Part 14. The Time When the Law Is Being Lost.

High Priest Nittatsu Hosoi’s Mentor Did Not Transfer the Heritage of Nichiren Shoshu to His Successor

The Soka Gakkai became a gigantic organization in Japanese society and gained attention from all over the world. At the same time, there was a religious sect that, because it was a narrow-minded, closed society, did not appreciate the Gakkai’s development very much. This group thought that it was only a matter of course that the organization be embraced, because the Law is worthy of respect. Needless to say, this religious group was Nichiren Shoshu headed by High Priest Nittatsu Hosoi.

It was because of the development of the Soka Gakkai, that the prosperity of Nichiren Shoshu existed — but the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood could not understand such simple cause and effect. They had the biased perspective that, since they are priests, they are eternally and essentially superior to lay believers. This mental distortion was the basis of arrogance on the part of the priesthood. Although Nichiren Shoshu priests theoretically understand the Buddhist principle that it is necessary to wear the armor of forbearance to promote kosen-rufu in the world, they could not apply it to themselves. Instead, they imposed this principle solely upon the laity, while they dwelled in an isolated world of their own righteousness. In this regard, the “oneness between priesthood and laity” signified the laity’s unilateral obedience to the priesthood.

The lay organization carried out a powerful movement of propagation, achieving a total membership of ten million people. On the other hand, the priesthood consisted of less than one thousand priests. The priests became suspicious that the lay organization’s development might undermine the reason for the priests’ existence. The priesthood chose to control President Ikeda, the lay leader of kosen-rufu, using the power of religious authority instead of extending compassion to him. Most disgusting and least worthy of respect (among other things) was the fact that young priests in their 20’s began to look down upon lay believers, relying on the power of their religious authority. This phenomenon was so grave that it affected the foundation of Nichiren Shoshu.

The high priest, the chief administrator of the school, was supposed to have unshakable belief. But he knew, based upon observation of his predecessors, that his position within the sect as high priest would not be eternally secure. In fact, the position of high priest within Nichiren Shoshu was a very unstable one from the viewpoint of the school’s history.

The mentor of High Priest Nittatsu was Nissho Abe, the 57th high priest of Taiseki-ji. From the viewpoint of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, Nissho Abe was a notorious slanderer. On October 13, 1922, Nissho Abe went to the Imperial Household Agency together with the chief administrators of various Nichiren sects to ask the government to bestow upon Nichiren Daishonin the title of “Rissho the Great.” As a result, the Imperial Household Agency did confer such a document of declaration. This was an insult to the Daishonin who was persecuted by the Japanese government of his time. And the designation that was given to him made him the equivalent of many of those who slandered and attacked him and the Lotus Sutra. After this declaration from the government, the Nichiren sect priests all went to Suikosha in Tsukiji, Tokyo, and did gongyo together, led by Nichiren Shu Chief Administrator Nichi’en Isono.

Nissho Abe died from tongue cancer in Okitsu, Shizuoka prefecture, where he was resting to recuperate. At that time, Nissho Abe could neither designate his successor nor transfer to him the heritage of Nichiren Shoshu.

Based upon the “Rules of Nichiren Shoshu,” Nitchu Tsuchiya, who was the head of study within Nichiren Shoshu, became the 58th high priest of Taiseki-ji. Nissho Abe could not transfer the heritage of Nichiren Shoshu to Nitchu because Nissho was surrounded by followers of Ho’un Abe (later Nikkai Shonin and Nikken’s father) who was vying for the position of high priest. It can be said that Nissho Abe, though he was allegedly recuperating in Okitsu, was in fact held in a rented house at the hands of Ho’un Abe and his followers.

High Priest Nittatsu wrote about Nissho Abe’s inability to transfer the heritage to his successor in his book, Akusho ita honzon gisaku ron o funsai su(Refuting the Evil Book of the Theory of the Wooden Gohonzon’s Being Counterfeit). This book was compiled and published in 1956 by the Nichiren Shoshu Propagation Association represented by Seido Hosoi (later High Priest Nittatsu Hosoi).

One passage states: “High Priest Nissho Abe, keeping all others away from him, privately invited two lay persons, Kotsu Naka and Umetaro Makino, and entrusted every matter of Nichiren Shoshu upon them. Thus, Nissho Abe was able to connect Nitchu Tsuchiya with himself through the auspices of these two lay believers.”

In writing this book, High Priest Nittatsu consulted those associated with Nissho Abe to make sure that everyone was in agreement regarding the transference of the heritage of Nichiren Shoshu through the services of the two lay believers. It may be safe to say that High Priest Nittatsu did not want to include in the history of Nichiren Shoshu that his mentor could not legitimately transfer the heritage to his successor.

Nitchu Tsuchiya Rejects the Heritage

Nitchu Tsuchiya, who became the 58th high priest of Nichiren Shoshu based upon its Rules, was requested to resign from his position by some executive priests. These high-ranking priests wrote him a letter recommending that he resign; in addition, all sorts of people at the head temple harassed Nitchu Tsuchiya. For example, something exploded at a reception hall during his gongyo there. Also, on another occasion, somebody threw stones or tiles at the reception hall. These eerie incidents compelled him to write a letter of resignation in November 1925.

The anti-Tsuchiya group went to the Religion Bureau of the Ministry of Education to submit Nitchu’s letter of resignation. However, representative lay leaders, who had heard of the anti-Tsuchiya group’s maneuvering, also went to the Religion Bureau to make their opinion known. The Religion Bureau took the internal situation of Nichiren Shoshu seriously, and ordered the priesthood to submit an official document declaring its disbelief in its high priest and another document recommending his resignation. There was concern that an incident of usurpation by subordinates taking place in one religious school might affect the entire Japanese religious society.

However, the two documents requested were already in the hands of Taiseki-ji’s chief lay representative, who was angry that other temples’ priests were applying pressure to replace the current high priest of Nichiren Shoshu. The chief lay representative refused to return the documents to the executive priests of Nichiren Shoshu.

In the long run, these two documents were safely submitted to the Religion Bureau. During a meeting with Nitchu Tsuchiya and the Uenomura Village mayor, it was agreed that the documents be returned from Taiseki-ji’s chief lay leader to the executives of Nichiren Shoshu. Those who had agreed upon the recommendation of resignation signed a letter of apology to High Priest Nitchu.

However, some lay believers were upset that the supreme high priest of the sect was being politically forced out from his position. Their protest affected Nichiren Shoshu’s situation in Tokyo.

The Religion Bureau was responsible for the confusion within Nichiren Shoshu and it ordered Nichiren Shoshu to elect its next high priest through voting. However, more complications ensued: Inspired by the lay believers’ support of him, Nitchu wrote a document declaring that, regardless of the result of the election, he would transfer the heritage of Nichiren Shoshu only to a person he chose.

Because of the order of the Religion Bureau, the election was carried out, and the result was:

Jirin (Nichiko) Hori: 82

Shudo Mizutani (Nichiryu): 51

Kogo Arimoto: 49

Nitchu Tsuchiya: 3

The incumbent high priest Tsuchiya suffered a landslide loss. Jirin Hori, who had run for election despite his initial unwillingness to do so, won and became the 59th high priest.

However, Nitchu Tsuchiya was not happy at all about the election results. He filed a complaint to the Omiya Police (currently the Fujinomiya Police), claiming that he was forced to write a letter of resignation. Many Nichiren Shoshu executive priests (including Jimon Ogasawara) were investigated and a police report on two priests was sent to the public prosecutor. During this turmoil, a transfer ceremony was conducted at Taiseki-ji between Nitchu Tsuchiya and Jirin Hori on March 8, 1926, but the ceremony did not go smoothly.

Nitchu Tsuchiya remained in Tokyo where he had a number of supporters, and he did not show any sign of visiting the head temple to conduct a transfer ceremony. The ceremony was finally conducted with an agreement that Nitchu Tsuchiya should receive a payoff of something like 3,000 yen (about 10 million yen in current monetary value) and 70 bags of rice. In reality, however, only part of this was realized for Nitchu, which later became another issue.

Jimon Ogasawara Advocates Different Teaching

The 59th high priest of Nichiren Shoshu, Nichiko Hori, resigned a little more than two years after he took office. The sabotage of other priests of the head temple prevented him from fulfilling his responsibility as high priest, and this prompted him to resign.

The election that followed Nichiko Hori’s resignation was horrendous. Two groups — backing Ho’un Abe (Nichikai) and Koga Arimoto (Nichijin) — confronted each other fiercely, and they both employed every possible means to defeat their opponents. Many illegal actions such as bribery and detention were undertaken. Promises to promote or demote junior priests also became a tactic used to win votes. Each side was determined to do anything to win the position of high priest.

Voting was done by mail. Confrontation between the two sides was so intense so that bloodshed was expected, regardless of which side won. In fact, some priests carried knives under their robes during the course of the election. The policemen of Ohmiya Police Station surrounded the Administrative Office of Nichiren Shoshu to respond to the expected violent reaction to the election results. Fencing was erected to prevent people from going into the Administrative Office where the votes were being counted. The final results were:

Ho’un Abe: 51 votes

Koga Arimoto: 38 votes

However, the Religion Bureau did not quickly move to approve the election results, because of unethical behavior during the election campaign. The Religion Bureau knew that this election to choose a new high priest of Nichiren Shoshu had been conducted under abnormal circumstances.

The Religion Bureau’s concerns were justified. Priest Nakane of Josen-ji temple in Mukojima, Tokyo, who was affiliated with Kogo Arimoto, filed a suit against Ho’un Abe and Shudo Mizutani (Nichiryu, 61st high priest) charging embezzlement. Ho’un Abe was questioned at the Mukojima Police Station. It seemed that he had repaid some money to offset the money that he was said to have embezzled, thus avoiding being indicted and putting an end to this mess.

On June 2, 1928, Nichikai Abe was officially acknowledged by the Religion Bureau as the chief administrator and high priest of Nichiren Shoshu. At that time, Taiei Horigome (Nichijyun, 65th high priest) and Seido Hosoi (Nittatsu, 66th high priest) were exiled to Jyuhon-ji temple in Kyoto, because they had both sided with Arimoto’s faction.

While he stayed in Kyoto, Seido Hosoi (Nittatsu Hosoi) fell in love with the daughter of a geisha house owner, and married her. In those days, Nichiren Shoshu’s temples were all poor, and priest Hosoi was envied because he married a woman from a rich family.

High Priest Nittatsu never forgot his experience of being exiled and the memory of the miserable end of his mentor, Nissho Abe.

Nichikai Abe, who took office as 60th high priest after such a messy struggle, had to face a difficult situation that followed. Jimon Ogasawara and his faction were supported by military men, scholars, and businessmen of various other Nichiren sects. While the dark clouds of war were emerging in Japan, Nichiren Shoshu continued its internal strife.

Nichiryu Mizutani, the 61st high priest, had to resign due to a scandal in 1937. Nikkyo Suzuki followed Nichiryu as 62nd high priest. Sensing the military trend of the times, Ogasawara wrote a document to entrap Nikkyo with the Peace Preservation Law. An exchange of documents between Ogasawara and Nikkyo took place six times, and Nikkyo’s responses were all reported to the Special Political Police. A lay believer at Myoko-ji temple in Shinagawa, Tokyo, acted as a messenger for Ogasawara, and he disseminated Nikkyo’s response widely.

Realizing that Ogasawara’s existence might jeopardize the future of the sect, Nichiren Shoshu expelled him. Study Department Chief Taiei Horigome desperately exerted himself to execute the school’s decision. Nichiren Shoshu disposed of Ogasawara on account of his negligence in paying the sect’s membership fee and in creating a fictitious title for his own sake. Strangely, Nichiren Shoshu did not expel him because of his doctrinal opposition to the traditional teachings of Nichiren Shoshu.

Nikkyo Suzuki, 62nd High Priest, Died a Miserable Death

In June 1943, Soka Kyoiku Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Soka Gakkai General Director Josei Toda met with Nikkyo Suzuki, the 62nd high priest, Nichiko Hori, the 59th high priest, and Nichiren Shoshu General Affairs Bureau Chief Jikai Watanabe. In a reception room at Taiseki-ji, the lay members were told “Why don’t you somehow have your members receive the Shinto talisman for the time being?” (excerpted from Toda Josei Zenshu [Complete Works of Josei Toda], Vol. 1)

Both President Makiguchi and General Director Toda resolutely rejected this suggestion by the head temple. On June 28, President Makiguchi visited the head temple again, admonishing High Priest Nikkyo Suzuki, “It is wrong to receive the Shinto talisman.” Nichiren Shoshu responded to this admonition by banning President Makiguchi from visiting the head temple.

On July 6, President Makiguchi and General Director Toda were arrested. After their arrest, Nichiren Shoshu expelled both of them as Nichiren Shoshu lay believers, thus protecting themselves from government repercussions to its believers’ rejection of the Shinto talisman.

Around 10:30 PM on June 17, 1945, a fire broke out in a room across the northern hallway of the reception room of Taiseki-ji. The flame quickly engulfed the reception room, the high priest’s room, the Daishonin (a large meeting room), the Mutsubo (the Six Compartment Lodging), and the Reception Hall. The fire was extinguished around 4 AM the next morning.

High Priest Nikkyo Suzuki was burnt to death in this fire. I heard the truth of Nikkyo’s death from Jitoku Kawabe, who was at the fire site as an acolyte. I asked him, “How was High Priest Nikkyo when he died?” An unexpected response came back from Kawabe, who said, “He was burnt twice.”

After the fire subsided, Kawabe began to desperately look for High Priest Nikkyo,, only to discover his body in the ashes. According to Kawabe, the torso of Nikkyo’s body was completely burnt and the bottom half of his body was half burnt. It seems the high priest fell into a big furnace of the reception room. I heard Kawabe’s story at the Daiichi Hotel in Shinbashi, Tokyo. At that time, Kawabe referred to the cause of the fire,

“Joju Masuda, a fellow acolyte, came to me, saying ‘I was smoking in the closet. I almost caused a fire.’ I asked him, ‘Did you put it out completely?’ He replied, ‘I extinguished it by showering my pee on it.’ Hearing that, I felt relieved and fell into sleep. One hour later, the fire broke out.”

According to Kawabe’s analysis, the fire could not have been put out with just a small amount of water from urine. The smoldering fire reached a futon stuffed with cotton and it went on from there.

According to Refuting the Theory of the Wooden Gohonzon’s Being Counterfeit – An Evil Book, published by the Nichiren Shoshu Propagation Association (whose chief representative was Nittatsu Hosoi), the fire was caused by arson committed by Korean soldiers stationed at the head temple. This is simply an unpardonable fabrication. And errors are evident in the fabrication. The Shizuoka air raid took place from the night of June 19 to midnight on June 20. The big fire at Taiseki-ji took place late at night on June 17 and lasted until the dawn of the 18th. The date given for the fire in this book is not correct.

Also according to this book, Nikkyo Suzuki simply chose to die in the flames, “praying to the Gohonzon to change the destiny of the slanderous nation.” This statement is also a sheer lie. What I heard directly from Kawabe, who was at the site of the fire, correctly described the truth of the matter. When I heard from Kawabe about Nikkyo Suzuki’s death, Ryuichi Goto (former director of the Institute of Oriental Philosophy) was also on hand.

Expelled Jimon Ogasawara Reinstated in Secret

Due to the sudden death of Nikkyo Suzuki, Nichiman Akiyama from Sanuki Honmon-ji temple became the 63rd high priest of Nichiren Shoshu. Because Nichiman was not in the mainstream of Nichiren Shoshu, he had to resign in July 1947, one year and a half after he took office, because he allegedly cut down Taiseki-ji’s time-honored cedar trees at his own discretion.

In January 1951, Nichiman Akiyama died a lonely death at a small Hon’inmyo-ji temple in the countryside in Kochi prefecture. Incidentally, Sanuki Honmon-ji temple returned to Nichiren Shoshu on July 11, 1946, during the tenure of Nichiman Akiyama as high priest of Nichiren Shoshu.

On March 31, 1946, a few months before Sanuki Honmon-ji reunited with Nichiren Shoshu, Jimon Ogasawara (who also came from the Sanuki school) was pardoned and reinstated as a Nichiren Shoshu priest. His special reinstatement is recorded in Order No. 22, signed by High Priest Nichiman Akiyama on March 31, 1946.

Ogasawara was the priest who directly caused the Soka Gakkai to be persecuted during wartime. When reinstating him as a priest, Nichiren Shoshu did not notify the Soka Gakkai of his reinstatement. Later on, Ogasawara ran for election to the Assembly of Nichiren Shoshu in October 1946 and also for election to the Disciplinary Committee in November 1946.

High Priest Nittatsu (the General Affairs Bureau Chief at that time) participated in the scroll-airing ceremony that was conducted at Sanuki Honmon-ji in August 1947, one year after the temple reunited with Nichiren Shoshu. The leader of the ceremony was the temple’s chief administrator, Nichiho Soma. Ogasawara had been instrumental in reuniting Sanuki Honmon-ji with Nichiren Shoshu, and he also attended. High Priest Nittatsu made a report of his trip to Sanuki in the Nichiren Shoshu organ, Shuho (Report of the Sect), No. 13, published on September 15, 1947.

A ceremony to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the establishment of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism was conducted from April 24 to April 28, 1952. On the 27th, during the five-day ceremony period, the youth division of the Soka Gakkai demanded that Jimon Ogasawara offer his apology in front of Makiguchi’s tomb at the head temple. They believed that he had caused the death of President Makiguchi. And Ogasawara did write his apology at the site.

Nichiren Shoshu took issue with the actions of the youth division, regarding the incident as disrespect for an official priest of Nichiren Shoshu. It became known as the Ogasawara Incident.

On May 3, 1951, one year before the above Ogasawara Incident, Soka Gakkai second President Toda asked High Priest Nittatsu (General Affairs Bureau Chief at that time) about the reported reinstatement of Ogasawara. He denied it. Not only that, the General Affairs of the Administrative Office, issued a notice in Dai-Nichiren (May 1951 issue), which read:

Seikyo Shimbun dated May 1 wrote about a priest at the head temple who had sued High Priest Nikkyo Suzuki and had attempted to disband Nichiren Shoshu. Such a priest does not exist in the current priesthood of Nichiren Shoshu. This notice is to certify this point.”

The 700th anniversary ceremony was completed on April 28, but it became an issue that the youth division of the Soka Gakkai had taken a disrespectful action against a priest. The Soka Gakkai side thought that Ogasawara was not a formal priest of Nichiren Shoshu, for it believed the words of General Affairs Bureau Chief Hosoi and the contents of the notice issued in the Dai-Nichiren. However, the truth was that Nichiren Shoshu had reinstated Ogasawara as a formal priest on March 31, 1946. This means that General Affairs Bureau Chief Hosoi had lied to President Toda. Also, it indicates that the entire priesthood was hiding the fact that Ogasawara had been accepted back as a formal priest of Nichiren Shoshu.

In fact, in April 1947, Ogasawara ran for the election of the Nichiren Shoshu Assembly. Even though he was not elected, he gained forty-four votes. It was a common knowledge within Nichiren Shoshu at that time that Ogasawara was a full-fledged priest of Nichiren Shoshu.

Nichiren Shoshu Punishes President Toda with Manufactured Evidence

The April 1947 issue of Dai-Nichiren, Nichiren Shoshu’s organ, was published on April 30, 23 days behind its scheduled publication date. In this issue there was a notice about the reinstatement of Ogasawara as a special case, under the names of Nichiren Shoshu Chief Administrator Nissho Mizutani and General Administrator Nisshin Takano.

Taking advantage of the fact that the publication of Dai-Nichiren was delayed because of the significant 700th anniversary event at the head temple, Nichiren Shoshu came up with such a notice in April 1947, hiding the fact that it had already reinstated Ogasawara as of 1946.

Based upon this concocted document, Nichiren Shoshu held a special session of its Assembly from June 26 to 29th. At this meeting, Nichiren Shoshu made the following three resolutions against President Toda:

  • He must write a letter of apology and submit it to Nichiren Shoshu through the chief priest of the local temple where he belongs.
  • He is now dismissed from his position as executive lay leader.
  • He is now banned from visiting the temple.

President Toda submitted a written apology to Nissho Mizutani during the session of the Assembly. After a letter of admonition from Nissho Mizutani, President Toda wrote another letter of apology on July 30. In it, he proposed to repair the five-story pagoda of the head temple — this resulted in the Assembly stopping its decision against the Soka Gakkai.

Nissho Mizutani and Taiei Horigome Show Their Understanding of the Meaning of the Existence of the Soka Gakkai

Nichiman Akiyama, who had reinstated Ogasawara, was kicked out of the head temple after his arbitrary decision to cut down its time-honored cedar trees, and Nissho Mizutani took office as 64th high priest. During the tenure of Nissho Mizutani, the idea to turn Taiseki-ji into a site for tourism was seriously discussed. In those days, the head temple was extremely destitute and barely surviving, because its land had been confiscated due to the governmental policy of farmland liberation after the war. Concerned about the plight of Taiseki-ji, President Toda initiated a pilgrimage system and put it into action to support the head temple.

I have been writing about the lives of the high priests of Nichiren Shoshu from Nissho Abe, the 56th high priest, to Nissho Mizutani, 64th high priest. And it is only Nissho Mizutani who thoroughly fulfilled his role as high priest. It was because of protection from Soka Gakkai President Toda that Nissho was able to fulfill his mission.

On March 30, 1956, Nissho Mizutani transferred the heritage of Nichiren Shoshu to Nichijun Horigome. On October 14, 1957, Nissho Mizutani passed away. Ever before he became high priest, Nichijun Horigome had a good understanding of the mission of the Soka Gakkai.

About first President Makiguchi, he said:

“Talking about the effort that President Makiguchi put out for shakubuku: Mr. Makiguchi became synonymous with the term ‘shakubuku.’ Mr. Makiguchi and the act of shakubuku were one. He did shakubuku out of his profound compassion. He had an irresistible urge to save people. The way he did shakubuku was very correct, faithful, and strict in light of Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings. His motto was from a passage of the Gosho, which reads, ‘One who rids the offender of evil is acting as his parent.’ He was not idealistic at all. He was very practical and took action to create value. His essential nature prompted him to take action for shakubuku.

“Because he dwelt in the world of faith, he was driven to do shakubuku exactly as Nichiren Daishonin taught. It is safe to say that his original lifestyle really matched the way of the Mystic Law.” (excerpted from Nichijyun Shonin Zenshu [Complete Works of Nichijun Shonin])

He also stated:

“President Makiguchi did not change himself because of the Lotus Sutra. Rather, President Makiguchi was originally a messenger of the Buddha, and he tapped his innate Buddhahood, fulfilling his mission. I was indescribably awed by the way he was. Many people sided with him, but it is also true that many people became his enemies. I can’t help but put my palms together with my deepest respect to him, due to his spirit to defy predicaments and his obedience to the truth.” (ditto)

He also mentioned about President Toda:

“As you know, the four leaders of Bodhisattvas of the Earth, were headed by Bodhisattva Jogyo, and followed by an infinite number of bodhisattvas, — they vowed in the ceremony at Eagle Peak to propagate Myoho-renge-kyo in the Latter Day of the Law without fail. And those people who made a pledge at that ceremony have made their advent here today, as they promised to do. I think that it was President Toda who called forth the Soka Gakkai to lead in the Latter Day. It is President Toda who called forth 750,000 people on earth, transforming the five and seven characters of Myoho-renge-kyo into this reality.” (ditto)

Concerning the essence of the Soka Gakkai, Nichijun Horigome shared his correct perspective of it:

“It is indeed worthy of respect that the Soka Gakkai has been devoted to realizing the happiness of each individual and all humanity. I can’t resist acknowledging the nobility of the Soka Gakkai. Wishing for the happiness of humankind, the Gakkai is working day and night with a great desire to propagate correct religion and faith. … Nichiren Daishonin says that the way to fulfill the way of bodhisattva is to chant daimoku and guide both others and ourselves to the correct path of faith. It is not easy to pursue this path, but we have no choice but to further our dedication together with you for the happiness of humanity. I ask Soka Gakkai members to carry out a great movement of shakubuku.” (ditto)

“The True Law will definitely spread. Making it spread is the Buddha’s pledge. Unless his vow is realized we can’t realize that he taught the truth. I feel that we are now moving into a stage where kosen-rufu will progress in the true sense… Today, you made a new determination for tomorrow with the same mind toward kosen-rufu. Indeed, you are conducting the ceremony today exactly as expounded in the Lotus Sutra, as ’the assembly of people at Eagle Peak has not yet dispersed.’ In other words, I would most respectfully say that the Soka Gakkai is a gathering of Buddhas who were at the ceremony at Eagle Peak.” (ditto)

High Priest Nittatsu at First Attempts to Protect the Soka Gakkai

On November 17, 1959, Nichijun Horigome passed away. He transferred the heritage of Nichiren Shoshu to Nittatsu Hosoi on the 16th, one day before his death. However, it was Mr. Daisaku Ikeda, then the general administrator of the Soka Gakkai, who Nichijun Horigome met at the end of his life. What Nichijun Horigome said to General Administrator Ikeda is covered in the November 20, 1959, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun:

“Thanks to President Toda, and thanks to the Soka Gakkai, the Great Law has been purely handed down until today. Our school must never forget its great indebtedness to President Toda and the Soka Gakkai. This I told Hosoi.”

Gen’ei Kudo, who was an attendant of Nichijun Horigome, and is now chief priest of Taiho-ji in Tachikawa, Tokyo, says:

“President Ikeda was listening by the bedside to what High Priest Nichijun wanted to say, putting his ear to the high priest’s mouth in an effort to understand the high priest’s diminishing voice. The scene of the two was indeed solemn.” (Seikyo Shimbun, December 14, 1999, issue).

High Priest Nittatsu tried to carry on the policy of protecting the Soka Gakkai as taught by his predecessor. Only the two high priests — Nissho Mizutani and Nichijun Horigome — who achieved harmony with the Soka Gakkai, were able to fulfill their responsibilities. Judging from this historical fact, Nichijun Horigome’s final guidance to High Priest Nittatsu that “You should never forget our great indebtedness to the Soka Gakkai” was an expression of his hope for the future of Nichiren Shoshu.

At the 22nd General Meeting of the Soka Gakkai Headquarters, where President Ikeda took office as the third president, High Priest Nittatsu stated, “Nichiren Daishonin states in ‘The Opening of the Eyes,’ ‘This I will state. Let the gods forsake me. Let all persecutions assail me. Still I will give my life for the sake of the Law.’ This passage I will present to Mr. Daisaku Ikeda, who became the third president of the Soka Gakkai.” (Seikyo Shimbun, May 6, 1960, issue)

At a party held at the head temple on May 13, ten days after his inauguration, High Priest Nittatsu stated:

“My late mentor, Nichijun Shonin, mentioned the oneness of priesthood and laity at the time of his death. His words are still echoing in my ear. And I interpret his words as meaning that only when the priesthood also suffers from the same persecution that the Gakkai is undergoing (due to its engagement in shakubuku), and when the laity enjoys the joy of the Law that the priesthood enjoys, then we can realize the oneness of priesthood and laity. Only when we share joy and suffering between priesthood and laity, can we realize harmony between them.” (Seikyo Shimbun, May 20, 1960, issue)

On August 7 of the same year, High Priest Nittatsu said to Hokkeko members who were behind in their development compared to the members of the Soka Gakkai:

“In 1951, when the Gakkai declared that it would achieve the shakubuku of 750,000 households, we felt that we could achieve the kosen-rufu of Japan with a total of 1.5 million household members. This could be achieved only if the Hokkeko group does as many shakubuku as the Gakkai. However, you could not achieve this goal.

“Since then, the Gakkai and the Hokkeko have been advancing along your respective paths, but I hope you will regard each other well as equal believers of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. You can have some Gakkai leaders come to your meetings if they are of small size. Please conduct such a meeting from now on.” (Seikyo Shimbun, August 12, 1960, issue)

From his statement, we see that it was believed in 1951 that kosen-rufu would be attainable in Japan with 1.5 million believers. However, it was not clear what the completion of kosen-rufu would signify. It is noteworthy that High Priest Nittatsu was thinking it possible for Gakkai leaders to assist the Hokkeko group.

Today Nichiren Shoshu insists that the laity can’t practice faith correctly without guidance from “teaching priests.” We can tell that this logic is derived from the fact that there are presently too many teaching priests. Both inferiority and superiority complexes grew in the minds of Hokkeko members when they saw the progress of the Soka Gakkai. They felt inferior because they could not keep pace with the Gakkai’s advancement, and they felt superior because they had a longer history with Nichiren Shoshu than the Gakkai members.

Praising President Ikeda as “General of Shakubuku”

“It was so sad to see Hokkeko members’ minds so distorted. I felt that with a correct view of faith they could have appreciated the progress of kosen-rufu that the Gakkai had brought about. They may have felt that their temples would be usurped by the Gakkai, a relative newcomer into their traditional world with the priesthood of Nichiren Shoshu.” (On o wasureta Abe Nikken o kyusu[Rebuking Nikken Abe Who Has Forgotten His Indebtedness])

The author of this book is Nobuyo Watanabe, the wife of Jisai Watanabe, chief priest of Daikyo-ji temple in Hiratsuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Rev. Watanabe disassociated himself from Nichiren Shoshu, because High Priest Nikken had given in to the devilish functions in his life. Mrs. Watanabe grew up in her temple as a member of a Nichiren Shoshu priest family. She knew how destitute Nichiren Shoshu temples were in her young days, before the emergence of the Soka Gakkai. She writes in the book that her family could not afford to pay her monthly lunch money to her school. It was also difficult for her family to buy her schoolbooks.

At a meeting of the Hokkeko Federation held on July 15, 1963, High Priest Nittatsu issued an admonition, in which he clearly stated,

“The Soka Gakkai is a great sangha, burning with its sincere and unparalleled passion to protect and spread the Law. People who develop a distorted or slanderous view of the Soka Gakkai should be branded as those whose views are so biased as to hinder the progress of the sacred undertaking of kosen-rufu, and whose sins are so serious as to put themselves in the incessant suffering of hell, whether they are within or without this school. I sincerely hope that all the members of the Hokkeko group are prudent enough not to disgrace yourselves as believers of this group. It is also my sincere hope that you will unhesitatingly master a strong seeking mind through the utmost examples of the Soka Gakkai members. It is my deep wish that you will thus forge on ceaselessly together with them for the construction of a Buddhaland.” (Dai-Byakuho [Hokkeko’s organ], July 20, 1963, issue)

High Priest Nittatsu made clear the difference between priesthood and laity in terms of their respective functions for kosen-rufu at the Soka Gakkai young men’s division general meeting on December 15, 1963:

“Both acts of shakubuku and shoju derive from the same life-condition of Buddhahood. The Latter Day of the Law is, in general, the time of shakubuku. Therefore, you Gakkai members conduct shakubuku based upon the spirit of shakubuku, while we priests conduct shoju based upon the spirit of shakubuku.” (Dai-Nichiren, January, 1964, issue)

In January, 1964, High Priest Nittatsu praised President Ikeda, saying, “Today, President Ikeda is inheriting the virtues of the four leaders of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, and he advances kosen-rufu as a general of shakubuku. I as a priest conduct every religious ritual as the practice of shoju in the spirit of shakubuku, as I wear a light gray robe and a white surplice.” (Daibyakurenge, January, 1964, issue)

Nichiren Shoshu Fails to Catch Up with Soka Gakkai’s Growth

The 33rd Headquarters General Meeting of the Soka Gakkai was held on May 3, 1970, at the Nihon University Auditorium. At that time, High Priest Nittatsu mentioned that Nichiren Shoshu had owned a area totaling of 318,000 tsubo (259.8 acre) including its temple grounds, as of 1945 (right after World War II). 266,000 tsubo (217.3 acre) of this land was lost due to the new governmental policy of agrarian reform. This meant that Taiseki-ji kept only 51,000 tsubo (41.66 acre) of land.

Soon after, Taiseki-ji became extremely poor, to the point where the priesthood seriously discussed surviving by opening the head temple as a tourist spot. To help the head temple move past this distortion in faith, the Soka Gakkai started a new pilgrimage system. And, during the times of Nissho Mizutani and Nichijyu Horigome, Taiseki-ji added 115,000 tsubo (93.94 acre) to its property, which then totaled 165,000 tsubo (134.8 acre).

And most of all, under the leadership of President Ikeda, the Soka Gakkai donated more land totaling 1,002,000 tsubo (818.5 acre) to the head temple for the ten years after 1960, which meant that Taiseki-ji came to possess property that covered 1,170,000 tsubo(955.7 acre). In other words, Taiseki-ji’s property became three times bigger than it was before agrarian reform. The total number of priests was 330 in 1960. As of 1970, as High Priest Nittatsu stated at the meeting, Nichiren Shoshu had some 900 priests.

At an opening session of a teaching priests’ seminar held on August 30, 1973, High Priest Nittatsu remarked, “In those destitute days, all the priests of the head temple made their livelihood by cultivating the mountainsides or woods, growing potatoes, sugarcane, corn, and other crops. We usually lived on potatoes, as we did not have rice to eat. There were times when we bought barn millet growing at Mount Fuji to make millet gruel.” (Dai-Nichiren, October 1973)

At a closing session of the same teaching priests’ seminar held the next day, August 31, High Priest Nittatsu further stated, “President Ikeda and the Soka Gakkai have at the center of their movement a devotion to kosen-rufu. To Nichiren Shoshu, the harmonious unity of priesthood and laity is vital. We both serve the Buddha and practice the Buddha’s way. We should forge on along this great path. If we are criticized or slandered by those who are against Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, that’s one thing. But speaking ill of those devoted to propagating the Lotus Sutra is another thing. We should not criticize our fellow members.” (Renge, September 1974 issue)

High Priest Nittatsu asserted that President Ikeda was like a great legendary kind of bird and those criticizing him and the Soka Gakkai were like ordinary sparrows or swallows. He must have thought that such a strong statement was necessary to train young priests into excellent, full-fledged priests for the progress of kosen-rufu. In those days, the quality of priests at Taiseki-ji was very low. There were many instances that demonstrated the poor quality of the priests at the head temple.

On March 1, 1958, the completion ceremony of the Grand Lecture Hall was conducted at the head temple, and the pilgrimage to commemorate this auspicious occasion was held for one month, beginning on March 2.

Toward the end of March, during this celebration, there was an incident at the head temple. Shojun Motoba, head of the acolyte group at the head temple, put a bell in an upside-down position and placed it over the head of a young acolyte. While keeping the acolyte’s head in it, Shojun Motoba hit the bell hard with a stick many times, driving the young acolyte crazy.

Later, Motoba was discovered heavily drunk at a local restaurant where he was a regular patron. Jisai Watanabe, a senior priest working at the head temple in those days, took Motoba to Urui River and had him wash his face.

In those days, acolytes existed to be bullied by older priests. At that time of these incidents, Motoba was more than 30 years old. At local temples of Nichiren Shoshu in the 30’s (1955–1964) of the Showa era, it was common for assistant priests to steal offerings for their personal use. A priest even bought a gun using the offerings that he stole. His illegal behavior was no different from that of the yakuza or Japanese mafia. To cope with this situation, many local temples hired a female clerk to handle the reception job.

On September 14, 1958, there was a completion ceremony for Higashi-Daisen-ji temple, which the Soka Gakkai had built in Hirosaki, Aomori prefecture, and offered to Nichiren Shoshu. General Administrator Hosoi, who later became High Priest Nittatsu, officiated at the ceremony. All the monetary offerings from Soka Gakkai members were gathered in a room of the temple and each envelope was opened and the money was randomly placed in bamboo baskets. In those days, the Japanese paper money included 1000-yen notes, 500-yen notes, 100-yen notes, 50-yen notes, 10-yen notes, 5-yen notes, and one-yen notes. By rights, this money was supposed to be divided by each monetary unit and distributed to each priest in accordance with their class within the sect. But even such a natural thing was not commonly practiced within Nichiren Shoshu in those days. What actually happened was that General Administrator Hosoi put his hand into one of the bamboo baskets, grabbed some money, and gave whatever he grabbed to each priest saying, “I will give you this. You will have this.”

Hiroshi Koike, a young men’s division corps chief, was acting as a security guard for the event. He directly witnessed General Administrator Hosoi’s way of distributing the offerings. He was so dumbfounded at the sight that he could not move for a while. That was how High Priest Nittatsu behaved toward believers’ offerings when he was general administrator.

The essential nature of the priesthood of Nichiren Shoshu was indeed anachronistic. Later, when President Ikeda took office as the third president of the Soka Gakkai, the Gakkai organization polished its administrative matters on a fundamental level. In parallel with the progress of the Soka Gakkai, Nichiren Shoshu too began to organize itself as a religious organization.

The head temple, however, had violated the law in acquiring many pieces of property. The head temple was incapable of handling the paperwork for the purchase of new properties in the late 40’s (1970-1975) of the Showa era. This was the plight of the head temple. Nichiren Shoshu was not able to keep abreast with the advancement of the Soka Gakkai at all.