Part 18. What Was Caught at Was Straw

“I Don’t Like Anything That Smacks of High Priest Nittatsu”

High Priest Nittatsu exerted his last ounce of life force to transfer the heritage of Nichiren Shoshu to his chosen successor. He had ordered his young secretary to lay a futon mattress at his reception room. And he had invited only Jiun Sugano, his daughter’s husband and the chief priest of Daisen-ji temple in Kunitachi City, Tokyo, and Taiken Mitsuhisa, his chief secretary, to see him in the reception room the next day, July 23, 1979. However, High Priest Nittatsu was not able to live until the next morning.

The nichigo name of Shinno Abe was decided to be Nichiji, the name he would use when he became a full-fledged priest of Nichiren Shoshu. However, Nichiji Hayase was already using the name Nichiji, which made Shinno Abe hesitant to use the same name, even though it was the nichigo name Abe had received from his mentor. Therefore, he chose to call himself Nikken. Because his father was Nikkai, he chose Nikken to complete the Buddhist term kaiken with his father’s name. By the way, kaiken means “to open and reveal.”

The rules of Nichiren Shoshu have the following clause. It reads:

“Article 14: The high priest, alone inherits the heritage of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism that stems from Nichiren Daishonin himself, and he shall transcribe Gohonzon, and endow the nichigo name, shonin title, ingo title, and ajari title upon his followers.”

Ironically, Nikken had to confer a nichigo title upon none other than himself.

High Priest Nittatsu was in the position of high priest for twenty years. During those two decades, he lived in the Daibo quarter at the head temple. After he passed away, his son-in-law Sugano and others cleaned up the high priest’s room. In so doing, they found something very unusual. They found scores of letters written by Kaido Seki, a priest of Nichiren Shoshu. They all sounded like love letters to High Priest Nittatsu.

In 1990, when Seki was chief priest of Butsuju-ji temple in Komae, Tokyo, he played an important role in mapping out a plan called “Operation C” under Nikken. It seems that he must have written a number of flattering letters to Nikken as well, in order to gain his trust. He was so trusted that he played a major role in fulfilling Nikken’s dark desire. Seki was a graduate of Tokyo University, but he came into Nichiren Shoshu because of failure in a love affair. It seems that his frustration found expression in his unusual attachment to those in power in the world of Nichiren Shoshu.

When he moved into Daibo quarter to live, Nikken is reported to have said, “I hate anything that smacks of High Priest Nittatsu.”

Following this direction, everything that personally belonged to the former high priest was taken away. High Priest Nittatsu’s bereaved family and disciples had to put aside all his belongings under the authority of the new high priest. They did not even have time to reminisce about the former high priest, because they had to create new space for the new high priest. The most miserable were the pets that High Priest Nittatsu kept. They were all taken away from Daibo, because Nikken detested them all. In this Daibo area, there lived many animals: cranes that the former high priest had covertly kept there (since it is designated as a protected species in Japan), many birds for which the former high priest built a hut, and the dogs that always accompanied the former high priest.

Nikken told Sugano, “Take them away as soon as possible. You can take them to any place you please.” Nikken also said, “I detest anything that smacks of High Priest Nittatsu.”  

But it seemed that the former high priest’s memory was still felt, even after all his pets and furniture were taken away. Nikken soon destroyed the lodging part of Daibo where the former high priest had lived. He then built an extremely gorgeous Japanese-style structure in the classy Kyoto style. The series of actions that Nikken took to get rid of the former high priest’s memory were completed with the construction of a new Six-Compartment Lodging (Mutsubo) in October 1988, nine years and two months after he took office as high priest. This lodging temple is the place where young priests, who are not yet teachers, do gongyo every day. It is a time-honored location as it is the original location of Taiseki-ji. The Six-Compartment structure that was built during the time of High Priest Nittatsu was a leading Japanese-style building, and was highly regarded by the Japan Construction Association. Of course, the structure was still in good shape and very usable when Nikken decided to destroy it. Not only the old Six-Compartment lodging, but also the Daikejo on the grounds of Taiseki-ji became a target of Nikken’s destruction spree. He also wiped out the Flow Garden (Nagare-no Niwa) that used to be an outdoor party site for the head temple. These facts indicate that it is doubtful that Nikken had officially received the heritage of Nichiren Shoshu from High Priest Nittatsu. Nikken continued to destroy key structures that were built during the time of High Priest Nittatsu, building replacements to his liking.

In October 1995, Nikken began to destroy the Grand Reception Hall. In March 1998, Nikken began to build a new reception hall that suited his taste. (Incidentally, this structure has no bathroom for believers.) In June 1998, Nikken finally turned to destroying the Grand Main Temple (Sho-Hondo). In October 2002, Nikken began to build Hoando. (This structure also has no bathroom for believers.)

In this way, Nikken has reduced High Priest Nittatsu’s accomplishments to ashes and replaced them with new buildings that suited his taste.

Yamazaki Denies Nikken’s Legitimacy as Nichiren Shoshu High Priest

Yamazaki lost no time in trying to be close to Nikken right after the latter took office as new high priest. His maneuvering seemed to have succeeded at one point, which made him happy. Yamazaki then wrote two notes to Nikken, entitled, “What I Have To Say to You, Part I” and “What I Have to Say to You, Part II.”

The following sentences are in one of these two notes from Yamazaki to Nikken.

“For ‘G’ (meaning the high priest, and, in this case, denoting Nikken) to be well-balanced, the best way to check the rampant growth and activities of young priests and lay believers.

“Because things are moving in your favor, Nichiren Shoshu will have 150,000 to 200,000 danto members in a matter of a year and half. With these danto members, ‘G’ will have the power to control the Gakkai in an actual sense. A true solution of the issue between Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai must come about at that time.

“Please be sure to pursue the construction of cemeteries because they serve as strategically decisive battlefields.”

However, Yamazaki’s scheme to involve himself in the interests of cemeteries was foiled. On September 25, Nikken angrily told Yamazaki face to face at Taiseki-ji,

“You are a big liar. I won’t trust you.” and “Don’t come to the head temple until I say you can come.”

On the evening of that day, Yamazaki phoned Hamanaka and told him:

“That bastard can’t be high priest, Wado-san. Before High Priest Nittatsu passed away, he didn’t intend to transfer the heritage of Nichiren Shoshu to that man.” (Excerpted from Hamanaka’s memoirs)

“I know the true story. That bastard, damn it! He shouldn’t act like a high priest. I’ll make sure he has regrets.” (ditto)

“I’ll remember forever what that bastard said to me yesterday. I’ll surely kill him. I’ll definitely take revenge. He’ll see.” (ditto)

In one sense, what happened was the collapse of Yamazaki’s manipulations. From Nikken’s perspective, Yamazaki was just another reminder of High Priest Nittatsu to be gotten rid of.

Yamazaki had been busy agitating and controlling the activist priests, many of whom came from the Soka Gakkai that Nikken detested. Arrogant as he was, Nikken could not stand the fact that Yamazaki took the initiative in developing strategies and bestowing ideas upon him, now the high priest of Nichiren Shoshu. Knowing the nature of Nikken, his reaction to Yamazaki’s manipulations was very understandable. Yamazaki mishandled the proud nature of Nikken, who is from a prestigious Nichiren Shoshu family lineage. Regarding High Priest Nittatsu, Yamazaki took the necessary actions to gain his trust. He tenaciously took the time to cultivate his relationship with High Priest Nittatsu, continually providing misinformation about the Soka Gakkai, and making himself indispensable. However, Yamazaki did not put forth the effort necessary to win Nikken’s trust And the stance that Yamazaki took irritated Nikken’s pride badly. When Nikken said to Yamazaki, “You are a big liar, “ it basically meant that Yamazaki was kicked out of Nichiren Shoshu.

In those days, there was no one within Nichiren Shoshu who openly cast doubt on the legitimacy of Nikken as high priest. The realization existed that, if no one had received the heritage of Nichiren Shoshu from High Priest Nittatsu, it would hurt the entire priesthood. It would mean the loss of Nichiren Shoshu’s fundamental footing. As a result, this subject was taboo within Nichiren Shoshu. Nikken himself was most deeply aware that he did not receive the heritage from the former high priest. Because he knew that he did not get it, he simply declared himself high priest of Nichiren Shoshu. The transference of the heritage from high priest to high priest was the heart of Nichiren Shoshu. Within the priesthood, it was considered that the priests could not survive without the authority derived from the high priest’s possession of the heritage of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. Whether Nikken was a true high priest or not, the priesthood of Nichiren Shoshu had no choice but to accept him as such for the sake of their own survival. So, at that time, it seemed to Nikken that Yamazaki was not so valuable to him.

Yamazaki published an article in the November 20, 1990, issue of the Shukan Bunshun about Nikken’s failure to receive the heritage of Nichiren Shoshu from the former high priest. It was entitled “Two Doubts — High Priest Nittatsu’s Death and Nikken Abe’s Inheritance.”

In it, Yamazaki states, “Nothing tangible exists that proves that the transferring of the heritage actually took place. No one saw it.”

Afterwards, Yamazaki wrote articles in the Shukan Bunshun and the Shokun that questioned Nikken’s legitimacy as high priest of Nichiren Shoshu.

Disguising His True Feelings, Yamazaki Makes His Way Back to Nikken

About ten years later, at the end of 1990, Nikken put into action his “Operation C” to break apart the organization of the Soka Gakkai. In Part 7, I wrote, that in January of that year, Nikken sent Yamazaki the message that “I’m sorry that I once told you that you were a liar. Please accept my apology.”

On February 25, Yamazaki was put in jail. It seems that right before his imprisonment, Yamazaki had a secret meeting with Kido Fukuda, secretary of Nichiren Shoshu Administrative Office’s Overseas Bureau, to discuss what Yamazaki could do for Nichiren Shoshu. Delighted at the contents of their discussion, Yamazaki went into prison.

On April 27, 1993, Yamazaki was released from prison on parole. But he found himself in circumstances that were diametrically opposed to what he had conjured up in his mind. The Soka Gakkai was free from the fetters of Nichiren Shoshu, and was much more vigorous than in the past. The Komei Party was then part of the coalition government. Before his imprisonment, Yamazaki would say to one of his associates, “Mr. Nikken will take the upper-hand with the Soka Gakkai.” What really happened was that Nikken had to desperately defend himself, instead of taking the offense against the Soka Gakkai. Not only that, even if he had professed that he did indeed inherit the heritage of Nichiren Shoshu from the former high priest, he still did not have the power to control Soka Gakkai members any more. On top of that, Nikken had become the target of Soka Gakkai members’ ridicule.

An ideal situation that Yamazaki foresaw for himself was Nikken standing victorious, while the Gakkai was on the brink of collapse. However, in terms of his own gain or loss, the fact that Nikken was in trouble was very beneficial to Yamazaki, because it meant that there was something he could do for Nikken to gain his confidence. After Yamazaki was released from his imprisonment, he wrote five secret letters to Nikken.

In September 1979, Yamazaki was scolded by Nikken for his faithlessness. Yamazaki wrote about this in one of his secret letters to Nikken:

“Regarding your unfortunate misunderstanding of me at the beginning of those unfortunate times, I too was responsible for your misjudgment. Therefore, you don’t have to apologize to me or mention the past any more. Please forget everything that happened between you and me. When I recall that you said to me ‘You are a liar,’ my memory is now tainted with painful resentment, not with hatred or anger toward you.”

The letter seems written in June or July 1993 about two months after Yamazaki was released from prison on parole. It is totally wrong to believe that these words of Yamazaki’s came from the bottom of his heart. It is part of his manipulative nature that he can write such shallow, complimentary words. What lies in his heart is the same now as over a decade ago.

Right after being scolded by Nikken, Yamazaki reportedly said, “I’m mad. I’ll bet my life on crushing that bastard. I’ll do anything for that!” (excerpt from Hamanaka’s memoirs)

Here he is masking his anger with flattering words. All the sweet words he uses are geared to deceive Nikken. In the same letter, Yamazaki wrote:

“Mr. Shumei Sasaki says in his testimony in the Shoshinkai trial that ‘I developed my doubt about the legitimacy of the transfer of the heritage of Nichiren Shoshu to the current high priest.’ Saying such a thing at court is his mistake.

“The Shoshinkai will find itself in a critical situation, because it will lose the basis for its contention, if I should withdraw what I wrote in my memoir about the issue of Nikken’s heritage. Mr. Sasaki’s careless testimony has created an unfortunate situation for the Shoshinkai. All its members felt distressed when its lawyer pointed out the absurdity of Mr. Sasaki’s statement.”

Through these statements, Yamazaki is actually selling himself. He is saying that he can control Nikken’s issue of legitimacy. About ten years ago, Yamazaki thoroughly denied Nikken’s legitimacy as high priest, and now he has reversed his position. Yamazaki is the type of person who would do anything to benefit himself.

Yamazaki wrote an article in Emyo, the Hokkeko Group’s organ, in its February 2, 1995, issue entitled, “How I Have Come to Respectfully Trust High Priest Nikken’s Legitimacy.” In it, he states,

“Recently, I had a chance to read the guidance of High Priest Nikken about his legitimacy.

“Since the issue is of such a profound and mystic nature, and because there are so many elements whose understanding is beyond the level of a lowly person like me, I find some parts of his writing too difficult and subtle to understand. However, as I read them repeatedly, all my doubt about the integrity of the heritage that he received went away.

“Also, after reading this article, I contacted some priests who were close to High Priest Nittatsu to confirm some details of the transference of the heritage from the former high to High Priest Nikken. I also confirmed some other facts that prove High Priest Nikken’s legitimacy.

“Through these efforts on my part, I have come to the conclusion that what I said in the Shukan Bunshun to deny High Priest Nikken’s legitimacy was greatly erroneous, and it showed the shallowness of my understanding at that time.” (Emyo, February 26, 1995, issue)

Little substance is found in this article of Yamazaki’s despite its exaggerated title. All he is saying here is that his doubt of the legitimacy of High Priest Nikken is gone. But in this article, he provides no facts and has proven nothing about Nikken’s legitimacy. The article is basically saying that, because Nikken says he is a legitimate high priest, then he must be legitimate. Yamazaki said he had confirmed details through some priests who were close to High Priest Nittatsu. However, what in the world did he confirm with whom? Jiun Sugano, husband of the late high priest’s daughter and chief priest of Daisen-ji temple, was the only person who had the crucial information to judge Nikken’s legitimacy. The fact that still stands today is that Nikken actually asked the chief priest of Hodo-in temple, Nichiji Hayase, “Did you hear anything from High Priest Nittatsu about the transference of the heritage?” He asked this question in one of the rooms adjacent to High Priest Nittatsu’s quarters at the head temple. Yamazaki’s claim in this article is no different than simply saying that the above question from Nikken to Hayase did not occur. In other words, Yamazaki is trying to deny historical facts in order to defend Nikken for his own purpose.

Sugano may choose to be quiet about the above statement by Nikken, but the historical fact of it still remains intact.

Devil Enters High Priest’s Life and Dominates Entire Sect

In his letter to Nikken, Yamazaki reversed his past statement by writing, “Through this, I have come to the conclusion that what I said in the Shukan Bunshun to deny High Priest Nikken’s legitimacy was greatly erroneous, showing the shallowness of my understanding of the issue.” Actually, what Yamazaki pointed out about the falsity of Nikken’s legitimacy in the Shukan Bunshun was correct. However, there are some falsehoods in Yamazaki’s memoir in the Shukan Bunshun. In this article, Yamazaki writes, “I didn’t have any sleep on the night before High Priest Nittatsu’s death, as I was praying for his recovery all night” (Shukan Bunshun, November 1983 issue). This description of Yamazaki’s is incorrect. According to his memoirs, Hamanaka remembers how Yamazaki spent that night. Yamazaki said to Hamanaka on that night, “Well, I’m tired. The best way to recover when you are tired is to meet a woman.”

Yamazaki also wrote in the same article in the Shukan Bunshun, “When I was leaving with Mr. Sugano (who had made various arrangements for High Priest Nittatsu’s hospitalization), High Priest Nittatsu stopped me. Then, we had a private talk for about half an hour on a one-to-one basis.”

In his memoirs, Hamanaka denies what Yamazaki writes here, pointing out that there was no chance for Yamazaki to spend time alone with High Priest Nittatsu that night, as his wife was always with him in his room. Hamanaka writes exactly what he heard from Yamazaki at the time, who said, “As the high priest said, ‘I’ll rest. You all can go home now,’ we all asked his wife to take good care of the high priest. I just now parted with Mr. Sugano and Mrs. Mitsuhisa.”

On New Year Day in 1997, Yamazaki was leaving the Shoshinkai Group and siding anew with Nikken. He made a phone call to Hamanaka to extend his greetings to his old associate, and said, “Yet, I’ve not forgotten the fact that Abe once called me a liar. I’ll never forget it. He’ll see. I’ll definitely revenge myself on him. He shouldn’t take me lightly. I’ll hang up now. Thank you for your long friendship with me.”

How pitiful Nikken is as he has to need a man like Yamazaki to prove his legitimacy! To Yamazaki, Nikken must be easier to deal with than the late High Priest Nittatsu, for Nikken is a fake high priest, and Yamazaki is wholly entrusted by him to prove his righteousness. Nikken does not have the freedom to discard Yamazaki, and Yamazaki will surely continue to capitalize onthis, until Nikken dies. Incidentally, whether Yamazaki trusts Nikken’s legitimacy or not does not have any bearing in society.

On January 24, 2002, the Supreme Court ruled in a trial in which Nichiren Shoshu had demanded Myodo-ji temple of Nagaoya City in Aichi Prefecture to be vacated.

On January 29, 2003, the Supreme Court ruled in a trial in which Nichiren Shoshu had demanded Jyosetsu-ji temple of Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture, to be vacated.

On February 22, 2002, the Supreme Court ruled in a trial in which Nichiren Shoshu demanded Daikyo-ji temple of Hiratsuka City in Kanagawa Prefecture to be vacated.

Nichiren Shoshu lost in all these trials.

“Verbal transference of the heritage of Nichiren Daishonin only from one high priest to another without any intervention” or “the light of the Law handed down for seven hundred years without cessation”—both sound beautiful to one’s ears. However, these words and the historical facts are two different things. As long as Nichiren Shoshu bases itself upon the absolute authority of any high priest, it will cause each high priest to become an entity of false authority; to the point where, for example, Nikken allows his believers to say that he is “the Daishonin of modern times” (Nichiren Shoshu organ, Dai-Nichiren, June 1991 issue). The devil sneaked into the heart of the high priest who possessed absolute authority in Nichiren Shoshu, thus converting Taiseki-ji and all local Nichiren Shoshu temples into the home of the devil.

In contrast to the lifestyle of the founder of Nichiren Buddhism, Nichiren Shoshu priests have developed deeply shameful aspects within their lives due to their secular marriage. The whole purpose of their lives now lies in preserving their own survival and pursuing their own pleasure, not in the propagation of the Law or fulfilling the mandate of their original teacher, Nichiren Daishonin.Those believers who choose to trust historical falsities as true become the source of the priests’ income.

When the seat of high-priest-hood is placed on a pedestal, it means that the high priest will receive an enormous amount of offerings from his disciples and believers. Nichiren Shoshu represents such absurdity and spiritual regression. It is comedic as well.