Chapter 1 Overview of the Priesthood Issue

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Chapter 1      Overview of the Priesthood Issue
1            What is the priesthood issue

In November 1991, Nichiren Shoshu issued the “Order of Dissolution” and “Notice of Excommunication” to the Soka Gakkai, severing the 60-year-old tie between the clergy and the lay organization.

On the surface, the priesthood issue appears to be a disagreement or schism between the priesthood of Nichiren Shoshu and the laity of the Soka Gakkai and the SGI (Soka Gakkai International).  Fundamentally, it is an issue that addresses the correct faith and practice of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism which expounds the equality and dignity of all human beings based.  This equality is based on the principle that all people are equally capable of attaining Buddhahood, regardless of their differences be it lay or ordained, status, wealth, gender, intellect etc.

The priesthood of Nichiren Shoshu advocates teachings that put them in a position of authority and power which gives them the right to demand unquestionable obedience from the laity.  They further expound the view that the high priest of Nichiren Shoshu is a special being who is equal to the original Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin.  Not only are such teachings not found in Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, they are grave violation of the basic tenets of Buddhism that is build on the fundamental principle of the equality and dignity of all people.

2            The Priethood and the Laity

From 1253, when the original Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin first declared the invocation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, there were in existence two categories of believers, the priests and the laity.

Nichiren Daishonin himself was a priest and through his efforts, he was able to convince other priests to follow his teachings.  As the goal of the Daishonin’s Buddhism is to enable every human being to attain enlightenment, the Daishonin also propagated his teachings widely among the people, who became his lay disciples.

Generally, priests during the Daishonin’s time were those who had made the commitment to renounce secular life and dedicate their lives to the practice of Buddhism.  Thus, the Daishonin had great expectation of his priest disciples that they would take the lead in propagating his Buddhism, encouraging and protecting the lay disciples.

However the Daishonin made it very clear in his teachings that there is no difference between priest and laity.  In Daishonin’s Buddhism, both laity and priesthood are equal and everyone is capable of attaining enlightenment.  This principle is the essence of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism.  To discriminate or have levels of authority and power between priest and laity goes against the fundamental spirit of the Daishonin’s teachings.  This point is the key issue of the priesthood matter.

The present day clergy is the Nichiren Shoshu headed by the High Priest Nikken and based at the Head Temple (Taisekiji) in Japan.  The largest organization of lay believers is the Soka Gakkai which was founded in Japan in 1930 by its first president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi.  Under the leadership of its second president, Josei Toda the membership grew to over 750,000 households.  The third president, Daisaku Ikeda expanded the membership even further and propagated the Daishonin’s Buddhism to numerous countries.  Today there are over 12 million members in various SGI (Soka Gakkai International) organizations in 190 countries and territories practicing the Daishonin’s Buddhism.

3            The degradation and corruption within the priesthood is the root of the Priesthood Issue

Amid the great advancement made by the lay organizations, the priesthood did not develop in tandem.  On the contrary, signs of degradation and corruption of faith in the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood became increasingly evident.

With the Japanese tradition of permitting marriage and the raising of family among Buddhist priests and the tremendous support of lay believers in terms of generous donations and propagation activities, the priesthood lost the spirit of faith, became increasingly secular and indulged themselves in various pleasurable pursuits and leisure.

In order to hide their degradation, the priesthood grew increasingly arrogant and authoritative, proclaiming that priests are superior to the laity and have special status, which allow them to demand unquestionable obedience from the laity.  The high priest, Nikken himself was at the center of this degradation.  (Details of various acts of degradation are listed in Chapter ? )

When confronted with advice from lay believers to change their ways, they were angered with what they considered as acts of insubordination.  To bring the lay believers under their direct control, the priesthood devised a plan named “Operation C” (“C” means “cut”) in July 1990 to remove the leadership of the Soka Gakkai and the SGI and ex-communicate these lay organizations.

The plan is that once the leadership of SGI President Daisaku Ikeda and other key leaders are removed and the lay organizations ex-communicated, the members would naturally disband and obediently come under the control of Nichiren Shoshu.  This assumption is based on the belief that since the priesthood until then has been solely entrusted with the responsibility of bestowing the Gohonzon (the object of devotion in Nichiren Buddhism) upon believers, the lay believers would have no choice but to obediently follow the clergy.

4            How it all started and the events that followed

The event that triggered the outbreak of the priesthood issue is the Soka Gakkai leaders’ meeting held in November 1990.  The priesthood claims that at that meeting, SGI President Daisaku Ikeda had criticized the high priest and that the choral performance of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” amounted to promoting non-Buddhist teachings.

Based on unsubstantiated accusation that SGI President Ikeda has criticized the high priest, the priesthood unilaterally revised the Nichiren Shoshu’s bylaws to effectively dismiss President Ikeda as the chief lay representative and eleven other Soka Gakkai leaders as senior lay representatives.

The accusation made by the priesthood, came in the form of seven questions based on a surreptitiously obtained tape, which they claimed had recorded the proceedings of the said meeting.  The questions also included an accusation that a choral performance of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” at the meeting constituted an act of promoting non-Buddhist teachings.  The Soka Gakkai subsequently refuted these accusations.

Confronted with clear evidence that the transcription of the tape was inaccurate, the priesthood withdrew four of the seven questions. The remaining questions were also shown to have been taken out of context and grossly misinterpreted.  Despite this, the priesthood persisted in their plan to remove President Ikeda and ex-communicate the Soka Gakkai and the SGI.

In the spring of 1991, the priesthood denied members from making pilgrimages to the Head Temple and began canvassing for members to leave the Soka Gakkai and SGI.  On November 28 1991, an ‘Order of Dissolution” and a “Notice of Excommunication” were sent to the SGI.  As the final blow, two days later the priesthood stops the conferral of Gohonzon on members of the Soka Gakkai and the SGI.  These extreme measures reflected the priesthood’s determination to carry out their plans under Operation “C”.  However the SGI, remained undaunted in the face of such persecutions.

At the same time, several priests and temples announced their secession from Nichiren Shoshu in protest against High Priest Nikken.

In June 1992, the Seattle Incident was uncovered when a SGI-USA Women Division member, Mrs Hiroe Clow, who acted as interpreter for Nikken during his official visit to Seattle in 1963 disclosed some startling revelations.  She revealed having been called to a Seattle Police station to help settle a case in which Nikken was involved in an incident with a prostitute.  Knowing the gravity of the incident, Mrs Clow has kept the matter a secret until the Priesthood Issue erupted when she realized that this truth about Nikken must be revealed.  The incident was reported by the Soka Gakkai’s publication, Soka Shimpo.  In December 1993, Nichiren Shoshu filed a lawsuit of defamation against the Soka Gakkai for the report of the Seattle Incident.  A series of court hearings was conducted in which various witnesses including Mrs Clow, Nikken and two Seattle police officers involved were questioned.  The legal battles which went as high as the …. lasted … with the final verdict in favour of the Soka Gakkai.

In November 1992, the Soka Shimpo published an article showing the extravagant and outrageous behaviour of Nikken and included photographs which captured Nikken drinking with a group of geishas.  The Nichiren Shoshu asserted that the photographs were fabrications and filed lawsuits against the Soka Gakkai and President Ikeda for defamation.  On December 6, 1999 the Tokyo District Court passed its decision which states that the Soka Gakkai do not need to publish any public apology and that it can freely make use of the photographs in all its organ papers.  This decision effectively demolished Nichiren Shoshu’s assertions that the photographs are fabrications.

In April 1998, Nichiren Shoshu issued a notification for the demolition of the Grand Main Temple (Sho-Hondo).  The award-winning grand structure which was used to house the Dai-Gohonzon and spanned   soccer fields was constructed in 1972 using mainly the sincere donations of Soka Gakkai members.

More outrageous behaviour of the priesthood began to surface as various reports of illegal and unethical acts committed by Nichiren Shoshu priests were revealed.  These included the illegal establishment of a Nichiren Shoshu temple in South Korea, the illegal setting up of tombs in a Nichiren Shoshu cemetery in Fujiyama, the disposal of the ashes of deceased members entrusted to their care, conviction of three Nichiren Shoshu priests in the South Korean court for illegally bringing in large sum of money, the arrest and confession of a Nichiren Shoshu priest, Shinwa Goto for raping a 16-year-old girl and having sex with two underaged girls.


5            What are the different points of contention?

1  The priesthood claims, “Priests are superior to laity”.

“A priest who wears this robe is special arid different from lay believers. He is always seated with the Gohonzon behind him, but whatever the priest may do on           other occasions and no matter how luxuriant his lifestyle, it is totally all right. You lay believers are confused about this point.” (Priest Seido Obybu, at Horinji,   January 1991)

“To talk about the priest-hood and laity with a sense of equality are expressions of great conceit. In fact, they correspond to the five cardinal sins…“ (Nichijun Fujimoto, Chief Administrator of Head Temple, January 12, 1991)

“Even if the high priest may make a completely unreasonable demand, the correct attitude for Nichiren           Shoshu lay believers is to simply accept it.  If the high     priest says that something white is black, then it            is black.  If the high priest says that something black is white, it is then white”. (Chief Priest Kensai Tamazawa     of Jufuku-ji temple in Oita Prefecture, January 1991’s oko lecture)

    The SGI states “Priests and laity are equal”.

Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism teaches absolute equality by affirming that all people, regardless of their differences are equally capable of attaining Buddhahood.       Nichiren              Daishonin states in the following Gosho written to Abutsubo, a lay believer :

“You, yourself, are a Thus Come One, who is originally enlightened and endowed with the three enlightened properties. You should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo      with this conviction.” (On the Treasure Tower, WND, p299-300)

“There should be no discrimination among those who propagate the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo in the Latter Day of the Law, be they men or women.”              (The True Aspect of All Phenomena, WND, p385)

2  The priesthood claims, “The high priest is infallible”.

The high priest is infallible because the heritage of the Law is transmitted from Nichiren Daishonin through successive high priests to the present high priest,       therefore he alone possesses a life condition identical to that of Nichiren Daishonin.

    The SGI states, “The high priest is not infallible”.

By assuming the position of high priest does not make him a special being who is infallible, he is a human being just like everyone. This point is clearly shown in the     26 Admonitions of second High Priest Nikko Shonin which states:

“Do not follow even the high priest if he goes against the Buddha’s Law and propounds his own views.” (Article 17 of the 26 Admonitions)

If a high priest is infallible, then Nikko Shonin would not have made such an admonition.

3  The priesthood claims, “High Priest alone inherit the Heritage of the Law”.

The Minobu Transfer Document states: “I. Nicbiren, transfer the entirety of the Law          that I have propagated throughout my life to Byakuren Ajari Nikko…The         order of heritage: From Nichiren to Nikko.”

This statement proves that the high priest alone inherit the Heritage of the Law.

    The SGI states, “All believers can inherit the Heritage of the Law”.

In the Minobu Transfer Document, Nichiren Daishonin designated Nikko Shonin as his legitimate successor who has correctly understood his teachings and            inherited his spirit.              But no where in this document did the Daishonin states that only successive high priest              can inherit the Heritage of the Law.

In fact, the Daishonin teaches that all believers can inherit the Heritage of the Law directly through correct faith and by working with the spirit of many in body           but one in mind (itai doshin) to achieve kosen-rufu.

 Nichiren Daishonin states:

“Be resolved to summon forth the great power of faith and chant Nain-myoho-renge-kyo with the prayer that your faith will be steadfast and correct at the    moment of death.  Never seek any other way to inherit the ultimate Law of life and death, and manifest it in your life.” (The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life,          WND, p218)

“All disciples and lay supporters of Nichiren should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the spirit of many in body but one in mind, transcending all differences among themselves to become as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim. This spiritual bond is the basis for the universal transmission of the ultimate              law of life and death.” (The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life, WND, p217)

4  The priesthood claims, “The SGI has gone against the Daishonin’s teaching by not           revering the Treasure of the Priest”.

The Daishonin states: “The same is true of human beings. When they fall into hell and gasp in its flames, they long to be reborn as humans and vow to put everything else          aside and serve the three treasures in order to gain enlightenment in their next life. But even on the rare occasions when they happen to be reborn in human form, the winds of         fame and  profit blow violently, and the lamp of Buddhist practice is easily extinguished.  Without a qualm they squander their wealth on meaningless trifles, but   begrudge even the smallest contribution to the Buddha, the Law, and the Buddhist Order. This is very serious, for then they are being hindered by messengers from hell.” (Letter to Nikke, WND, p1027)

This Gosho passage show the seriousness of criticizing and not following the priesthood.

    The SGI states, “The Treasure of the Priest does not automatically refer to the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood or Nikken.”.

Although the Daishoriin teaches the importance of revering the Three Treasures, he did not state that the Treasure of the Priest refers to the priesthood or high             priest. The Treasure of the Priest (Buddhist Order) actually refers to one who is correctly practicing the Daishonin’s Buddhism and dedicating his life to the           fulfillment of kosen-rufu.

 Specifically, the Treasure of the Priest refers to the second high priest, Nikko Shonni, the legitimate successor of Nichiren Daishonin who has correctly inherited             the Daishonin’s teachings and spirit. In general, it also refers to the believers of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, whether priest or lay believers who practice      correctly and dedicate their lives to kosen-rufu.

 This point is confirmed by the 66th High Priest Nittatsu Shonin who states: “In Nichiren Shoshu, the Three Treasures, as set forth in the regulations of our school,         are as follows: The Dai-Gohonzon is the Treasure of the Law, the founder Nichiren Daishonin is the Treasure of the Buddha and Nikko Shonin, the second high            priest who directly inherit the lineage of the Daishonin’s teachings, is the Treasure of the Priest…But, in abroad sense, it can be said that priests and lay believers of          Nichiren Shoshu who protect, study and transmit the Buddha’s Law to future generations can be considered as the Treasure of the Priest.” (Dai-Nichiren, July      1977 – a publication of Nichiren Shoshu)

Nikken and the priesthood who slander and denigrate the Daishomn’s Buddhism with their degradation cannot be referred to as the Treasure of the Priest.  To say        that we should revere someone as the Treasure of the Priest simply because he dons the robes of a priest regardless of his actions is too simplistic an interpretation           and go against the spirit of the Daishoriin’s teachings.

5  The priesthood claims, “Performing “Ode to Joy” is a slander”.

By having a choral performance of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” at the meeting constituted an act of promoting non-Buddhist teachings and is a slander.

    The SGI states, “Performing the ‘Ode to Joy’ is not a slander”.


Although the lyrics of ‘Ode to Joy” has some Christian references, it is a widely acknowledged fact that the lyrics is actually paying tribute to the highest potential of the human spirit; a celebration of reason, inner joy and human freedom. These concepts are universal principles that are consistent with the Daishonin’s       Buddhism and should not be seen as a promotion of non-Buddhist teachings.

6  The priesthood claims, “Operation C does not exist”.

There is no plot named “Operation C” made against the Soka Gakkai and SGI. Every action taken by the priesthood was in response to the slanderous acts of the         Soka Gakkai.

    The SGI states, “The actions taken by the priesthood were part of a bigger plan    named “Operation C”.

The actions taken by the priesthood were part of a bigger plan named “Operation C” to disband the Soka Gakkai and the SGI and bring the members of these               organizations directly under the priesthood’s control.

The existence of such a plot was first confirmed by a senior priest in Nichiren Shoshu. Kido Fukuda, the then secretary of the Nichiren Shoshu Overseas         Department sent a fax message on January 1991 to the SGI Headquarters which states, “Late last night when I was typing the manuscript about Operation C…”

This plan was further confirmed by the Chugai Nippo, a scholarly daily published in Kyoto, that concentrates on religious news in Japan. The February 7, 1991             issue of the newspaper reported that the plan Operation C consisted of 4 stages:

(1)    stripping Mr Ikeda of his position as chief lay representative

(2)    causing anxiety in the Soka Gakkai by demanding that Mr Ikeda be stripped of all his responsibilities

(3)    in the event that the Soka Gakkai failed to comply, expel Mr Ikeda from Nichiren Shoshu and sever all ties between Nichiren Shoshu and the Soka                                              Gakkai

(4)    after the split, leave it to the members to decide which organization they want to be part of

When the plan failed to produce its intended effects, the priesthood took more drastic steps like denying members from making pilgrimages to the Head Temple          and stopping the conferral of Gohonzon.

7  The priesthood claims, “The Gohonzons conferred by the SGI on its members are fakes”.

The Gohonzon which the SGI is conferring on its believers are not transcribed by the present high priest, Nikken Shonin, they are printed.  In addition they are not      issued by the head temple and they have not undergo the “eye opening” ceremony. These Gohonzons are therefore counterfeits and do not have the power to           bestow benefits on its practitioners.

    The SGI states, “The Gohonzon conferred by the SGI is in accordance with the    Daishonin’s teachings.”.

Firstly all Gohonzons enshrined in believers’ home temple are printed (okatagi    Gohonzons), including those conferred by Nichiren Shoshu. The Gohonzons from      the head temple are printed from the Gohonzon transcribed by Nikken while the Gohonzons conferred by the SGI are printed from the Gohonzon transcribed     by the 26th high priest, Nichikan Shonin.

There is nothing in the Daishonm’s teachings, which states that believers should only          have okatagi Gohonzon transcribed by the current high priest or that the            Gohonzons can only be issued by the head temple.

Nichikan Shonin is the 26th high priest who is deeply respected as a great restorer of Nichiren Daishonin’s puddhism. Okatagi Gohonzons transcribed by Nichilcan Shonin are therefore legitimate Gohonzons in accordance with the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin.

There is also nothing in the Daishonin’s teachings that states “eye opening” ceremony must be conducted for Gohonzons.  Moreover, there is no mention of such            ceremony in Shakyamuni’s teachings. This ceremony was developed later when people started to make statutes of Buddha. Since these statutes were made by             common people, it was     people who initiated the tradition of having eye-opening ceremony conducted by priests to so-called “give power” to the statute. But the     tradition of “eye-opening” ceremony is not found in Shaykumuni Buddha’s or Nichiren Daishoin’s teachings.

To claim such ceremonies make the Gohonzon legitimate or give power to the Gohonzon goes against the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin because the Daishonin      states that it is only one’s faith that will bring forth the power of the Gohonzon.

In The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon, the Daishonin states,“The Gohonzon also is found only in the two characters for faith.  This is what the sutra means when it    states that one can ‘gain entrance through faith alone’.”(WND, p832)

8  The priesthood claims, “It is wrong to revere Daisaku Ikeda who is a layman as the mentor”.

It is wrong for SGI members to revere Daisaku Ikeda, a layman rather than High Priest     Nikken as the mentor. The high priest is the only person who is equal to   Nichiren Daishonin and he should be revered as the mentor.

    The SGI states, “It is not wrong to respect President Ikeda as the mentor as he is the          one who guides and leads us in the practice and propagation of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism.”

We revere the Cohonzon as the object of worship and Nichiren Daishonin as the original Buddha. This fact will never changed.  But we also respect President       Ikeda as              the mentor who guides and leads us in the practice and propagation of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism.

In the earlier explanation on point 4, regarding the Treasure of the Priest, it is clear that      we should not follow someone simply because he is a priest, but should         instead respect a person who is correctly practicing and dedicating his life to kosen-rufu.

 Although President Ikeda is a layman, he has through his selfless struggles in propagating and protecting Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism shown that he is indeed a              true practitioner who correctly practice the Daishonin’s Buddhism and selflessly strive for kosen-rufu in accordance with the Daishonin’s teachings.

Therefore it is only right that as Daishonin’s disciples who are trying to correctly practice the Daishonin’s Buddhism and fulfill kosen-rufu, we should respect               President Ikeda as our mentor.

On the other hand, if one follows a slanderer who betray the Daishonin’s Buddhism one would become a slanderer as well. Thus it is important we should always             base our              judgement on the criteria of who is practicing in exact accordance with the Daishonin’s teachings.

9  The priesthood claims, “Nikken Shonin out of his concern for the believers has    demolished the Grand Main Temple which had became unsafe”.

The Sho-hondo was structurally unsound because corrosive ocean sand had been used in mixing the temple’s concrete and was weakening the structure’s   reinforcing bars. The roof might collapse at anytime. Stains had appeared on the marble slabs on the pillars fronting the Sho-hondo. This is proof that the               reinforcing bars were rusting.

    The SGI states, “Nikken out of his anger and jealousy of the SGI has destroyed the            Grand Main Temple (Sho-hondo).”

The claims of the priesthood have been strongly refuted by the architects, contractors and all those involved in the construction of the Sho-hondo. These experts              assured that only river sand which is non-corrosive were used. They further stated that the stains can        not be proof that the reinforcing bars are rusting.

In fact the concrete made for the Sho-hondo is of such high standard that Professor           Kiyotaka Kawase of the University of Niigata commented, “So concrete            engineers like myself would often speak of the ‘concrete at Sho-hondo’ whenever we referred to the highest grade of concrete.” Moreover, it has been confirmed              that the steel frame of Sho-hondo is made of shipbuilders steel, which cannot rust even if they were soaked in ocean water.

The quality and beauty of the Sho-hondo is so impressive that it won many awards,           including the Gold Medal Award from the Asian and Pacific Contractors             Association, citation from the American Institute of Architects and another citation from the Institute for Survival Through Design of Europe and the USA.

When plans for destruction of the Sho-hondo was announced, letters of protest poured in from many prominent architects and institutions in USA. A symposium            of over 500 architects was held in Japan and concluded with a resolution calling for the eternal preservation of the Sho-hondo.

Shortly before the destruction, a group of priest responsible for Emyo (a priesthood          publication) tries to take photograph of the reinforcing bar to prove that the        bars were rusting. But to their great surprise, they discovered that the bars were still in good condition.

However ignoring all facts and expert advice and without conducting any scientific analysis or testing, Nikken went ahead with the destruction of the Sho-hondo.           The demolition of Sho-hondo cost some S$60 million and destroyed a rare and priceless cultural and religious monument.

This incomprehensible act was made out of the anger and jealousy of Nikken towards the Soka Gakkai and the SGI whose members selflessly made sincere          donations towards the construction of the Sho-hondo. This is clearly shown when Nilcken ordered that the Dai-Gohonzon be taken out of the Sho-hondo and gave his reason as, “in order to completely refute the grave slanders of Ikeda and others.”

10 The priesthood claims, “Nikken Shonin is the high priest who is equal to Nichiren           Daishonin and we should not question his teachings”.

Please refer to Chapter  3 – A History of Betraying Nichiren Daishonin’s Teachings

    The SGI states, “Nikken is a grave slanderer who go against the Daishonin’s teachings and he expound self-propounded teachings that    contradicts Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism”.

Please refer to Chapter 3 – A History of Betraying Nichiren Daishonin’s Teachings

11 The priesthood did not comment on their predecessors’ history of slanders.

    The SGI states, “The Nichiren Shoshu priesthood has a history of grave slanders against the Daishonin’s teachings.”

During World War II, the priesthood succumbed to the intimidation of the military authorities and accepted Shinto talisman, deleted essential passages from the   Gosho and amended the words of daily prayers to support  the Japanese war efforts. These and numerous other slanderous events are clearly documented in the             historical records of Nichiren Shoshu.

Phase refer to Chapter 3 – A History of Betraying Nichiren Daishonin’s Teachings

12 Nikken denied having commit those outrageous acts in Seattle (the Seattle          Incident).

Please refer to Chapter 4 – The Seattle Incident

    The SGI states, “Nikken is guilty of committing outrageous acts involving prostitutes in 1963 at Seattle, USA”.

Please refer to Chapter 4 – The Seattle Incident

13 The priesthood claims, “Priests are superior to laity. The laity should not criticize the priesthood no matter what the priest may have done”.

Please refer to Chapter 6 – The Behaviour of Nichiren Shoshu priests

    The SGI states, “The degradation and corruption in the priesthood is clearly seen in          the outrageous behaviour of the priests, some of whom have          been found guilty in the courts of law in Japan and overseas.  It is the right and responsibility of lay believers     to report such unbecoming           behaviour and request that the priesthood to correct their behaviour”.

Please refer to Chapter 6 – The Behaviour of Nichiren Shoshu priests

6            Chronology of Events


Date Events

Prior to 1989


Numerous reports continuously been received about the authoritative conduct and misbehaviour of priests.








Nichiren Shoshu announced intention to increase the obligatory offering for Gokaihi (worshipping the Dai-Gohonzon at the Head Temple) by a hefty 43.8%.





Honorary President Ikeda and President Akiya met the 67th High Priest Nikken to request Nichiren Shoshu to withdraw the decision for the increase in obligatory offering as this would increase the financial burden of lay believers.  Their request was turned down.





High Priest Nikken established a tomb for his ancestors at a Zen temple in Fukushima, and conducted a rite there.  His action clearly goes against the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin.







Nichiren Shoshu notified the Soka Gakkai of its intention to increase obligatory offering for receiving the Gohonzon by 100%.  The Soka Gakkai expressed concern and request Nichiren Shoshu to reconsider this decision.





Soka Gakkai highlighted the growing cases of authoritative conduct and misbehaviour of priests and strongly request Nichiren Shoshu to instruct its priests to abide by its code of discipline.  The priesthood were angered by what they considered as act of insubordination of the laity.


A meeting of top senior priests was held.  Operation C was conceived.





Nichiren Shoshu at its regular nation-wide teachers’ seminar for priest instructs all priests to strictly abide by its code of discipline.





Nichiren Shoshu presented Certificate of Appreciation to Honorary President Ikeda during the ceremony commemorating the 700th anniversary of the establishment of the Head Temple.





The Soka Gakkai 35th Headquarters Leaders meeting was held during which a choral rendition of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” was performed.





Nichiren Shoshu submitted 7 questions to the Soka Gakkai.  The questions are based on a surreptitiously obtained tape of the meeting.  The questions accused President Ikeda of criticizing the high priest at the meeting and claimed that the choral performance of “Ode to Joy” amounted to promoting non-Buddhist teachings and is a slander.


Without any discussion Nichiren Shoshu effectively removed Honourary President Ikeda  of his position as Head of Nichiren Shoshu lay organizations and President Akiya and several other Soka Gakkai leaders of their positions as senior lay representatives.


The Soka Gakkai requested that any misunderstanding be resolved through a dialogue but this request was turned down by Nichiren Shoshu.


Because of Nichiren Shoshu’s refusal to have a dialogue, the Soka Gakkai send a letter in which they pointed out inaccuracies in the transcription of the tape.







The then secretary of the Nichiren Shoshu Overseas Department, Kido Fukuda, sent a fax message to the SGI Headquarters which revealed the existence of Operation C.


Nichiren Shoshu admitted to inaccuracies in the transcription of the tape and withdrew four of the questions.  The remaining questions were shown to have been taken out of context and grossly misinterpreted.  Despite this, the priesthood persisted in their plan to remove President Ikeda and the other Soka Gakkai leaders.





Nichiren Shoshu issued a ‘communique” to President Ikeda dismissing his responsibilities of providing guidance in faith for all overseas lay believers.  Subsequently, Nichiren Shoshu send letters to all SGI organizations informing them of this decision.  This signaled the beginning of the Nichiren Shoshu’s danto movement campaign in overseas countries.  (Danto is a term which refer to lay believers who are directly affiliated with the Head Temple. This is a  movement by the priesthood to get members to leave their SGI organizations and follow Nichiren Shoshu.)





Nichiren Shoshu denied permission to all Soka Gakkai and SGI members to make pilgrimage to the Head Temple and canvassed for members to leave the Soka Gakkai and SGI.





The Soka Gakkai and SGI initiated a campaign to collect signatures to petition for the resignation of High Priest Nikken.





Nichiren Shoshu issued “Order of Dissolution” and “Notice of Excommunication” to the Soka Gakkai.


Nichiren Shoshu announced decision to stop the conferral of Gohonzon on Soka Gakkai and SGI members.





High Priest Nikken refused to accept the petition for his resignation which carried the

16,049,638 signatures of members from throughout the world.







Seven priests, consisting six chief priests and one assistant priest, announced their secession from Nichiren Shoshu.  They also announced the formation of an association of priests seeking the reformation of Nichiren Shoshu called, “Association for the Reformation of Nichiren Shoshu”.





Ten young priest submitted their “Letter of Disassociation” to High Priest Nikken and announced the formation of “The Association of Youthful Priest dedicated to the Reformation of Nichiren Shoshu”.






“The Seattle Incident” was uncovered.  The publication, Soka Shimpo reported on the discovery of a disturbing incident that occurred in 1963 when Nikken went to Seattle, USA to conduct Gohonzon conferral ceremony for USA members.  The USA Women Division’s member, Mrs Clow, who was Nikken’s official interpreter, revealed that at that time, she was asked to report to the police station where she found that Nikken had been involved in an incident with some prostitutes.  She had kept this disturbing secret up till then.  Nikken denied the incident and publicly called Mrs Clow a liar.  Nikken claimed that he did not even set foot out of his hotel on that particular night.





Nichiren Shoshu officially expelled Honorary President Ikeda as a lay believer of Nichiren Shoshu.





Mrs Clow filed a libel suit against Nikken for defamation in a court in USA.





Another priest, who is the second son of the late 66th High Priest Nittatsu Shonin, sent a letter of secession from Nichiren Shoshu, in which he disclosed having heard Nikken

personally disclosed that he had in fact went out of the hotel in Seattle for a drink.





Soka Shimpo reported another disturbing news concerning Nikken in which photographs of Nikken surrounded by geisha girls were published.  The Nichiren Shoshu asserted that the photographs were fabrications and filed lawsuits against the Soka Gakkai and President Ikeda for defamation


Nichiren Shoshu illegally set up a temple in South Korea, disguised as a welfare facility.  When the residents in the area discovered this, they staged a strong protest and the incident was given wide coverage in the mass media in South Korea.






The Fujiyama Police charged Nichiren Shoshu for illegally setting up 1350 tombs in its cemetery.








The Soka Gakkai announced the decision to confer upon its members, the Gohonzon transcribed by 26th High Priest Nichikan Shonin.  The decision received the support of the Association for the Reformation of Nichiren Shoshu and The Association of Youthful Priest dedicated to the Reformation of Nichiren Shoshu.


Nichiren Shoshu claimed that the Gohonzons conferred by the Soka Gakkai are counterfeits.






The South Korean authority withdrew permission for the change of use and Nichiren Shoshu failed in their application for a temple in South Korea.






Nichiren Shoshu filed a suit of defamation against the Soka Gakkai in Tokyo for the report of the Seattle Incident.








The Head Temple was found to have disposed of the ashes of deceased members entrusted to their care as part of the contractual agreement made between the temple and the deceased’s families.  Subsequently many Nichiren Shoshu temples were also found to be guilty of such  wrongful acts.  Family members filed suit against the temples and won the cases and Nichiren Shoshu was ordered to pay damages .







The new compilation of the Gosho (writings of Nichiren Daishonin) published by Nichiren Shoshu were found to contained as many as 900 mistakes.


The South Korean court convicted three Nichiren Shoshu priests for illegally bringing into the country large sum of money meant for the building of the temple.






High Priest Nikken declared that he would step down if the court find the Seattle Incident to be true.








The current 48th High Priest of Nichiren Shu (a sect which Nichiren Shoshu has claimed to have deviated from Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism) was allowed by Nichiren Shoshu to pay homage at the Head Temple.






High Priest Nikken announced the demolition of the Grand Reception Hall which were build with the sincere offerings of Soka Gakkai.  The Soka Gakkai’s protests were ignored.






Nikken change his earlier denial and admitted that he has in fact left the hotel in Seattle

to take a walk in downtown and get some drinks.





Mrs Clow testifies in court.  Nikken lawyers tried but failed to demolish Mrs Clow’s testimony.








The Grand Reception Hall was completely demolished.





High Priest Nikken conducted a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a new Reception Hall.






Nichire Shoshu priest Shinga Takigawa, was dispatched to be the resident priest in Singapore to take lead of the various groups of danto believers in the country.



September & October



In the court case on the Seattle Incident, a former Seattle police officer, Mr Sprinkle who was present during the incident in 1963 testified as witness.  Nichiren Shoshu’s lawyers tried but failed to destroy the testimonies of the key witness.  Mr Sprnkle’s testimony substantiated the testimony made by Mrs Clow.


Another Seattle police officer present at the scene at that time, Mr Maley submitted a disposition to the court which support the testimonies made by Mrs Clow and Mr Sprinkle.


These developments further strengthened the proof of the truth of the Seattle Incident.








High Priest Nikken in a special lecture for priests declared that he is equal to the original Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin.







The Tokyo court summons High Priest Nikken to appear in court in regard to the law suit against the Soka Gakkai and President Ikeda.


Thirty priests from the Minobu sect (which Nichiren Shoshu has all along declared to be a sect that slandered Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism) was allowed to visit the Head Temple.


Nichiren Shoshu issued a notice that all members must leave the Soka Gakkai and the SGI by November 30, 1997 or be disqualified from being believers of Nichiren Shoshu.






High Priest Nikken appeared in court.







High Priest Nikken appeared in court for the second time.  Nikken’s testimonies were full of inconsistencies and contradictions.


Three Nichiren Shoshu priests who went to Ghana, Africa to prepare for the temple opening were interrogated by the Ghana Police for more than a hour.  The interrogation came about as a result of the many negative reports in the Ghana’s mass media of Nichiren Shoshu’s dubious activities in Japan and other countries.  As a result of this development, Nikken cancelled his planned visit to Ghana.






Nichiren Shoshu issued notification to transfer the Dai-Gohonzon from the Sho-hondo to the Hoan-den.


Nichiren Shoshu issued a notification for the demolition of Sho-hondo at a estimated

cost of S$60 million.






A Nichiren Shoshu priest, Shinwa Goto who is also a direct disciple of Nikken was arrested by the police in Japan for having sex with two 14-years old girls.  Goto confessed to the crime.


Nichiren Shoshu issued a notification informing the arrest and confession of Goto.


After a six-and-a half year court battle, the Brazil Federal Court ruled that Nichiren Shoshu in Brazil has illegally taken possession of a building belonging to the members of SGI-Brazil.  The Nichiren Shoshu priest and lay believers were evicted from the premises.


June Priest Shinwa Goto was charged with another crime of raping a 16-years old girl.


Nichiren Shoshu issued a notification of Goto’s dismissal from the rank of priest.  It further states that Goto has been severed of all ties as a disciple of Nikken.





The Bureau of Religious Affairs Argentina passed a resolution to strike the name of Nichiren Shoshu’s local organization from its registry.  The gazetted resolution states that “all religious activities of Nichiren Shoshu in Argentina will henceforth be banned.”


The decision was based on two reasons :

1)The Nichiren Shoshu priest resident in Argentina has made remarks, published in its organ paper, that Nobel Peace laureate Mother Theresa was “a devil who led the people to hell.”  This remark was widely reported in the mass media and developed into a social issue.

2)Nichiren Shoshu established an office for propagation without obtaining permission from the relevant authorities.


The Nichiren Shoshu priest in Argentina was expelled from the country.






Nichiren Shoshu announce plans to build a new Ho-an-do at the same site where the Sho-hondo once stood at an estimated cost of S$104 million.


A Hokkeko member (lay believer of Nichiren Shoshu) brought a charge of fraud in Tokyo against a Nichiren Shoshu priest who promised to appoint the believer as a leader if he made a donation of 3 million yen.  After the donation, the believer was not appointed and he made a report to the police.








Ho-on-ji Temple in Japan Chiba prefecture, a major temple belonging to Nichiren Shoshu issued a notice of secession. In the open letter signed by chief priest Kaido Kasamatsu and the three head lay representatives they declared that Nichiren Shoshu practices “high priest worshipping” and has become a place where “genuine faith does not exist when one is compelled or forced to do something”.    Chief Priest Kasamatsu is a disciple of the 66th High Priest Nittatsu Shonin.








On July 7, 1999 in Domei Tsushin, a publication published by the “Association of Priests Concerned About the Reality of Nichiren Shoshu, Dedicated to Protecting of the Law” it was revealed that in 1978, when Nikken was still the study department chief, he commented at a meeting between himself and a senior Nichiren Shoshu priest, Jitoku Kawabe that the Dai-Gohonzon is a fake.  Notes taken of this meeting by Kawabe were made public in Domei Tsushin.






On July 22, 1999 the Tokyo High Court dismissed appeals filed by Nobuko Nobuhira and her husband, Junko Nobuhira, against SGI President Daisaku Ikeda.


The original lawsuit was brought to the Tokyo District Court in June 5, 1996, in which Mrs. Nobuhira alleged that she had been sexually assaulted by Mr. Ikeda in three separate occasions since 1973.  Defense lawyers  submitted strong evidences and sworn testimonies refuting all allegations made and the Tokyo District Court eventually dismissed the Nobuhiras’ allegations in May 1998.  The Nobuhiras then filed an appeal at the Tokyo High Court.  The latest decision of the High Court in dismissing the appeal confirmed the false and fabricated allegations made by the Nobihiras.


Nobuko Nobuhira is a former Soka Gakkai women’s division leader in Hokkaido.  She left the Soka Gakkai more than 6 years ago after she was asked to step down from her position when it was discovered that she and her husband had borrowed and refused to repay more than 50 million yen from ten members whom Mrs. Nobuhira was looking after.  Three of these members sued the Nobuhiras in separate cases.  The civil courts ruled in each case that her husband, in whose name the debts had been made, must repay back the loans.  From November 1992 through May 1996, there were altogether nine court decisions made against the Nobuhiras whereby they were ordered by the court to repay their debts.


August On August 20, Zencho-ji temple in Miyoshi Prefecture in Hiroshima announced its secession from Nichiren Shoshu citing Nikken’s slander against the Dai-Gohonzon as the reason.


In his letter, Zencho-ji temple’s Chief Priest Fujita stated that he has come to the decision to secede upon learning about Nikken’s great heresy in calling the Dai-Gohonzon a counterfeit.  He is of the view that that justice no longer exists in the priesthood.  He explained that the fundamental reason for his secession is to fulfill his responsibility as a priest to relentlessly reprimand Nikken.


He also revealed that the various wrongs committed by Nikken, such as the sudden decision to transfer the Dai-Gohonzon and the destruction of the Sho-hondo are extremely malicious plots of Nichiren Shoshu.  He strongly asked for the earliest possible resignation of Nikken.  He further states that the righteousness of the Daishonin’s Buddhism exists only in the SGI, which is flourishing and developing despite the priesthood issue.




On December 6, 1999 the Tokyo District Court passed its decision which effectively demolished Nichiren Shoshu’s claim that Nikken’s geishas photos were fabrications.  The court states that the Soka Gakkai do not need to publish any public apology and that it can freely make use of the photographs in all its organ papers.








After 27 court sessions over nearly 7 years, the final decision on the Seattle Trial was announced. The Three judges of the Tokyo District Court conclude that the reports that Nikken had asked a prostitute if he can take nude photos of her, that he had sexual intercourse with her and that he then became involved in an argument with the prostitutes over payment to be factual truths The Court also ordered Nichiren Shoshu to pay all court costs.


In the 250-paged judgement on March 21, the court states, “After assessing four statements by Mr Abe we cannot trusts his statements.” In his summary, Chief Judge Shimoda said, “Abe is the center of faith and the highest leader of Nichiren Shoshu.  The factuality of the incident is closely related to his qualification as the highest leader.  Abe himself, stated that he would resign as the high priest if the incident is true…Considering these perspectives, this incident …relates to public interest.”







On April 22, Hisako Hirasawa, wife of the Hokkeko United Federation’s first chairperson, the late Masukichi Hirasawa, wrote a letter admonishing High Priest Nikken Abe for bringing the decline of Nichiren Shoshu.  She cites the destruction of the Grand Reception Hall, the demolition of Sho-Hondo, the Seattle Incident and the extravagant and luxurious life-style of Nikken as indication of the high priest’s degradation.





The case of how Nichiren Shoshu ran foul of the law in Ghana was widely publicized in  The Ghanaian Times (Ghana’s Biggest Selling newspaper).  The Accra Circuit Court has ruled that Madam Beatrice Oyoe Quatey is the rightful owner of a piece of land situated at Sowutuom on which the local branch of Nichiren Shoshu, has constructed its temple.  The court awarded c 1 million damages against the defendants for trespassing on Madam Oyoe’s land.  It also awarded cost of c 1.5 million against the defendants.  The court said the defendants also admitted that when they started developing the land, Madam Oyoe confronted them and  asked them to stop work since they were trespassing on her land but they refused and the matter was taken to the Amasaman District Assembly.





On July 18, the Overseas Bureau Administrator secedes from Nichiren Shoshu and asks Nikken to take responsibility for decline in Head Temple.  Priest Endo Ishida has for the past three years worked closely with Overseas Bureau Chief Kotoku Obayashi on the development of Nichiren Shoshu’s international movement.


In his letter, Mr Ishida asks Nikken to take full responsibility for the decline of the head temple, Taiseki-ji, stating that the pure current of faith has dried up and the spirit of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin have completely been lost.  He cites the high priest’s excessive attachments to monetary offerings and his jealousy of President Ikeda as the main cause for him to destroy the harmonious unity between the priesthood and the laity of the SGI.  He revealed that Nikken do not show any interest in how Nichiren Shoshu temples are being managed in Asia or South America and he do not even care how believers in those countries practice the Daishonin’s Buddhism.


He named Nikken as the embodiment of the Third Powerful Enemy described in the Lotus Sutra who obstructs the progress of kosen-rufu.  Citing the Seattle Incident, the destruction of the Sho-hondo and Nikken’s several luxurious apartments as evidence of the high priest’s degradation, he expresses his conviction that “taking action for justice together with 10 million believers with correct faith is the way to regain the purity of the Fuji School…”