a single exception, to attain Buddhahood in their present form through the Gohonzon's beneficial power. The responsibility of high priest at the Head Temple Taiseki-ji, therefore, is, as a 'guide,' to welcome all children of the Buddha -- that is, to guide people to worship the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary.
The 'Recorded Lectures' states:
Bodhisattva Jogyo in turn acts as a guide to show all living beings of the present Latter Day of the Law [to the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo]. In a broader sense, he guides them throughout the ten thousand years of the Latter Day of the Law and more. This is what [the Buddha] describes as 'never ceasing.' (Gosho Zenshu, p.840)
If we sincerely believe in these golden words, we must conclude that your excommunicating the Buddha's children is an act of the greatest evil -- that of an arrogant guide who impedes the flow of Buddhism. It constitutes a grave betrayal of Nichiren Daishonin, the original Buddha, and all other Buddhas and bodhisattvas throughout time and space. How else can we describe it? As a priest and as a human being, I can never forgive you for taking advantage of your authority as high priest to abuse innocent people.
When the situation worsened to the extent it has today, I could only view you as a devilish priest who "allowed a demon to enter his body." You thus became a totally different person form the high priest I knew before. Unfortunately, it has become apparent that this was your true nature from the beginning. As your student, nothing makes me sadder than knowing this.
In addition, as a Nichiren Shoshu priest, I was compelled to humbly reflect on [Nichiren Daishonin's] way of showing loyalty and filial piety and repaying the debt of gratitude owed to one's teacher. The Daishonin states, "You must know that anger [of the three poisons: avarice, anger and stupidity] can be either good or evil" (Gosho Zenshu, p.584). Bearing these words deeply in mind, I resolved to save you, my teacher, who is now sinking into the pit of great suffering known as the Avichi Hell. I intended to do so by checking your acts of cruelty and violence with my righteous indignation and sincere words of protest. I thought that even if my actions led you to disown me as your student, I would still feel great satisfaction in knowing I had done the right thing. So resolved in my heart, I secretly awaited the opportune time to carry through with my intent.
On Feb. 3, I received a report that seven priests -- one of whom being Mr. Gen-ei Kudo, the chief priest of the Chei-ji temple in Tokyo -- handed you their 'Letter of Remonstration' and left Nichiren Shoshu to initiate a reformation of the priesthood from the outside.
I read the letter immediately when it was published in the Seikyo Shimbun. In their letter, they presented three requests, stemming from their sincere desire to foster and protect Nichiren Shoshu and the Law. Furthermore, they appealed to all priests who share their conviction to join them in striving to reform the priesthood. Until then, I had only been familiar with corrupt priests who were always unsatisfied, no matter how much they had. It was thus a great surprise for me to become aware of these courageous chief priests. For me it was a ray of hope for the future of the priesthood.
The assertions these priests made in their 'Letter of Remonstration' accord exactly with what I and other acolytes have experienced living within the dark atmosphere of the priesthood. I felt as if they were speaking out on my own behalf.
I thought to myself: "The priests who have taken the first step toward the reformation of the priesthood are but a few. However, if we cherish and protect this spark of reform, the time will surely arrive for a full-fledged movement for the rebirth of the priesthood. What is important now is to follow priests who are sincere and genuine."
When my thoughts led me to this point, I realized that the time had finally come for me, too, to arise courageously to reform the priesthood and to leave Taiseki-ji. In other words, once good teachers had appeared, I had to honestly accept the Daishonin's words, "You should distance yourself from evil and false teachers and acquaint yourself with teachers who are right and good" (Gosho Zenshu, p. 1340). I therefore have resolved at present to leave you, Nikken, an obviously 'evil and false' teacher, and associate myself with these seven priests, who I consider to be 'right and good" teachers. In so doing I feel that, while studying under them as a student priest, I can fulfill my purpose for entering the priesthood.
I hereby humbly report my intent to the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary and to you, High Priest Nikken, my teacher. From now on, I will continue boldly and courageously point out your errors an wage an all-out battle with the devils and demons lurking within your disturbed mind, while cherishing deeply the Daishonin's words, "By renouncing one's obligations and entering nirvana one can truly repay those obligations on full" (MW-4, 172).
In the following, therefore, based on the three requests presented in the 'Letter of Remonstration,' I, as a member of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, sincerely offer my words of remonstration to you, my teacher.
I. Intolerable discrimination
The Nichiren Shoshu that I know is not a religion for the people. It is a religion for priests and their system and organization. It is an authoritarian organization that treats people like tools and demands their absolute obedience.
There exists an absolute hierarchy, headed by you. There also prevails a distorted view of Buddhist practice: that the higher a priest's position in the hierarchy, the more freedom and self-indulgence to which he is entitled, and the lower a priest's position, the more his freedom is restricted. This system of harsh discrimination, in which seniors are respected and juniors are slighted, is fully endorsed by the priesthood.
But is this correct? One of the tenets of this school is that one can "attain Buddhahood in one's present form." The Daishonin did not discriminate against practitioners on the basis of their stage of practice. The Daishonin states, "The wise and foolish can both, without distinction, attain Buddhahood in their present form" (Gosho Zenshu, p. 820). He also states, "There is no discrepancy between Shakyamuni Buddha's enlightenment and that of all living beings" (Gosho Zenshu, p.792). By virtue of the benefit gained through faith in the Gohonzon, all people can attain Buddhahood in their present form regardless of their position or status, whether they are high priest, senior priest, acolytes or lay believers. Moreover, the essence of everyone's enlightenment is the Mystic Law. Placed before the principal of 'attaining Buddhahood in one's present form,' one's position, status or tenure in the priesthood means nothing.
In the priesthood, however, the erroneous view prevails that the level of one's enlightenment differs according to position. In one sense, this view is similar to that of Hinayana Buddhism, which holds that people must practice lifetime after lifetime and advance through graduated stages of practice before they can finally attain Buddhahood.
With regard to the fundamental issue of attaining Buddhahood, the priesthood has apparently rejected the view of Mahayana (Greater Vehicle) Buddhism and succumbed to the influence of Hinayana (Lesser Vehicle) Buddhism. For this reason, the priesthood may be thought of a Hinayana Buddhist order in the Latter Day of the Law. The priesthood's Hinayana view of Buddhist practice underlies its denial that the Soka Gakkai -- a Mahayana Buddhist order in the truest sense -- is directly connected to the Daishonin and its allegations of arrogance toward Honorary President Ikeda.
Senior priests casually caution lay believers, acolytes and ordinary priests to be 'well aware of your status.'
The discriminatory view that remains utmost in your mind may be summarized as follows: "It is arrogance of the highest order for those of limited capacity, such as lay believers or acolytes, to think that they can interpret the Daishonin's writings. In this human world, it is I, the high priest, who have practiced most and thus attained supreme enlightenment. It is for this very reason that I received the lineage of the Law. It is only natural that I possess ultimate authority over Buddhism on behalf of Nichiren Daishonin." This sort of thinking is characteristic of people of the 'two vehicles' [who believe they have attained what they have not]. Other priests and their families are no exception to this tendency either.
Thus a priest's way of life is steeped in discrimination and tainted with scorn for ordinary human beings and lay believers. You look with contempt upon all. Chief priests look down upon assistant priests who, in turn, look down upon their juniors. Acolytes at the lowest level of the priesthood's hierarchy look down upon lay believers. All this stems from a strange attachment to the idea of seniority, as if that alone is an indication of one's accumulated faith and practice. Because of this, I honestly feel that priests are the most difficult people of all to lead toward enlightenment. Whenever I saw my seniors using their position, which is nothing more than a transitory designation, to justify their self-indulgence, I could not help thinking of the Daishonin's instruction in 'Letter from Sado': "The Buddha is saying that those of our contemporary priests who are lazy and remiss were disciples of the six non-Buddhist teachers in Shakyamuni's day" (MW-1, 38).
Such 'followers of the six non-Buddhist teachers' as the Daishonin describes them tried to oppress and oust the Daishonin's direct disciples. This is exactly what the priesthood is doing in excommunicating the Soka Gakkai.
It would be clear to outsiders -- if they had a chance to attend gongyo conducted morning and evening in the Mutsubo Hall at the head temple -- just how lenient the priests' practice is with seniors and how stringent it is with juniors. Instructors of the acolyte training program and senior acolytes are responsible for instructing junior acolytes on gongyo. How they teach junior acolytes, however, is not normal.
When instructors or senior acolytes spot their juniors struggling to stay awake but dozing off during gongyo, they sometimes slap them in the face repeatedly, even though these juniors are seated before the Gohonzon with their palms together in reverence.
Seniors sometimes beat junior acolytes on their heads with prayer beads. Often the string breaks and beads scatter. Priests often emphasize the sanctity of the prayer beads to lay believers, saying that they should be handled as if they were Buddhas. Behind the scenes, however, prayer beads are used to beat the junior acolytes.
In more serious cases, seniors drag junior acolytes around by the collar, ranting and raving at them while beating them severely. On other occasions, seniors knee juniors in the chin during the silent prayers. They kick the Buddha's disciples, who are clad in priestly robes and surplices as they kneel in prayer before the Gohonzon.
The seniors who mete out such violence do so with composure, thinking, "Because I am the senior and he is my junior, this is not a slander." Some juniors, their robes and surplices soaked with the blood that flows from their noses, double up in pain. Some experience blurred vision from hemorrhaging of the eyes as a result of beatings. Some have their glasses shattered by the impact of the blows. A senior priest leading gongyo sometimes throws the large bell striker at junior acolytes.
The practice of gongyo, which ought to be a solemn ceremony, often degenerates into chaos. Seniors rarely give guidance or encouragement in faith to their juniors, instead being preoccupied and excessively strict about such things as physical appearance or how the palms are held together during prayer. Seniors often neglect gongyo themselves. While strictly instructing juniors about gongyo, teachers and senior acolytes themselves maintain a shabby appearance and recite the sutra and chant daimoku in a voice as faint as the buzz of a mosquito. In their minds they believe that because of their tenure in the priesthood, they may now take it easy.
The priesthood tends to justify slanderous indolence on the par of senior priests with the idea that each position represents a different stage of practice and that once a priest reaches a certain position, he is exempt from having to make the efforts in practice he did previously. This idea prevails throughout the entire priesthood.
I know of one senior acolyte who worked as an assistant priest as the head temple for one year before obtaining his teacher's qualification. One morning, after staying up drinking all night, he stumbled over the words in gongyo. As soon as he finished, he declared: "Ah, I'm a bit tired," and, tossing his prayer beads aside, threw himself on the floor of Mutsubo Hall and lay there snoring in full robe and surplice. Yet he was never reprimanded about this by the instructors.
This behavior serves as an example for the rest of the priesthood. Senior priests believe there is nothing wrong with beating powerless juniors. Priests feel they have a natural right to lead an easier life than lay believers simply because they sit closer to the Gohonzon at Buddhist services. Once acolytes finish their training and become chief priests, they believe it is okay for them to neglect gongyo and indulge themselves lavishly.
At the same time, acolytes, viewed as 'half priests,' think: "This suffering will not last long. As soon as I become a chief priest, I won't have to practice anymore. Then I can just enjoy myself." With this in mind, they simply put up with the discriminatory treatment. When they finally obtain the position of chief priest, they hold a deep-seated bias toward the laity, violently oppose the idea that priests and lay believers are equal. How absurd and arrogant they are! What they believe to be enlightenment is nothing at all. They are servile and animalistic, despising those they believe to be inferior and fearing their superiors.
If the Buddhist practice of such priests had been truly sufficient, they could display a compassionate and refined character and a well-grounded sense of modesty. My point here is that the priesthood's contempt toward lay believers stems from the erroneous view that one's level of enlightenment accords with his position within the hierarchy [and not the actual extent of one's faith and practice].
Next, I would like to make a few points about the adult acolyte training program, which I participated in. I witnessed and experienced enough discrimination against adult acolytes [who practiced as lay believers before entering the priesthood] to know that it is rooted in the priesthood's contempt toward lay believers. The priesthood's views these adult acolytes as makeshift monks, believing that they entered the priesthood for the wrong reasons.
Many [of the adult acolytes] have practiced faith sincerely for many years before entering the priesthood. Some are extraordinarily capable, qualified to begin teaching others and propagating Buddhism immediately, from the very day they enter the priesthood. Yet they are regarded as juniors to junior high school students who cannot even do gongyo properly. They get ordered around by senior high school students of young priests in their early 20s who have already have been certified as teachers and who do not hesitate to call adult acolytes in their 40s or 50s by their last names or force then to bow, wait on tables, clean their rooms and even take out their garbage as if they were personal servants. All this is done under the glorious label of Buddhist practice.
At guidance meetings for acolytes, senior acolytes, usually around college age, scream vulgarities at adult acolytes, with tirades like: "You guys were tainted by the filth of the secular world before you became priests. If you don't practice hard, you'll never be decent priests, understand? You old codgers had better bow to your seniors [high school and college students who entered the priesthood at 12]. If you don't, I'll punch you, understand?!" Even when we did bow to them, they completely ignored us, arrogantly walking past. Having grown up under such circumstances, young chief priests as local temples often will not acknowledge elder lay believers.
Despite the misconduct of those who entered the priesthood as 12, we who entered the adult acolyte training program have obsequiously enslaved ourselves to this outrageous behavior. We must deeply reflect upon our lack of courage or sense of justice.
The priesthood should be an organization characterized by universal equality and based on the complete rejection of all forms of discrimination. If any discrimination must exist, it should be based on the genuine strength of one's faith and practice, and not on one's tenure in the priesthood.
When we read the 'Twenty-six Admonitions of Nikko,' we see how Nikko Shonin required that a priest's worthiness be determined by the strength of his faith. He repeatedly cautions us never to use tenure or secular matters as a standard.
Nikko Shonin completely rejected the idea of distinction based on seniority, valuing people who did not begrudge themselves for kosen-rufu ('practitioners who treasure the Law more highly than their own lives'), those who are excellent in propagation ('a teacher of the Law who engages in its propagation'), those of wisdom and intellect ('those whose understanding of Buddhism surpasses your own'), those of eloquence ('those practitioners who are skillful in difficult debate'), and so on (Gosho Zenshu, pp. 1618-9 / World Tribune, Dec. 9, 1991).
The current priesthood, however, obviously forsakes Nikko Shonin's spirit to value faith as a basis for all. This single point clearly exposes the priesthood as a non-Buddhist organization that is more discriminatory than any other secular group, and which has no relationship to either Nichiren Daishonin or Nikko Shonin.
I condemn the unreasonable discrimination directed at adult acolytes. I propose that adult acolytes who are fit to teach be permitted to take the teachers' qualifying examination immediately after completing a minimum period of training so that they may begin teaching others and conducting propagation. Furthermore, I request that the idea that people must progress through graduated stages of practice before attaining enlightenment be abandoned and that the contemptuous attitude within the priesthood toward lay believers and physical abuse of junior acolytes be completely eliminated. I sincerely hope that the priesthood will thus transform itself into a group of Buddhists who are filled with compassion and a sense of equality.
II. The priesthood's self-righteousness
and inability to understand the laity
I would like to point out that most priests are incorrigible 'profiteers' who view lay believers as a means to generate income for themselves and their families. Below I cite three points that summarize the priesthood's relationship with the laity:
First, the way priests presume to teach Buddhism to lay believers has become nothing but an authoritarian formality.
Good examples of this are the monthly lectures or sermons given by chief priests at local temples after Buddhist ceremonies. Chief priests tediously propound empty ideas and theories based upon questionable commentaries on the Daishonin's writings written by priests of the fallacious Minobu sect. Such commentaries are those published by Minobu's Heiraku-ji temple or by the Ryugin Publishing Company. Lacking experience in propagation, understanding of Buddhist doctrine or the spirit to serve the believers, the chief priests lectures are devoid of any conviction in faith. As I sat next to these chief priests and listened to such lectures I would feel extremely frustrated.
Nichiren Daishonin, the original Buddha, racked his brains to find ways to help his disciples -- who ranged from scholarly priests to nearly illiterate peasants -- somehow arouse even a modicum of faith and thus advanced along the correct path toward enlightenment. He deeply considered each person's unique circumstances and capacities. The Daishonin used many approaches to teach his followers, leaving behind some 400 writings that still exist today for us to use as our 'compass of faith.'
Whether they are aware of such wholehearted efforts by the original Buddha to save people, many priests do not view the Gosho as a source of inspiration in faith and practice. Instead they complicated and cloud the simple truth by mystifying the Gosho, thus treating it as an object of obscure study. They merely dabble in whimsical theory, violating this school's tenet never to become like Tendai Buddhism, a sect of mere formality and esoterica.
High Priest Nichijun, whose knowledge and ability was outstanding enough to qualify him as the foremost Buddhist scholar of modern times, stressed the importance of always teaching Buddhism in a humble and easily understandable way. Describing how to explain the Buddhist concept of 'sowing the seed of Buddhism of the true cause,' he said:
If you explain the Buddha's teaching with complex arguments or theories or if what you say does not accord with the realities of living, you are not talking about Buddhism. In so doing you are already betraying the Buddha's intent. When I explain the concept of 'sowing the seed of the Buddhism of the true cause' my thought is always whether I can enable our believers to arouse a fresh resolve to further their practice. The original Buddha preached this crucial doctrine to lead the people to the shore of enlightenment. However, if you use this concept only to understand the Buddha's propagation and do not recognize it as a guide to your own daily living, this teaching is already dead. In this case, while you discuss 'sowing the seed of the Buddhism of the true cause,' you are actually killing the original Buddha. (The Complete Works of High Priest Nichijun, p.698)
Buddhism and the Gosho do not exist to be theoretically analyzed. They are teachings left by the original Buddha for the people to attain enlightenment. Unless we ordinary people view them as a guide to our own daily living, as High Priest Nichijun explains, we are going against the Buddha's intent. The Gosho exists for us to practice its teachings. This is not to say that sophisticated ideas and reasoning are entirely unnecessary in order to transmit the Law, However, the priesthood must correct its immoderate view that the Gosho and the Daishonin's teachings consist entirely and exclusively of complex theories.
Responding to Honorary President Ikeda's statement in his Nov. 16, 1990 speech that sermons are too difficult to understand; that listening to them is like listening to a lecture in German. The Administrative Office wrote in anger:
The high priest's sermons, particularly at the two major ceremonies, are naturally difficult because he expounds the profound doctrines of this school. His sermons indicate the profound meaning of the Buddhist teaching in accordance with the time. It is essential that lay believers reverently listen to the high priest's sermons with faith and try to understand them. The honorary president's criticism, therefore, indicates that he as well as the top Gakkai leaders lack the basic attitude of faith in Nichiren Shoshu, and it serves as proof of their extreme arrogance. (From a document issued by the Nichiren Shoshu Administrative Office on Jan. 12, 1991)
When I read this, I could not help thinking, "Is the statement 'the high priest's sermons at the two major ceremonies are naturally difficult because he expounds the profound doctrines of this school' really true?" I doubted this because in The Complete Works of Nichijun, I find that even at the two major ceremonies -- the Otai-e ceremony, which commemorates the Daishonin's passing, and the scroll-airing ceremony -- High Priest Nichijun preaches in a manner his audience could easily understand.
On the contrary, you sermons at these two ceremonies were beyond comprehension to me even when I read them in print, let alone when I listened to them in person.
Now I would like to compare a passage from one of your sermon's at the scroll-airing ceremony, to a passage from one by Nichijun Shonin at the same ceremony. The contents of both deal with the emergence of Buddhahood from within one's life. This may not be called a comparison in the strict sense, because the titles of the two sermons differ. But please bear with me. My main purpose is to illustrate how dogmatic you are on the subject of propagation.
Therefore, if we interpret the passage that speaks of one's own mind in terms of our practice in the Latter Day, the object of worship embodying the oneness of the Person and the Law, which was inscribed as a result of the manifestation of the fusion of the mystic objective reality and the mystic subjective wisdom, which is the mind of the original Buddha from time without beginning, is the very same as Myoho-renge-kyo, the objective reality embodied within the lives of us common mortals. For this reason, when we revere the Object of Worship of the High Sanctuary of True Buddhism, which embodies the totality of the Three Great Secret Laws of actual propagation and, at the same time, the life of the original Buddha of sowing -- our founder the Daishonin -- we thereby substitute faith for the subjective wisdom to perceive Myoho-renge-kyo within our own lives. Through invoking Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with faith, our faith calls forth the object of worship of the mystic great mandala of objective reality, and we achieve the fusion of objective reality with subjective wisdom. The entity of what we believers and practitioners thereby manifest is what we call Buddha. (From the high priest's Gosho lecture at the scroll-airing ceremony; Dai-Nichiren, May 1989). [Translator's note: The above quote appears as one sentence in the original Japanese]
High Priest Nichijun preaches:
Actually, the Lotus Sutra teaches us that ordinary people possess the Buddha nature and thus, how noble and precious our lives are. It also teaches the eternity of life. When I quietly try to think about the eternity of life of which the Daishonin teaches, I begin to understand my own worth. I then come to realize what I must do. This is the basis of my morality. In this impure world, it is no easy task to discover the nobility of our own lives. It just cannot be done with theory. We must chant daimoku single-mindedly. By chanting daimoku to the true object of worship, we can naturally tap the true essence within our own lives. (From his sermon at the scroll-airing ceremony in 1958; The Complete Works of High Priest Nichijun, p. 634)
It is clearly apparent that while High Priest Nichijun's sermon constitutes study for the sake of Buddhist practice, your sermon is study for study's sake alone. In your sermon you attempt to flaunt your authority in Buddhist study while High Priest Nichijun's sermon is a speech that evokes humanistic feelings. Furthermore, to you the Gosho is for the realm of experts while to High Priest Nichijun the Gosho and Buddhist study are directly accessible to the people.
Who is it that is slighting the Gosho? Who is directly connected to the Gosho? Even I can clearly tell.
We should regard each Gosho as a letter or guidance addressed to us personally. Therefore, it is a crucial and basic aspect of propagation to offer lectures of the Gosho so that believers can easily understand Buddhism and thus establish a direct relationship with the Daishonin. Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin exerted their utmost effort with in this regard. I feel deeply moved when I see their actual existing letters, written in plain and simple phonetic script, which was easily understandable to the unsophisticated believers of their time. In this sense, the silent prayers in the new sutra book published by the Soka Gakkai have been long awaited by the people. This new sutra book is a sutra book for the people. I think this is a wonderful accomplishment.
Next I must point out that the impure state of life of priests who enjoy seeing Gakkai members suffer indicates that they are undoubtedly icchantika -- people of incorrigible disbelief. Where else in the world can we possibly find priests who are happy to see their own believers becoming unhappy? For this reason I feel such priests are the most difficult people to help attain enlightenment.
Some chief priests arrogantly say, "The higher the level of one's leadership in the Gakkai, the worse his appearance will be when he dies." Some chief priests and their families joyfully drink a toast each time the mass media attacks the Gakkai. To bring this into perspective, let me say that I actually witnessed this before the current issue arose. "They damn well deserved it!" -- this reflects the true feelings of many chief priests, which I witnessed wherever I went.
The following incident took place at a training meeting for acolytes last year. At the evening roll call, Mr. Sendo Komai, a dormitory superintendent and a secretary of the high priest, spoke. This was the day that former Soviet President Gorbachev had been apparently ousted by a coup díétat. With look of delight, Mr. Komai said: "Do all of you know that Gorbachev was overthrown today? Let me tell you one thing..." Then, screaming, he continued "Those who rob others of good fortune are called mara (devils) or 'robbers of life' in Buddhism!" He was apparently jealous of Mr. Gorbechev's friendship with Honorary President Ikeda. His words and expressions clearly indicate that he was happy that Gorbechev got what Mr. Komai felt he deserved.
It was not Mr. Komai's comments that surprised me, however. Nothing he said would surprise me, because I was already aware of his base and corrupt character. However, upon hearing Mr. Komai's words, the roomful of acolytes -- those who will shoulder the next era of Nichiren Shoshu -- let out a big cheer and clapped their hands, expressing their joy over Mr. Gorbechev's overthrow. I was truly shocked at this sight. They felt this was a cause for celebration simply because Mr. Gorbechev had befriended Honorary President Ikeda.
While the entire world anxiously watched this great political crisis, young Nichiren Shoshu priests, who ought to have been praying more than anyone else for peace and stability in the world, were cheering and delighting at the misfortune of another nation. I sensed dark clouds hanging over the future of Nichiren Shoshu. Was I the only one feeling this way?
In an article you wrote for the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun, you nonchalantly stated, "I earnestly wish to help Soka Gakkai members who are agonizing and suffering, caught between the organization and faith."
Since you, the high priest, are capable of such lies, without concern for myself, I must denounce you in order to let Gakkai members who are unaware of the real situation know the truth about you.
High Priest Nikken, you are a great liar! You are a masterful prevaricator -- a man of duplicity. Nichiren Shoshu priests, including yourself, are not concerned about believers' happiness at all. What occupies their minds is their hatred and jealousy toward Honorary President Ikeda and the Soka Gakkai. This is why they feel joy at seeing the Gakkai members suffer.
During a class of the Fuji Seminary you commented on the accidental death of a certain Gakkai leader's son, coldly saying: "This is the actual proof of a slander of the Law."
How could I ever believe that you have actually inherited the great compassion of the original Buddha who, out of his deep concern toward even one believer said: "Should the worst happen, then let us starve together among these mountains" (MW-3, 202)?
In your words you forsake your own believers simply because they would not follow you. In this we cannot find an iota of the vast, encompassing life-condition of the Daishonin, who stated:
Yet Shakyamuni Buddha entered this saha world of ours with the title Nonin, 'He Who Can Forebear.' He is so called because he does not berate its people for the slanders they all commit but shows forbearance toward them. (MW-4, 68)
Your feelings toward the members may be summarized as follows: "I told you so! You are merely lay believers. And yet you dare oppose us priests. This is why you suffer. You are just novices. Listen to us, priests -- the real experts!" Put simply, this reflects the attitude of the priesthood including yourself, the high priest.
As proof of this, at a guidance meeting for Hokke-ko chapter guidance counselors [i.e., chief priests assigned to Hokke-ko chapters] held on Jan. 28, around the time when your article was published in Shukan Bunshun, you ridiculed Soka Gakkai members who are striving on the forefront of kosen-rufu, saying, "These rank-and-file Gakkai members are ignorant, blind followers." This statement clearly summarizes your view of lay believers as 'rank-and-file,' 'ignorant' and 'blind followers.'
In other words, no matter how eloquently your words, you clearly have no intention to 'help Gakkai member' [as you wrote]. You scornfully look down on the Soka Gakkai members as if they were complete fools. All you have left is the coldness and cruelty of an arrogant demigod who looks down upon those he views are mere earthly mortals, and who, according to his whim, feigns sporadic pity or concern for the 'ignorant' lay believers.
Your way of 'saving' people while treating them with contempt is not the Daishonin's Buddhism. It is certainly not Buddhist at all. It would not be going too far to call it the world of Animality. Your expressed concern for the Gakkai members is but one of your many great lies, which are too numerous to mention. This situation is indeed insane.
To cite another example, a guidance meeting for students of the Fuji Seminary was held on Feb. 4, in conjunction with the disassociation of seven priests from the head temple. At that meeting, in reference to the Soka Gakkai's excommunication last year, you shamelessly stated before all of your students: "The petition campaign requesting the Soka Gakkai's excommunication began spontaneously among the priests. The Administrative Office simply responded. I did not force anyone. Priests from each parish came forward on their own to request disciplinary action be taken against the Soka Gakkai." As you continued to make such feeble excuses, you yelled: "I am not an 'instant boiler!' " [Editor's note: The high priest's hot temper has won him the nickname 'instant boiler' among many in the priesthood.]
Sensible priests, however, would acknowledge that these two statements are complete lies. Regarding the petition campaign that allegedly began in each parish, the proposal itself was abruptly submitted by the general administrator at a priests' conference on Oct. 17 last year. Prior to this, no petition campaign had ever even been discussed among the local temples in Tokyo; there had been no spontaneous voice whatsoever in support of this petition.
Furthermore, decisive evidence can be found in your own comments. On Oct. 22 of last year, when you granted an audience to Mr. Yubin Kushioka, chief priest of the Noken-ji temple, who had refused to sign the petition, you clearly told him in a rather agitated tone of voice: "If you don't sign, you are going against my will!" You may deny this, as there were no other witnesses.
Next I would like to discuss your character, and how you are often described as an 'instant boiler.' Many, including myself, have witnessed your outbursts of ill temper. It is common knowledge in the priesthood.
Whenever something goes against your will, you immediately lose your temper. If your juniors are responsible, you bellow at them beyond reason; you have also beaten people with your large ceremonial fan until you appear satisfied.
I was once responsible for opening and closing a gate for your procession. After closing the gate, I followed a little behind the procession. When you spotted me, you screamed: "Hey, you! Why are you, a mere acolyte, walking behind like a big shot? When did you start pretending to be a chief priest?" As you said this, you began to beat me on the head with your fan. Without asking me [why I was walking behind the procession], you exploded in a rage and physically abused me in public, causing me a great deal of humiliation. Your behavior hardly can be described as benevolent or compassionate. I will never forget the pain you caused me with your fan. You must still remember this incident.
I also still vividly remember your insane fury toward Mr. Doshi Kojima, a young chief priest. This happened in a waiting room of the Sho-Hondo immediately before the ceremony to worship the Dai-Gohonzon
On that day, Mr. Kojima was in charge of radio communication inside the Sho-Hondo. For some reason, you came into the waiting room sooner than expected. The waiting room was still occupied by the chief priests of the lodging temples on the head temple grounds who were standing by. A dead silence fell over the room. You then walked straight up to Mr. Kojima, who was on his knees with his palms together in reverence towards you, and you began hitting him on the head repeatedly with your fan. "Hey, what the hell are you doing?" you yelled, "Why haven't you already opened the door [to the High Sanctuary]? Hey! What's the matter with you? Hey, you!" You kept yelling at Mr. Kojima like a machine gun. The other chief priests on the room were completely dumbstruck. All I could do was hold my breath and watch.
Why do you always behave like this? The answer is quite simple.
You take anything that goes against your will as a personal humiliation and an affront to your pride. If those responsible happen to be your junior, you humiliate them, shifting to them the responsibility for your feelings. If the person responsible happened to be Honorary President Ikeda, a leader of the people who you cannot manipulate at your whim, you would conceal your jealousy through compromise, while holding a deep-seated grudge.
You have had such inward jealousy and malice toward Honorary President Ikeda for some decades, patiently waiting for an opportunity to retaliate. You have never opened up your heart to anyone to conduct dialogue. Ultimately, it is your cowardice and limited capacity as a human being -- the life-condition of Animality -- that makes you the way you are.
Since I have personally witnessed similar situations on several occasions, I believe the Gakkai's assertion that you screamed at President Akiya on July 21, 1990, charging -- "You have silenced the high priest. You have committed the slander of arrogance" -- is a very accurate portrayal. I firmly believe that this happened exactly as the Gakkai described. The priesthood's explanation -- that you reasonably and calmly expressed your feelings -- is clearly a lie. This is commonly acknowledged within the priesthood. This is the first of several lies [concerning your ill temper].
Third, [the Gakkai's claim] that you screamed [at the honorary president] in a rage, "I'll put the issue of your impeachment before the disciplinary committee!" is indisputable in light of the Gakkai's excommunication in accord with 'Operation C.' The more lies you tell to disguise this, the more disgrace you bring upon yourself.
You have desperately tried to gloss over the issue of your bad temper -- something rather difficult for you to conceal -- with weak excuses.
Fourth, though your personal forte is to scold and humiliate people in front of others, you said at a guidance meeting for chief priests last summer: "You must not scold people in front of others. You must caution them privately." You are not even aware of your own hypocrisy. I think most of the priests present were amazed to hear you say this.
All of your other deceptions aside, your ultimate fraud is that you charge the Soka Gakkai of lying while brazenly instructing priests to do exactly the opposite of what you do with such statements as, "Honesty should be your motto. Never tell a lie." You behavior is indeed ludicrous.
To sum up, with regard to your ill temper alone, you have told six major lies.
- [That you talked to President Akiya reasonably but actually screamed at him: "You have committed a slander of arrogance";
- Completely denying that you yelled at the honorary president: "I'll put the issue of impeachment before the disciplinary committee";
- Denying that you have an ill temper at all;
- Giving guidance not to scold people in front of others but doing the complete opposite;
- Accusing the Soka Gakkai of lying while disregarding your own lies;
- Telling priest to be honest while being completely dishonest.]
My charge that you are a great liar is therefore no exaggeration.
When you attack Honorary President Ikeda, you often say, "If someone repeats the same lie a hundred times, it becomes truth." [The high priest would often say this whenever the Gakkai pointed out undeniable misbehavior on the part of the priesthood or the high priest, such as his erecting a tombstone on the grounds of a Zen temple or his wife's outrageous spending habits. Instead of discussing the specific issues the Gakkai was raising, he tried to camouflage his errors by repeating this accusation.] In reality, your words apply to no one but yourself; it is as if you are choking yourself with your own hands. The more I think about your habitual lying, the more convinced I become that you suffer from insanity.
Do you think you can fool acolytes because they are only college age? I am truly astounded that you tell others to be honest while you, yourself, continue to lie. In any case, as your student, I sincerely pray you will resign form your position as soon as possible, while hoping you have even a fraction of conscience left.
Next, regarding the priesthood's self-righteous attitude and lack of understanding toward lay believers, as marriage by priests has become a more common practice, authoritarian control by priests' families is especially noticeable at local temples, where priests treat believers with contempt and view them as objects they can exploit.
There are various opinions about marriage by priests. The original meaning of the [Chinese or Japanese] term for priest, however, is 'to leave one's home.î For this reason, I think that marriage by priests, in principle, should be prohibited. The Daishonin's Buddhism, however, is a Mahayana teaching. It does not teach people to eradicate their desires as Hinayana Buddhism does. Instead it teaches control of desires based on seeking spirit toward the Law and compassionate practice, thus spiritually transforming the nature of desires -- this is the concept that 'earthly desires are enlightenment.' Therefore, 'to be happy and satisfied with whatever one has' refers to pure-spirited priests whose attachments are kept to a minimum. If priests are prepared to fight for the sake of Buddhism at the risk of their own lives, there may be some cases in which they can better function with the support of their families, within proper limitations.
However, I am neither endorsing nor condemning marriage by priests. I am just suggesting that we must establish some measures to eliminate the obstacles created by priests' marriages, taking into account the present level of corruption within the priesthood.
- a priest's wife and children should not be allowed to live on the temple grounds;
- a priest's children, as a general rule, should not be permitted to enter the priesthood; and
- the personal assets of priests should be kept to a minimum.
These are my personal requests. Whenever I had a chance to be with the families of the chief priests, I felt that these issues affect the priesthood's fundamental problems.
In the priesthood today, senior executives' wives are more influential than ordinary priests; a few influential families have formed powerful, nepotistic factions, and the priesthood's assets are heavily concentrated among the temples in large cities. The priesthood is now tainted by the sort of corruption typically caused by hereditary succession. On cannot deny the senior priests' indulgence in extravagant lifestyle. Simply put, they are out of control.
Mr. Nichikai Takano, the chief priest of the Hongyo-ji temple in Sumida Ward, Tokyo, held a party to celebrate his promotion to the priesthood's highest rank at the Teikoku Hotel, a first-class hotel in Metropolitan Tokyo. General Affairs Department Chief Gikan Hayase, the chief priest of Daigan-ji temple in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, had a wedding reception for his daughter at the Hotel Okura, also a first-class hotel in Metropolitan Tokyo. One must question the necessity of throwing extravagant parties in places that even celebrities often cannot afford. I cannot comprehend the degree of their nerve -- to spend believers' sincere offerings as if it were water while calmly pretending to be sage-like priests.
Let us then discuss the situations at local temples. The main Gohonzon room and lobby at one local temple has turned into a playground for the chief priest's children. The living quarters for one priest's family is decorated with roomfuls of very expensive furniture. One chief priest's wife controls all the administrative functions of the temple management, as if she were an assistant priest. Far be it from me, a relative newcomer, to comprehend these realities. Every day, while facing such conditions at local temples, I thought to myself: "Is this really acceptable? Do we have any right to criticize the Gakkai at all?"
Chief priests at local temples do as they please. The word that best describes their attitude is self-indulgence. In "The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings," the Daishonin strictly admonishes: 'Abandoning themselves [to the five desires]' is another name for a slander of the Law" (Gosho Zenshu, p. 758). When these golden words are applied to the chief priests of large local temples, we can only view them as personifications of slander of the Law.
The year before last, I was assigned to the Myoin-ji temple in Tokyo's Koto Ward as an assistant priest. Chief Priest Joshin Suzuki is completely absorbed in his family; he has forgotten about the priesthood's development, not to mention kosen-rufu. He often skipped Buddhist services to go out with his family. He and his family would travel frequently, staying at first-class hotels and enjoying expensive food.
Instead of practicing Buddhism, we live-in acolytes had to serve the Suzuki family, driving them to hotels, taking care of their pets, helping the wife with shopping, organizing and cleaning their private rooms, helping their daughter move and so on. Chief priests often ask each other, "Can I borrow your acolytes?" At Myoin-ji temple, acolytes were treated like the chief priest's family's personal belongings.
The greatest repercussion of priests' marriages lies not on the level of morality, but in how priests' desire for self-preservation has grown out of control, and their compassionate spirit has dwindled to where the priesthood has become completely unconcerned about the lay believers.
Compassionate people always find good in others. Above all, Buddhists ought to recognize the supreme Buddha nature in others' lives. Buddhists thus can reach a state in which they deeply realize that all living beings possess the Buddha nature and can develop a sense of equality such that 'All people are Buddhas' or 'All people are children of the Buddha.' This is what Bodhisattva Fukyo expressed in his reverence toward arrogant monks, nuns and lay believers.
Compassion gives rise to a sense of equality. A lack of compassion leads to discrimination. Isn't it fundamental for developing the harmonious unity of priesthood and laity that the priesthood to regain, by virtue of faith, the compassion lost to authoritarianism and preoccupation with their families?
III. The realities of the 'reign of terror'
Lastly, I would like to discuss disciplinary measures that have been employed by the priesthood, since the current issue arose, against the many acolytes who believe in the Soka Gakkai's mission. You have disowned some of these acolytes as your students and banished them from the head temple. Others have been denied promotions or reassigned to other temples as punishment. The priesthood has thus been persecuting acolytes who express sympathy toward the Soka Gakkai in various ways, both openly and covertly. This persecution continues even now.
In each case, you and Mr. Sendo Komai, your secretary and also director of the acolyte training program, unilaterally decided to punish those acolytes.
Isn't a teacher's responsibility to raise and care for his students? However, without allowing your students even a single opportunity to meet with you, you punished those who sincerely desire the harmonious unity of the priesthood and laity.
The interrogation to which those acolytes were subjected was severe, persistent and oppressive. As high priest and our teacher, don't you feel any shame? Isn't your conscience troubled in the least? Or would you do what you are most renowned for -- offering feeble excuses like: "Secretary Sendo Komai is responsible for all this. Komai conducted coercive interrogation and punished the acolytes on his own."
In May of last year, Shingo Narita, a student priest who graduated from the same class [of the adult acolytes training program] as I did, was disowned as your student and expelled from the priesthood based solely on an unverified, anonymous report that he criticized you.
The interrogation he experienced at that time was extremely persistent and virtually as tormenting as that of the wartime military police. During interrogation, Mr. Narita was forced to kneel down alone in a small room for long hours without being allowed to drink even a cup of tea let alone eat any food. He was not even permitted to use the rest room.
Secretary Komai persistently grilled him, asking, "You said this, didn't you?" Although Mr. Narita answered honestly, Secretary Komai pressed him hysterically, yelling things like: "Don't lie"; "I've received many reports"; "Someone as dishonest as you shouldn't be a student of the high priest."
Furthermore, Secretary Komai coerced Mr. Narita into writing a letter of apology. He demanded that Mr. Narita falsely confess, persistently questioning and pressuring him in a loud voice: "You said this, right? This is what you said! You definitely said this!" Intimidated by the oppressive atmosphere, Mr. Narita eventually admitted to saying something he did not say. Exhausted both physically and spiritually, he finally could not even think. His confession was ultimately written almost exactly as Secretary Komai instructed.
In addition, regarding specific points, Secretary Komai told him: "If you write it this way, it sounds as if I coerced you. You'd better rewrite this." He made Mr. Narita rewrite his entire letter of apology six times. What shrewd, cruel tactics! Having undergone strict interrogation like that seen in an old-time detective story and having been coerced into making a false confession, Mr. Narita must have felt deep shame and humiliation.
Such cruelty -- such trampling upon human rights -- must not be tolerated, especially in the realm of the priesthood where compassion should be taught. Nevertheless, inhumane, cruel punishment is practically an everyday occurrence at the head temple and the other temples.
Your attitude toward this borders on public approval. I believe this to be an indication of your thug-like mentality and proof that you lack even a trace of the character required of a religious leader.
The following incident occurred last summer. An acolyte, your own student, appeared before you, his eye heavily bandaged as a result of insane beatings he received from his chief priest. What did you say at the time? Showing no sympathy, warmth or encouragement, and without admonishing the chief priest who harmed your student, you simply said nonchalantly: "That guy [Chief Priest Jicho Sato of the Hongyo-ji temple in Osaka] is a poor puncher. Hey, Secretary [Komai]! Tell him to punch more carefully and skillfully from now on, so that he doesn't leave many marks." [Chief Priest Jicho Sato is one of sixteen members on the Nichiren Shoshu Council. Mr. Yusei Hashimoto, one of the ten youthful priests who recently left the head temple, worked as an assistant priest at his temple. During this assignment, Mr. Hashimoto was beaten severely on several occasions. Last July, his eardrum was broken and one eyeball was bruised from beatings by Chief Priest Sato. It took him three weeks to recuperate.]
Honestly speaking, I felt a chill up my spine when I heard you say this and thought to myself, "The high priest is truly a frightful person." I realized that your character makes it possible for you to disown your own students one after another while recruiting acolytes to replace them.
This cruel tendency to view you students as expendable is not a recent development. To my limited knowledge, more than 100 students have been disowned and expelled from the priesthood over the last ten years or so since you took office. Can there be another teacher as pitiless as you? Ultimately, you lack any sense of responsibility [for your students]. The 100 I mentioned above includes those who left the head temple voluntarily. In either case, however, you ignored your obligation to guide your students and casually continued to punish them.
I strongly protest your oppressive practice of discarding your students. At the same time, I urge you to rescind all unreasonable punishment, and I demand your apology. Furthermore, I will reveal all of my experiences [of interrogation and abuse] through today. Thus I am resolved to ask people everywhere, both within and outside the priesthood, to judge what is right and wrong in this matter.
On Dec. 28, 1990, the head of all Nichiren Shoshu lay organizations was suddenly discharged from his position. [The decision to effectively dismiss Honorary President Ikeda from the position of head of all Nichiren Shoshu lay organizations was made at a special meeting of the Nichiren Shoshu Council on Dec. 27; the honorary president was notified of this decision in a letter dated Dec. 28]. At that time, I was working as an assistant priest at the above-mentioned Myoin-ji temple, of which the chief priest is Mr. Joshin Suzuki, in Koto Ward, Tokyo. My sole desire was to realize the genuine harmonious unity of the priesthood and laity. Even though this was my wish, I was not allowed to express my true feelings freely, something that I agonized over every day.
In early January , I attended a guidance meeting for senior acolytes at the Josen-ji temple. The first thing you said at this meeting was: "Those who want to follow Mr. Ikeda should immediately strip themselves of their priestly robes and surplices. You should become Mr. Ikeda's disciples." Your attitude has denied the possibility of dialogue from the outset.
Though it was against my better inclination, I made the decision at this point to compromise my belief to the limit of my ability and pretend to follow you. I did this solely because I had absolute hope for the future of the harmonious unity of the priesthood and laity.
I felt completely ostracized at my temple. The only person willing to listen to me was a Soka Gakkai young women's division leader who worked for the temple's administrative staff. [Her father is also on staff at the same temple. Later however, they both quit the Soka Gakkai.] Thinking of her as my comrade, I relaxed my guard. I shared my feelings with her about this current issue and my hope for the harmonious unity of the priesthood and laity.
But my trust was completely betrayed. Beneath her pretense, this young women's division leader held a grudge against the Gakkai. She coaxed me to tell her my stories, distorted them with ill intent and continually reported them to the chief priest and his wife.
From that point on, I began receiving harsh remarks from the chief priest and his family for trivial reasons. Simply because the chief priest's wife saw me making a call from a public phone, she once spread the completely groundless rumor that I had secretly communicated with Soka Gakkai headquarters.
This rumor immediately spread throughout the priesthood. An acquaintance at the head temple demanded that I write an oath [of loyalty to the high priest]. The administrative director of the Fuji Seminary, which I was then attending, interrogated me. My circumstances gradually grew unsafe. Finally, in April, I was ordered to relocate to the Daigo-ji temple in the adjacent Edogawa Ward.
Around that time, a guidance meeting for assistant priests was held at the head temple. I went there and received an audience with you in your private living quarters. During the audience, you stated harshly that there was a man of feigned obedience in the room. After slandering the Gakkai on various issues, you announced that you had punished one impudent priest by relocating him. Then, suddenly, you yelled at me in front of all the others: "Yumo! I'll have mercy on you. Use your head, understand? Hey, do you understand?" As soon as you finished, you left the room. While saying "I'll have mercy on you," you purposefully humiliated me before many priests so that I would feel compelled to leave the priesthood. You also intended to use me as a warning for the other priests. In any case, I was labeled as a spy without a single inquiry. I left the head temple grounds feeling uneasy.
This incident gave me a reputation within the priesthood. Since then, I have been mistreated and looked upon with hatred and contempt wherever I went. Because, somehow, I wanted you to know my true feelings and have an opportunity, if possible, to see you privately, I wrote a letter explaining my circumstances and gave it to Secretary Komai. The next day I went to the head temple and requested an audience with you at the Sho-Hondo. However, as soon as you saw me, you looked offended and ignored me.
A few days later, I received a call from Mr. Komai. He covertly demanded of me: "You are only an acolyte. It would be impolite for you to write a letter [directly to the high priest]. How about writing an oath?" I clearly sensed his intention to make me apologize at any cost. However, since the secretary [as director of the acolyte training program] wields life-and-death power over acolytes, if I resisted, I would fall into his trap. Therefore, I agreed to write an oath to follow you, praying for you to understand my true feelings.
Two months passed. On the nigh of May 25, I received a call from you. It seemed that Mr. Komai had finally handed you my oath. You told me you had read it and recommended that I leave the priesthood, saying: "If you cannot follow me, why don't you become a disciple of Daisaku Ikeda? If not, you and the people around you will suffer." At this point, I felt that whatever I said you would use as an excuse to expel me. I told you I would fulfill my responsibilities as your student to the end.
Then you said: "Okay, I believe you. But, from now on, make sure you behave yourself so that others don't spread strange rumors about you. And from now on, never communicate to your acquaintances in the Gakkai."
Then you continued: "What do you think? That fellow betrayed me. From the beginning, the Gakkai was thoroughly preparing to separate itself from the priesthood. A plan called 'Operation R' was already in place. I'm taking my time to explain this to you in a way you can understand, okay? From now on, priests will be the main focus of kosen-rufu. You must serve the priesthood diligently." ['Operation R' refers to a document, whose author is unknown, submitted by the priesthood to a weekly magazine. The document states that the Soka Gakkai premeditatedly planned to separate from the priesthood -- a completely groundless fabrication. 'R' stands for revolting, according to the document. This supposed revelation came some time after the priesthood's 'Operation C' plan to sever its ties with the Gakkai was exposed.]
'Operation R' was a fabrication published in a substandard rumor-laden magazine. It was intended to offset the impact of the disclosure of 'Operation C,' which the priesthood masterminded to destroy the Gakkai. Using this fabricated document, you labeled the honorary president a traitor. Your mind is incomprehensible. I must admit you have indeed allowed a "demon to enter your body" [as the Lotus Sutra states].
In August, I attended a training meeting for acolytes at the head temple. When the lectures and training sessions were over, all that remained was a final examination on the following day. That night, those from the adult acolyte training program were suddenly summoned to a conference room. Mr. Shinwa Goto, from the editorial staff of the Dai-Nichiren, a monthly publication of Nichiren Shoshu, urged those who thought the Gakkai was correct to come forward and express their belief courageously. At that moment, radical anti-Gakkai acolytes stood up one after another, screaming: "Let's write an oath to the high priest. If you can't sign the oath, you should remove your robes and surplices and leave the priesthood." The atmosphere was so oppressive that it was clear no argument would be allowed. Finally, almost forcibly, it was decided the, 'based on the consensus' of all present, we would submit an oath [to the high priest]. Except for Mr. Yusei Hashimoto and Mr. Yuiku Doi who expressed their belief in the Gakkai's righteousness and refused to sign the oath, all the acolytes were forced to sign.
Mr. Hashimoto and Mr. Doi, from that day on, experienced cruel and persistent interrogation by Secretary Komai, who acted on your behalf. Because Mr. Narita had filed a lawsuit based on the unfair treatment he received, you wanted to make these two acolytes quit the priesthood without having to expel them officially [in order to avoid another lawsuit]. Eventually they were banished from the head temple. [Mr. Shingo Narita, as mentioned before, was coerced into falsely confessing through torturous interrogation. Based on his confession, he was expelled from the priesthood by High Priest Nikken. Mr. Narita later filed a civil lawsuit against the religious corporation of Nichiren Shoshu, Chief Executive Nikken Abe and Secretary Sendo Komai for reinstatement of his position and compensation for unfair interrogation.]
In retrospect, it was revealed that this whole incident was a setup. At the beginning [of the meeting], Mr. Goto insisted that he himself called the meeting, acting on his own behalf. Later, when I spoke to him privately, he completely denied what he said before, saying: "Actually, the high priest said to me, 'Among my students, those with the character yu [in their first name, indicating their status as a member or graduate of the adult acolyte training program] seem strange. I want them to quit the priesthood. Can you do something about this?' "
Mr. Goto revealed the truth of the matter. In other words, with this oath you were conducting a 'litmus test' in order to eliminate students you dislike. You manipulated Mr. Goto to carry it out on your behalf.
From beginning to end, you went out of your way to expel your adult acolyte students who tended to be viewed as pro-Gakkai. I was truly appalled to find this out. You lack any desire to guide your students. This single incident makes it clear that your statements like "I tried to guide the Gakkai toward good" are complete lies and that your true intention has been to destroy the Gakkai and gain absolute control over the priesthood.
To sum up, you first decide on who to punish and later justify your actions. We acolytes, like the Gakkai, have been punished in an arbitrary and one-sided manner based on unconfirmed reports. Then, denied any opportunity to meet with you or hold dialogue, we were harassed and abused until we were eventually driven out of the priesthood. This is your standard procedure. Can this be described as anything but a cruel reign of terror?
Through my experiences, I realized that there is no true master-disciple relationship in the priesthood. Because priests do not understand the genuine affection between master and disciple, they can only interpret the Soka Gakkai members' feelings toward Honorary President Ikeda as their regarding him as the Buddha.
Honorary President Ikeda dearly loved us students at Soka University and longed for our development. I truly realized this, however, only after I entered the priesthood. [Before becoming a priest, Mr. Matsuoka studied at Soka University, majoring in education. He furthered his schooling in the university's graduate legal studies program.]
"Even if everyone abandons you, I will always protect you!" -- such is Honorary President Ikeda's profound resolve. When pure-hearted youth can understand his heart they cannot help shedding tears and expressing heir genuine love and respect toward him.
If you, the high priest, have pity for your students, then please give me an opportunity to talk to you directly, to my satisfaction. If you cannot grant even this wish, your life-condition may be likened to that of Devadatta, tainted with hatred and jealousy. As the Daishonin states: "Those who take no delight in listening to the doctrine are called 'jealous ones' " (MW-2, 115). Needless to say, if this is the case, you are no longer qualified to be a Buddhist teacher.
The true way of a student whose teacher has turned to slander is: first, to refrain from following that teacher's intent, as explained in the Daishonin's writing, "Repaying the Debts of Gratitude"; and second, to remonstrate with him without fearing his authority as the Daishonin states, "I have upheld my faith without faltering ...though my teacher disowned me" (MW-3, 73-74). Because the Daishonin refuted Nembutsu, saying, "Nembutsu leads to the hell of incessant suffering," his teacher Dozen-bo disowned him.
If a slanderous teacher does not reform himself after being remonstrated with, a true student must abandon him, following the Daishonin's teaching: "A disciple should abandon even his teacher if the teacher is misguided" (MW-1, 165).
Because I want to be loyal to the words of Nichiren Daishonin, 'the original teacher' (MW-1, 164), though it goes against your wishes, I remonstrate with you on your errors and unavoidably depart from your side. In this regard, I am proud to have fulfilled my true responsibility as your student as I pledged I would.
I wish you were not an evil person. Although inside you might be yearning for humanistic relationships, your personality and authoritarian manner developed over the years cause you to lose your temper and punish those who go against your will. I feel you are quite a miserable person. If you were not in such a responsible position, you might be excused. You, however, hold the position of high priest; your behavior, such as it is, is harmful to others and must not be tolerated.
Therefore, if you were to acknowledge your errors and resign from your position, and if you wished to spend the rest of your life repenting and eradicating your sins, I would come to your side to share the responsibility for your misdeeds. I think this would be a natural way to repay the debts of gratitude I owe to my old teacher.
In the above, I have presented my views in three sections. To conclude, there is something I earnestly want to convey to you.
I would like to let you know who it is that has most protected and treasured the acolytes whom the priesthood mistreats like cattle. It was neither the priests nor their families nor Hokkeko members. [It was someone] even the senior leaders of the Gakkai seem unable to surpass.
Every time this person came to the head temple for an audience with you, he treated us to sukiyaki and expressed his utmost desire for our healthy development. Even in years when the priesthood pretended to have a close relationship with the Gakkai, he always politely greeted and encouraged us, the acolytes who watched him from a distance. At that time, although head of all Nichiren Shoshu lay organizations, he was mistreated and looked down upon with contempt by the directors of the priesthood's Internal Affairs Department.
I shall never forget his congratulatory message at the ceremony commemorating the 700th anniversary of the head temple's founding. His congratulations to us were far more impressive than your own or those of the other senior priests. He said: "I sincerely express my heartfelt congratulations to you young magnificent priests who will shoulder the great future of the priesthood. At the same time, as a believer, I earnestly pray for your growth and excellent health." In him I saw a great practitioner of Buddhism who respects human beings. He was devoid of even a particle of contempt toward acolytes. Wherever he went, he tried to have heart-to-heart encounters with everyone he met. The rosy color of excitement gradually came back to the faces of junior acolytes who previously had been depressed and discouraged. Appreciation and respect naturally welled up in their lives.
For this reason, all those acolytes who had encountered Honorary President Ikeda praised him and developed a seeking spirit toward him. Your grandson [Shogyo Abe], who, unfortunately, has turned into a different person now, once truly respected Honorary President Ikeda.
You trampled upon the junior acolyte's pure young hearts with your impure interests, and you distorted their minds with lies and deception, thus leading them to commit acts of evil. Your sins for this are truly serious and profound. I feel strong indignation toward you and the instructors of the acolyte training program for brainwashing these young priests.
I have made many statements that I may not be worthy to make. Nevertheless, if you do not change, you will be the one who definitely suffers from conspicuous retribution for persecuting votaries of the Lotus Sutra. This is as the sutra itself teaches: "If by curses and poisons / One seeks to hurt the body (of a votary of the Lotus Sutra).... All (curses and poisons) will revert to the originator" (Lotus Sutra, chapter 25).
Actually many chief priests are not earnestly soliciting Gakkai members to quit the organization, despite the instructions of the Nichiren Shoshu Administrative Office. Voices of discontent have been heard here and there. Many acolytes and younger chief priests in particular have already given up hope for their future, seeking escapist outlets or living hedonistically. It is truly astonishing. One can easily imagine that internal conflict will arise sooner than later within Nichiren Shoshu.
I sincerely hope you will understand even to a minute extent the feelings of a mere acolyte like myself, and that you will accept my honest and true confession with magnanimous mind. One's status in the priesthood has nothing to do with his ability to judge right from wrong in Buddhism. The Daishonin states: "If people do not heed a humble Buddhist teacher's remonstration and despise him, they will regret it in this lifetime and the next" (Gosho Zenshu, p. 364).
Praying that you will give this matter some thought, I put down my pen for the time being.
- March 30, 1992
- Yumo Matsuoka
- To High Priest Nikken, my teacher
(Seikyo Times, June 1992,
No. 371, p.20-38)
© 1992 by World Tribune Press, Soka Gakkai International - USA