Masatomo Yamazaki empowered himself by using the anti-Gakkai priests on one hand and the high priest on the other. To him, these anti-Gakkai priests were like sharp swords with which to cut the Gakkai, while the high priest was like the gem that justifies its holder’s authority. He cleverly used these two vital weapons to wound the Gakkai and further his selfish desires.
Speaking to the Soka Gakkai, Yamazaki said (according to Hamanaka’s memoirs):
“With the activist priests against us as they are, we’ll have hard times.”
Then, on another occasion, he confidently said to the Gakkai, as it was struggling to grasp the high priest’s true intent, “This is the high priest’s true intention.”
Another time, he convincingly said, “It’s not the high priest’s will.”
He tried to set himself up as an authority on the priesthood and to use that authority to hurt the body of the Soka Gakkai and put “salt” into its wounds.
Around June 1978, word began to spread that the Soka Gakkai had turned paper Gohonzons into wooden ones on its own. The activist priests were anxious to hear all about this story. At one point, Yamazaki spoke rather objectively about this, according to Hamanaka’s memoirs:
“Yamazaki: ‘The Gakkai says it did so with the clear permission that the president himself received directly from the high priest.’”
Later, however, Yamazaki began to tell the activist priests (according to Hamanaka’s memoirs):
“Yamazaki: ‘You should vigorously attack the Gakkai using this story about the Gakkai creating its own Gohonzons.’”
To calm down the reaction to this issue, on September 27, 1978, the Soka Gakkai decided to send to Nichiren Shoshu Daisen-ji temple in Kunitachi, Tokyo, seven of the eight wooden Gohonzons it had created. The next day, on September 28, they were all transported to the Hoanden at Taiseki-ji.
These are the seven Gohonzons, which were originally transcribed on paper and had been transformed into wooden ones — they were later returned to the head temple:
- The Gohonzon called the “Shoyo Gohonzon,” a Gohonzon bestowed upon President Ikeda to commend his effort for the construction of the Grand Main Temple (Sho-Hondo). This Gohonzon had a special side note that read, “In Praise of the Construction of the Grand Main Temple, the Actual High Sanctuary of the True Teaching.”
- The Gohonzon transcribed by the 64th high priest, Nissho Mizutani. It was to be enshrined at the Soka Gakkai Kansai Headquarters. This Gohonzon had a special side note that read, “For the Sake of the Rise of the Great Law and Fulfillment of All Desires.”
- The Gohonzon, transcribed by High Priest Nittatsu, which was to be enshrined at Kosen Kaikan in the Soka Gakkai Culture Center.
- The Gohonzon, transcribed by High Priest Nittatsu, which was to be enshrined at the presidential room of the Soka Gakkai Headquarters.
- The Gohonzon, transcribed by High Priest Nittatsu, which was to be enshrined at the Soka Gakkai Europe Headquarters.
- The Gohonzon, transcribed by High Priest Nittatsu, which was to be enshrined at the Soka Gakkai America Headquarters.
- The “Omamori” or portable Gohonzon of President Ikeda, which was transcribed by Nissho Mizutani.
Even though all these wooden Gohonzons were dedicated back to Nichiren Shoshu, the so called “Gohonzon Self-Creation Incident” cast a dark shadow over the Gakkai. Many believers doubted the legitimacy of the Soka Gakkai’s actions; many chose to abandon the organization because of this.
On January 2, 1974, President Ikeda had received a special Gohonzon that had a special side note which read, “In Praise of the Construction of the Grand Main Temple of the High Sanctuary of the True Teaching.”
On January 10, at a communication meeting between Nichiren Shoshu and the Soka Gakkai at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters, High Priest Nittatsu’s permission was officially requested to turn this paper Gohonzon into a wooden one. The next day, on January 11, General Administrator Hayase responded with the message that “I have made an informal report to the high priest about this matter.” (from a recorded document)
At another communication meeting between Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai (held on September 2, 1974, at Sessen-bo lodging temple of Taiseki-ji), an official request was made to transform the Gohonzon enshrined on the third floor of the Soka Gakkai Headquarters into a wooden one. This Gohonzon was transcribed by the 64th high priest, Nissho Mizutani, with a special side note that read, “For the Sake of the Fulfillment of the Great Desire of Kosen-rufu through the Compassionate Propagation of the Great Law.”
On the next day, September 3, Study Department Chief Shinno Abe responded to Soka Gakkai General Director Hiroshi Hojo, saying, “I have made an informal report to the high priest. He has approved your request. I told the high priest that Sensei would later report directly to the him on this matter during an audience.”
Despite the High Priest’s Prior Approval
The anti-Gakkai activist priests took issue with the fact that the Gakkai took photos of the Gohonzons in order to create wooden ones. But taking pictures of the Gohonzon for the purpose of transforming paper Gohonzons into wooden ones was a common and necessary practice within Nichiren Shoshu.
Akazawa Choyo was a time-honored company that Nichiren Shoshu had been using in those days to make wooden Gohonzons The Soka Gakkai requested Akazawa Choyo to make ten wooden copies of the “Mannen-kugo-no Gohonzon” (Nichiren Daishonin’s original Gohonzon for the Sake of Protection of Ten Thousand Years). This historic Gohonzon was stored at Myohon-ji temple in Hoda during the time of the 65th high priest Nichijun Horigome. In order to do this work, Akazawa took a photo of this original Gohonzon by Nichiren Daishonin. Even during the time of High Priest Nittatsu, Nichiren Shoshu took a photo of the Gohonzon enshrined at Jozen-ji temple in Hyuga in order to make seven wooden Gohonzon out of it.
In general, the procedure for transforming a paper Gohonzon into a wooden one requires a sculptor to carve a board with a photocopy of the Gohonzon pasted on it. The characters carved onto the board become smaller than their original size due to the thickness of the paper. For this reason, very thin paper is usually used for the carving of a wooden Gohonzon. In modern times, they first take a photo of a Gohonzon, and develop its thin positive to paste on a board for carving.
In another example, the wooden Gohonzon made for the reception hall of Shokyo-ji temple in Fukuyama City, Hiroshima Prefecture, was too large. With High Priest Nittatsu’s instructions, they took a photo of this wooden Gohonzon to create another wooden Gohonzon in a reduced size.
Before the use of photocopying, a possible method was for an artist to precisely copy a Gohonzon onto another sheet of paper. Also, there was another method in which they put a very thin piece of paper over a paper Gohonzon to copy what is written -- then the copied paper is pasted to the wood for the carving of the wooden Gohonzon.
At any rate, it seems that High Priest Nittatsu had forgotten giving permission to the Soka Gakkai to turn these selected Gohonzons into wooden ones. Eido Fujimoto, General Affairs Bureau Chief of Nichiren Shoshu, made the following statement on January 10, 1976, regarding the permission that the Soka Gakkai had received:
“Concerning the Soka Gakkai’s transforming Nissho Shonin’s Gohonzons into wooden ones, I don’t remember whether or not the high priest’s permission was granted, and I don’t think the Soka Gakkai actually received permission for this. At the time of his New Year’s pilgrimage to the head temple, the president reported to the high priest, ‘We have made a wooden Gohonzon (out of it).’ Since he was talking about the Gohonzon that the Soka Gakkai had received as an organization, we are not in a position to criticize the organization’s intention to transform them into wooden ones as its private treasure. And transforming a paper Gohonzon into a wooden one is nothing special. It has been a conventional practice in Nichiren Shoshu. In terms of its eye-opening ceremony or enshrinement ceremony, it is natural for them to ask a priest to conduct such ceremonies, but, again, it is all up to them whether they should invite a priest for such ceremonies.” (excerpted from “Fujimoto Memo” written by General Affairs Bureau Chief Eido Fujimoto)
The Gohonzon transcribed by High Priest Nissho here indicates the Gohonzon with a special side note that reads, “For the Sake of the Fulfillment of the Great Desire of Kosen-rufu through the Compassionate Propagation of the Great Law.” This Gohonzon was the one enshrined on the third floor of the Soka Gakkai Headquarters.
Takeshi Akazawa, president of Akazawa Choyo, left a detailed report of the instructions he had directly received from High Priest Nittatsu about carving a wooden Gohonzon for the Gohonzon enshrined on the third floor of the Soka Gakkai Headquarters:
“It was at one point in November 1974, the time when we just began to work on the Soka Gakkai’s request to transform the Gohonzon enshrined at the Mentor and Disciple Room on the third floor of the Soka Gakkai Headquarters into a wooden one. On some business matters, I had a chance to have an audience with High Priest Nittatsu. In those days, due to the nature of my work, I frequently met with the high priest, so I don’t remember the specific date of this particular audience. Whenever I met with High Priest Nittatsu to discuss the matter of the Gohonzon, he made it a practice to talk with me alone, asking other executive priests to leave the room. Therefore, at that time, I was all by myself with the high priest at the reception room.
“After our business talk was over, High Priest Nittatsu was about to leave the room. At that time, as if he had recalled something, he came back to me, saying to me, ‘By the way, Akazawa is now making a wooden Gohonzon for the Gakkai Headquarters, aren’t you?’ I responded, ‘Yes, sir. President Ikeda said that he had reported to the high priest about this. Didn’t you hear from him about this?’ He replied, ‘Yes, President Ikeda told me about this.’ The high priest further asked me, ‘You are also working on other Gohonzons for the Gakkai, aren’t you?’ I responded, ‘Yes, we are.’ Then, High Priest Nittatsu commented, ‘I understand they were saying they would like to have five or six more Gohonzons transformed into wooden ones.’ So saying he left the room.” (excerpted from Mr. Akazawa’s Deposition)
At that time, Akazawa was already through with the carving of the “Shoyo Gohonzon,” whose transformation into a wooden one had already been approved by High Priest Nittatsu. Azakawa was then engaged in creating another wooden Gohonzon out of the Gohonzon enshrined at the Mentor and Disciple Room of the third floor of the Soka Gakkai Headquarters. That High Priest Nittatsu mentioned “five or six more Gohonzons” indicates that he was aware of a total of seven or eight Gohonzons, whose transformation into wooden ones he had approved.
Soka Gakkai Chooses Not to Defend Itself for the Sake of Harmony Between Priesthood and Laity
In 1978, however, High Priest Nittatsu found himself in a defensive position due to attacks by the activist priests. On June 29, 1978, a nationwide teachers meeting was held at the head temple, and at that time, the high priest made the following remark:
“The Gakkai has transformed some Gohonzons into wooden ones, which I didn’t know. Even though it was after they did so, I gave them my approval and acknowledgement. So don’t quarrel with the Gakkai over this matter any more.” (Renge, July 1978 issue)
This statement by High Priest Nittatsu that “I didn’t know” is contrary to the fact that he had given his prior approval to the requests made at the communication meetings of January and September 1974. It is also opposed to the testimony of Mr. Takeshi Akazawa, president of Akazawa Choyo, a time-honored company that Nichiren Shoshu had a long business relationship with.
The Soka Gakkai could not say, “We had approval from High Priest Nittatsu concerning our transformation of these Gohonzons into wooden ones,” because it was important to maintain harmony between priesthood and laity. The Soka Gakkai also maintained its sincere obedience to the religious understanding that prevailed in Nichiren Shoshu, that “It is a slander to contradict the high priest.”
Whether High Priest Nittatsu actually forgot about the approval he had given, or his later statement that “I didn’t know” was intentional, the Soka Gakkai was in no position to contradict the high priest. If the Soka Gakkai had chosen to contradict what the high priest was saying, the confrontation with the priesthood would have gotten worse. And if High Priest Nittatsu had chosen to insist that he didn’t give any prior approval to the Soka Gakkai, many more members might have chosen to leave the Gakkai. This was the circumstances in those days.
I repeat this: In those days, many Gakkai believers believed that the high priest embodied the heritage, and that he alone had received it from Nichiren Daishonin through his predecessor. The Soka Gakkai’s position was to protect Nichiren Shoshu from outside, and it could not degrade the authority of High Priest Nittatsu by any means.
In addition, High Priest Nittatsu would have had to resign, if the wooden Gohonzon issue had become more serious, especially if the Soka Gakkai had publicized the fact that it did receive prior approval from him.
Due to these circumstances, it was decided that High Priest Nittatsu’s prior approval should not be referred to, and that the high priest should issue guidance to Nichiren Shoshu to accept the Soka Gakkai’s act of having created the wooden Gohonzons. “Having received guidance regarding the several wooden Gohonzons that we have created, we acknowledge the fact that the high priest has instructed us to keep them all as treasures of the Soka Gakkai Headquarters.” (Seikyo Shimbun, September 3, 1978, issue)
However, such a political solution did not satisfy anti-Gakkai activist priests.
On September 14, a meeting was held to discuss this matter at Jyufuku-ji temple in Beppu City, Oita Prefecture. Attending were Vice President Minoru Harada, Youth Division Leader Isao Nozaki, and Study Department Chief Takashi Harashima (all from the Soka Gakkai), and Shumei Sasaki, Kosai Watanabe, Hoko Yamaguchi, Shoken Hagihara, Bunjo Maruyama, and Kendo Sugano (all from the activist priests’ group). These priests all scolded the Gakkai severely at this meeting.
According to Hamanaka’s memoirs, Sasaki phoned Hamanaka after this meeting, and said, “I’ll let you know one big thing. Harashima has admitted it. I asked him, ‘How many Gohonzons did you make?’ Shivering profusely, he honestly replied, ‘Eight.’ I’ll let you know more details on another occasion.”
Following this phone call from Sasaki, Hamanaka called Yamazaki (according to Hamanaka’s memoirs), and told him,
“I had just heard from Mr. Sasaki that the Gakkai had made as many as eight wooden Gohonzons. He said that Mr. Harashima admitted this fact. If this is true, this will become a big issue, regardless of what His Holiness said about this matter. Then, with a somewhat delightful voice, Yamazaki said smilingly, ‘I know. I told Harashima to say so. If any of the priests had mentioned eight wooden Gohonzons, the high priest might get angry, but as long it came from Harashima’s mouth, the high priest would have no reason to get upset. Now, the priests can powerfully attack the Gakkai for this. Nozaki and others were reportedly shocked to hear such a thing from Harashima at that meeting. Ha, ha, ha!’”
It was the moment that Yamazaki had been waiting for — Yamazaki who was controlling the “king” of Nichiren Shoshu, had successfully ruined the high priest’s political decision. The story that the Soka Gakkai had created eight Gohonzons on its own spread rapidly throughout Japan through the mouths of activist priests. The situation became so serious that any political solution became unworkable. A political solution endorsing the Gakkai’s act would cause the anti-Gakkai priests to attack the high priest all the more. The high priest could then easily become a target of their disparagement. The Soka Gakkai was in such a position that it could not say that it had had a prior approval from the high priest — the Gakkai could not do anything to stop this controversy.
The Falsehood Behind the Criticism of Gakkai’s Actions Regarding the Wooden Gohonzons
Yamazaki came up with the idea that the Gakkai would dedicate to the head temple seven of the eight wooden Gohonzons — all except the one enshrined on the third floor of the Soka Gakkai Headquarters. This would solve the problem.
Jiun Sugano, chief priest of Daisen-ji Temple and husband of High Priest Nittatsu’s daughter, was also involved in this plan. As mentioned before, the seven wooden Gohonzons were transferred to the Hoanden of Taiseki-ji by way of Daisen-ji temple. Because of this way of handling the situation, it was as if the Gakkai admitted its fault in the so-called Wooden Gohonzon Incident. The true facts behind the controversy were buried under solution.
For reference, I will refer to what finally happened to the eight wooden Gohonzons:
The wooden Gohonzon that was enshrined at the Soka Gakkai Kansai Headquarters was the Gohonzon with a side note that reads “For the Sake of the Fulfillment of the Rise of the Great Law.” The enshrinement ceremony for this Gohonzon was conducted on October 29, 1975, by Hosho Kubokawa, chief priest of Renge-ji temple in Osaka, with ten more Nichiren Shoshu priests. The report of this enshrinement ceremony was published in the next day’s (October 30) Seikyo Shimbun.
The ceremonies for the enshrinement of the wooden Gohonzon “For the Sake of the Fulfillment of the Great Desire of Kosen-rufu through the Compassion of the Propagation of the Great Law” and another wooden Gohonzon (the Shoyo Gohonzon) was conducted on October 23, 1975, at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters with General Administrator Hayase in attendance. This was reported in the next day’s (October 24) Seikyo Shimbun.
The enshrinement of the wooden Gohonzon for the Kosen Room within the Soka Gakkai Culture Center was held at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters’ main Gohonzon Room (Mentor and Disciple Room) on November 17, 1975, with the attendance of General Administrator Hayase. It was the 32nd anniversary of the passing of First President Makiguchi.
On November 9, 1977, High Priest Nittatsu and other six priests conducted a ceremony at Soka Gakkai Headquarters to celebrate the 47th anniversary of the founding of the Soka Gakkai. They all chanted to the wooden Gohonzons enshrined in the Mentor and Disciple Room, the wooden “Shoyo” Gohonzon, and the wooden Gohonzon enshrined at the Kosen Room. This event was reported in the next day’s (November 10) Seikyo Shimbun.
As shown by these historical facts, Nichiren Shoshu was well aware of the Soka Gakkai’s creation of the wooden Gohonzons. In fact, Nichiren Shoshu was actually involved in the enshrinement ceremonies of the four wooden Gohonzons, according to the Seikyo Shimbun. Not only that, the high priest himself recited the sutra and chanted daimoku to the three wooden Gohonzons at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters. Nevertheless, Nichiren Shoshu later ordered the Soka Gakkai to return its seven wooden Gohonzons to Taiseki-ji, even though three of them were officially enshrined at Gakkai facilities by Nichiren Shoshu priests. Two of these three were actually worshipped by High Priest Nittatsu himself. Here I am referring to the wooden Gohonzons whose enshrinement ceremony was officially reported in the Seikyo Shimbun.
What do these facts signify? They signify that the other four wooden Gohonzons were equally as legitimate as the three whose enshrinement ceremonies were formally conducted with the presence of Nichiren Shoshu priests. This shows that if the Gakkai had not received prior approval from the high priest, then the Soka Gakkai would have been asked to abandon only those three Gohonzons. Returning the seven wooden Gohonzons to Taiseki-ji was simply another case of the Gakkai’s ultimate sincerity toward its mission to protect Nichiren Shoshu from outside.
From the point of view of faith, it was in no way possible for the Soka Gakkai to make wooden Gohonzons on its own. It was also impossible for Nichiren Shoshu’s designated crafter Akazawa Choyo to make wooden Gohonzons without any prior acknowledgement from Nichiren Shoshu.
Concerning the three wooden Gohonzons that High Priest Nittatsu himself worshipped, the one enshrined on the third floor of the Soka Gakkai headquarters was alone allowed to be maintained by the Soka Gakkai. The other two Gohonzons (the “Shoyo” Gohonzon and Kosen Room Gohonzon) were ordered to be returned to Nichiren Shoshu. These facts indicate that the high priest was attempting to protect his pride, and that he ignored what he actually had approved, thus manipulating the Gohonzon to suit his convenience.
When he talked with President Ikeda on October 12, 1975, High Priest Nittatsu said, “Concerning the wooden Gohonzons that you have made, all you have to do is have two or three priests attend their enshrinement ceremonies. That would be enough.” (from a recorded document)
Judging from this, we can say that the anti-Gakkai priests’ contention that the Gakkai had fabricated these wooden Gohonzons on its own discretion was totally groundless.
Yamazaki Guides High Priest Nittatsu
However, the Soka Gakkai had no choice but to take the solution offered by High Priest Nittatsu and Yamazaki. Though the idea was very much against its wishes, the Soka Gakkai had no alternative but to dedicate these seven wooden Gohonzons to Taiseki-ji. Doing so was the only way to quiet the activist priests, acquiesce to the authority of High Priest Nittatsu, and preserve the harmony between priesthood and laity.
On November 7, 1978, President Ikeda and 2000 Soka Gakkai members gathered at the Grand Reception Hall of Taiseki-ji to apologize directly to High Priest Nittatsu and some 600 priests. Their pilgrimage to the head temple at that time was called the “pilgrimage of apology.” At that time, Vice President Tsuji, on behalf of the Soka Gakkai, made an apologetic speech concerning this issue.
In his speech, he originally had not planned to talk about the issue of the wooden Gohonzon, because it was a finished matter and the high priest had instructed activist priests on June 29 not to dig out this issue again. In fact, on October 3, the Administrative Office had issued an official memo to the following effect:
“The wooden Gohonzons that the Soka Gakkai had made on its own were dedicated back to the head temple on September 28. The high priest has approved that the Gakkai could keep the wooden Gohonzon enshrined at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters. Hence, we should not discuss this matter any more.”
Notwithstanding this, the high priest had received strong demands from the activist priests that the Gakkai should apologize for the wooden Gohonzon issue during the pilgrimage of apology. For this reason, Mr. Tsuji’s speech at the meeting, held at the Grand Reception Hall of Taiseki-ji on November 7, included the Gakkai’s words of apology. High Priest Nittatsu saw the manuscript of the speech before the meeting. The original wording of the manuscript read in part, “the Gohonzons that we had caused to be transformed into wooden ones.” But High Priest Nittatsu added the word “carelessly,” changing the sentence into “the Gohonzons that we had carelessly caused to be transformed into wooden ones.” The Soka Gakkai had no choice but to accept this change. Mr. Tsuji read this speech in front of all the representatives of Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai in the Grand Reception Hall of Taiseki-ji. It was published in the next day’s (November 8) Seikyo Shimbun.
However, anti-Gakkai priests were not satisfied, even though the Gakkai had exerted itself with sincerity to protect the integrity of the high priest. Actually, they escalated their attacks on the Soka Gakkai. High Priest Nittatsu seemed helpless to stop them in their bombardment of the Soka Gakkai.
As a matter of fact, Yamazaki had shared with High Priest Nittatsu another document he wrote under the title of “Regarding the Current Situation.” In it, Yamazaki wrote:
“We are now arriving at an increasingly vital juncture, where the Soka Gakkai is observing squarely how things are unfolding, and it is making a new determination to preserve Ikeda’s leadership and Gakkai’s organizational foundation, while remaining resolved to undergo any possible, necessary, drastic changes.”
Also, the same document contains the following statements:
“To be concrete, the Gakkai is trying to put things in order, through the official statement by the president at the Gakkai’s general meeting or its special leaders meeting in November.”
“The Gakkai’s fundamental goal is to preserve the integrity of Ikeda’s leadership. The Gakkai’s second goal is to protect its organization. Toward these ends, the Gakkai needs to minimize any changes to its fundamental guidelines. Consequently, the Gakkai’s biggest focus is to stop the temples’ efforts to attack the organization using their danto-creation campaign.”
“The president is full of resentment and vengefulness.”
“The Soka Gakkai seems ready to launch a new campaign to harmonize with Nichiren Shoshu, spearheaded by the president himself. Nichiren Shoshu needs to maintain the attitude that ‘This is not an issue of politics. It is an issue of faith. We will chart our course in accord with how the Gakkai behaves toward us. This is the last chance for the Soka Gakkai to amend itself. The young priests will shoulder the future of Nichiren Shoshu. Please amend the Gakkai in a manner that satisfies our young priests.’ It is also important for Nichiren Shoshu to maintain the position that ‘All that matters is the Gakkai’s sincerity toward Nichiren Shoshu.’”
“It seems that the president’s resignation happen soon. After the Gakkai comes up with some acceptable new ideas in November, Nichiren Shoshu needs to accept the Gakkai’s offer toward harmony. However, each temple should continue its danto campaign.”
Yamazaki wrote the high priest another document named “For Dealing with Overseas Matters.” In it, he wrote:
“Nichiren Shoshu needs to install an Overseas Bureau. You can start this function with Reverend Sugano as its chief, gathering those priests who have some overseas experiences as its staff. You can include those who are now serving overseas temples.
“Thus far, Nichiren Shoshu has not been able to do anything about its overseas activities, because these activities had been under the supervision of the Soka Gakkai. This is because the overseas Nichiren Shoshu was a legal entity that was separate from Nichiren Shoshu itself. From now on, however, you should have an overseas bureau within the Administrative Office to directly control all Nichiren Shoshu temples and priests abroad. This bureau should start dealing with all overseas matters, so Nichiren Shoshu can express its opinion to the Soka Gakkai and its overseas legal entities.”
The whole purpose of the creation of this overseas bureau was to put Soka Gakkai’s overseas organizations under Nichiren Shoshu’s direct supervision.
Genjiro Fukishima’s Remarks Add Fuel to Fire
The anti-Gakkai priests’ danto movement actually intensified after the apology pilgrimage of November 7. The addition of the word “carelessly” to Vice President Tsuji’s speech (done in the spirit of compromise toward harmony of priesthood and laity) gave new momentum to their danto campaign.
In 1979, the anti-Gakkai priests’ efforts to undermine the organization of the Soka Gakkai saw a new level of intensity. Under these circumstances, Soka Gakkai Vice President Genjiro Fukushima made some horrendous statements at the Omuta Community Center in Kyushu. In those days, Fukushima was outside the mainstream leadership of the Soka Gakkai, because he often shared with members his own self-righteous and erroneous interpretations of the concept of mentor and disciple. He was desperate to overcome this setback. At the meeting in Omuta, some of Fukushima’s statements were:
“Some young men’s division members acted to reprimand certain Nichiren Shoshu priests. These acts came out of their strong sense of indignation toward the priests, who were often seen carrying believers’ offerings in their pockets, and wearing wigs to disguise themselves while they play around at bars.”
“The idea of ‘the president being the True Buddha’ originated from the priesthood’s jealousy. When the president visits the head temple, many believers gather around him, calling to him ’Sensei!’ On the other hand, few people come close to the high priest, even if he is around. Their feeling toward the high priest is that he is just another old man, even if he passes by them. The idea that the president is the True Buddha actually came from the priesthood’s jealousy of his accomplishments.”
“You have to pay some money if you are going to stay overnight at the head temple. It is just like an inn in regular society. In contrast, if you stay at the Kirishima Training Center, you can do so for free. The president’s pocket money handles the fees for your stay at such Gakkai facilities. We need to repay our debt of gratitude to our president.”
Hamanaka’s mother happened to be at this meeting at the Omuta Community Center. She conveyed what Fukushima had said to Hamanaka, who then called Sasaki, one of the leaders of activist priests. Hamanaka also called Yamazaki.
Yamazaki then reported to High Priest Nittatsu about this matter. On the next morning, Mitsuhisa, chief secretary of the high priest, called Hamanaka to find out the truth of the matter. Hamanaka, along with Jisen Akiyama, chief priest of Hokei-ji temple in Omuta, gathered information from Hamanaka’s mother and three other individuals. Then they wrote a formal report to High Priest Nittatsu. This incident hit both Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai hard like a major earthquake.
The Soka Gakkai had requested the high priest to conduct a memorial ceremony for Soka Gakkai Second President Josei Toda, and the high priest had accepted this request from the Soka Gakkai. The ceremony was planned to take place on April 2. However, this incident involving the statements of Vice President Fukushima prompted High Priest Nittatsu to change his mind. The Nichiren Shoshu Hokkeko Federation issued a special issue of its organ, Daibyakuho, on April 3 to report on this incident. According to the article in Daibyakuho, it was agreed at the Hokkeko’s emergency directors’ meeting that the Hokkeko recommend that President Ikeda resign from the position of head of all Nichiren Shoshu lay societies.
According to Hamanaka’s memoirs, Yamazaki heard of this recommendation by the Hokkeko group and reportedly said to Hamanaka on April 2, “The high priest did a good job.”
Obviously, the Hokkeko Federation would not have issued such a resolution spontaneously all by itself. It is only natural to think that High Priest Nittatsu encouraged them to do so. At any rate, President Ikeda must have felt unbearable sorrow over the fact that the high priest of Nichiren Shoshu had turned down his request to conduct a memorial service for his mentor.
The atmosphere among the top leaders of the Soka Gakkai was such that the Soka Gakkai would pay any price to quiet the situation in a peaceful manner. They had lost their composure and perspective under these attacks — they were unable to see why, in light of the Buddhist practice, their mentor had to go through such a painful series of events. Oneness of mentor and disciple is the changeless backbone of the Soka Gakkai. Unfortunately, some Gakkai top leaders were inclined to blame President Ikeda or the direction of the Soka Gakkai as the cause for these misfortunes. As I now recall with a deep sense of fear and resentment, this is how they were in the Soka Gakkai in those days. Therefore, President Ikeda did not have the necessary support to fully fight back against the violent authority of priesthood at that time.
Yamazaki Uses High Priest Nittatsu as a Means to Realize His Ambitions
To make a breakthrough in all these impasses, President Ikeda expressed to High Priest Nittatsu his intention to resign from his positions as the head of all lay societies of Nichiren Shoshu and the president of the Soka Gakkai. The high priest accepted the president’s will. On April 24, the Soka Gakkai held a press conference to publicize President Ikeda’s resignation. On May 3, the Soka Gakkai held its 40th Headquarters General Meeting with High Priest Nittatsu in attendance. Reportedly, the high priest did not at first want to attend this meeting, but persuaded by Sugano, chief priest of Daisen-ji temple, he agreed to attend it.
According to Hamanaka’s memoirs, High Priest Nittatsu said to Sugano, “I don’t know what I should say at the general meeting, so please ask Mr. Yamazaki about what I should say.” After that, Yamazaki said, “The high priest read the manuscript that I had written for him.” This is according to Hamanaka’s memoirs.
Yamazaki was appointed a director of all Nichiren Shoshu lay societies. According to Hamanaka’s memoirs, Yamazaki talked about this appointment, saying, “I am now on the same level as the president of the Soka Gakkai. I am now above Mr. Ikeda. I am on the same level as President Toda.”
After his resignation, Honorary President Ikeda could not attend any Gakkai meeting freely. Coverage of his activities in the Seikyo Shimbun was greatly restricted. At the time of this great crisis of the Soka Gakkai, Honorary President Ikeda decided to visit the Gakkai’s meritorious pioneer members to conduct discussion meetings with them at their homes. Soka Gakkai’s bond of mentor and disciple was thus regained, and the smiles on the faces of many fellow members began to expand again. Just as President Toda stood up for kosen-rufu, all alone, in war-torn Japan after World War II, Honorary President Ikeda’s new grassroots campaign got under way. With that, the Soka Gakkai was able to change the trend of the times surrounding it. As I recollect now, if Honorary President Ikeda were not a man of perseverance, many Gakkai members might have abandoned their practice of the Law. It can be said that his perseverance came from his compassion for the people.
On June 21, Yamazaki invited High Priest Nittatsu to a ride on a large fast boat, known as a cruiser. The cruiser belonged to Hirofumi Nishizaki, producer of the movie “Yamato, Fleet of the Universe.” Yamazaki had developed a friendship with Nishizaki when Yamazaki helped him become independent from his agent, Osamu Tezuka Production. Among those invited were High Priest Nittatsu, Sugano, chief priest of Daisen-ji temple, Hiroshi Hihara of Fujinomiya City, and important individuals from banks and finance companies. Yamazaki capitalized on the presence of High Priest Nittatsu, using his presence to amplify his own importance, so he could borrow money from banks. However, during the cruise, High Priest Nittatsu suddenly became ill, and they had to return the cruiser to Atami so he could disembark.
On July 1, Yamazaki, together with Sugano, who was director of the newly formed Overseas Bureau, went to America and Brazil. On the day before his departure, Yamazaki said to Hamanaka over the phone (according to Hamanaka’s memoirs):
“I’m going to America and Brazil along with Mr. Sugano. Mr. Sugano says that Nichiren Shoshu will need to acquire a new temple in Brazil, since the current one is in such dire condition. I’ll have to handle this matter. I’m going there for a while with my girlfriend. Please look forward to the great work that I believe Mr. Sasaki or Mr. Yamaguchi will do during my absence in Japan.”
Yamazaki returned to Japan from this trip on July 13. At that time, Yamazaki was at the height of his contentment. On July 19, however, Sugano called Yamazaki to tell him that High Priest Nittatsu did not feel well.
The high priest’s physical condition abruptly deteriorated. He was hospitalized as an emergency at the Fujiyama Hospital, a hospital related to Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara, the high priest’s chief family doctor, because it was feared that taking him all the way to a Tokyo hospital might be too dangerous in his condition. As a result of a physical check-up done at this Fujinomiya hospital, the high priest’s heart condition seemed OK, but his intestinal movement was found out to be sluggish. How High Priest Nittatsu was feeling at that time, with a stomach ache and vomiting, is articulated in Hamanaka’s memoirs, which I will quote below.
High Priest Nittatsu’s Sudden Death
“On the late evening of July 21, Mr. Yamazaki phoned me. He said, ‘I just now returned from the hospital to see the high priest. At one point, I was really worried about him, but I think he is now all right. The high priest told Mr. Sugano and Mr. Mitsuhisa to go home, so we all left the hospital together. His wife alone will stay overnight with him at the hospital.’
“Hearing Mr. Yamazaki’s report, I felt relieved. Then, Mr. Yamazaki changed the subject and said to me, ‘Then, the high priest told his young secretary that tomorrow he will return to the head temple no matter what. He requires that a futon mattress be put in the reception room. He then told Mr. Sugano and Mr. Mitsuhisa to come there for sure tomorrow. Wado-san, what do you think?’
“Mr. Yamazaki’s voice was tense. I replied to Mr. Yamazaki, ‘That means he will transfer the heritage of Nichiren Shoshu to the next high priest.’ I was very excited about this new development. In a serious tone, Mr. Yamazaki then said, ‘I think so, too.’ I asked him, ‘Are Mr. Sugano and the Chief Secretary the only persons that the high priest invited to come to the reception room? Didn’t he order his young secretary or his wife to contact any other priests?’ Mr. Yamazaki replied convincingly, ‘No. They are the only people that the high priest wanted to come to the reception room tomorrow.’ Then, I continued, ’Then, I think that His Holiness will choose either the Chief Secretary or Mr. Sugano as his successor. And he will assign one of them as a witness.’ Then, Yamazaki hung the phone after saying, ‘I wonder which one the high priest will choose to entrust the heritage of Nichiren Shoshu. We’ll see tomorrow anyway. I am tired. I will have some sleep. Tomorrow I will go to the head temple too.’
“I went to bed with my heart excited. I could not go to sleep as my mind kept thinking. My phone rang in the middle of the night. It was a little after 2 AM. The person on the phone was Mr. Yamazaki. He said, ’I just now received a call from the high priest’s wife. It seems that the high priest’s physical condition suddenly got worse. She asked me to get in touch with Dr. Hinohara right away. I called him and he said he would be at the hospital right away. But it seems that things are not going well with the high priest. I’ll go to the hospital right away. Mr. Hisamitsu has already left for the hospital. He said he could not get in touch with Daisen-ji (Mr. Sugano).’ So saying, Mr. Yamazaki hung up.
“After this call, I was wide awake. However, because I was in Kyoshu, I could not do anything to alleviate this situation. I got out of bed and went to our living room.My parents were visiting me at my Denpo-ji temple and were sleeping in the living room, together with the wife of Reverend Shudo Oyabu (the chief priest of Setsudo-ji temple in Osamanbe, who passed away in May this year). All of the three woke up in surprise at my sudden appearance in the living room.
“I said to them, ‘It seems that His Holiness’ physical condition is really bad.’ Surprised at this, they all got up. Concerned about my father’s health, I said, ‘Please don’t worry. All of you, please go to sleep.’ However, despite these words, they must have had a hard time going back to sleep. I turned on the light in the living room and became busy with various phone calls. I don’t think it was easy for them to fall back asleep under such circumstances. Indeed, they seemed to be struggling to fall asleep.
“In the meantime, the clock in the living room and my heartbeat ticked away simultaneously. Soon, my parents and the wife of the late Reverend Oyabu sat up again in bed. They remained motionless, deeply concerned about the condition of the high priest. Each of them kept asking if the high priest were all right. And of course, I didn’t have any answer to lessen their concern.
“The phone suddenly rang. I answered, and it was a call from Mr. Yamazaki, who said, ‘Wado-san….’ Through the sad tone of his voice, I could tell that the high priest had passed on. He said, ‘The high priest died. I could not be there in time for his passing. His doctor gave him a heart massage and so forth, but it was to no avail.’ I could not help but ask him, ‘What happened to his transferring the heritage of Nichiren Shoshu?’ Mr. Yamazaki replied, ‘I don’t know. Mr. Hisamitsu is very much disappointed. I don’t know what to do, either. Everybody is in chaos, as the high priest’s body must be carried to the head temple. I’ll go back to Tokyo anyway.’ So saying, Yamazaki hung up the phone.”
No One Received the Heritage of Nichiren Shoshu from High Priest Nittatsu
On the night before he passed away, High Priest Nittatsu had told his young secretary to lay a futon mattress in the reception room instead of in his bedroom. He also told both Sugano and Mitsuhisa to be there next morning. There is no doubt that the high priest wanted to transfer the heritage of the Law to his successor. Yet, he passed away without realizing his last will. In the midst of confusion that resulted from the high priest’s death, Shinno Abe (then General Administrator) invited Jiun Sugano to a room of High Priest’s Nittatsu’s living quarters, and asked him, “Did you hear anything from High Priest Nittatsu?” This is according to Hamanaka’s memoirs, and Nichiji Hayase, chief priest of Hodo-in temple was also present.
According to Hamanaka’s memoirs, Sugano responded, “I’ve heard nothing from him.” A few years later, Hayase, who had asked the same question of Sugano, mentioned to Soka Gakkai leaders of the Toshima Ward (where his Hodo-in temple is located), “Fujimoto is a small-minded person. Abe was the only person who could serve as high priest of Nichiren Shoshu. Because I held back, Abe was able to become high priest of Nichiren Shoshu. (Note: Fujimoto means Eido Fujimoto, then General Affairs Bureau Chief of Nichiren Shoshu.)
The main funeral ceremony was conducted for the late High Priest Nittatsu on August 8 at Taiseki-ji. It was midsummer and the summer sunshine was very strong. Lay believers, each holding on to shakujo sticks, participated in a long procession. Each time the believers hit the ground with their shakujo sticks, the golden circle of each shakujo stick made a characteristically unique “shan shan” (tinkling) sound. The next day, Hamanaka commended Yamazaki for having walked through with the procession under the strong summer sunshine. Yamazaki was then director of all Nichiren Shoshu lay societies. In reply to Hamanaka’s comments, Yamazaki said (according to Hamanaka’s memoirs):
“No, it was not a big deal. I had invited some bank people to the funeral ceremony. When they saw me walk along with Mr. Ikeda in this “shan-shan-shan” procession, they would lend me as much money as I wanted. So when I realized that money is coming out of the “shan-shan-shan” stick, taking part in the procession under the summer heat was nothing.”
Like a psychopath, Yamazaki used the death and dignity of High Priest Nittatsu to fulfill his own personal desires.