President Ikeda gave the following speech at the Shimane Prefecture leaders meeting held at the Yasugi Community Center on September 9 .
>I would like to discuss Nichiren Daishonin's golden teachings and the guidance of successive high priests that admonish Nichiren Shoshu priests about their behavior.
Being fully aware of them will enable you as believers to advance along the correct path
As an individual dedicated to protecting Nichiren Shoshu, I remained silent for ten years concerning the behavior of priests, no matter what complaints I may have heard. I know I have been protecting the priesthood. Yet nowadays I hear a number of priests trampling on my sincerity, slandering me and chastising Soka Gakkai members. In this context, today, I would like to talk about the priesthood.
Are Priests Striving Wholeheartedly for Kosen-rufu?
>In the Gosho 'Admonitions Against Slander', Nichiren Daishonin states, "Only honest priests who desire little and are happy with whatever they have can be called 'priests' in the true sense of the word" (The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1)
Referring to this passage, the fifty-ninth high priest, Nichiko Shonin, once said, "I would say that, by - honest," the Daishonin means not being unjust. In other words, Nichiko Shonin indicates that by honesty the Daishonin implied 'correctness,' 'justice' or 'the correct path' rather than what the word generally means.
Namely, the honest priest must, first of all, uphold the correct teachings of Buddhism. The disciples of th Buddha are those who, no matter what may happen, strive wholeheartedly for kosen-rufu, dedicated to faith and practice exactly as the Daishonin teaches.
In contrast, dishonest and unjust priests are those who, though they appear to nobly embrace the True Law, actually disobey the Daishoninís teachings and hinder the progress of kosen-rufu. They commit evil acts such as plotting to destroy the Soka Gakkai, which propagates the Daishoninís Buddhism.
Nichiko Shonin continued: " 'Desire little' means to control your five desires [which arise from the five senses; they also refer to the desires for wealth, sexual love, food and drink, fame and sleep]. You see colors through your eyes, hear sounds with your ears, smell with your nose, taste food with your tongue and feel by touching something. You should not give free reign to these basic desires. You should only seek to satisfy them to the degree necessary to maintain a moderate subsistence. Using the five desires properly and with good judgment according to your basic needs means you are satisfied with whatever you have."
In light of Nichiren Daishoninís teachings, if priests live extravagantly, they are no longer true priests. Naturally, today is different from the Daishoninís days, but I wonder if the Daishonin would allow priests to live in a manner much more luxurious than lay believers and astonishingly extravagant in the publicís eye. Nichiko Shonin continued: ìNikko Shonin, the founder of Taiseki-ji, and Nichimoku Shonin, the third high priest, lived in Omosu and Ueno, respectively. In thinking about how modestly they lived, I cannot hold back my tears. It seems that both Nikko Shonin and Nichimoku Shonin lived by farming the land themselves. Nichimoku Shonin time and again sent the cucumbers he himself grew to Nikko Shonin. In one of Nikko Shoninís writings, he mentions that having cucumbers in Omosu in that year was unusual because of a drought that had hit the area."
It is clear from this that both Nikko Shonin and Nichimoku Shonin lived modestly exactly as the Daishonin taught them.
In 1298, eight years after founding Taiseki-ji, Nikko Shonin built a Miei-do temple in neighboring Omosu and moved there from Ueno Village. Nichimoku Shonin, who remained at Taiseki-ji to protect the Dai-Gohonzon, virtually functioned as the high priest.
In his spare time, Nichimoku Shonin grew cucumbers in the nearby field and delivered them to his master in Omosu. Nikko Shonin was appreciative and delighted at his beloved discipleís warm consideration. Here we can see an exemplary relationship of master and disciple.
Nikko Shonin Cautioned Future Priests To Be Noble and Honorable Like Nichiren Daishonin
>We can see their vast state of life in which they calmly enjoyed themselves instead of suffering over their modest lives.
Some priests today, claiming they are followers of Nichiren Daishonin, Nikko Shonin and Nichimoku Shonin, greedily spend believers' offerings to the Gohonzon as if given to them personally. Their five desires know no bounds. Taking their luxurious existence for granted, they seek to have even more wealth. Contrary to living in modesty and feeling happy with what little they have, they are never content. Such priests may well be called 'extraordinarily greedy and insatiable.' How deeply Nichiren Daishonin, Nikko Shonin and Nichimoku Shonin must lament over this reality. In one of his admonitions, Nikko Shonin writes, "My disciples should conduct themselves as holy priests, patterning their behavior after that of the late master."
The sixty-sixth high priest, Nittatsu Shonin, stated: "Fortunately, compared with the priests of other sects, we are now becoming very wealthy, and all priests are living prosperously. An old saying goes, 'People will cultivate a sense of propriety only after having adequate food and clothing.' In comparison with priests of other sects, our Nichiren Shoshu priests are fortunate when it comes to the basic necessities of life. It would be awful if such well-off lives make you feel so great that you become arrogant. I hope you will always be considerate, humbly protect the temple and cherish the lay believers, especially Soka Gakkai members who unbegrudgingly work for the sake of Nichiren Shoshu and kosen-rufu. Let me say again that, as priests, you should be very kind to lay believers" (at the twenty-second chief priestsí seminar closing ceremony on Aug. 31, 1973).
Nittatsu Shonin showed keen foresight with this warning. Also, a sad situation that required such a warning already existed in those days. Many people have said that if the priests had followed the above guidance of Nittatsu Shonin, the current situation of the priesthood would never have developed.
>Despite Nittatsu Shoninís warning, many priests who have come to live prosperously have become arrogant and begun to look down upon believers, those who have been striving for kosen-rufu. This is a major cause for the current problem, as you can see in light of Nittatsu Shoninís guidance. Nittatsu Shonin also said: "Believers bring to the temple those to whom they introduced this Buddhism. The priest conducts the gojukai ceremony for the new believers. Because he also conducts memorials and other services, naturally, as the number of believers increases, the temple will become wealthy. You must not spoil yourselves under such favorable circumstances. Yet, in reality, not only do you tend to spoil yourselves, but you become merciless to those believers who take the trouble to bring the new believers to the temple. Some priests behave this shamefully."
Nittatsu Shonin went on: "The other day a believer, after trying hard to persuade a friend to take faith, brought him to the temple for gojukai. But a priest, saying the temple was closed that day, refused to conduct the gojukai ceremony. I have never heard of such a thing. Neither the Administrative Office nor the head temple has ever issued a notice allowing the temples to take a holiday."
Further, Nittatsu Shonin mentioned: "I am sorry for the Soka Gakkai member who, after tremendous effort, brought someone to receive gojukai. In this case, the member had to go to another temple to have his friend receive gojukai. If some priests allow this to occur repeatedly, I may have to dispose of them. I donít think such priests deserve to manage a temple. What would you say to this?" (At the twenty-second chief priests' seminar opening ceremony on Aug. 30, 1973.)
Many people wonder apprehensively saying: "According to their late masterís guidance, these days there seem to be many priests who should be disposed of, but not one of them has ever been. How is the priesthood taking Nittatsu Shonin's guidance?"
Nittatsu Shonin continued: "You cannot get away with thinking that everything will be all right as long as lay believers bring money to the temple and the temple prospers. Quite a few priests have this attitude and are collecting money. I know that some priests, possessing tens of millions of yen, enjoy a very affluent existence. I say that as priests we have no choice but to listen to those believers who might say, 'Please remember that we believers are striving to propagate Buddhism, even skipping meals from time to time' " (ibid.). Nittatsu Shonin gave this admonition to the priesthood eighteen years ago.
It seems that some priests in those days already tended to think only about how to obtain more money from believers. This seems to be the climate presently spreading among a great many priests in Japan. Nittatsu Shonin would deeply deplore the recent ugly conduct of the priesthood-conduct that has been frowned upon not only by believers but also by society at large.
In light of the Gosho and the teachings of the successive high priests, indeed heavy is the offense of the priesthood. While ignoring the disgraceful behavior of such priests, the priesthood takes a cold and condescending attitude toward the Soka Gakkai members who are devoted to propagation, and attempts to sweet-talk them into leaving the Soka Gakkai and blindly following the priesthoodís instructions. Unfortunately, the priesthoodís offense is very serious in view of both documentary proof and theoretical.
Nittatsu Shonin Points Out Priests' Ignorance of Lay Believers' Suffering
>Nittatsu Shonin strictly admonished the priesthood, not to lead Soka Gakkai members astray from the organization. In other words, he strictly prohibited the priests from creating a 'Danto movement', stating: "True, you are the chief priest of a temple, and you may be versed in temple matters and Nichiren Shoshu doctrines, but you are ignorant of secular matters. Soka Gakkai members or Hokkeko members may come to you for guidance in life because they are not happy with the guidance of their organizational leaders. I have heard that such cases occur, from time to time, but giving proper guidance in mundane affairs is a realm that I don't think you can handle adequately. I donít think you can give them proper guidance because you have not experienced real suffering in the mundane world. I hope that from this moment on you will refrain from giving empty guidance to believers as if you knew how to correctly address their concerns. I hope you will clearly tell them that they should see their leaders and discuss their problems with them. This holds true for any believers, whether they are Soka Gakkai or Hokkeko members. I hope you clearly understand this point. Donít talk to lay believers irresponsibly, based only on your own judgment. In trying to win them over to your side, you will develop a very dangerous attitude... If your intention has been to usurp Soka Gakkai or Hokkeko members from their organizations, which have been giving them care and guidance, and attempt to make them your own followers out of your selfish emotionalism, please stop doing so from today on." (ibid.).
Nittatsu Shonin clearly acknowledged that the priesthood has not experienced enough troubles in secular life and therefore is far from able to give proper guidance to lay believers about problems in their lives. Furthermore, he severely prohibited the priests from carrying on the Danto movement by pointing out that it is a dangerous and wrong idea to try to win over believers to the priesthood.
The Priesthood Once Denied the Concept of Benefit and Punishment
>One of the reasons the Soka Gakkai has developed as it has is that, since the days of President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, its leaders have been guiding individual members to practice the Daishoninís Buddhism in the realm of daily life, thus enabling them to show actual proof of the great benefit of Buddhism in society. However, there were times when the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood actually opposed the Soka Gakkai for declaring that the Gohonzon can impart both 'benefit' and 'punishment' to people. [Of course, the Soka Gakkaiís declaration does not mean that the Gohonzon, like an absolute being, can benefit or punish people on its own. It means that the Gohonzon embodies the law of cause and effect; and therefore our attitude toward the Gohonzon results in either positive effects, 'benefit', or negative effects, that is 'punishment.']
Before World War II, President Makiguchi emphasized the concept of punishment and commenced propagation efforts. Some priests raised critical voices against President Makiguchi. To such criticism, Mr. Makiguchi would respond, saying: "Facing the Gohonzon, in its upper right-hand corner are the words, 'Those who vex or trouble [the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra] will have their heads split into seven pieces.' Doesn't this signify the theory of punishment?"
Then, after the war, President Josei Toda stood up alone to reconstruct the Soka Gakkai and launched strong propagation efforts while stressing the great beneficial power of the Gohonzon. It is true that some priests were critical of President Toda, too.
If faith remains only an idea separate from reality, that is, if faith never results in benefit for believers and punishment for slanderers, it has no value or meaning. Nichiren Daishonin made his advent in the Latter Day of the Law to save all people. His Buddhism exists to enable people to overcome their suffering and ultimately attain Buddhahood.
President Toda once called to the people, "When it comes to faith, return to the days of Nichiren Daishonin." Mr. Toda gave clear guidance in faith to each member, always based on the Gosho, and he showed the concrete way to overcome individual problems. At the same time he awakened the individual members to their noble mission of achieving kosen-rufu. In this way, he created a great organization of the followers of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.
Nittatsu Shonin was more aware of this fact than anyone else. Therefore, he strictly prohibited priests from cunningly winning Soka Gakkai membersí hearts and making them the obedient followers of the priesthood. Those priests who run counter to such guidance from the former high priest must not be regarded as bona fide Nichiren Shoshu priests. They are committing the serious slander of revolting against their late master.
The Danto Movement Is
>High Priest Nikken, too, once said to the priesthood: "You shouldnít say to believers who belong to a lay organization, ëYou will not receive any benefit if you practice faith in your organization,í or ëYou will receive only negative effects because the way you practice faith in your organization is not correct," thus attempting to win them over to your side. In other words, I believe the so-called Danto movement contradicts the way Buddhism should be propagated. It is wholly erroneous for a person who embraces the Gohonzon of Nichiren Shoshu to speak ill of another who embraces the same Gohonzon.
"There are still many people in society who are ignorant of the Gohonzon of Nichiren Shoshu. Therefore, we [the priests] should preach the Law to those people. We should strive to spread the Law among such people, beginning with one person." (At the chief priestsí seminar opening ceremony on Aug. 28, 1980.)
Here High Priest Nikken clearly explains that the Danto movement has nothing to do with propagating Buddhism, and that the correct way of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood is to cultivate an understanding of the Law among those who do not yet know about the greatness of the Gohonzon.
The fifty-ninth high priest, Nichiko Shonin, discussed slander of the Law, "If you outwardly admonish slanderous acts and inwardly accept slanderous acts, then you are a monster" (Comments on Nichiu Shoninís On the Formalities of True Buddhism).
Strictly prohibiting slanderous acts is the fundamental spirit of the Taiseki-ji school since the days of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin. In his 'Twenty-six Admonitions,' Nikko Shonin strictly warned against any act that violates the Law. However, there were, and still are, many cases in which the priesthood, while loudly pronouncing the strict prohibition against slander, in reality approved of various slanderous situations.
For instance, at one point in its history, Nichiren Shoshu officially built statues of Shakyamuni as the object of worship [which obviously contradicted the Daishoninís teaching]. In 1943, the priesthood attempted to force the Soka Gakkai to accept the Shinto talisman. I will not go into detail today.
After World War II, when the Soka Gakkai was reconstructed and nationwide propagation activities were being promoted, numerous slanderous situations, which had been accepted by the priesthood, surfaced. This resulted in the removal of heretical objects of worship.
One such example was the Myofuku-ji temple incident. Myofuku-ji temple is said to have been founded by Nichizon, a disciple of the second high priest, Nikko Shonin. Even though it was such a time-honored Nichiren Shoshu temple, it allowed a shrine with heretical statues such as those of Jizo to remain in its precinct for 650 years. [Jizo (Skt Kshitigarbha) is a bodhisattva, introduced to eighth century Japan, who became the object of a popular cult after the twelfth century.]
In early 1953, Myofuku-jiís youthful chief priest, who had been awakened to the graveness of the cause of slander through carrying out propagation activities with a Soka Gakkai member tried to remove these statues from the temple grounds. At that time, the families who had financially supported the temple violently opposed the idea, contending: "These statue have been approved by the successive chief priests for centuries. How dare you say now that it is not right to have these statues on the temple grounds?" In addition to the Myofuku-ji case, there were reportedly many other similar cases in the northeastern part of Japan, where slanderous objects of worship were kept for years and later removed. (Incidentally, the chief priest of Myofuku-ji temple later deviated from correct faith and is now a Shoshinkai priest.)
There are many examples that justify the contention that the priesthood now outwardly preaches against slanderous conduct but in reality has been approving it for many years. This is indeed regrettable. (It has been reported that in some areas close to the head temple, where Nichiren Shoshu has spread widely for hundreds of years, a number of slanderous objects of worship have been allowed to be enshrined. Voices have been raised, asking, "Why does the head temple tolerate these slanderous acts and yet speak to the Soka Gakkai in so high-handed a manner?")
The Soka Gakkai has persisted in the belief that we should be strict toward slander of the Law. Because the Soka Gakkai has been advancing exactly as the Daishonin teaches, we have undergone great persecutions but at the same time received great benefits.
Nichiren Daishonin wrote in the Gosho: "Though one may have been fortunate enough to be born as a human being and may perhaps have even renounced the world in order to seek the truth, if he falls to study Buddhism and to refute its slanderers, but simply spends time in idleness and chatter, then he is no better than an animal dressed in priestly robes. He may call himself a priest and earn his livelihood as such, but in no way does he deserve to be regarded as a true priest. He is nothing but a thief who has stolen the name of priest." (MW-3, 215). Nichiren Daishonin thus strictly admonishes priests who approve slanderous acts and neglect Buddhist practice.
Nikko Shonin also said: "You should refrain from indulging in non-Buddhist works or poetry, or from engaging in desultory pleasures or random conversation without [having the aim of] rebuking slander." No matter what great things they may preach, if priests do not fulfill their responsibilities but indulge in golf, going to night clubs or singing karaoke songs, they must be said to have strayed from the correct way of the priesthood.
How much worse are the priests who neglect their responsibility to spread Buddhism and reprimand slanderous conduct and, while indulging themselves in idleness and chatter, dare to disparage Soka Gakkai members as slanderers. These priests, as Nichiren Daishonin pointed out, are indeed 'no better than an animal dressed in priestly robes.' Some say they are not qualified to say they are followers of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin.
Who is carrying out justice today? What is the correct way that leads to kosen-rufu? Have we answered these questions correctly? Studying the Daishonin's teachings together is important so that we can give confident and correct answers to such questions. Also important in this regard is to convey his teachings correctly to others and to continue encouraging one another. Nichiren Daishonin stated to Toki Jonin and other believers: "Toki [Jonin], Saburo Zaemon-no-jo [Shijo Kingo], Kawanobe, Yamato Ajari and the rest of you, gentlemen and priests, should read this letter to one another and listen. In this defiled age, you should always talk together and never cease to pray for your next life." (MW-6, 78).
Indeed this is a defiled age. The Daishonin says that, regardless of our status, whether priesthood or laity, we are the Buddhaís children and should thoroughly discuss questions all the time. When fellow believers of the Mystic Law gather to study the Daishoninís teaching sincerely, the wave of conviction and joy will expand. We should continue our dialogue. We should never break our unity. We should never allow our unity to be destroyed, either.
In Buddhism, more important than your words is your behavior. Also, one who lives with brilliant wisdom is one who forges a sound, happy course of life. In this sense, I hope the youth division members cherish their parents. I also hope that the young womenís division members will keep close contact with their family members and go home early enough so that they will not worry about you. Also, I hope wives will cherish their husbands and husbands cherish their wives, thus creating happy families of peace and harmony.
November 1991, No. 364, p. 60 - 64)
© 1992 by World Tribune Press, Soka Gakkai International - USA