Chapter5 The Behaviour of the Nichiren Shoshu priests
The following are some incidents, revealed by members and priests who have left Nichiren Shoshu, that showed the true nature of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood. These true revelations which are made with reference to actual names, dates and places have been published in the Soka Shimpo and Seikyo Shimbun.
1 Treatment and Erroneous Teachings in Acolytes Training
In 1960, Nichiren Shoshu began a yearly program to recruit candidates for the priesthood. ChiefPriest Yoshikawa (who seceded from Nichiren Shoshu in Feb 1992) was a member of the third class in this program conducted in 1962. In an article published in the Soka Shimpo, he relates how as an acolyte he was mistreated and taught erroneous teachings by his seniors in the head temple. Many other Nichiren Shoshu priests who seceded from the head temple have also revealed similar experiences as acolytes in the head temple.
1.1 Priest don’t need to do shakubuku or chant much daimoku
Chief Priest Yoshikawa related his great shock when he was told that the act of becoming a priest itself proved the depths of faith and therefore as priests they do not need to exert further in their practice. Based on the belief that priests are special and need not exert themselves, they were told by their seniors, “You don’t have to think about deepening your faith from now on. You also don’t have to introduce others to this practice, nor should you chant much daimoku.”
Chief Priest Yoshikawa recalled being admonished for chanting daimoku by a senior priest who said, “Priests should not chant so much daimoku. If lay believers see a priest chanting so diligently, they may wonder what is troubling the priest.” In this way, many acolytes were deceived and taught that it is wrong for priests to chant too much daimoku or exert themselves in practice. Chief Priest Yoshikawa revealed that such erroneous guidance eventually caused almost every acolyte to stop chanting daimoku assiduously within three to six months.
1.2 Acolytes taught to believe that priests are special and have right to despise laity
Chief Priest Yoshikawa said that such teaching also caused the acolytes to think that priests are better than the laity. At the same time, because the senior priests harboured strong jealousy and hatred against the Soka Gakkai and President Ikeda they strongly influenced the young acolytes to also look down, despise and bear hatred against members of the Soka Gakkai. It deteriorated to a state where the future status of an acolyte is determined by how strongly he rebuked the Soka Gakkai.
Chief Priest Yoshikawa concluded that since the seeds of corruption of faith and hatred were sowed in the lives of the acolytes from the beginning it is clear why the entire priesthood holds a fundamental grudge against the Soka Gakkai.
1.3 Physical treatment as Part of Acolytes’ Training
Chief Priest Yoshikawa also revealed that the priesthood created a caste-like system of superior-subordinate relationship in which senior acolytes and priests would physically punish and mistreat the junior acolytes as part of their “training”. Some could not tolerate the suffering and had no choice but to quit.
Chief Priest Yoshikawa explained that as a result of such abuses, acolytes consider such attitudes and behaviour to be correct and the norm in the priesthood. Many acolytes even think that they are special as a result of surviving such harsh treatment. They were made to believe that since their seniors have the right to mistreat them, it is permissible for them when they graduate as priest to be high-handed towards the lay believers.
They also developed the thinking that since they had suffered so much during their training as acolytes, it is only justifiable that they be entitled to enjoy secular indulgences when they graduate as priests, just like their seniors before them.
1.4 Difficulty maintaining Pure Faith
Explaining how he was able to maintain his faith amidst such circumstances, Chief Priest Yoshikawa admitted that he too was initially affected by such negative influences. Fortunately for him, he happened to pick up and read a copy of the Soka Gakkai newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun from where he was deeply touched by “the amazing drama of a believer’s experience in faith”.
From then on, he made it a practice to collect every experience that moved him from the Seikyo Shimbun. He also found over 200 passages from the Gosho emphasizing the importance of chanting daimoku. So he began to chant daimoku assiduously. So as not to arouse the attention of his fellow priests, he would secretly slip into the Gohonzon room unnoticed. The fact that he had to resort to such means just to chant to the Gohonzon reflects the extent in which the priesthood of Nichiren Shoshu has deviated from the path of faith..
Chief Priest Yoshikawa recalled his predicament at that time, “I seriously wondered whether I was strange because I love to chant or are the other priests strange because they do not chant daimoku. As I prayed seriously to the Gohonzon, it became clear to me that the faith of the priests is distorted to the extent that they dislike chanting daimoku.”
1.5 High priest said, “too much daimoku is harmful”!
This conclusion was further confirmed when he heard High Priest Nikken himself gave the following guidance to the acolytes, “…chant daimoku earnestly to the Gohonzon for about 15 minutes…this amount of daimoku is good enough for the practice of the acolyte.” In another guidance, he said, “…chant daimoku for about 30 minutes a day. However if you should chant more than that, daimoku may be harmful to you.” These remarks by the high priest are all printed in past issues of the Dai-Nichiren (the head temple’s monthly magazine).
Chief Priest Yoshikawa added that because the priesthood including the high priest has never persevered in chanting daimoku or introducing others to Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, they have no idea of the difficulties that Soka Gakkai members face in propagating Buddhism, much less any sense of appreciation. Chief Priest Yoshikawa concluded, “The priesthood problem is not an issue between the Soka Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu. It is an issue that stems from the lack of faith on the part of the priesthood.”
2 The outrageous behaviour of high priest Nikken
Assistant priest Yuhan Watanabe send a letter of disassociation to High Priest Nikken on May 18, 1992. In this letter, which was published in the Seikyo Shimbun, he revealed the outrageous behaviour of Nikken:
2.1 Abusing others for his enjoyment
“…you would frequently rant and rave at acolytes and repeatedly beat them with a large ceremonial fan. Then you would snicker inexplicably and go back to your bedroom. Whether your behaviour is calculated or simply an expression of your personality, your nature is clearly cruel and duplicitous – [while maintaining an outward air of dignity] you abuse others while enjoying their reactions…”
2.2 Punishing those who do not obey while Protecting relatives and cronies
“…you have ousted them whenever you suspected they were not following your will. More than 100 acolytes have thus far been expelled…However, the misdeeds of the sons and relatives of executive priests are overlooked and go unpunished.
“For example, Mr. Shokan Hayase, the second son of General Affairs Department Chief Hayase for whom I worked as an assistant priest, is a student of the Fuji Seminary. He seldom attends classes, and when he does, he shows up five minutes before class ends. He frequents red-light districts with other delinquent acolytes.
“On April 20, Mr. Doto Odagiri, the secretary of the Fuji seminary, cautioned Shokan Hayase on his behaviour. Hayase, however, argued with Mr. Odagiri and abruptly committed an incredible act: He punched Mr. Odagiri and then kicked him. Nevertheless, Shokan Hayase has not been punished for this. If the same act were to be committed by one who is not related to any of the influential families within the priesthood, he would have been expelled immediately without a single chance to defend himself.”
“I am also compelled to point out your lack of managerial ability as chief executive of this school…for example, your order forbidding priests to play golf has been completely ignored. Study Department Chief Juken Ohmura installed a putting green for golf on the temple grounds. He and his wife keep their golf clubs in the car trunk and frequent a golf course. Many chief priests argue publicly that golf is good for their health. Many priests questioned the appointment of Mr. Ohmura as Study Department chief in the first place, citing his incompetence in Buddhist study.”
2.3 Condoning Errant and Vile Priests
“There are many chief priests who are not fit for the priesthood. For example, one has served time in prison for being involved in a hit-and-run accident while intoxicated. Another priest’s temple burned to the ground (the Gohonzon included) because of his carelessness. Yet, instead of being demoted, he was allowed to replace the structure with an extravagant temple and living quarters enjoying a lifestyle even more luxurious than before.
A third chief priest sexually exploited youth division members. There are many more examples. These men were appointed by you as chief priests based solely on their position and tenure in the priesthood, with no consideration given to their character or qualifications. I find it hard to believe that you have taken no strict disciplinary measures against these problem priests.”
2.4 Advocating Pleasure Seeking and Indulgence
“In November 1989, you lectured to young priest during the autumn seminar. A young priest who attended the seminar told me that you said to the effect: ‘If you are too serious and know no secular pleasure in youth, you might suddenly indulge in play when you are 40 or so. It is, therefore, recommended that youth experience some pleasure.’…you are developing an unprecedented reputation as a high priest who encourages indolence and indulgence in his students…
Corrupt priests thus develop one after another. There is no denying that many of your priests have caused traffic accidents and committed misdemeanors such as shoplifting. Instead of developing stronger faith, the longer acolytes remain in the priesthood, the more corrupt they become. They expect that once they become certified priests, they will be able to live in comfort. This is the reality of the priesthood at this time.”
2.5 Gross Mismanagement and Cover-up in regard to Misplaced Ashes of the Deceased
“An enormous amount of ashes are kept in the columbarium of the head temple, but little effort is made to preserve them properly. Cleaning is conducted once a year at most. The columbarium is never ventilated even in the rainy season, so that the ashes absorb moisture and even accumulate water inside the urns. Ashes have often been found moldy when the urns are opened.
When I was at the head temple, young 12-year old acolytes who just entered the priesthood were assigned the task of sorting out ashes between those for temporary custody and those for communal burial. Without understanding the solemn responsibility, these young priests carelessly mistook ashes for temporary custody with ashes for communal burial.
This creates serious moral and legal problems. When Mr Yubun Kanai and others in charge of handling the ashes found that some ashes assigned for temporary custody had been misplaced, they stooped to orchestrating a cover-up with the permission of Supervisor Keigo Matsuo. They bought similar urns and stuffed them with the same parts of bones from other people’s ashes that had been consigned for communal burial. When the families came to retrieve the ashes, many received the ashes of complete strangers.”
2.6 A high priest who lives a life of Extravagance and Indulgence
“…it has been revealed that you recently took your whole family and several priests close to you to an exclusive hot springs resort in Okuyugawara. There, clad in a $14,000 silk garment and neglecting gongyo and daimoku, you indulged in extravagant merry-making. Has there ever been a priest who has indulged himself in this way?
Furthermore, you allowed your wife, Masako, to engage in extravagance beyond anyone’s imagination. You planned to build a US$15 million mansion with an indoor swimming pool for yourself.
Nichiren daishonin states, ‘Law-devouring hungry spirits renounce the world to spread Buddhism only because they think that if they preach the Law, people will respect them.’ (MW-4, 93). Your hedonism identifies you as a “law-devouring hungry spirit” who is attempting to monopolize the Daishonin’s Buddhism and use your status as high priest to ensure the financial prosperity of your family and immediate supporters.”
3 Intolerable Discrimination
Priest Yumo Matsuoka in his “Letter of Separation” addressed to High Priest Nikken wrote about his experiences within the priesthood. The letter was published in the Seikyo Shimbun in April 1992. The following are excerpts from his letter:
3.1 Priesthood believes Status and Seniority give rights to be negligent and indolent in practice
“The priesthood tends to justify slanderous indolence on the part 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 the entire priesthood.
I know of a priest who after staying up drinking all night, he stumbled over the words of the gongyo. As soon as he finished, he declared: “Ah, I’m a bit tired,” and, tossing his prayer beads aside, throw himself on the floor of Mutsubo Hall and lay there snoring in full robe and surplice. Yet he was never reprimanded about this.
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.”
3.2 Priests’ lectures not based on Daishonin’s Buddhism
“Chief priests tediously propound empty ideas and theories based upon questionable commentaries 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…they complicate and cloud the simple truth by mystifying the Gosho.”
3.3 The Fearsome Fury of the Nikken
“When I was an acolyte, I was once responsible for opening and closing a gate for your [Nikken] procession. After closing the gate, I followed a little behind the procession. When you spotted me, you screamed, ‘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…
I also remember your insane fury toward a young priest, Mr. Doshi Kojima. 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 in the head temple. They were standing by as the door to the High Sanctuary was still closed. Everyone was surprised and 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 toward you, and you began hitting him on the head repeatedly with your fan. ‘What the hell are you doing?’ you yelled. ‘Why haven’t you already opened the door [to the High Sanctuary]? What’s the matter with you?’ You kept yelling at Mr. Kojima like a machine gun. The other chief priests in the room were completely dumbstruck. All I could do was hold my breath and watch.
Why do you behave like this? The answer is that you take anything that goes against your will as a personal humiliation and an affront to your pride.”
3.4 Extravagance and Nepotism are rife in the Priesthood
“In the priesthood today, senior executives’ wives are more influential than ordinary priests; a few influential priests’ 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. One cannot deny the senior priests’ indulgence in extravagant lifestyles.
“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 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. One must question the necessity of throwing extravagant parties in places 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.”
“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 practising 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.”
4 Money Seeking Attitude of Priests
4.1 Offerings as a Source of Money for Priests
Chief Priest Kokudo Kanno revealed in an interview with Seikyo Shimbun in July 1992, “Whenever two or three priests get together, their discussion would often goes as follows: ‘How many funeral ceremonies on the average do you have per month? Are you getting substantial offerings? What about memorial services? How much are you making in offerings?” The priests see times of mourning for the believers as a means of making money. They also say such things as “How many toba (wooden memorial) tablets are they going to offer? How much do you make at your oko lectures?” …Though Nichiren Shoshu priests wear sacred robes, their state of life is based in the world of Animality.”
4.2 Soliciting Offerings by providing Application Forms for Priest’s Prayers
The following is an excerpt from a Letter of Protest send to High Priest Nikken on January 12, 1991 from the Women’s Division of Shikoku that highlights the money seeking behaviour of Nichiren Shoshu priests. This letter was also published in the January 13 issue of Seikyo Shimbun.
“At our local temples are some application forms to request specific prayers for recovery from illness, easy birth, success in examination, employment, no accidents during a trip or sailing, or the successful opening of a business. (Editor’s note: Monetary donations are given for prayers from priests) Is this system based on your direction, or is it in accord with the direction of the Administrative Office of Nichiren Shoshu? In the Gosho, Nichiren Daishonin states, “‘The stronger one’s faith, the greater the gods’ protection.’ So long as one maintains firm faith, he is certain to receive the great protection of the gods” (MW-3, 198)…According to these passages, the important thing is our individual faith in the Gohonzon. In other words it is vital to offer strong prayer and to deepen our faith…In this light, we would like to ask that, instead of soliciting requests for prayers for the fulfillment of various desires, priests should gave guidance about the basic attitude in faith that one should have in praying to the Gohonzon for the solution to his own problems.”
“Also some priests drive expensive foreign cars, indicative of a material abundance hardly within the reach of us ordinary people. Last summer, the Nichiren Shoshu Administrative Office issued a notice, we understands, that reads, “Each priest must consider his status and refrain from a luxurious lifestyle in choosing a car, taking into consideration the price and the kind of car.” The priests’ lifestyle is far more luxurious than you expect. Do you really know what kind of lifestyle your priests are leading?”
4.3 Chief Priest profit from Buddhist study and religious services
In an article published in the February 8, 1991 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Kanagawa Prefecture joint chief Mr. Yoshitaka Oba revealed how Nichiren Shoshu priests seek to profit from Buddhist study and religious services. The following are some excerpts from the article:
“Chief Priest Eijun Ishii of Hosho-ji temple in Kanagawa Prefecture seems to exploit the oko lecture as a means of collecting donations. For instance, when members of longstanding practice apply to receive a new, replacement Gohonzon, he obliges them to attend his oko lecture for six months to one year while he keeps their old Gohonzon. (Editor’s note: Monetary donations are given to attend oko lecture) In the meantime, applicants must practice without a Gohonzon.”
“Those believers who apply to have repairs made to the frame of the Gohonzon are also required to attend his oko lecture for several months. The number of times they have to attend his oko lecture depends on how often they have attended previous lectures.”
“In fact, Chief priest Ishii has been known to tell members whose Gohonzon he has repaired, ‘If you attend my oko lectures for one year, I will exchange your present Gohonzon for a new one.’”
“There are other examples of the emphasis Chief Priest Ishii places on monetary donations. To a member who had made a sincere offering of fruit for the lecture each month, he said, ‘Why don’t you make offerings in the form of money?’
“On another occasion, he refused to attend a funeral ceremony for a person who had been living on social security. He explained, as if it were quite reasonable, saying, ‘Because it costs money to have a funeral, his family didn’t need to overexert themselves to have a funeral ceremony.’ If the family cannot afford to hold a funeral service, isn’t it a priest’s mission to visit the family and chant for the deceased? His refusal to do so strongly suggests that the real reason he does not conduct funeral service for poor people is because he does not expect to get much offering from such a family.”
4.4 Chief Priest who possesses Expensive Country Club Membership and refused to perform Memorial Service
SGI General Director Eiichi Wada contributed an article in the March 3, 1991 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun which revealed the indulgence and base behaviour of Chief priest Koei Toyoda of the Honden-ji temple in Osaka. The following are some excerpts from this article.
“This chief priest possesses a membership at a very prestigious country club in Shimonoseki that is valued at some 30 million yen. On the country club’s membership roster, his name, Koei Toyoda, is listed with his workplace shown as Sumire Shoten. Actually, the address of this company is identical to that of his temple. Of course, at this address, no such company exists. Apparently Chief Priest Toyoda is adverse to people finding out that a priest of Nichiren Shoshu is a member of this prestigious golf club. He gave a fictitious name for his workplace to camouflage this fact.
“At an oko lecture last spring, Chief Priest Toyoda said in a way that intimidated believers: “Some of you don’t come to the temple very often. Yet you ask me to come to a vigil for a deceased family member or come to your house to conduct a memorial service for a deceased relative. Well, go ahead and ask, but I won’t go to such events if you don’t come to the temple very often. Whenever you make offerings at oko lecture, we always give you some small item as a token of our appreciation. Well, you’d better save the wrapping paper. If you can show me that you’ve collected three to five wrappings, then I’ll come to your home to perform a vigil or memorial service. If you successfully collect ten of them, we’ll even give you a longer posthumous Buddhist name.
“At one funeral service he conducted in 1989, despite more than 150 people still waiting to offer incense for the deceased, he suddenly took down the Gohonzon enshrined for the occasion and abruptly left the site. The participants were astonished by his incomprehensible behaviour. The next day, a local leader contacted him and asked him about it. The chief priest, showing no sign of remorse, said, “I had already perform the service for the deceased, so there was no reason to stay there.”
4.5 Nichiren Shoshu’s Priests Profit from Self-propounded Teachings on toba
Traditionally, it has been a common custom in all Buddhist sects in Japan for believers to offer toba (wooden memorial tablets) for the repose of the deceased. However such practices are not found in Buddhist practice in other countries. The Nichiren Shoshu priesthood has adopted this custom although the Gosho do not even mention such a practice.
Using this practice as a means to make money from the donations, the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood has created their own self-propounded views of the importance of toba. In a series of articles published in the Seikyo Shimbun from February 17 to March 4, 1991, Vice President Okitsugu Wada revealed how Nichiren Shoshu priests profited from this practice of offering toba. The following are excerpts from these articles.
“Chief Priest Jun’ei Yasuzawa of Jissho-ji temple in Ehime Prefecture, urges believers to offer one toba for each deceased ancestors instead of just one toba for their entire ancestry. He asked believers to offer toba even for deceased individuals who are not their relatives…The truth is that Chief Priest Yasuzawa, through receiving the members’ donations, has “benefited” greatly from toba offerings. Indeed, so much so that he has bought expensive memberships at two prestigious golf clubs…To enhance the importance of toba, this priest compares it with the Dai-Gohonzon, noting that both are made of wood and have characters inscribed on them. It is ridiculous to say that the Dai-Gohonzon inscribed by the original Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin and the toba written by priests are of comparable significance.
“In Shikoku, there are some priests who say that you should offer sixty toba tablets within the first forty-nine days after the funeral of a deceased family member. Other priests insist that you should offer five toba every seven days until the hundredth (more than 70 toba in all) after the death of a family member. Still others recommended the so-called “eight toba” service in which the surviving members of the deceased person’s family offer eight tablets all at once at the funeral ceremony – one each for the seven-day periods during the first 49 days, plus one for the hundredth day…Some priests use the same tablets repeatedly, shaving off the used surfaces each time until they become to filmsy to use…It saddens us to see priests make a business out of religion.
“Chief Priest Shindo Ito of Horaku-ji temple in Ehime Prefecture often says, ‘So-and-so in your family died in great suffering. His suffering manifests itself in the lives of those of you descendants who are weak. That is why you are suffering now. But you can cure your suffering by offering toba for this particular deceased ancestor who is still obviously suffering in death.’ Furthermore, to those who may have lost family members due to an accident or disaster, Chief Priest Ito has been known to say, ‘You have experienced such a mishap because you have neglected to make toba offerings for the repose of your ancestors.’
“Chief priest Jodo Hachiya of Hoko-ji temple in Iwate Prefecture, is reported to often say: ‘Toba offerings should be made by every individual members of the bereaved family. It is regrettable to see only the chief mourner applying for them. You should make toba offerings, even if you must borrow the money to do so’.
“There are also instances where priests said, ‘Unless you make toba offerings, your ancestors will not attain enlightenment’ (from a chief priest in Shikoku)…’ or ‘Instead of paying monthly, please apply for the entire year now…’ (from a priest in Hokkaido)… or ‘Because I am going to inscribe tablets for your deceased relative each month on the appropriate date, please pay in advance for the entire year.’ (from a priest in Chubu)…
“Priest Yakudo Suzuki of Kakuho-ji temple in Yamanashi Prefecture told a believer whose pet cat had just died: ‘You had better offer a memorial tablet for your cat on the seventh, thirty-fifth, forty-ninth and one hundredth day after its death, as well as on the date of its death each succeeding month. The thirty-fifth day, in particular, is very important and you must not miss offering a tablet on that day.
“Assistant Chief Priest Yukei Kubota of Myosho-ji temple said, ‘The temple is like a bank, the priest is like a bank clerk, and the practice of offering toba is like using a bank’s online service.’ According to Assistant Chief Priest Kubota, just praying for the repose of the deceased is not good enough. Instead he emphasizes the importance of ‘remitting money’ or offering many toba. He also hints that the deceased will enjoy peaceful repose only if ‘money is sent’ by each surviving family members.
“Such doctrinal distortions are found not only in the statements of priests, but also appear in a book, The Events of Nichiren Shoshu, that was published by the study department of the Nichiren Shoshu Administrative Office. The Administrative Office is supposed to set standards for the priesthood and the laity, but the book contains serious mistakes in explaining the significance of memorial tablets…It says, ‘Many sutras expound the benefit that comes from erecting a stupa and conducting a memorial service,’ and continues, ‘By having a toba memorial service performed, a person can prolong his own life and accumulate tremendous benefits. He will foresee the future and will gradually be free of suffering and hardship. He will constantly receive the Buddha’s mercy. In terms of Buddhism, especially the teaching of the Daishonin, the significance of erecting memorial tablet is truly profound.’”
Vice President Wada’s concluded, “It is obviously wrong and contrary to the spirit of Buddhism for chief priest in local temple to pressure lay believers to offer as many toba as possible, or to say that the repose of the deceased is determined by the number of memorial tablets inscribed. Fundamentally it is our sincere attitude in doing gongyo and chanting daimoku to the Gohonzon with heartfelt prayer that brings about the repose of the deceased person.”
4.6 Altering the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin regarding ceremonies for the purpose of seeking donations
To seek monetary donations, the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood led by its high priest altered the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin regarding ceremonies such as funerals, memorial tablets and the giving of posthumous Buddhist names.
The Nikken’s Order of Dissolution to the Soka Gakkai issued in 1991 states, “None of this sect’s traditional practices or ceremonies have changed in essence in the slightest since the time of Nichiren Daishonin.” But this statement is a complete distortion of the truth. Not only are the necessity of such ceremonies not found in the Gosho, the present ceremonies such as funerals, memorial services and the giving of posthumous names were not set by Nichiren Daishonin himself, but were created later. This is an undeniable fact.
For example, there is no evidence in the Daishonin’s writings that lay believers received posthumous Buddhist names. In fact, posthumous Buddhist names became prevalent in Japan only in the 14th or 15th century. It is thus untrue that such a practice has remained unchanged since the Daishonin’s time or that such a practice is indispensable for the deceased’s enlightenment as claimed by the priesthood.
In regard to funeral service, Nikken states, “The funeral ceremony conducted in Nichiren Shoshu is a very significant ceremony in which we help the deceased person…to achieve the great objective of attaining Buddhahood as they are.” He further states, “Even a person who has achieved the correct frame of mind at the time of his death cannot attain enlightenment unless the priesthood conducts a funeral ceremony for him. At the same time, even a person who could not achieve the correct frame of mind at the time of their death can attain enlightenment, thanks to the funeral ceremony the priesthood conducts.”
However such teachings are found nowhere in the Daishonin’s Gosho. Moreover, in the 70s and 80s, before the outbreak of the temple issue, overseas members conducted the funeral service of their deceased members without the presence of the priests. In those days, Nichiren Shoshu did not said even a single word to suggest that funeral services performed by lay believers were wrong. Even when they went to overseas countries to conduct Gohonzon conferral ceremony, they remained silent. Yet at this time, Nikken can state, “There is no question that the deceased will definitely fall into hell with no chance to attain enlightenment as a common mortal because of the wrong way Gakkai members conduct funeral services.”
How cruel and manipulative these statements are. If the funeral ceremony conducted by priests is so indispensable for the deceased to attain enlightenment, then the Daishonin would definitely have expounded its significance very strongly and in great detail in the Gosho. Yet we do not find even a single sentence to this effect in the Daishonin’s Gosho.
In truth, such teachings are great alteration of the Daishonin’s teachings which clearly teaches that it is one ‘s faith which determine one’s enlightenment while alive and in death. For example, the Daishonin wrote to the wife of Lord Ueno, “Since your deceased husband was a votary of this sutra, he doubtless attained Buddhahood as he was.” (WND, p458) In the same Gosho, the Daishonin also states, “When he was alive, he was a Buddha in life, and now he is a Buddha in death. He is a Buddha in both life and death’ (WND, p456).
5 Priesthood’s Support of Japan’s War Efforts during World War II
When World War II broke out, instead of upholding the Buddhist teaching of pacifism and respect for dignity of life, the Nichiren Daishonin’s priesthood, fearing governmental oppression, supported and encouraged its believers to support the war. The following factual events show the priesthood’s strong support of the war efforts of Japan:
1 On December 8, 1941, the day when Japan bombed Pearl Harbour and started the Pacific war, Nichiren Shoshu’s 62nd High Priest Nikkyo issued the following communique:
“Today His Majesty [Emperor Hirihito] declared war on the United States of America and the United Kingdom. I can hardly suppress my awe and joy at this… I asked that all believers summon forth the faith and practice they assiduously developed thus far and ensure victory in this great, unprecedented battle, through their resolve to endure any hardship and exert their utmost in their respective positions and capacities.”
2 In appreciation of the Nichiren Shoshu’s strong support of the war, the then Japanese Minister of Navy, presented a certificate of Commendation which reads:
To Nichiren Shoshu
Certificate of Commendation
Upon receiving the financial contributions for the repletion of national defense at the time of the War of the Great East Asia we hereby express our profound appreciation.
Minister of the Navy
3 After the outbreak of the Pacific war, each year all priests at the head temple led by High Priest Nikkyo prayed for Japan’s “victory in the War of the Great East Asia” and the “eternal good fortune” of the Japan’s Imperial Army at the New Year ceremony to worship the Dai-Gohonzon. The priesthood also started a special service to pray for Japan’s victory on the eighth of every month – the anniversary of the Pearl Harbour bombing.
4 In November 1942, the priesthood established the ‘Organization of Nichiren Shoshu Believers Dedicate to the Support of the Nation”. As recorded in the priesthood’s publication, Dai-Nichiren, this organization solicit financial contributions for national ‘defense’, indoctrinated priests and lay believers with nationalistic beliefs ‘to crush and eliminate the Americans and the British,’ and sponsored nationalistic lectures by military officials.
5 In 1943, the Nichiren Administrative Office issued the following memorandum regarding changing the scroll-airing ceremony to a prayer meeting for Japan’s victory in the war. The memorandum reads:
To all Nichiren Shoshu affiliates:
Instead of conducting the scroll-airing ceremony, this year the head temple will hold the Grand National Ceremony to pray for victory in the sacred war, the increase and spread of the nation’s majesty, the eternal good fortune of the Imperial Army, and the defeat of the American and British enemies during the week of March 28-April 3.
6 The priesthood, in fear of governmental oppression, supported the military regime’s promotion of Shintoism and loyalty to the emperor by distorting and altering the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin. The priesthood deleted as many as 500 passages from the Gosho.
7 In August 1941, Nichiren Shoshu issued a memorandum regarding a revision of silent prayers in the gongyo promoting Shintoism and praising the Sun Goddess and reverence for the emperor. The revised first prayer reads:
I humbly thank the Sun Goddess, the ancestor of the emperor, and all emperors of the successive reigns since the time of first Emperor Jimmu for the great debt of gratitude I owe to them. I also offer benefits that I derive from the Law to gods of the sun and moon and all other deities – the guardians of the Empire. I sincerely wish that they mercifully accept my offerings.
8 In January 1942, Chief Priest Kocho Kakinuma of Yahata temple in Kyushu consecrated and donated metal Buddhist accessories for munitions. Mr. Kakinuma stated, “If [the Buddhist accessories] become bullets for soldiers’ rifles, these bullets shall be the ones that kill [enemy soldiers] with a single shot, thus ‘crushing the evil and revealing the truth.’” He further stated that he “sincerely offered prayer” to the Gohonzon for this to happen.
9 In September 1942, the head temple sponsored a bayonet-fencing tournament for students of the Ueno Village Youth School on the playground of the Fuji seminary. The priesthood publication, Dai-Nichiren explains the event’s significance as training students to kill enemy soldiers with a ‘relentless spirit’ in case of ‘an airborne landing of the demons and beasts from the United States and United Kingdom.”
10 On page 8 of the January 1944 Dai-Nichiren there is an article soliciting financial contributions for munitions. The article states, “We need weapons to blow [American and British soldiers] heads off at very opportunity available.” It also asks those who wish to make donations to Accounting Section Chief Jikan Maekawan of the “Organization Dedicated to the service of the Nation” located within Nichiren Shoshu
11 When the military regime forced the people to accept the Shinto’s talisman, the priesthood cowardly surrendered to the government’s demand and enshrined Shinto altar in one of the Head temple’s buildings. Nichiren Shoshu also compelled its believers to accept Shinto talisman. Courageously defying the priesthood’s and government’s orders, President Makiguchi, Josei Toda and several Soka Gakkai’s leaders were imprisoned as a result.
6 Nichiren Shoshu Unremorseful of Predecessor’s Support for the War
In March 1991, in response to the Soka Gakkai’s criticism of the Nichiren Shoshu’s past support of the war, the [Nichiren Shoshu] Committee on Current Affairs, which represent the position of current priesthood, issued a document titled, “Nichiren Shoshu and Its Responsibility for War”. The document states:
“It cannot be said that Nichiren Shoshu’s support of war was more aggressive than the average sentiments shared among general public…
The priesthood followed the government policy on surface in order to protect the Dai-Gohonzon – the fundamental object of worship for the salvation of the people – and transmit the correct faith for all people as well as not to allow the secret doctrine that had been transmitted from Nichiren Daishonin to be destroyed and defiled by the military regime’s oppression and the Minobu sect’s ambition. In reality, however, the priesthood nullified the government policy.”
From these statements, it is obvious that the current Nichiren Shoshu is not only unapologetic about its predecessor’s actions but in fact, it endorses and supports them.
Firstly it is questionable whether the priesthood at that time were truly acting for the sake of protecting the Dai-Gohonzon and the Daishonin’s teachings or are these explanations simply a lame excuse to cover up the priesthood’s slanderous and cowardly acts. From the many ways that the priesthood had actively contributed to the war efforts and the passionate words of High Priest Nikkyo, they gave the impression that they are not reluctant nor passive supporters of the war.
In addition, although the priesthood uttered words like “protect the Dai-Gohonzon” and “not to allow… doctrine… from Nichiren Daishonin to be destroyed…” the fact remains that, pandering to the wishes of the military regime, the priesthood has committed one slanderous act after another.
Despite all its efforts to protect itself, a huge fire broke out in the Head Temple in 1945 and reduced many buildings to ashes and Nikkyo was burnt to death in the fire.
Secondly, it is preposterous for people who claimed to be disciples of Nichiren Daishonin, to say that they were no “more aggressive than the average sentiments shared among general public,” or that they “followed the government policy on surface.” Are not the priests supposed to possess the kind of courageous and dedicated faith to protect the purity of Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings, which should then distinguish their spirit from “the average sentiments shared among the general public”?
Instead it is the cowardly priesthood who has made use of and slandered the Daishonin’s teachings to protect themselves. Nichiren Daishonin courageously remonstrated with the evil military and religious authorities of his times without any thought for his own safety. While the priesthood has betrayed this spirit, it was President Makiguchi who died in prison while protecting the purity of the Daishonin’s teachings.
Thirdly, Nichiren Shoshu has not once, whether in the past or the present, expresses any regret or issues any apology for its past contributions for the war efforts. Even slanderous sects like the Minobu sect and Pure Land sect have expressed regrets of their past mistakes in supporting the war.
After the war in 1947, the Minobu sect expressed regret over the deletion from the Daishonin’s writings stating, “Those who delete passages as they please from the founder’s writings—his blood and soul—shall be known as the ones who have committed one of the five cardinal sins…Taking this opportunity we reflect and change our past attitude.”
Some 9 years ago, the Pure Land sect, in response to antiwar sentiments and the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbour, acknowledged its responsibility for supporting the war and issued an official apology.
On the other hand, Nichiren Shoshu has not issued any official apology, but has instead unashamedly endorsed and supported the actions of its predecessors. This is the true nature of the evil and slanderous Nichiren Shoshu priesthood.
The facts and truth speaks for themselves. Clearly, the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood has proven through their own behaviour that they are the in fact manifestations of evil priests as described in the sutras and the Goshos. They signify the appearance of the three powerful enemies of Buddhism.
Nichiren Daishonin states, “The votaries born in the Latter Day of the Law who propagate the Lotus Sutra will encounter the three types of enemies, who will cause them to be exiled and even condemn them to death. Yet Shakyamuni Buddha will enfold in his robe of mercy those who nonetheless persevere in propagating. Heavenly gods will make them offerings, support them with their shoulders and carry them on their backs. They possess great roots of goodness and deserve to be great leaders for all living beings.” (WND, p385)
In courageously taking action to refute the evil priesthood of Nichiren Shoshu, the SGI members has proven that we are in fact the true practitioners of the Daishonin’s Buddhism and the true votaries of the Lotus Sutra. Just as the Daishonin states, in persevering with this difficult challenge, we in the SGI will receive the protection of the Buddhist gods and accumulate supreme good fortune.