In Nichiren Buddhism, the most powerful and harmful of “the three powerful enemies” is “the arrogance and presumption of those who pretend to be sages.” At the end of December 1990, the chief administrator and high priest of Nichiren Shoshu, Nikken Abe, revealed his true nature by behaving in just such a manner.
The year 1990 marked the 700th anniversary of the founding of head temple Taiseki-ji by Nikko Shonin. Nikko had left Mount Minobu with the aim of widely propagating Nichiren Buddhism. In October 1990, Soka Gakkai members, who are the disciples of the Buddha, gathered with pure faith at Taiseki-ji to participate in the auspicious, commemorative events.
At this very same time, however, beneath the surface of these celebratory events, Nikken and his associates were secretly looking for an opportunity to implement a plan they called “Operation C.”
As is well known by now, Operation C was a scheme to force the Soka Gakkai to oust Honorary President Daisaku Ikeda—to “cut” the president from the community of believers. If that turned out to be impossible, the plan was to excommunicate the Soka Gakkai as a whole. The eventual goal was to compel each member of the Soka Gakkai to leave the lay organization and become a member solely of a Nichiren Shoshu temple.
It has become obvious that more Operation C steps were taken by Nikken to make Gakkai members submit to his authority. He prohibited them from visiting the head temple to see the Dai-Gohonzon and he halted conferral of Gohonzon upon Gakkai members. Ultimately, he proclaimed that Gakkai members could never attain Buddhahood as long as they stayed with the Soka Gakkai.
Despite such opposition, members remained loyal to the Soka Gakkai. They successfully weathered the persecution stemming from “the arrogance and presumption of those pretending to be sages.” On November 28, 1991, Nikken and his priesthood, in another attempt to disrupt the unity of the members, excommunicated the entire Soka Gakkai. The organization remained unshaken, however, and Gakkai members deepened their faith in Nichiren Buddhism more than ever.
The members could clearly perceive that the Soka Gakkai is based on the Buddha’s will and decree to accomplish kosen-rufu, and that they themselves were the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. They sensed their profound connection with the founding Soka Gakkai presidents. They felt conviction in the nobility of their identity as Gakkai members derived from their understanding of the real history between the laity and the priesthood.
Before the Soka Gakkai’s emergence, Nichiren Shoshu was a small, weak school of distorted Nichiren Buddhism, just like the other Nichiren sects guided mainly by Kuon-ji, the temple located at Mount Minobu. The real history of Nichiren Shoshu has been a process of purification of the school resulting from the unparalleled faith of the Soka Gakkai’s three founding presidents. Nichiren Daishonin’s correct Buddhist teaching almost perished in Nichiren Shoshu but for the Soka Gakkai, which revived it, as the means to provide the most creative way of life amid the harsh realities of society.
When first Soka Gakkai president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi emphasized the theory of punishment, based upon the principle of gain and loss expounded in Nichiren Buddhism, the priesthood vehemently opposed it. The concept of retribution was nonexistant within Nichiren Shoshu’s understanding of Nichiren Buddhism.
The priesthood contended: “All believers of Nichiren Shoshu are already enlightened as they are. There is no way the enlightened would receive punishment.” Hokkeko members also rejected Mr. Makiguchi’s theory of punishment, readily accepting the priesthood’s position. The priesthood wanted to keep believers dependent on the priest’s and priest’s prayers, and focused on soliciting large offerings at funerals and memorial services. They were not interested in members awakening to faith, devoting themselves to studying Nichiren Buddhism, or their committment to carrying out the daily practice of sutra recitation and chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo—which the Gakkai did more assiduously than priests.
President Makiguchi emphasized the theory of negative effects all the more, resolutely determined to wipe out the shallow, erroneous understanding of Nichiren Buddhism rooted in the priesthood. He contended: “‘Those who vex and trouble [the practitioners of the Law] will have their heads split into seven pieces’ is written on the Gohonzon. Doesn’t this refer to the theory of punishment?”
Mr. Makiguchi also said: “Nichiren Daishonin states, ‘There are four kinds of punishment: general and individual, conspicuous and inconspicuous. The epidemics and famines that have attacked Japan, as well as the strife within the ruling clan and the foreign invasion, are general punishment. Epidemics are a form of inconspicuous punishment. The deaths of Ota and the others are both conspicuous and individual’ (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 997). Doesn’t this refer to the theory of punishment?”
Mr. Makiguchi’s statements were like the roar of a lion king. Eventually, a few Nichiren Shoshu priests came to understand the theory of punishment and the power of the Law expounded in Nichiren Buddhism.
But because Nichiren Shoshu in general did not grasp this concept, it pathetically succumbed to pressure from the military government during World War II, disregarding the spirit of “never begrudging one’s life” and abandoned the correct teachings of Nichiren Daishonin. The priests expelled the leaders of the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai (the original name of today’s Soka Gakkai organization), treating them as nonbelievers. Additionally, they expelled Renjo Fujimoto, a priest who shared Mr. Makiguchi’s views. Nichiren Shoshu took all these actions in fear of govenment authority that was guided by national Shintoism.
Nichiren Shoshu had long ago lost Nichiren’s spirit to remonstrate with the misguided nation. Back in the Edo period (1603–1867), the priesthood had been given an official role in governing the populace and was satisfied with this role. At the very core of its existence, Nichiren Shoshu had developed the cowardly tendency to submit to governmental authority.
The corruption could be seen on an even deeper level, as they turned Buddhism into merely a religion whose sole purpose was to conduct funerals for lay followers. Following the lead of other erroneous Buddhist sects, Nichiren Shoshu went on to create a nefarious object it called the doshi Gohonzon—doshi means “a guide”—whose only purpose was to be enshrined for funeral ceremonies. It is unlike any Gohonzon inscribed by Nichiren.
Claiming that no one could attain Buddhahood after death without the inclusion of this special Gohonzon in the funeral service, Nichiren Shoshu priests behaved as if they alone had special powers to enable the deceased to attain Buddhahood. They steered living lay believers toward obediece by professing that they would all equally attain enlightenment. But when believers died, the priesthood intimidated the surviving family members, saying that only the priesthood’s prayers could enable the deceased to attain Buddhahood.
Immoral Nichiren Shoshu priests not only used the sham doshi Gohonzon as a tool to solicit offerings from families of the deceased but also indiscriminately issued the hand-inscribed joju Gohonzon without any standard of faith or practice in order to solicit more offerings from lay believers. Joju means “eternally dwelling.” Many longtime danto (Hokkeko) families residing in the vicinity of Taiseki-ji possess joju Gohonzon that were transcribed by various high priests, and regard them no more seriously than they might nice artwork. Even today, they say without hesitation, “As long as we make offerings to Taiseki-ji, the high priest will easily transcribe joju Gohonzon for us.”
In the early 20th century, during the time of the Russo-Japanese War, Nichiren Shoshu enshrined one of Nichiren Daishonin’s original Gohonzon so that anyone could pray before it for victory in the war. Additionally, they indiscriminately issued more than 10,000 okatagi (woodblock—printed) Gohonzon, including to non-believers, bearing an inscription dedicated to victory in the war.
At the turn of the thirteenth century, Nikko Shonin, the founder of Taiseki-ji, stated: “It is said here and there that some disciples (of our deceased mentor) are treating the Gohonzon inscribed by our mentor lightly, having it carved on a plank of wood and bestowing it upon those who are without faith. Niko and Nisshun are doing such a thing. In contrast, I, Nikko, transcribe the Gohonzon most respectfully and bestow it only upon my disciples, both lay believers and priests, who uphold the teaching without begrudging their lives, or who have suffered scars, or who were banished from their residence, or who have otherwise shown some faith” (The Guidelines for Believers of the Fuji School).
Successive high priests of Nichiren Shoshu misused the Gohonzon in a manner unbefitting the disciples of Nikko. Nichiren Daishonin’s strict teaching of admonishing slanderous acts and the spirit Nikko exhibited when he left Mount Minobu had both been lost within Nichiren Shoshu long before the Soka Gakkai’s emergence. Slanderous teachings and corruption were prevalent throughout the history of Taiseki-ji.
Taiseki-ji seemed to be slowly correcting its behavior after the appearance of the Soka Gakkai, but, in truth, its insidious latent tendency remained and resurfaced in the form of the insane scheme by Nikken and his associates. Nikken displayed the behavior of persecuting those who propagate the Law—“the arrogance and presumption of those who pretend to be sages.”
Nikko stated in a writing titled “Reply to Mimasaka-bo,” “When the lord of this land disobeys the Law, I will no longer dwell here, either.” He chose to depart from Mount Minobu (in spite of its close connection to Nichiren Daishonin) because he had inherited his mentor’s spirit to severely rebuke slander. Just as Nikko left Minobu, Nichiren Daishonin’s spirit has left Taiseki-ji, a place now governed by high priests who commit slanderous acts and persecute the Buddha’s disciples.
The immediate reason for Nikko’s departure was the slanderous action of the lord of the Minobu area, Hakiri Sanenaga. It was the priest Minbu Niko, however, who had influenced Sanenaga—because Minbu Niko taught him slanderous doctrines, Sanenaga’s faith was ruined. For instance, Niko had distorted Nikko’s admonition that disciples should not visit shrines of erroneous Buddhist schools, alleging to Sanenaga that Nikko was ignorant of the essence of Buddhism. Nikko wrote of the accusations made against him by Minbu Niko in “Reply to Hara”:
“It is written throughout ‘On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land’ that the protective, benevolent deities will leave this country. But Byakuren Ajari (Nikko) only reads non-Buddhist writings, remaining ignorant of the essence of Buddhism. If a follower of the Lotus Sutra visits a shrine, the benevolent deities will also visit it. Hence you should visit it most respectfully.”
Regarding Minbu Niko distortions, Nikko wrote, “I, [Nikko], know that this behavior of Niko is a function of the heavenly devil (king devil of the sixth heaven) and therefore I am not frightened in the least. The benevolent deities say that they will abandon a slanderous country. Niko, even though a disciple propounds a different teaching, saying that they will come to any shrine if the follower of the Lotus Sutra should visit it. I, Nikko, feel it is difficult not to be punished for such slanderous behavior. I affirm that, from now on, I will banish such a study chief” (“Reply to Hara”). Nikken and his associates are committing the same sort of error as Niko did centuries before.
The Nichiren Shoshu priesthood contends that Nikken possesses the same life condition as Nichiren Daishonin. They diminish Nichiren Buddhism, worshipping Nikken’s ridiculous remarks as though they were the Buddha’s words, and advocating the erroneous teaching of “the high priest’s sole possession of the heritage of Buddhism” to justify their authority.
It is a fact that Nikken had a tomb erected at a Zen temple. The tombstone bore the inscription, “I, Nikken, have built this tomb for the enlightenment of the successive descendants of our family.” When criticized for this, Nikken brushed it off, saying, “I merely conducted a memorial service at my relative’s tomb that happens to have been built in a cemetery that shares space (with that temple).”
It is also a fact that Nikken hired a prostitute in Seattle. And he frequently consorted with geisha girls; as a case in point, a photo taken at an extremely expensive Japanese restaurant in Akasaka shows Nikken posed with several geisha. He displayed no sense of shame when these facts were revealed, even though at the time he held the supreme position of responsibility as high priest.
Nikko described how debased Minbu Niko had become: “Referring to April 8 as the date of the Buddha’s birth, [Niko] gave a lecture one night at a lay priest’s quarters. Niko not only received a monetary offering but also enjoyed sake there. The lay priest, sensing Niko’s desire [for drink], called on his wife and child to serve him the sake. Becoming drunk, Niko indecently raised his voice, which caused all those who heard him to ridicule his followers and associates. This is indeed shameful. No shame greater than this has ever befallen Nichiren. This is well known in society. Everybody knows about this” (“Reply to Hara”).
Nikken’s propounding slanderous teachings and engaging frequently in sexual escapades is identical in nature to that of Niko.
“You should be aware that the doctrine we uphold teaches that it will be a mistake if you do not abandon the teacher who opposes Nichiren Shonin” (“Reply to Hara”).
In light of this teaching, we should abandon all slanderous teachers. Soka Gakkai members are truly the Buddha’s disciples, and they have abandoned Nikken and have left Taiseki-ji. The truth is that Nikken and his priesthood were virtually excommunicated from the company of Nichiren Daishonin’s true disciples.
That is the point of this book .
November 28, 1993
Yu Fuwa, Editor of Jiyu
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Most successive high priests mentioned in this book will have the number of their term in office noted in brackets following their name. The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin will be referenced as WND followed by volume and page.]
 As described in the Lotus Sutra, there are three types of arrogant people who persecute those who propagate the sutra. (1) “The arrogance and presumption of lay people.” (2) “The arrogance and presumption of members of the Buddhist clergy” or arrogant priests. (3) “The arrogance and presumption of those who pretend to be sages” or arrogant false sages. This third category is described as priests who pretend to be sages and who are revered as such, but when encountering the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra become fearful of losing fame or profit and persecute them.
 Hokkeko refers to members of the Nichiren Shoshu lay organization or Danto. Hokkeko is translated as “Lotus School.” When the Soka Gakkai was founded in 1930, it formed its own lay organization affiliated with Nichiren Shoshu but not the Hokkeko.
 The doshi Gohonzon has inscriptions representing the “officials of hell,” where the dead dwell, not found on any other of Nichiren’s Gohonzon nor in any of his writings. The doshi Gohonzon is based on a superstitious view of hell, where the ten kings of hell dwell, that had become increasingly popular among Japanese in the 16th century. According to this folk belief, the dead will be judged by the ten kings of hell on ten “judgment days”: the seventh day after a person’s death, the fourteenth day, the twenty-first day, the twenty-eighth day, the thirty-fifth day, the forty-second day, the forty-ninth day, the one hundredth day, the one year anniversary, and three year anniversary. Using this superstition, priests encouraged believers to conduct a Buddhist memorial service on each occasion in order to collect offerings.