The Fallacies Behind Nichiren Shoshu’s
By emphasizing formalities, a religious body may use them to become authoritarian. In the process, it can lose its compassion to save people. The teaching of the Law as originally expounded by the Buddha to bring happiness to the people will lose its original power if used as the basis for the authority of the religious order.
When this happens the teaching of the Law is then utilized by those who hold power and authority to control their followers, rather than for the people’s happiness and wellbeing. In the Nirvana Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha expressed his concern about what would happen to the teaching of the Law after his demise, in the Latter Day of the Law. In this sutra, Shakyamuni foretold the evil actions that would be taken by priests in the defiled Latter Day. He predicted that their evil deeds would be carried out through the misuse of the very Law that the Buddha had expounded.
The Nirvana Sutra reads: “After I have passed away . . . [After the Former Day of the Law has ended and] the Middle Day of the Law has begun and there will be monks who will give the appearance of abiding by the rules of monastic discipline. But they will scarcely ever read or recite the sutras, and instead will crave all kinds of food and drink to nourish their bodies. Though they wear the clothes of a monk, they will go about searching for alms like so many huntsmen who, narrowing their eyes, stalk softly. They will be like a cat on the prowl for mice. And they will constantly reiterate these words, ‘I have attained arhatship!’ Outwardly they will seem to be wise and good, but within they will harbor greed and jealousy. [And when they are asked to preach the teachings, they will say nothing,] like Brahmans who have taken a vow of silence. They are not true monks—they merely have the appearance of monks. Consumed by their erroneous views, they slander the correct teaching” (The Nirvana Sutra, quoted in “The Opening of the Eyes,” WND, vol. 1, p. 275).
Both good and evil priests speak about the teachings of the Buddha. At a glance, it is not clear which priests are correct and which are erroneous. What is the standard by which to judge? Whether they are good or evil should be based upon the actions they take to relieve the suffering of people. From that viewpoint, it becomes easier to judge who is the true votary of the Lotus Sutra. The true votary is devoted to the sacred mission of bringing absolute happiness to the people, while holding the perspective that every human being innately possesses the seed of enlightenment in his or her life.
Evil priests, however, exploit Buddhism in order to strengthen their authority. They use it as a tool to discriminate against people. They divide the people from the Buddha. While behaving as impeccable clergymen, their true nature is evil. This point applies even to the religious school that seemingly upholds the correct Law and teachings.
Today, if we observe other Buddhist schools in Japan it is obvious that they are becoming more democratized and are reducing their authority. Nichiren Shoshu, however, runs counter to this general trend. Ironically, Nichiren Shoshu is the sect most promoting authoritarianism in opposition to the rise of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.
Where does the oppression of Nichiren Shoshu come from? It derives from the incorrect view of the heritage of Nichiren Buddhism. Nichiren Shoshu’s insanity stems from the idea that the high priest alone inherits the lifeblood of Buddhism. Until this incorrect view is rectified, Nichiren Shoshu will remain a corrupt sect.
The concept of a “heritage of Buddhism” has been the concern of many Buddhist sects. Any priest regarded as the inheritor of the heritage easily attains special status within a Buddhist order, and it is the erroneous view of the heritage of Buddhism that guarantees that status.
The chief administrator (high priest) of the Higashi Hongan-ji School of Jodo Shinshu (Pure Land school) once possessed unparalleled power and authority in Japanese religious society. Historically, he exerted extraordinary influence over both secular and religious matters.
The chief administrator position of this school has been inherited through the lineage of the Otani family, which carried on the bloodline of its founder, Kyonyo (1602). The Otani family was also related to the Japanese Imperial Family. In the Hokuriku area, where the Otani family is overwhelmingly powerful, lay believers of this school would drink the chief administrator’s bathwater when he visited the area to propagate the school’s teachings. The high priest of the Higashi Hongan-ji School was worshipped as a living Buddha who inherited the legacy of Kyonyo.
Today, however, the Otani family is steadily on the decline. Because of internal reforms, the position of chief administrator is no longer considered absolute in the Higashi Hongan-ji School. Currently, no one in the school would regard its chief administrator as a living Buddha.
The authority of the Otani family, once looked upon as no less significant than the emperor’s family—in fact, the wife of former emperor Hirohito and the wife of former chief administrator Mitsuaki Otani were sisters—has declined as the school has moved toward democratization.
The Higashi Hongan-ji School example is symbolic of the wave of democratization of Japan’s religious world. Other Japanese religious schools are going through similar changes—the distorted, illusory view of the heritage is being rejected. The idea that the Buddha’s heritage is a criterion for inequality among the people is being rejected even in schools that don’t embrace Nichiren’s teachings.
We can see, then, that Nichiren Shoshu is extremely anachronistic in the Japanese religious world. In Nichiren Shoshu, the high priest also performs the role of chief administrator, which means he possesses both the utmost religious authority and the utmost administrative and political power within the school. This centralized power is enormous, incomparable in Japanese religious circles today. For this reason, the high priest’s actions remain unchecked, no matter how insane they may become.
Those in the Nikken sect respond, “The high priest’s role in Nichiren Shoshu has a doctrinally special meaning, and it is completely different from the role of the high priest in heretical sects.” But, traditionally, the positions of high priest and chief administrator held the same significance in all Buddhist sects.
Historically speaking, the chief administrator of the aforementioned larger and more influential Higashi Hongan-ji School possessed supreme authority more powerful than that of the high priest of the smaller and weaker Nichiren Shoshu. Nonetheless, Higashi Hongan-ji steadily underwent democratization. This occurred because most of the leaders came to understand if a religious organization does not embrace people’s opinions it will lose its raison d’être in society. They developed this awareness because they wanted to continue propagating the school’s teachings.
In Nichiren Shoshu, however, the priests, who had rarely engaged in propagation, not only distanced themselves from the times but also acted in opposition to the rest of society. It was the Soka Gakkai that shouldered the mission of propagating the Law.
Nichiren Shoshu had established a religious authority completely detached from societal reality, a fact that underlies the foundation of their existence. Put another way, Nichiren Shoshu cloaks itself in assumed religious authority to try to offset its lack of power in society. This has become more conspicuous in recent years, fueled by the school’s distortion of the heritage of Buddhism and deification of the high priest.
First, it is important to note that such absolute power and authority—where the high priest is regarded as a living Buddha—did not previously exist in Nichiren Shoshu.
The main hall of Yobo-ji temple in Kyoto. Nichiren Shoshu imported their high priests from this Minobu-related sect for nearly a hundred years beginning in the early 17th century.
As I will explain later, various historical incidents demonstrate that the high priest is not a holy entity but rather a mundane administrator. For example, it happened that high priests were recruited from another sect because Taiseki-ji could not find a suitable candidates within its own school. Another high priest, Nitchu-[58th], was ousted from his position in a coup. And the next high priest, Nichiko-[59th], was chosen by election, based on an order from the Minister of Education to remedy a confrontation between two camps within the school.
Nichiko was later forced to resign because he could no longer fulfill his responsibility as high priest due to the malicious treatment he received from other senior priests. The next high priest, Nichikai-[60th], was chosen through an election mired in bribery and threats.
Even before the days of these high priests, Nichiren Shoshu possessed nothing remarkable in terms of authority and power. It was formerly called the Nikko School of the Nichiren Sect, a tiny Buddhist order with jurisdiction over only 50 local temples. It held so little influence over the history of Japan that it could not be even closely compared with the power and authority of the chief administrator of Higashi Hongan-ji School.
“The Twenty-Six Admonitions of Nikko” states “Do not follow even the high priest if he goes against the Buddha’s Law and propounds his own views.”
As is clear from Nikko Shonin’s statement that protecting the Law is more important than the authority of the high priest. Accordingly, there is no social or religious reason to justify the conferral of absolute power and authority upon the high priest of Nichiren Shoshu. Occasionally, over history, the position of high priest was given new powers to bolster a weak leader who would then become despotic, but it was an exception to the general rule.
Nikko regarded the position of high priest to be subordinate to the Law, but in recent years, Nichiren Shoshu has elevated the position to an extraordinary degree. This has been done in order to emphasize the priesthood’s significance and to consolidate the power and authority of the school.
Such actions are in contrast to the Soka Gakkai, which is based on the people. To make priests seem better and more important than ordinary people, the priest-centered Nichiren Shoshu actually revised its rules and bylaws to institutionalize the absolute authority of the high priest, going against the modern democratic trend. Nichiren Shoshu will isolate itself from Japan’s religious community unless it can achieve reformation from within.
Corrupted by their overemphasis of the sole transmission of the heritage through the lineage of successive high priests, no one in Nichiren Shoshu could utter a word against Nikken’s unilateral mismanagement of the school. Even Nichiren Shoshu’s own traditional doctrine has perished due to Nikken’s “holy” teaching.
It is uncertain how long Nichiren Shoshu’s dark days will last. It will never revive unless its priests sincerely listen to the voices of the Soka Gakkai members, who are devoted day and night to spreading Nichiren Buddhism. The priests must humbly and courageously reform the school from within, employing apology and self-reflection.
Otherwise, Taiseki-ji will continue to decay as a heretical temple that can only boast of storing treasures related to Nichiren Daishonin and of its historic connection to Nikko Shonin. It will become just like the Minobu School, noteworthy because it was once a hallowed site where Nichiren Daishonin had lived. Taiseki-ji has become heretical through the erroneous teachings of Nikken and will soon reveal to the world its decadence and ugliness.
In Chapter One, I will relate how some high priests acceded to their office. It will become evident how groundless it is for the Nikken sect to maintain that the high priest alone possesses the living essence of the Buddha, and that the water of the Law has flowed solely from high priest to high priest over the centuries.
The future of Nichiren Shoshu becomes clear when we recount how slanderous, corrupt and destitute Taiseki-ji had been before the appearance of the Soka Gakkai.
Recruiting High Priests From the Slanderous Yobo-ji Temple
In the late sixteenth century Nissho-[15th], came from Yobo-ji, a temple in Kyoto that belonged to a different Nichiren school.
Yobo-ji started out as Jogyo-in, founded by Nichizon, a disciple of Nikko. Nichimoku, the successor to Nikko, had died in Mino (in today’s Gifu prefecture) while on his way to Kyoto to remonstrate with the emperor. Nichizon, who had been journeying with Nichimoku, continued on to Kyoto and remonstrated with the emperor. Nichizon remained in Kyoto and later built Jogyo-in. In time, however, he came to oppose Nichiren’s teachings, and he installed a statue of Shakyamuni at Jogyo-in along with statues of Shakyamuni’s ten major disciples.
Jogyo-in later combined with Juhon-ji—a temple opened in Kyoto by Nichidai, Nichizon’s disciple—and became Yobo-ji. It was Kozo-in Nisshin who established this joint temple. Nisshin wrote treatises titled: A Discussion on Making Statues and A Discussion on Reciting the Sutra. In A Discussion on Making Statues, he insisted that Shakyamuni’s statue should be the object of worship. In A Discussion on Reciting the Sutra, he expounded the erroneous idea that recitation of all 28 chapters of the Lotus Sutra are necessary—the Fuji school advocates only recitation of portions from the “Expedient Means” and the “Life Span” chapters.
Kozo-in Nisshin’s erroneous teachings are the basis of Yobo-ji doctrine. In 1558, when Kozo-in Nisshin wrote A Discussion on Making Statues, he asked Nichiin-[13th], to start an exchange with other Nikko schools, but Nichiin refused.
An exchange between Yobo-ji and Taiseki-ji did start, however, during the time of the next high priest, Nisshu-[14th]. Among the Yobo-ji priests invited was one named Nissho, who became Nisshu’s successor as high priest only two years after first visiting Taiseki-ji. This is confirmed in accounts from The Chronology of Nichiren Shoshu and the Fuji School.
In effect, then, Taiseki-ji had recruited a senior priest from Yobo-ji. Not only that, there was an instance where Yobo-ji sent another priest to Taiseki-ji when Nichiren Shoshu was in need of prospective priests. The purpose was to enable Taiseki-ji to prosper but it also gave Yobo-ji the upper hand in their relationship.
Nichiko Hori-[59th] openly discussed this historical fact in an interview in the November 1956 issue of The Daibyakurenge (the Soka Gakkai’s study magazine:
Nichiko Hori: There was a relationship between Yobo-ji and Taiseki-ji during the time of High Priest Nichiu. In addition, Nisshu of Taiseki-ji developed a relationship with the Yobo-ji chief administrator. Kuritaguchi no Sei, a powerful member of a prominent family, was instrumental in helping establish this relationship. Taiseki-ji went on to welcome many priests from Yobo-ji. It considered inviting Nissho, a famous Yobo-ji priest, who was a first-class scholar under Nisshin. He was famous in Kyoto. Invited by court nobles all over Kyoto, Nissho lectured in court circles and was invited to lecture at the Imperial court. He could expound on all kinds of subjects other than Buddhism, even on Shintoism. Nissho was a useful individual, and it was said that Taiseki-ji would prosper with him as high priest, but Yobo-ji would not let him go, for he was also very valuable to Yobo-ji.
The Daibyakurenge: Taiseki-ji took in another priest instead of him, right?
Nichiko Hori: Another priest, whose name was also Nissho (although spelled with a different Chinese character), came to Taiseki-ji. This Nissho was also very capable in many ways.”
We can see that high priests of Nichiren Shoshu were often recruited from Yobo-ji through the auspices of the influential Kuritaguchi no Sei.
The Daibyakurenge: One after another, priests from Yobo-ji assumed the role of chief administrator at Taiseki-ji, isn’t that right?
Nichiko Hori: Yes, in all, nine high priests in a row. At first, the priests who came to Taiseki-ji from Yobo-ji were well established. But after the 17th high priest, Nissei, the situation changed. Nissei came to Taiseki-ji while still young. After arriving at Taiseki-ji, he went to Edo and became successful. The priests who came to Taiseki-ji prior to High Priest Nissei had already matured as priests, while those after Nissei essentially grew up as acolytes at Taiseki-ji, [under his erroneous teachings].
The Daibyakurenge: It means that these acolytes didn’t contribute much to Taiseki-ji at first, doesn’t it?
Nichiko Hori: Right. Concerning the Yobo-ji doctrine, these young priests did not bring it to Taiseki-ji. Nonetheless, remnants of the Yobo-ji doctrine remained at Taiseki-ji. It was High Priest Nisshun, who had also come from Yobo-ji, who completely erased Yobo-ji’s influence from Taiseki-ji.
The Daibyakurenge: High Priest Nisshun set aside all the Buddhist statues, eventually destroying them.
Nichiko Hori: Yes, he got rid of the Buddhist statues.
It is noteworthy that Nichiko confirms how the negative Yobo-ji influence remained at Taiseki-ji.
Even though Yobo-ji regards Nichiren Daishonin as the founder of Nichiren Buddhism, its doctrine differs completely from that of Nichiren Shoshu. The fact that a priest recruited from Yobo-ji became high priest of Taiseki-ji only two years after he arrived is inexplicable in light of Nichiren Shoshu’s current stance on the absolute authority of the high priest.
Nissei Erects Statues of Shakyamuni
Nine consecutive high priests—Nissho-[15th], Nichiju-[16th], Nissei-[17th], Nichiei-[18th], Nisshun-[19th], Nitten-[20th], Nichinin-[21st], Nisshun-[22nd] and Nikkei-[23rd]—came over from Yobo-ji.
Nissho-[15th] and Nichiju-[16th] took office at Taiseki-ji after having been recruited as senior priests. The rest coming from Yobo-ji had transferred to Taiseki-ji as acolytes. In those days, however, many senior priests other than those who became high priests also transferred over, so the influence of Yobo-ji’s erroneous teachings must have been pervasive at Taiseki-ji.
In fact, Nissei-[17th], who apparently remained under the influence of Kozo-in Nisshin, actually erected statues of Shakyamuni at Taiseki-ji and promoted the erroneous teaching of venerating Shakyamuni.
Reading Nichiko’s Daibyakurenge interview, it is surprising to find him so candid in answering questions about the heritage of the school. We can see that he viewed the heritage and the position of the high priest to be transparent to the public. Nichiko’s perspective was very different from that of the Nikken sect, who feels that the high priest is “the Daishonin of the modern times” and that the laity must follow the priesthood without question.
The historical truth revealed by Nichiko Hori demonstrates the error of Nichiren Shoshu’s current contention that the high priest is the sole inheritor of the Law.
High Priest Nichijo Abandons His Responsibilities and Vanishes
The Nikken priesthood calls the position of chief priest of Taiseki-ji “the seat of the high priest.” The person in this position—regardless of character—is called “Geika (ultimately respectable),” or “Gozen-sama (His Majesty),” or “Lord of the Chair.” This is maintained even if he proves himself to be the leader of the three powerful enemies or a “Law-devouring hungry spirit.”
But what do you call a high priest who abandons his position and disappears?
It must have been grave event indeed when the high priest, without having transferred the heritage to his successor, vanishes one day from the head temple. Even if it was a destitute temple where few believers visited, it is still unthinkable. Yet, during the Edo Period, this actually happened.
Nichijo-[53rd] was the one who disappeared from Taiseki-ji while still in office in 1865. The background story is very complicated.
Nichijo had been high priest for two and a half years, but then had to resign largely because of a fire that had ravaged Taiseki-ji.
It seems that around the time Nichijo took office there had been a conflict with his predecessor, Nichiden-[52nd]. Nichiden visited Edo to rectify this situation but returned to Taiseki-ji upon hearing about a fire that occurred there. To avoid encountering Nichiden, Nichijo retired to a neighboring temple, Shimono-bo. Later, he disappeared from Shimono-bo, and his whereabouts were unknown.
Nichiden’s own recollection of this incident is written in Organizational Publication for Propagation, Nichiren Shoshu’s Meiji Period publication. A correction was eventually added to his report, and a vital part of the story was erased.
In conjunction with this history, Nikken made a statement in June 1989, the 100th anniversary of Nichiden’s passing, claiming that there was a part of Nichiden’s memoir that should not be made known to lay believers. Thus, Nikken admits that part of the history of Nichiren Shoshu needs to be covered up.
The conflict between Nichiden and Nichijo took place between the end of the Edo period and beginning of the Meiji era (1868–1912). It intensified half a century later in the Showa period (1926–1989) in the form of hatred between the Renyo-an Group (Nichiden’s disciples) and the Fujimi-an Group (Nichiei and Nichijo’s disciples).
The following is an outline of Nichijo’s personal history:
He was born in Edo (now Tokyo) on October 11, 1831, and became an acolyte under Nichiei-[51st] in October 1842. He became chief priest (53rd high priest) of Taiseki-ji in October 1862, at 31. Youthful Nichijo was the successor to the 46-year-old Nichiden.
But there is a very serious question as to whether Nichijo truly received the heritage from Nichiden.
The Chronology of Nichiren Shoshu and the Fuji School reads, “In December (note: year unknown), Nichiden transfers the Law to Nichijo (Biography of Nichiden Shonin).” The citation is from The Biography of Nichiden Shonin, written by Nichiden himself.
Yet, there is no description of a transfer ceremony between Nichiden and Nichijo in Nichiren Shoshu’s official writings such as The Biography of Nichiden Shonin, The Biography of Teacher Nichiden, or The Summarized Biography of Nichiden.
The following description, however, is found in The Biography of Nichiden Shonin and other writings: “In December of that year, the priests and lay believers invited Study Chief Kodo-in to the Dai-bo (high priest quarters). Thus now we have the 53rd high priest, Nichijo.”
It seems that The Chronology of Nichiren Shoshu and the Fuji School changed the line “Nichiden transfers the Law to Nichijo” into the statement “. . . the priests and lay believers invited Study Head Kodo-in to the Dai-bo.” This indicates a historical fact that Nichiren Shoshu did not want known.
As a matter of fact, Nichiden took office as high priest three times. Upon retiring for the second time, he transferred the heritage to Nichiin-; the third time, he transferred the heritage to Nichio-.
In The Biography of Nichiden, we can see that there is a big difference between the descriptions of Nichiden’s transfers to Nichiin and Nichio and that of his transfer to Nichijo. Here is a detailed account of his 1869 transfer to Nichiin:
In that summer, Eishu-in (Nichiin) of Kyodai-ji in Shikoku made a pilgrimage to Taiseki-ji. It was because there was an agreement made (between us) last year at Hanchi. In July of the same year, Nichiin Shonin was invited to assume the position of study chief. On October 20 of that year, at 53, I retired again to the Renyo-an lodging quarters . . . I transferred to my successor all legal documents including notebooks, deeds, and bills. On November 1, I invited the study chief to the Dai-bo. Now we have the 54th high priest, Nichiin Shonin. (The Biography of Nichiden Shonin)
Nichiden is claiming to have followed the procedures stipulated by the Rules of Taiseki-ji for his eventual appointment of Nichiin as high priest, first appointing him study chief and then transferring the heritage to him. These events took place in November 1869.
Nichiko-[59th] wrote about Nichiden’s third retirement. (Note: Nichiko made additions to The Biography of Nichiden Shonin, based on notes left by Nichiden.)
According to this added description by Nichiko, Nichiden requested Nippu to once again become high priest of Taiseki-ji, but Nippu declined. Nichiden then decided to transfer the heritage to Nichio, but the transfer ceremony actually took place between Nippu and Nichio. Nichiden felt that “he had better absent himself from this transfer ceremony since it would mean his involvement in a transfer ceremony for the third time.” He then writes, “I am greatly relieved that the transfer ceremony was auspiciously completed on the night of the 20th.” This all happened in May 1890.
What explanation can there be for the big difference between the descriptions of Nichiden’s transfer to Nichiin and Nichio and his transference to Nichijo?
The Biography of Nichiden Shonin describes in great detail Nichiden’s heritage transmissions to Nichiin and Nichio, but about the transference to Nichiin, it merely states, “. . . the priests and lay believers invited Study Chief Kodo-in to the Dai-bo.”
This indicates that Taiseki-ji believers forced Nichiden, despite his reluctance, to transfer the heritage to Nichijo.
Ultimately, this episode reveals that the alleged sanctity of the transmission of the heritage from high priest to high priest—which the Nikken sect continually emphasizes—is a myth.
Taiseki-ji Fire Causes Nichijo’s Disappearance
A huge fire at Taiseki-ji led directly to the retirement and disappearance of Nichijo. The Chronology of Nichiren Shoshu and the Fuji School in the entry for February 28, 1865, reads: “The reception hall, six-compartment quarters, and high priest quarters all burned down” (The Biography of Nichiden Shonin).
Edo was a crowded, busy city about which an old saying went, “Fires and quarrels are the flowers of Edo.” In contrast, Taiseki-ji is located in the countryside in quiet Ueno Village. Yet, fire and strife are commonplace in Taiseki-ji history.
Taiseki-ji has experienced twelve recorded fires since its founding. Eleven incidents occurred after the Edo period. The danka system (in which every family must belong to a particular temple in order to validate citizenship) was established between 1635 and 1638. It is noteworthy that fires occurred more frequently at Taiseki-ji after it began serving as an agent of the Tokugawa government, controlling people under the danka system.
It is even more astonishing that approximately 100 fires have been recorded in The Chronology of Nichiren Shoshu and the Fuji School, including those occurring at Omosu Honmon-ji, Yobo-ji, and other Taiseki-ji-affiliated temples such as Hota Myohon-ji, Myoren-ji and Jozai-ji.
Nichiren Daishonin writes: “The sutra reads, ‘If someone . . . should enter a great fire, the fire could not burn him . . . If one were washed away by a great flood and called upon his name, one would immediately find oneself in a shallow place.’ It also reads, ‘The good fortune you gain thereby . . . cannot be burned by fire or washed away by water.’ How reassuring! How encouraging!” (WND-1, 457).
Nichiren is describing the significant benefit of the Lotus Sutra, in contrast to the fact that Taiseki-ji underwent one fire after another.
Perhaps, the priests became more corrupt in their daily lives at Taiseki-ji around the time of the danka system inception, to the point where they became careless. Also, they may have been lacking in faith and sense of mission to protect Taiseki-ji and in turn were denied the protection that strong faith evokes. At any rate, the fact that Taiseki-ji experienced so many fire-related calamities shows that Nichiren’s Buddhism was lost at Taiseki-ji and other Fuji school temples.
The severity of retribution is obvious from this chart of major fires Taiseki-ji has experienced.
It was certainly a large fire that spread through Taiseki-ji on February 28, 1865. According to The Biography of Teacher Nichiden: “A fire broke out in a servant’s room at the high priest quarters on February 28, engulfing entire temples on the grounds of Taiseki-ji. I was astonished at this news and canceled my stay in Tokyo, returning to the head temple” (Research and Study Document of Fuji Academy).
According to this description, the fire that started in a servant’s room in the middle of the night consumed many buildings on the Taiseki-ji grounds including the reception hall, the six-compartment quarters, and high priest quarters. Nichiden- was in Edo, and had been absent from Taiseki-ji during the month of February.
Nittatsu- spoke about the fire of 1865 and about Nichijo-, the sitting high priest at the time:
During the time of 53rd High Priest Nichijo, there was a big fire on February 28, 1865, which burned down the reception hall, the six-compartment lodging, and the high priest quarters. Even the priesthood quarters were burned down. Because of this fire, High Priest Nichijo resigned, and Nichiden Shonin assumed the seat of high priest one more time. (Excerpted from “Regarding the Construction of Various Temples at Head Temple Taiseki-ji and Ushitora Gongyo”)
Things did not go so smoothly between Nichijo’s retirement and Nichiden’s reinstatement as high priest. Nichiden returned to Taiseki-ji in the middle of March, but Nichijo had already resigned as high priest on the day after the fire, according to The Biography of Teacher Nichijo. In May, Nichiei became high priest once again [the 51st and 53rd] despite his old age. But before he took office, Taiseki-ji had no high priest for about two months. It seems a complicated situation surrounds this void in the high priest lineage.
Here, I will quote The Biography of Nichiden Shonin, since it provides a detailed account of what happened at that time. The passage I introduce here deserves the reader’s close attention. It is historically significant, as it led to a correction and deletion later being published in Organizational Publication for Propagation, #21, on May 13, 1892.
According to this document, the fire upset many priests, and they banded together against Nichijo, whom they blamed. Though fully aware of Nichijo’s responsibility, Nichiden quietly left Taiseki-ji because he could not bear the attack on Nichijo.
Surprised at Nichiden’s departure, Taiseki-ji priests were left with the only choice — they had to make peace with Nichijo. The chief priest of the Kujo-bo lodging, on behalf of all the Taiseki-ji lodging temples, and Yogo Uemon Ide, on behalf of all Taiseki-ji lay believers, brought letters written respectively by Nichiei-[51st] and Nichijo-[53rd]. Because of this, when Nichiden returned to Taiseki-ji, Nichijo decided to retire to Shimono-bo temple.
I previously mentioned complications between Nichijo and Nichiden. Nichiden himself relates that Nichijo retired to Shimono-bo in order to avoid seeing Nichiden. There is a view that the fire forced Nichiden into his eventual retirement.
Nichijo Disappears Without Transferring the Heritage
The uproar over the retirement of Nichijo-[53rd] becomes more shocking after that. According to The Biography of Nichiden Shonin:
. . . I stayed at Honko-ji in Negata instead of returning to Taiseki-ji. Dispatching a messenger to Taiseki-ji, I conveyed my earnest request that either Nichijo Shonin should return to the position of chief administrator or Nichiei Shonin would reassume that role. It was decided through a conference of priests and lay representatives that the Rev. Nichiei would come back as chief administrator, while I was requested to return to Taiseki-ji. Then, the Rev. Nichijo left the Shimono-bo lodging temple, his destination unknown.
Nichiden indicates here that Nichijo went missing.
It is noteworthy that no transfer ceremony was held for the reinstatement of Nichiei as high priest; rather, it was determined at a priesthood and laity conference.
It is further written in The Biography of Nichiden Shonin:
. . . I ordered Taimei and Jicho to find out where Nichijo went by visiting the places he might have been. They returned in May after over 30 days travel, reporting to me that they first visited the hot springs in Zuso, three temples in Edo, and then visited some lay believers, trying to locate him. They could not find him even though they checked all possible locations in Tochigi, Noshu Province, Hirai, Sano, Joshu, Ohko and so forth.
It is questionable whether Nichijo-[53rd], upon becoming high priest of Taiseki-ji, received the heritage from Nichiden-[52nd]. Most likely, no official transfer ceremony took place. And when Nichijo retired, he also did not conduct a transfer ceremony for the next high priest. Nichijo chose to retire the day after the fire broke out and then disappeared without ever transferring the heritage.
Nichijo’s disappearance was unprecedented in Taiseki-ji history. Yet The Chronology of Nichiren Shoshu and the Fuji School only mentions the fire in the section for 1865:
[February 28], the reception hall, the six-compartment quarters and the high priest quarters all burned down (The Biography of Nichiden Shonin).
Furthermore, Taiseki-ji Records (Sekibun) gave merely this simple description of Nichijo’s disappearance and the ensuing change of high priests:
[May 7], Nichijo, vacating the high priest quarters, moved to the Shimono-bo lodging. Later, he departed to Shingyo-ji in Hirai, Shimono Province (Taiseki-ji Records).”
[May 7], Nichiei assumes the role of chief priest of Taiseki-ji (Taiseki-ji Document)”
[May 15], Nichiei leaves the high priest quarters, and Nichiden reassumes the role of chief priest of Taiseki-ji. (Note: This May is an extra month of May inserted into the lunar calendar. In the lunar calendar months reflect the lunar cycle, but then intercalary months are added to bring the calendar year into synchronization with the solar year.)
Additionally, The Chronology of Nichiren Shoshu and the Fuji School reads: “Nichijo, vacating the high priest quarters, moves to the Shimono-bo . . . Nichiei leaves the high priest quarters, and Nichiden reassumes the role of the chief priest of Taiseki-ji,” Nichiden’s description of internal strife at Taiseki-ji has been intentionally deleted.
This is clearly inconsistent. The Chronology of Nichiren Shoshu and the Fuji School references The Biography of Nichiden Shonin to describe the fire of February 28, 1865, but does not use the fire in regards to the high priest’s disappearance. In fact, The Biography of Nichiden Shonin (under the title of Summarized Biography of Nichiden) was used, but edited, in two of Nichiren Shoshu’s Meiji Period publications—Organizational Publication for Propagation and The King of the Law to refer to the fire, but not the departure [because of temple politics].
Jikan Tsuchiya, the publisher and editor of Organizational Publication for Propagation who later became Nitchu-[58th], wrote about Nichiden’s biography:
This biography was written exclusively by Nichiden Shonin. No word or phrase has been edited therein. (Organizational Publication for Propagation, #17)
As mentioned before, however, Organizational Publication for Propagation carried a correction that omitted a long portion of Nichiden’s words. The correction reads as follows:
The part of the previous issue that, quoting from Nichiden Shonin’s biography, refers to the great commotion among the people of Taiseki-ji and the apology offered by the Rev. Nichijo are omitted here since these descriptions are controversial. (Organizational Publication for Propagation, #21)
The entire section introduced in the previous issue was later taken out, either because the editor himself had second thoughts or because a Nichijo supporter strongly requested it.
The eliminated portion was included, however, in the version of The Biography of Nichiden Shonin published by Nichiko-[59th] on the 50th anniversary of Nichiden’s passing. Nichiko courageously conveyed for posterity exactly what had happened, despite possible embarrassment to Taiseki-ji.
The priesthood underwent intense conflicts and power struggles during that time period. Nichijo chose to escape from Nichiden. Feeling he was blamed for the fire, he retired and then disappeared—irresponsible behavior indeed.
Nichijo’s departure from Taiseki-ji seems to have been well known even to other Nikko schools including Yobo-ji.
Nichijo’s whereabouts were unknown for some time after disappearing from Shimono-bo, but, according to Record of Successive Chief Priests of Branch Temples, he had moved to Shingyo-ji, in Tochigi Prefecture, where he had once been chief priest. In 1874, when Nichiin (who belonged to the same faction as Nichijo) was high priest, Nichijo became chief priest of Josen-ji in Tokyo. After that, he built Shinjo-ji in Nagano Prefecture and Myojo-ji in Shizuoka Prefecture.
Nissho Transfers Heritage to Lay Believers
Nissho-[57th] died on August 18, 1923, in Okitsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, where he was resting to recover from an illness. Some followers had been attending to Nissho, who was renting a house along the Okitsu coast.
It was in this house that Nissho transferred the heritage to Nitchu, but in a highly irregular manner. Instead of making a direct transmission to Nitchu, Nissho called in two lay believers and entrusted the heritage to them, asking them to complete the transference ceremony at Renge-ji in Osaka.
Nissho, the 57th high priest, transferred the heritage to lay believers.
Nittatsu-[66th] refers to this extraordinary transaction in his 1956 work Refuting Evil: The Theory of Wooden Gohonzon Being Counterfeit (published by Nichiren Shoshu Fukyo Kai), his rebuttal against the contentions of Nichiren scholar Bentetsu Yasunaga of Nichiren Shu:
But High Priest Nissho seems to have already made a profound resolution. Inviting Messrs. Kotatsu Naka and Umetaro Makino, lay believers from Osaka, he transferred future matters to them while prohibiting all others from attending this transference. Very soon after, these two men welcomed Nitchu Shonin at Renge-ji. (This was done out of Nissho Shonin’s profound consideration for Nitchu Shonin, to avoid a situation where the latter might be swayed by a third party’s interference. Thus, the whole transference matter was carried out among Nissho Shonin, Nitchu Shonin, Mr. Naka, and Mr. Makino without intervention from other individuals.) Thus, Nissho Shonin’s transference to Nitchu Shonin was completed.
A grave historical fact is hidden here, as revealed by this sentence: “This was done out of Nissho Shonin’s profound consideration for Nitchu Shonin to avoid a situation where the latter might be swayed by a third party’s interference.”
This indicates an abnormal situation surrounding Nissho’s transference to Nitchu that there were radical opponents attempting to interfere with the process. Nissho had little option but to ask two lay believers, including Umetaro Makino, to accept the heritage and eventually transfer it to Nitchu.
Nittatsu further states: “Thus, the whole transference matter was carried out among Nissho Shonin, Nitchu Shonin, Mr. Naka, and Mr. Makino without intervention from other individuals.”
What sinister fact is hinted at in Nittatsu’s description? Why did Nissho feel compelled to entrust the heritage to lay believers? Couldn’t he have entrusted it to one of his priest disciples? A careful reading of Nittatsu’s Refuting Evil: The Theory of Wooden Gohonzon Being Counterfeit reveals the following statement:
As to the illness of Nissho Shonin, he had developed a tiny tumor, as tiny as the point of a toothpick, in the lower part of his chin, in autumn . He was examined at a hospital in Tokyo, but his case was not clearly diagnosed there. When he later returned to Tokyo, the same doctor examined him. His tumor appeared malignant, and he began cancer treatment. Just before the rainy season began in , he went to Okitsu for a few days to recuperate. His supporters suggested that he recuperate near the beach, and he agreed to rent a house on the coast. Since High Priest Nissho was not physically robust, those surrounding him were always concerned about his health. (It amused the high priest to think his disciples had him rent a house near the beach because they enjoyed swimming.)
The part we need to pay attention to is the following section: “His supporters suggested that he recuperate near the beach, and he agreed to rent a house on the coast.”
So we can see from this passage that it was not Nissho’s intent to rent a house. Rather, “it amused the high priest to think his disciples had him rent a house near the beach because they enjoyed swimming.”
Judging from the line “Just before the rainy season began in ,” Nissho’s stay in Okitsu was from early June to August 18, 1923, a little more than two months.
Nissho was 63. He was recuperating at a house near the coast, two months before his passing. While, judging from Nittatsu’s other descriptions, Nissho seems to have been in high spirits, it seems reasonable that his illness was grave.
It is also said that he went all the way to Tokyo to receive cancer treatment. It is possible the doctor informed family members that Nissho would not live long. And conceivably, anybody attending Nissho could know of his doctor’s prognosis.
Also, it would have been unlikely that none of his priest disciples cared for Nissho during his recovery. Since Nissho had entertained the idea that they rented a house near the beach because his disciples enjoyed swimming, there must have been a disciple attending him.
If so, then why didn’t Nissho have a priest disciple arrange to transfer the heritage directly to Nitchu? Why did he take the trouble to entrust it to two invited lay believers?
There can only be one answer to this question—a priest attending Nissho must have been connected to one of Nissho’s enemies, and there would likely have been an intervention if Nitchu had been called to Nissho’s side for a direct transfer.
Desperate Power Struggle Over the Position of High Priest
From this perspective, we can now discern a formidable hidden conspiracy behind Nissho’s transfer of the heritage. We can see why Nissho was advised to rent a home near the coast and why despite the fact that he only “went to Okitsu for a few days to recuperate,” he actually would end up dying there.
Most likely, rivals of Nitchu vying for the high priest position had the dying Nissho moved to this house near the coast in order to isolate him from Nitchu and disrupt the transfer process.
Nissho countered, however, by calling in the two lay believers and entrusting them with the heritage for Nitchu while successfully keeping away an attendant likely aligned with the anti-Nitchu camp. This gives the correct context to the following description by Nittatsu:
In the meantime, in the evening of August 17, Nissho Shonin told us to gather all those key people the next morning, since he would then share his will. Those close to Nissho Shonin busily sent telegrams or made phone calls to follow his instructions. At midnight, he shared his will with his disciples. As dawn approached, key people gathered from all over. Around 5:00 a.m., Nissho Shonin called all those present to come to his bedside. After all of them were seated surrounding him, the high priest looked around and ordered his assistant priest to bring a brush pen and a piece of paper. The assistant quietly stood up to get all these things. At that time, the high priest expressed that he would transfer the position of high priest to Study Chief Nitchu. After looking at what his assistant had transcribed on the sheet of paper, the high priest ordered his assistant to affix his signature and seal. Holding out his hand, he ordered his assistant to help him affix his signature. With this done, he once again looked around and closed his eyes. (Refuting Evil: The Theory of Wooden Gohonzon Being Counterfeit)
This passage describes how, just before his death, Nissho designated Nitchu as his successor. It is clear from Nittatsu’s passage why Nissho had to again announce that Nitchu would be the next high priest, even though he had already transferred the heritage to Nitchu via the two lay believers.
To avoid confusion within the school, Nissho gathered all involved around him to assert that he had transferred the heritage to Nitchu, since no one, not even his attendant, had known about it.
This raises another question, however. If his intention was to save the school from confusion, why didn’t Nissho make it clear much earlier that he had transferred the heritage to Nitchu? The answer to this also lies in our earlier supposition. Had he tried to do so earlier, either the anti-Nitchu group would have blocked him, or he might have seen his decision reversed.
This means that a priest or priests in close proximity to Nissho opposed the transfer of the heritage to Nitchu; under the guise of attending to the dying high priest, they were mainly concerned with the heritage transfer. That explains why, just before his death, at the last moment, Nissho disclosed the name of the priest to whom he had made the transfer.
But who was pressuring Nissho overtly or covertly to the degree that he had to use two lay believers for the heritage transfer to Nitchu? The answer to this question is indirectly found in Nittatsu’s Refuting Evil: The Theory of Wooden Gohonzon Being Counterfeit.
As soon as the passing of High Priest Nissho was widely conveyed, Nichiren Shoshu fell into sorrow. Some, however, were busy guessing who would be the next high priest. They even tried to find out by asking those close to Nissho Shonin whether Nitchu Shonin or Nichikai Shonin would succeed him. One assistant priest, who was in the next room while Nissho Shonin was speaking, said that he could hardly hear what was said. This was mistakenly conveyed to certain individuals, inspiring rumors at one of the two camps. At the time of the high priest’s funeral, some said it was not clear whether Nissho Shonin had chosen Nitchu Shonin or Nichikai Shonin. When someone said that Nichikai Shonin had never assumed the role of study chief, the people of his camp became quiet. We should be sensitive to the feelings of those who were looking forward to succession by Nichikai Shonin.
Nichikai, Nikken’s father, competed with Nitchu to become high priest. Nittatsu’s description shows that Taiseki-ji was divided into their two respective camps. There was even a quarrel during Nissho’s funeral because “it was not clear whether Nissho Shonin had chosen Nitchu Shonin or Nichikai Shonin.”
Though, back then, Nichiren Shoshu was a very minor Buddhist sect with only 50 local temples, errant priests of the Latter Day of the Law fought a fierce battle in the shadows.
The statement “when someone said that Nichikai Shonin had never assumed the role of study chief, the people of his camp became quiet” indicates that according to the Rules of Nichiren Shoshu in those days, the study chief of Taiseki-ji was supposed to become the next high priest. Disregarding those rules, Nichikai was plotting to gain the post.
Nichikai Used Every Possible Means to Become High Priest
Another interesting fact was revealed in March 1928.
Following the retirement of Nichiko-[59th], there was a Nichiren Shoshu election campaign for high priest. Nichiren Shoshu was divided into two camps; one headed by Ho’un Abe, Nikken’s father, who later became Nichikai-[60th], and the other by Koga Arimoto (then general administrator). After the election, the Arimoto camp insisted the results were invalid and issued a “Clarification” (dated March 13, 1925) that revealed Abe’s shameful past activities:
There had been a long-term, profound plot to make the Rev. Abe the next chief administrator. When High Priest Nissho became seriously ill in August 1923, the Abe faction (using Nissho’s name without his approval) attempted to deny the promotion of Nitchu Shonin, the study chief who was in a position to naturally become the next chief administrator. Maliciously, they exerted every effort to promote their leader, the Rev. Abe.
What is written here is clear. When Nissho was seriously ill, Ho’un Abe invoked Nissho’s name to justify his own ambition, attempting to exclude Nitchu, while his faction used every possible underhanded means to make Abe the next high priest.
As to Nichikai’s dark plot to isolate Nissho at the house in Okitsu, a lay believer, Esokichi Nishiwaki, directly questioned Nichikai about it, through a writing titled “A Document of Opinion,” dated April 3, 1930. Nitchu had been ousted because of a coup orchestrated by Nichikai, but “A Document of Opinion” supported Nitchu:
The Rev. Abe was jealous and disrespectful because of the Rev. Nitchu’s great character. A group of people wanted to have the Rev. Abe succeed Nissho Shonin. Seeing that High Priest Nissho’s illness was worsening, this group schemed and campaigned to promote the Rev. Abe as the next high priest. As High Priest Nissho’s health declined, he relocated to Okitsu to recuperate. There, the Rev. Nitchu was not allowed near the high priest’s bedside. The anti-Nitchu group’s activities became ever more rampant; at times, they fabricated documents, and at other times they even resorted to violence. They forcefully demanded that the Rev. Nitchu resign from the position of study chief.
Nichikai took advantage of Nissho’s ill health to attack Nitchu in every possible manner. He also tried to keep Nitchu away from Nissho and called for Nitchu to resign as study chief. Refuting Evil: The Theory of Wooden Gohonzon Being Counterfeit is a record of this ugly confrontation between the two factions within Nichiren Shoshu.
A Coup to Remove the High Priest
Assembly Members’ Secret Agreement Results in Recommendation for Nitchu’s Resignation
An assembly meeting of Nichiren Shoshu began at the head temple Taiseki-ji on November 18, 1926. The assembly first dealt with measures Nichiren Shoshu would be taking against the Minobu Sect. During a November 28 session, however, the assembly decided that they could not trust Nitchu-[58th] and called upon him to resign.
The assembly had turned suddenly from the Minobu matter to their distrust of the high priest, resolving to oust him. Behind this resolution was a secret agreement among assembly members. It was a coup.
The following is a rather lengthy document of allegiance that was deliberated on behind the scenes at the assembly:
The current chief administrator, Nitchu Shonin, violates the Rules of this school with his biased view and judgment. We assert that he lacks the ability to govern this school. We demand that the high priest quickly retire to bring a fresh breeze of renovation to this school. For this reason, we have come to the following agreement, with our pledge in front of the three treasures of Buddhism that all we write here is true. The following are various aspects of Chief Administrator Nitchu’s unjust behavior.
- He has no intention to select the next study chief.
- He has no policy to enhance study and promote propagation.
- When he took over financial contribution matters in August 1924, he mismanaged them.
- He orchestrated the demotion of Ho’un Abe in the hierarchy of priesthood.
- By not abiding by the official rules, he made it impossible for chief priests and teachers to execute their responsibilities.
- He disregarded the teachers of this school.
- He allowed his wife and children to reside at Renzo-bo, the official residence of the study chief.
- The revision of the Rules and Bylaws of this school has been a vital matter for more than ten years. All have wanted to see this revision carried out, but his weak leadership prevented any proposal from being put forth. This indicates that he is unqualified to lead the entire school.
Proposed are the following practical actions.
- We recommend Jirin Hori to become the next chief administrator.
- We propose executing a major revision of the Rules and Bylaws of this school and plan a major study renovation.
- Clarification of the head temple’s assets. [There was confusion over just what were the assets of the head temple and accounting for them.]
In adopting these points, we understand there will be repercussions if they are violated. We sign our names here to express our agreement with all the above points.
November 18 in the 14th year of Taisho 
Assembly member Koken Shimoyama
Assembly member Jiyu Hayase
Assembly member Gido Miyamoto
Assembly member Jimon Ogasawara
Assembly member Gyodo Matsunaga
Assembly member Shuin Mizutani
Assembly member Korin Shimoyama
Assembly member Shohei Fukushige
Assembly member Ryodo Watanabe
Assembly member Shudo Mizutani
Assembly member Jizen Inoue
Council member Shudo Mizutani
Council member Koben Kogyoku
Council member Kohaku Ohta
Council member Jiyu Hayase
Council member Gyodo Matsunaga
Council member Jimyo Tomita
Council member Teiyu Matsumoto
Council member Shinkei Nishikawa
Council member Koga Arimoto
Council member Yodo Sakamoto
Council member Kosei Nakajima
Council member Bungaku Soma
Council member Shundo Sato
Council member Jisen Shiraishi
Council member Shodo Sakio”
The initial part of this document harshly criticizes the high priest, asserting: “The current chief administrator, Nitchu Shonin, violates the Rules of this school with his biased view and judgment.” And the document is noteworthy for expressing the intention to impeach the high priest and make him retire because, as stated, “we have come to the following agreement, with our pledge in front of the three treasures of Buddhism that all we write here is true.”
Clearly, Nitchu, who was then Nichiren Shoshu high priest, was not considered part of the three treasures in the minds of the priests who signed this document. Today, however, the Nikken sect asserts that criticizing the high priest is an act that destroys the three treasures. This view, as we can see here, is incorrect as it is inconsistent with the traditional teaching of Nichiren Shoshu; it is a recent creation.
Eight examples of Nitchu’s supposedly erroneous behavior are cited. The fourth point is especially striking: “He orchestrated the demotion of Ho’un Abe in the hierarchy of priesthood.”
Ho’un Abe (the future Nichikai) had been reprimanded by Nitchu four months before the assembly convened. Abe was deprived of the position of general administrator. He was also demoted from the position of noke priests (an elite rank from which the next high priest is to be selected).
Because of this demotion, Nichikai’s path to becoming high priest was blocked. This act against Nichikai triggered the coup against Nitchu.
The seventh point is also intriguing: “He allowed his wife and children to reside at Renzo-bo, the official residence of the study chief.”
Nitchu’s wife and children must have been living at Renzo-bo because at that time there had been no appointed study chief. (Whoever would have been in the position of study chief would have expected to become the next high priest.)
The document of allegiance described a planned coup against Nitchu. According to this plan, Nitchu’s successor would be Jirin Hori (who later became Nichiko-[59th]).
It is generally believed that the well-trusted Nichiko Hori could have been a steppingstone toward eventual transference of the heritage to Nichikai. If Nichikai, the chief promoter of the coup, had become high priest immediately after Nitchu’s ouster, there would have been strong opposition from Nitchu’s camp.
What happened back then runs completely counter to the contentions of Nikken and his priesthood regarding how the heritage transfer should be conducted. It was highly unusual in Japan’s religious world for a sitting high priest to be dethroned and his successor to be designated by assembly members. How do those who regard the high priest as absolute explain what happened?
Head of Laity Infuriated by Demand for Nitchu’s Resignation
The coup was put into action with this November 20, 1926, resolution: “The assembly does not trust Chief Administrator and High Priest Nitchu Tsuchiya.”
They put forth a vote of no confidence in Nitchu, together with a resolution urging him to resign:
Chief Administrator and High Priest Nitchu Tsuchiya, since his inauguration has failed in his governance of this school. Taking advantage of his position, he pursued his own gain. Abusing the authority of his position, he trampled upon the rights of the priesthood. In light of this, we can no longer entrust him with the role of governing the entire school. Therefore, we recommend his swift resignation.
November 20 
Would today’s Nikken sect accept such an unorthodox method of choosing the next high priest? The heritage is supposed to be transferred from high priest to high priest along the lineage of Taiseki-ji. Yet, the historical facts are far removed from that procedure.
Pressure on Nitchu consisted of more than just the assembly resolution. The resolution was made on November 20, but an incident on November 18 had already greatly disturbed Nitchu. While he was carrying out midnight gongyo in the reception hall, someone threatened him, and there was a sound like a gunshot. Also, some people threw stones at the reception hall.
These actions to disturb Nitchu during midnight gongyo were carried out by two priests, but it seems they were just executing a plan devised by senior priests behind the scenes.
And it appears that what Nitchu experienced was quite serious.
Pressured by the assembly members, Nitchu expressed his intention to resign on November 22 and prepared a letter of resignation. Gladly accepting it, Assembly Chairperson Jimon Ogasawara and other priests went to Tokyo that same day to submit Nitchu’s letter of resignation to the Ministry of Education. They completed the reporting procedure on November 24. As secretly agreed upon beforehand, the new high priest was to be Nichiko Hori.
The news that Nitchu was abruptly intending to resign reached the head of the Taiseki-ji lay group, who became furious that everything had been quickly done without consulting the laity. The situation worsened to where lay society leaders vehemently protested against each of the assembly members on the following day, November 23.
Learning that the priests had gone to Tokyo to submit the notice of Nitchu’s resignation and Nichiko’s inheritance, the lay leaders dispatched three representatives of their own to Tokyo to propose a counter opinion with the Ministry of Education. They begged the Ministry to nullify the assembly’s decision, insisting it was invalid.
Hearing the petition from the Taiseki-ji lay representatives, the religious bureau of the Ministry of Education summoned the three key figures of the assembly: General Administrator Koga Arimoto, who was chief priest of Myoko-ji in Shinagawa, Tokyo; Shudo Mizutani, who later became Nichiryu-[61st]; and Gyodo Matsunaga, who was chief priest of Denmyo-ji in Fukuoka.
It seems that the religious bureau was deeply dissatisfied by the coup carried out within Nichiren Shoshu. Mr. Shimomura, the bureau chief, severely admonished the three representative priests, asking, “Even if you are responsible for guiding and educating society, why did you take such an irrational action?” (December 3, 1925, issue of Shizuoka Minyu Shimbun). Additionally, the religious bureau ordered the representative priests to retrieve the documents given to Nitchu concerning the no-confidence vote and the recommendation for his resignation, and submit them to the Ministry.
The religious bureau, which is responsible for such matters, was likely afraid of bad publicity if it allowed the high priest’s removal to go through. The Ministry of Education did not want the school’s inner strife to become public.
Taiseki-ji Coup Involves Powerful Local Citizens
While initially delighted at having removed Nitchu, the three assembly representatives now returned to Taiseki-ji shaken by the religious bureau’s strict reaction. This bureau possessed absolute authority in its supervision of Japan’s religious organizations. As ordered by the bureau, they had to collect the two documents from Nitchu by December 1.
Upon returning, they requested that Nitchu return the two documents but discovered that the papers had already been given to Tosaburo Watanabe, the head Taiseki-ji lay believer. The representatives no longer held the upper hand; they had to beg Mr. Watanabe to hand over the documents.
At first, the lay leader would not return them—he was resentful of the assembly’s unilateral dismissal of High Priest Nitchu.
The three assembly representatives, with Nitchu and the mayor of Ueno village as witnesses, submitted a written apology to the head of the lay believers. After that, they finally got back the two documents. It was amazing to have priests apologize to lay believers. It was also amusing to see the mayor involved in this sordid drama.
On December 1, the deadline for submitting the documents to the religious bureau, the three priests caught a 5:32 a.m. train at Omiya (now Fujinomiya) Station to Tokyo. It must have been 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon when they finally went before the religious bureau chief with the documents.
Things did not, however, unfold as smoothly as the assembly representatives wished regarding the official inauguration of a new high priest.
The priests and lay leaders who joined together to support the coup had secretly agreed to recommend Nichiko Hori (he was called Jirin Hori in those days and was a lecturer at Rissho University) to become next high priest. They forced Nitchu to write the letter of resignation, and received agreement from Nichiko concerning his inauguration. The representative priests submitted to the Ministry of Education the letters of Nitchu’s resignation and Nichiko’s commitment to serve as high priest.
Nichiko was disgusted with the situation at Taiseki-ji, however, and expressed his desire not to take office. Right after November 27, the date on which the three priests were severely admonished by the religious bureau chief, Nichiko announced his intention to withdraw.
In the meantime, the Taiseki-ji lay leaders—Mr. Watanabe, Mr. Kasai, and Mr. Ide—went to Tokyo on December 2 on a mission to protect Nitchu. The three met with Mr. Shinohara, general administrator of the Tokyo lay group, to exchange information and discuss their strategy.
The Taiseki-ji lay leaders learned in Tokyo that Nichiko had changed his mind about withdrawing and had determined to become the new high priest. It seems Nichiko wanted to avoid Nichiren Shoshu having no chief administrator at all. Since Nitchu’s letter of resignation had been officially accepted by the Ministry of Education religious bureau that meant that there was no high priest.
Nichiko’s change of mind was disconcerting for the Taiseki-ji lay leaders, who were supporting Nitchu; it foreshadowed their defeat. Events were underway that would make the coup a success.
News of Nichiko’s change of mind spread to the Taiseki-ji area via a telegram the lay leaders sent to Heijo Watanabe, mayor of Shiraito. The coup that was underway at Taiseki-ji was now affecting a lot of influential people in the Taiseki-ji vicinity.
Ever since their first meeting, the lay representatives visited the religious bureau day after day to advocate having Nitchu remain as high priest, and they gathered increasing support from lay believers in Shizuoka and Tokyo.
The fact was, however, that the religious bureau had already formally accepted Nitchu’s resignation and Nichiko’s acceptance. Nichiko’s position as new high priest was already legal. To reverse the situation, powerful legal evidence would have to be submitted, and Nitchu’s camp lacked such evidence.
Lay Believers Decide to Excommunicate Priests
Nichiko arrived at Taiseki-ji on December 6 to take office as the new chief administrator (high priest). The next day, December 7, he requested that Nitchu, the former chief administrator, transfer all administrative work to him. But the transfer did not take place because the lay leaders (whose presence was required for the official transfer) had refused to be present.
Nichiko’s inauguration, then, was stalled from the beginning because he could not receive the administrative work from his predecessor.
Also, since Nitchu still resided at the high priest’s lodging, Nichiko had no choice but to stay at the Joren-bo lodging. This led to a serious confrontation between Nitchu’s and Nichiko’s respective camps.
Nitchu’s supporters included the Taiseki-ji lay leaders and other temple members in Tokyo. It made no sense to the lay believers that the priests who gathered at the head temple from all across the country were authorized to kick out the new chief priest (high priest) of Taiseki-ji.
Looking at how newspapers dealt with Taiskei-ji’s internal strife, it sounds as if the priests of Nichiren Shoshu stationed outside the head temple were attempting to gain control of Taiseki-ji. Expressions such as “Taiseki-ji camp” (Nitchu’s group) and “Nichiren Shoshu camp” (Nichiko’s group) were seen here and there in articles covering the discord.
An incident occurred around December 10, when the two camps were locked in serious confrontation. General Administrator Koga Arimoto, the chief priest of Myoko-ji in Shinagawa, Tokyo—who was close to Ho’un Abe (who later became Nichikai-[60th]) and was a core leader of the anti-Nitchu group—was kidnapped by twelve Tokyo lay believers and taken to Tokyo.
The coup against Nitchu is said to have become possible because General Administrator Arimoto, who was Nitchu’s second-in-command, decided to side with Ho’un Abe’s camp—this, despite the fact that it was Nitchu who had appointed Arimoto as general administrator. So Nitchu’s demotion only became possible because of Arimoto’s betrayal. With this kidnapping, a major coup participant was forced to leave Taiseki-ji through the power of lay believers.
Local temple chief priests, it seems, could not oppose the will of their lay believers, who were taking care of them financially and in various other ways, during the Taisho Period (1913–28).
As the year 1926 was ending, both camps seemed at an impasse. On December 28, however, only a few days before the New Year, the Nitchu side made a move. Nitchu suddenly left Taiseki-ji for Tokyo in order to deepen his communication with lay believers there, including the True Law Protection Group, which had arisen amid the uproar over the coup. Nitchu tried to enlist the laity to resolve the confrontation between the two priesthood camps.
The True Law Protection Group was apparently formed as early as mid-December in response to pro-coup priests’ activities. By December 28, when Nitchu arrived in Tokyo, the group had already published a booklet titled Mirror of Right and Wrong to reveal the truth about the ongoing strife.
Members of the True Law Protection Group must have been in very high spirits with their newly published booklet and with High Priest Nitchu beside them in Tokyo. The lay believers who supported Nitchu (the core being the True Law Protection Group) decided to hold a kickoff for lay believers nationwide in Tokyo soon after New Year’s Day. And they decided to use their strong voices as aggrieved lay believers to appeal to society about the assembly members’ unjust coup.
The kickoff took place at the Izumibashi Club in Kanda, Tokyo, on January 16. The following five points were adopted at the meeting:
- ”We should devote ourselves to making efforts to have Nitchu Shonin return to the treasure seat of chief administrator that is equal to that of the grand leader.”
Their contention was: Since Nitchu did not transfer the heritage to Nichiko then Nichiko could not be the chief administrator (high priest) of Taiseki-ji. But Nitchu had already turned in his letter of resignation to the Ministry of Education religious bureau, and Nichiko had submitted a letter of inauguration to the same bureau. Legally, then, Nichiko could be considered the legitimate chief administrator.
It is possible that according to the lay believers then, the high priest was still Nitchu while the chief administrator was Nichiko. But in Nichiren Shoshu, one person was traditionally supposed to assume both roles. This idea seems to underlie their expression “the treasure seat of chief administrator that is equal to that of grand leader.”
There was a real crisis of faith in the hearts of these lay believers because the heritage transmission was about to be recognized despite the will of the former high priest, Nitchu. Such a situation had rarely occurred in Taiseki-ji’s 600-plus-year history.
Also, it was unheard of in those days that the desires of common lay people would triumph over those of religious professionals (the priesthood).
Taisho Period Japan was a modern nation under the emperor system. The nation’s organizational model was to establish an unchanging order with the emperor from the top on down to all ordinary people. But, in a display of very poor timing, and contrary to the trend of the times, the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood was now exemplifying an institution in which the ultimate authority had been toppled. The Nichiren Shoshu/Taiseki-ji conundrum garnered strong public attention.
- “We should take proper action to ensure that High Priest Nitchu alone be the one to conduct gokaihi (door-opening) ceremonies with the Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary, and that he alone should be the one to transcribe the Gohonzon for temple members and other lay believers. No other priests, as they have not inherited the heritage of this school, should fulfill such vital functions.”
The lay group here rejects the idea of gokaihi ceremonies and transcription of Gohonzon being carried out by Nichiko, seemingly out of a desire to protect the heritage of Taiseki-ji. In reality, the lay group merely wanted to conspicuously reject Nichiko as high priest. Nichiko, who had dared to take on the role of chief administrator in order to resolve the school’s internal strife, must have suffered greatly over the laity’s rejection.
- “We will stop making offerings to those priests who deny Nitchu Shonin or lend support to the anti-Nitchu Shonin movement until we fulfill our purpose. We will also abandon our ties in faith with them.”
The situation had evolved to where certain priests were excommunicated by the laity. The lay believers’ action seems based upon their observation that the priesthood had deviated from the correct lineage of faith by forcing the heritage transfer.
- “Proper action should be taken so that the illegal revision of the Rules, Bylaws, and study provisions will be reversed.”
Here, the laity tries to stop the change of Rules that were favorable to the camp that carried out the coup. At that point, both sides were engaged in discussion about the legal actions they should take.
- “More than ten committee members should be selected to execute these four points.”
A very organized activity was about to be carried out on a national scale, moving toward the reinstatement of High Priest Nitchu.
Election of Chief Administrator Through Intervention of National Authority
Because of the lay members kickoff on January 16, the Ministry of Education religious bureau had the impression that the two sides in this disagreement were completely hostile to one another and that efforts to reconcile them would be fruitless. As a result, the bureau rendered its final decision.
The bureau judged that the current strife could not be resolved through dialogue. It was therefore decided that the chief administrator would be arrived at by election. It seems this decision was conveyed to Nichiren Shoshu on January 16, when the laity kickoff was held. The election of candidates for the next chief administrator was announced to the public in accord with the Rules of Nichiren Shoshu.
Voting was done either by mail or in person. February 26 was the deadline. It was agreed that all the votes would be counted at the Administrative Office of Taiseki-ji. Possible candidates for chief administrator would be priests of higher rank. Ho’un Abe was excluded for candidacy, however, because he had been demoted a rank one year before.
For this election, only four priests qualified as legitimate candidates for the position of high priest. They were High Priest Nitchu, Koga Arimoto (chief priest of Myoko-ji in Shinagawa ward, Tokyo), Jirin Hori (who would later be called Nichiko and was residing at Taiseki-ji’s Joren-bo lodging), and Shudo Mizutani (who later became Nichiryu-[61st]). More than 80 priests were eligible to vote.
On January 25, Nitchu issued a declaration, asserting: “Whoever may be elected other than I, Nitchu, I hereby declare that in no way will he be able to transfer the heritage that each of the successive high priests of this school inherited from his immediate predecessor.” He threatened voters by saying that the transmission of the heritage of Taiseki-ji will be discontinued should a future high priest be chosen by election. The text of his declaration is as follows:
- Were I to resign from the position of chief administrator, my resignation would not reflect my true intention; it would be a result of plots against me and intimidation by members of the assembly and some executive priests. There are unjust actions behind this election.
I hereby declare that whoever may be elected through this unjust election (other than I, Nitchu), will in no way be able to transfer the heritage in the way that the heritage has been handed down through the lineage of the successive high priests.
Since the transfer of the heritage is a matter solely between one high priest and another, it is not a subject that others should regard casually. Whoever shall inherit the heritage from me, therefore, must be a person whom I, Nitchu, can trust as capable of inheriting the Law. I hear, however, that there are people who utter poisonous words against the heritage that I, Nitchu, solely inherited from the former high priest. Such words are merely the product of a plot against me. Those who utter such slander are precisely the parasites in the bowels of a lion king. The heritage of this school has been transferred to Nitchu through the correct lineage of the successive high priests. I assert that the heritage of this school exists only within the life of Nitchu, nowhere else.
Since the election will be held in a very unjust manner, no transfer of the heritage (which is supposed take place between one high priest and another based upon their supreme life condition) is possible, no matter who may be elected. This is again because the transmission of the heritage is to be carried out based upon the spirit that respects the Buddha’s mandate. Nitchu upholds the heritage because I am afraid that otherwise the essence of this school will be profaned and the lifeblood of Buddhism will be lost.
I am deeply concerned that the correct way of this school will be overturned. Pure, concerned believers are now courageously advocating justice in a passionate attempt to restore the legitimate way of heritage transmission. It will be truly lamentable if your faith as priests falls short of this correct endeavor. The rise or decline of Buddhism will be determined by this election. I sincerely wish for you to make the right choice in the election.
To those priests and lay believers who, with pure and correct faith, wish to let the sun of Buddhism shine with its original, great light: Devote yourselves to the correct path and be courageous in upholding the correct establishment of this school so that you can dauntlessly protect the three treasures.
January 25, 
Head Temple 58th High Priest
(and his seal)
Through this declaration, we can sense Nitchu’s profound regret at having been ousted as high priest. He’d had no reason to resign, but because he’d demoted Ho’un Abe in the priesthood hierarchy, the latter held a grudge against him and he was toppled by a coup. His resignation was a result of conspiracy and intimidation.
Only Two Priests Demonstrated Devotion to High Priest Nitchu
Eight representatives of the True Law Protection Group visited the Joren-bo lodging at Taiseki-ji to entreat Nichiko to change his mind and support Nitchu. It was January 29. Also attending this meeting with Nichiko was a leader of the local Taiseki-ji lay believers.
They actually met with Nichiko several times over two days. But the True Law Protection Group’s maneuvering failed; Nichiko resolutely turned down their entreaty.
On January 30, the group’s representatives arrived at Hashimoto Inn in Omiya Town (currently, Fujinomiya City) and discussed until late in the evening what they should do. It seemed certain that Nitchu would be defeated now that their efforts to persuade Nichiko had failed. They decided to take extraordinary action.
They went to the Omiya Police Station at 1 p.m. the next day, January 31, and met with Deputy Police Chief Hikita. They then returned to Tokyo on the 2 p.m. train. These True Law Protection Group representatives seem to have asked Mr. Hikita to investigate the incidents to intimidate Nitchu. They pointed out that Nichiren Shoshu assembly’s non-confidence resolution against Nitchu the previous November was invalid. (Note: Later, it was discovered that Nitchu’s camp filed a lawsuit over this incident. This lawsuit prompted police to eventually investigate Nichiren Shoshu.)
The election for high priest was thus conducted. Shizuoka Minyu Shimbun dated February 12, 1926, published the following article:
Taiseki-ji, a major temple of Nichiren Shoshu located at Ueno Village in Fuji County, is now engaged in an ugly internal dispute. The school is divided in a confrontation between priesthood and laity over the election of its chief administrator. Nichiren Shoshu seems to have abandoned the school’s proud 700-year tradition, established during the days of Nichiren through the traditional transmission of the heritage of his Buddhism. Its shame is now being exposed to the public. Voting in this election ends on the 16th, with vote counting to start on the morning of the 17th. It is predicted that the Rev. Tsuchiya, the former chief administrator, who is supported by the laity, has no chance to win in this election. The Rev. Jirin Hori, the chief administrator’s current secretary, who is backed by the priesthood, will doubtless win. The Omiya Police Station, which is responsible for security of the area that includes Taiseki-ji, is planning to send more than ten plainclothes police to prevent possible disruption as major chaos is expected on vote-counting day.
More than ten policemen were to be mobilized to protect the counting of the votes for the next chief administrator. This article shows the severity of the confrontation within Nichiren Shoshu.
The counting of votes started at 9:05 a.m. on February 17. The total number of votes possible was 87. Two people abstained. The total number of valid votes was 85 [points were assigned based on first, second and third place votes]. The outcome is as follows:
Priest Jirin Hori: 82 points. (Elected)
Priest Shudo Mizutani: 51 points. (Elected)
Priest Koga Arimoto: 49 points. (Elected)
High Priest Nitchu: 3 points
The incumbent, Nitchu, received only three votes. Since Nitchu voted for himself, this means that only two other people voted for him. In other words, only two people were faithful to him. Though priests stress absolute obedience to the high priest, it seems they only follow him obediently when doing so is beneficial to them.
The election gave a rare look at the degree to which the priesthood’s obedience to the high priest was quantifiable. Only two out of the 87 voters absolutely followed the incumbent high priest—a pathetic 2.2 percent!
Pro-Nitchu Lawsuit Prompts Police Investigation of Assembly Members
Nichiko obtained an overwhelming election victory. Next, a committee meeting affirmed his succession to the role of chief administrator and received approval from the Ministry of Education on his inauguration.
It appeared that the three months of murky discord had finally come to an end. But the new situation created a new round of hostility.
The anti-Nitchu group had a happy moment with Nichiko in the center, celebrating his victory at the high priest lodging on the afternoon of the vote-counting day. That is where Deputy Police Chief Hikita of the Omiya Police appeared together with several other uniformed officers. Their investigation was brief on that day, but Mr. Hikita told all those involved in the election to appear at Omiya Police Station the next day, February 18.
The pro-Nitchu group had filed a suit against 21 people (including Nichiren Shoshu Assembly Chairperson Jimon Ogasawara, assembly members, and committee members) who were opponents of Nitchu. The pro-Nitchu group charged that the opposing group had coerced Nitchu’s letter of resignation.
In the early morning of February 18, a committee meeting was held, and it was decided that Nichiren Shoshu would apply immediately to the Ministry of Education for their endorsement of Nichiko as new chief administrator. General Administrator Koga Arimoto and Director Yodo Sakamoto hurried to Tokyo and submitted the necessary paperwork the following day, February 19. Astonished at the police intervention, they were expediting legal procedural matters.
Back at the Omiya Police Station, nine people, including Jimon Ogasawara, were questioned starting at 9 a.m. All nine had been gathered first in a large room within the police center. They were then called one by one into an investigation room. Questioning continued into late evening.
Priests residing in other prefectures were later summoned to the Omiya station. An intense investigation continued there for several days. The conflict within Nichiren Shoshu had reached its lowest point.
By February 24, the prosecution had been sent an investigation report on two individuals—Jinin Kato of the Nichiren Shoshu Administrative Office and Shohei Kawata, chief priest of Renjo-ji. The pair confessed to having fired a gunshot and throwing stones at the reception hall in an effort to intimidate High Priest Nitchu during midnight gongyo the previous November 18.
The report also included such names as Shudo Mizutani (chief priest of Honko-ji in Shizuoka prefecture, who later became Nichiryu-[62nd]), Jimon Ogasawara (assembly chairperson), Koga Arimoto (chief priest of Myoko-ji in Shinagawa, Tokyo), Bunkaku Aishima (chief priest of the Rikyo-bo lodging), Kosei Nakajima (chief priest of the Jakunichi-bo lodging), Shinkei Nishikawa (chief priest of the Kangyo-bo lodging), Yodo Kosaka (chief priest of the Hyakkan-bo lodging), Jiyu Hayase (chief priest of Hodo-in), Teiyu Matsumoto (editor and publisher of Dai-Nichiren), and Kohaku Ohta (chief priest of Renko-ji in Shizuoka prefecture). In the police report, they were mentioned as suspected intimidators against Nitchu. The investigation continued.
Strife over the chief administrator position continued. It was the worst situation that had ever developed at Taiseki-ji. But one day, it all came to a sudden, unexpected end.
On March 6, Nitchu, his wife, his attendant priest, and two members of the True Law Protection Group gathered at Fuji Station, then set off by car to Hashimoto Inn in Omiya Town. There, they joined the three leaders of the Taiseki-ji lay believers for a discussion. That evening, they were met by the two True Law Protection Group members from Tokyo. The discussion continued until late in the evening.
The following morning, March 7, Nitchu and the others returned to Taiseki-ji in two cars. The purpose of their visit was to conduct a public transfer ceremony for Nichiko. The ceremony took place at 10 a.m. at the reception hall. A congratulatory reception followed at 2 p.m.
A private transfer ceremony was conducted between Nitchu and Nichiko for one hour, starting at noon on March 8. The following month, on April 14 and 15, an inheritance ceremony was conducted to officially introduce the new high priest, Nichiko.
This brought to an abrupt end the drama over the position of high priest of Nichiren Shoshu. This resolution was a result of a reconciliation effort by Mr. Shimomura, the Ministry of Education religious bureau chief, who was instrumental in softening the attitude among Nitchu’s camp.
Mr. Shimomura’s efforts were likely made in either late February or early March. Five points were agreed upon during the meeting.
It is not clear who from the Ministry was there to witness the reconciliation. It is certain, however, that the two camps reached an agreement at the reconciliation session. Several newspapers reported on the five points of agreement:
- The pro-former-high-priest group and the pro-current-high-priest group shall cooperate in order to maintain the legitimate establishment of this school.
- The new high priest shall reform Taiseki-ji and this school.
- Both former and current high priests shall discuss this school’s matters of great importance.
- The new high priest shall not involve himself in the school’s trivial matters.
- The new high priest shall devote himself to promoting faith and practice among both priesthood and laity.
One sticking point in the delicate negotiations was the matter of retirement benefits for Nitchu. Masajiro Tanabe, a True Law Protection Group member, revealed this in a document called “A Document of Exhortation for Many in Body, One in Mind” in September after Nichiko’s inauguration:
In the meantime, the retirement fee for High Priest Nitchu was 3,000 yen in cash (which is also reported in “Correct Mirror,” a document disseminated by the anti-Nitchu group.) The Taiseki-ji lay society’s representative secretly discussed with outgoing High Priest Nitchu what he might think of an offer of 70 sacks of white rice. But the retirement offering was later reduced to 25 sacks of rice and 1,000 yen in cash, after the transmission of the heritage was conducted on March 8. It is said that even this reduced offering was not distributed as promised to the former high priest Nitchu.
Astonishing. This document reveals that Nitchu, in return for a smooth transfer of the heritage, was promised a retirement of 3,000 yen in cash and 70 sacks of white rice. This was allegedly proposed by the Taiseki-ji lay believer leaders. It is not certain whether the new high priest’s group approved this offer, but Tanabe, who sided with Nitchu, disclosed that the award was reduced to 1,000 yen and 25 sacks of rice after the transmission was completed.
Tanabe revealed this secret retirement was proposed at a time when the scars of internal strife had not yet completely healed. He does not seem to be lying. Whether the retirement bonus was paid must have been a subject of interest among the priests and believers of Nichiren Shoshu. The sanctity of the heritage transmission from one high priest to another, the source of Nichiren Shoshu priesthood pride, was severely tarnished in those days.
At the time, 1,000 yen would be the equivalent of 1.5 to 2 million yen (approx. 19,000 to 25,000 dollars) today.
After all this, the retirement award money and rice were not given to Nitchu. Almost all the priests and lay believers opposed him, eventually banishing him. He had been high priest for only two years and three months, and the treatment he received from other Nichiren Shoshu priests was awful.
It is inconceivable, however, that the scholarly and honorable Nichiko would be involved in reneging on Nitchu’s retirement payment.
The idea for this deal was likely drawn up by priests with political interests who had carried out the coup against Nitchu. Their purpose would have been to nullify the influence of Nitchu and the True Law Protection Group. We can sense behind the scenes the intention of these priests to use Nichiko to put Nichiren Shoshu under their control.
Nikken’s Father, Who Became 60th High Priest Nichikai, Was at the Center of the Coup
It was commonly known that Ho’un Abe was at the center of priests seeking political power. Abe was also involved in various plots to become high priest. Koga Arimoto, another political priest behind the coup, also became a candidate in another high priest election as a fierce rival Ho’un Abe after Nichiko resigned in November 1926.
Abe won the election, finally placing himself on the high priest’s throne. The defeated Arimoto issued a statement (dated March 13, 1928) revealing Ho’un Abe’s machinations from 1924 to 1928. What it describes is how Abe behaved as a devilish function (King Devil of the Sixth Heaven) appearing in the Latter Day to decimate the teaching of the Law.
The Buddha’s will did not support their scheme. The Rev. Nitchu became 58th high priest. Ever since then, the political priests schemed, saying that the 59th will be the Rev. Abe and that the 60th will be Sakio and so on. In this way, they disparaged the impeccable reputation of the school’s heritage transmission. In their unpardonable plot, Sakio was promoted two ranks higher in the priesthood hierarchy for the sake of the upcoming election. Isn’t this strange?
The most frustrated person, however, was the Rev. Abe. In a desperate attempt to enhance his reputation, he contributed an article to Dai-Nichiren, titled “Admonishing Shimizu Ryozan.” This article attacked remarks made in an interview by Mr. Ryozan, a scholar of Nichiren schools in Japan. When High Priest Nitchu saw the article, he was astounded at the Rev. Abe’s immaturity and lack of consideration, to the point where the high priest directly reprimanded him, stating that Abe was not suitable to be general administrator or to retain noke status in the hierarchy of priesthood. Although the Rev. Abe apologized, he was still compelled to resign from his positions.
Abe and his associates developed a profound grudge against High Priest Nitchu, and regarded the high priest’s action as revenge against the group’s scheming. The Abe group also developed a grudge against the Rev. Arimoto, who acceded to the Rev. Abe’s former position. The action taken by High Priest Nitchu, however, was not based upon secular emotionalism, it was precautionary, taking into account the terribly negative impact that the Rev. Abe’s article have and how that would reflect on the teachings of this school. As a matter of fact, High Priest Nitchu asked the Rev. Hori (who was then at the Joren-bo lodging) if there was any way to save the Rev. Abe’s article. The Rev. Hori replied that the article was extremely poor and that it was not advisable to publish it in Dai-Nichiren. Thus it was not published.
This was how the Rev. Abe lost the position of noke, which made it impossible for him to be a candidate for chief administrator. Outraged by this development, he and his associates searched desperately for a way to regain his position. The Abe group paid careful attention to the sentiments of the people at the assembly meeting in November 1925.
Recognizing that Nitchu’s personality did not harmonize with other priests and lay believers, and taking advantage of the general respect shown to the Rev. Hori, the Abe group supported Hori’s candidacy and succeeded in creating an unfriendly atmosphere throughout the school toward Nitchu, who eventually was forced into retirement.
The author of the statement, Arimoto, had acceded to Abe’s position of general administrator at the time of the coup. It was Nitchu who had appointed Arimoto to this number-two position, and it was Nitchu who was betrayed when Arimoto joined Abe in his scheming. Arimoto’s betrayal was most instrumental in making the coup successful.
The statement reveals the secret story behind this alliance:
In winter 1925, when distrust of High Priest Nitchu became an issue, the Abe group was ready to put the Rev. Abe in the position of chief administrator. It was a tremendous job to convince the group of the necessity of promoting the Rev. Hori for high priest. Since we asserted that we would not support the Rev. Abe unless they would uphold the Rev. Hori for now, the Abe group reluctantly followed our instructions.”
In this way, the political priests used Nichiko Hori against Nitchu.
As the new high priest, Nichiko-[59th] was the ideal person to restore Nichiren Shoshu’s reputation; the school had tarnished its image terribly through its ugly internal squabbles.
Without Nichiko’s demonstration of virtue and discernment, there could not have been a peaceful resolution. Nichiko was indeed a treasure Taiseki-ji could boast about—it is a shame that he was further hurt by his colleagues’ scheming and plotting.
‘Political’ Priests Use Nichiko for Their Purposes
‘My Wish’—Nichiko’s Heart-Warming Memoir
Nichiko wrote a memo to the priesthood titled “My Wish,” in which he described his honest feelings during this tumultuous period. His personal impressions as the new high priest also appear at the very beginning of “One Hundred Sacred Lessons” [April 1926 issue of Dai-Nichiren].
I changed my name in early March. I did not abandon my old name; all I did was change my name based upon the Rules and Bylaws of this school for the priesthood in dealing with matters of correctness and obligation in secular, public documents.
It turned out that I had to use the name Nichiko publicly and privately for good, since the name change was registered at the government office. My old name, Jirin, had been given to me by my first mentor, Koken-bo Nichijo, who came up with it based upon a New Year’s Day dream. “Nichiko” was given to me by Nichiden Shonin, a great mentor. Both names are very special to me. Such names as Sessen, Suika, and Enichi are the names I gave to myself, so I have no special feeling toward them.
He also spoke frankly about his feelings after taking office:
I have no idea of how much my character has improved as an individual in proportion to the rise of my position in the priesthood hierarchy and in accord with the change of my name.
This remark reflects Nichiko’s character and heart, in stark contrast to Nikken, who insists he is “the Daishonin in modern times” and “as respectable as the Dai-Gohonzon.”
Year after year, I am aging and weakening. My hair has become increasingly gray, and my spirit has been on the decline. And I am becoming more useless. These are sure things. I cannot say how much my faith and character are improving. Certainly, my value as an individual has not changed at all despite my name change from Jirin to Nichiko.
Here, we can deeply sense his virtue as an individual and noble life condition as a priest. Even when he first attained the position, it was apparent the humility with which he tried to fulfill his mission as both a priest and a disciple of Nichiren Daishonin.
Upon taking office, Nichiko issued the following candid request to the priesthood and laity. This, certainly, is what a priest should be.
It seems to me that when priests and lay believers make offerings to the head temple as a token of their faith, they tend to offer finery to the high priest such as an elegant kesa robe, a clergyman coat (hoi), or white Japanese middle wear. They also offer rare and precious candies and fruit and even household items. These all seem overwhelmingly luxurious compared to ordinary offerings made to other priests. For example, when I was just Jirin, no one gave me a hoi. But after I became Nichiko, I hear people say they would like to offer this or that to me. Since I have no virtue to receive such offerings, I feel I don’t deserve them.
From this, we can tell that he was embarrassed to receive so many, often luxurious, offerings.
I am a common, ordinary, unaccomplished priest—if, month by month and year after year for the coming years, I can bring some benefit to this school without disgracing the seat of high priest, I may become qualified to receive humane or heavenly offerings, perhaps even the clothing of high and rare quality. I am, however, still a plain, elementary priest disgracing the seat of the lion king. Therefore, I am not in a position to receive high-quality offerings. And I don’t want to put myself before the Buddha and benevolent deities as a greedy, shameless priest. Also, I don’t want to put myself before my most respectable mentor and past sages. Also, I am afraid of the effect I may receive in the future due to the sin of recklessly accepting offerings from believers with sincere faith.
He clearly asserts here that he feels he has not made much contribution to this school yet. And he sets a clear limitation as to what the head temple should receive as offerings:
Offerings of clothing should be limited to inexpensive clothes. Please do not offer expensive silk goods. If you offer clothing, please make it the type that I can comfortably hand down later to acolytes.
And I request that any furniture offered should be inexpensive, robust and practical.
If you offer food, please offer ordinary foods usually preferred by those who live a below-middle-class lifestyle. Rare foods and expensive offerings should be absolutely prohibited. Please refrain from offering yokan, manju or sweet desserts—they are not good for health, since they contain lots of sugar.
Specifying that offerings should be meager and humble was no small declaration. He continued:
If I say this, some may say: “You’re limiting one’s sincere resolve in making offerings to the Buddha. You’re diminishing the good root of one’s faith. You’re not employing Founder Daishonin’s teaching that the debt of gratitude one owes to a white crow may be repaid to a black crow. I am not making offerings to you, I am giving you these things as if giving them to the true Buddha Daishonin. If you refuse to accept them, you are doing something incorrect.” What they say makes sense, but while I am high priest of this school, please let me have my own way in this regard. Please understand how I feel toward this matter. And if you still disagree with me and really want to make the sincerest offerings to the Buddha out of gratitude, please make offerings that benefit the public, not private gifts to me.
What are public offerings? One category would be Buddhist altar accessories. Another would be various Buddhist items.
Speaking of altar accessories, I think what we have at the Mieido and other temples, which is supposed to dignify the Gohonzon, is very indecent. I am sorry for the Gohonzon. As I serve the Gohonzon every day, I really feel sorry for it. It is OK that us priests possess shoddy Buddhist goods, but I would like us to dignify the Gohonzon in a splendid manner.
He further stated:
The current temples on the head temple grounds are in need of attention. But we cannot improve them with a small amount of money. When it comes to having a complete set of wonderful Buddhist altar accessories, we don’t have to spend too much money—a table before the Gohonzon, a sutra table, or other goods can even be offered separately. One person does not have to offer a complete set of altar accessories at one time. If various people make random offerings of Buddhist furnishings on their own, the various temples of the head temple may look like Buddhist altar shops, which is not wise. Therefore, in making such offerings, please coordinate with the head temple prior to your purchases. A lot of offerings in the form of Buddhist furnishings that were thus far made seem to have been wasted since they were given to the head temple without any planning.
As to the offerings of Buddhist goods, some of them are used exclusively for the head temple. Many others are used for welcoming visitors. Few would be satisfied on their pilgrimage to the head temple should they be served with poor merchandise despite their sincere faith. Of course, the head temple will be very careful about treating our visitors well, but it may take a great amount of money and time before we can have a complete set of serving ware. If well-wishing believers have a good prior discussion with the head temple before making offerings in the form of Buddhist goods, they can select items on their own that accord with the head temple’s needs. That way, other believers who may use such items will also be satisfied as well as the people who donated them. Such a great way of mutual service was found in the past as well, but it is my sincere wish that our believers will spend for our general Buddhist materials rather than just for my sake. I sincerely apologize for having used too much space on the topic to express my personal requests, which I should have made separately to individuals.
He retains my wholehearted respect.
No Sign of ‘Mysticism in High Priest Position’ in Nichiko’s Actions
Nichiko wrote an article titled “Confession” on November 20, 1927, two years after he was inaugurated, expressing his intention to resign as high priest.
The foreword to “Confession” is titled “My Sincere Exhortation to All Priests and Lay Believers of This School,” and the rest consists of four parts: 1. “Process Behind My Becoming Chief Administrator”; 2. “Term of Chief Administrator”; 3. “Cause for Resignation of High Priest”; 4. “Immediate Cause for Resignation from Position of Chief Administrator.”
The foreword begins:
I assumed the roles of chief administrator and high priest for unavoidable reasons. From the inception of my inauguration, I repeatedly expressed my desire to resign from these positions as early as possible. Therefore, if you have heard of my resignation, don’t be shocked. Rather, you should celebrate my early departure. At the same time, those members of the assembly who are aware of the reality of this school should be able to let those who are not so aware of the situation to know about this change (“Confession”).
Nichiko shows here that from the time of his inauguration he had strongly intended to resign. He felt he should do so early, because becoming chief administrator and high priest had not been his true desire. He merely took the office because others had persuaded him.
In the next sentence, Nichiko described receiving one letter after another requesting him not to resign.
My silence is partly responsible for this conflict, which we may have to regard as an extremely unfortunate incident for this school if a group of people were marginalized over this ordinary, positive change. (“Confession”)
Nichiko is hinting that, although he had received many such letters, there seemed to be a group who specifically did not want Ho’un Abe to become the next high priest. In those days, apparently there were strong opinions and substantial agitation regarding the high priest position.
Nichiko explained in his “Confession” that political considerations were not the reason he contemplated resigning. He concluded his foreword to “Confession” by saying “I wish for you all to read this document most carefully.”
The first section of the main text, titled “Process Behind My Having Become Chief Administrator,” reads as follows:
I first have to explain why I came out of retirement after more than ten years to assume the roles of chief administrator and high priest, positions unsuitable to my character. Many people refer to the great incident that broke out in November 1925, saying I was pulled out of the gloomy cave of retirement and promoted to the ultimate position of the Law for the good of this school. All of you shared the same feeling that our school would be secured through my inauguration. I felt differently, however. I believed that the original cause for this grave incident existed within me. Hence, I was resolved to quiet this disturbance by any means. With this determination, I accepted the earnest request from the four teachers, that is, Mizutani, Arimoto, Ogasawara, and Fukushige. (“Confession”)
He explains that he was inaugurated to calm the situation that arose from the Nichiren Shoshu assembly’s November 18, 1925, resolution asking Nitchu to resign as high priest.
He discloses that those who entreated him to become high priest were the pro-coup priests: Shudo Mizutani (committee member; later Nichiryu-), Shuin Mizutani assembly member; later Nissho-), Nichijin Arimoto (assembly member and general administrator), Jimon Ogasawara (assembly chairperson), and Shohei Fukushige (assembly member). Ho’un Abe, who was planning to be next high priest, was manipulating these priests behind the scenes.
But I thought it necessary to put an end to the incident, which was so divisive to this school. Therefore, I assumed the role of chief administrator, feeling as if I had been placed on the guillotine. I was determined, however, to exert myself to rectify the sin I committed by avoiding my original responsibility as chief administrator, figuring that I would spend at least three months or at most six months (at this responsibility). I could not, however, bring satisfactory solution to this internal strife, due to some desperate manipulations behind the scenes. Therefore, I could not resign halfway through without accomplishing anything. (“Confession”)
Indeed noteworthy is the description of his feeling upon taking office as new high priest: “I assumed the role of chief administrator, feeling as if placed on the guillotine.”
Nichiko’s expression must sound unpalatable to the current Nichiren Shoshu leaders, who exalt the position of high priest. As Nichiko was in that very position, doesn’t his description here demystify it? Doesn’t it defeat the idea that whoever holds that position has a special life condition?
Today, Nichiren Shoshu propounds that once someone becomes high priest, he obtains the same life condition as Nichiren Daishonin. Nichiko, in contrast, was humanistic; while holding the seat of high priest, he sought the earliest retirement.
Nichiko’s statement in “One Hundred Sacred Lessons” about his feelings upon inauguration, completely undermines the idea that the person at the seat of high priest possesses the same life condition as Nichiren Daishonin. Nichiko said: “I have no idea how much my character has improved as an individual in proportion to my rise in the priesthood hierarchy and in accord with the change of my name.”
Many in Nichiren Shoshu Oppose Nichiko’s Renovations
It seems that having to move to the high priest quarters upon taking office was against Nichiko’s intention. He writes:
. . . I finally moved to the high priest quarters on April 9, 1926. I left the Joren-bo, where I had once decided to dwell for the rest of my life, since many felt it was improper for me to commute from that retirement lodging to the reception hall area; the scroll-airing ceremony, which was always held at the reception hall, was near at hand. (“Confession”)
Although I am high priest for now, my thought is that I am a temporary, interim high priest. I have had no intention whatsoever to become an honored high priest who inherits the heritage of this school. First, I earnestly want my sentiment to be understood by all people, as it was reflected in my behavior ever since last year. (“Confession”)
It is surprising that he uses the expression “a temporary, interim high priest.” Today’s authoritarian Nichiren Shoshu priesthood would be dumbfounded by it. I wonder how those priests who “deify” the position of high priest would react to Nichiko’s words.
Nichiko went on to say, “I have had no intention whatsoever to become an honored high priest who inherits the heritage of this school.”
He had no affectation as high priest, but he was an outstanding scholar in modern Nichiren Shoshu. He was of noble character, the type of person before whom you would want to put your palms together in respect. In the third chapter of his “Confession,” “Cause for Resignation of High Priest,” Nichiko writes that he had both internal and external reasons for wanting to resign.
As his personal reasons, he explains, in effect, that he had taken actions that reflect his character, but not the conventional way of Nichiren Shoshu. Accordingly, his relations with other priests were not smooth. His lifestyle as high priest did not match his ideals and character. His health declined, and he was assailed by an unidentifiable illness. Should he collapse, he said, it would not be good for the school. Nichiren Shoshu would have a hard time taking care of him. The sacred task to which he had been devoted for the past twenty to thirty years—the compilation of Nichiren Daishonin’s writings—would remain unfulfilled. In that case, he wouldn’t be able to die in peace. Here is the actual text of his remarks:
Talking about my personal reasons, as I stated in the first point, the role of chief administrator does not fit my character. If I behave in a way that suits my personality, my behavior may not be what is expected of a high priest. I may develop unfitting relationships with others. I may also develop disharmonious relations with my seniors and juniors. These things will definitely occur. Because of these personal reasons, I am only able to assume the role of chief administrator briefly, for one or two years. To live a lifestyle that matches neither my ideal nor my character disturbs and discomforts my mental and physical health. It may give me frequent bouts of undefined illness, mysteriously caused by disharmony of the four elements. Should I fall to such illness, it won’t be good for this school. Not only that, I will have ended my life as an obvious troublemaker. It would be very regrettable were I to allow the sacred editorial work I have desperately wanted to accomplish for the past twenty or even thirty years to go unfinished. Should that happen, I would not be able to die in peace. This is the primary reason I want to resign. (“Confession”)
It seems that many in Nichiren Shoshu did not welcome Nichiko’s innovative actions. And Nichiko seemed dissatisfied spiritually as high priest. Instead of staying in a position that did not suit his character, he would have rather spent his time and energy on the sacred task of compiling Nichiren Daishonin’s writings.
Also, it appears that no one felt obliged to follow him with absolute obedience, even though he was dedicated to Nichiren Shoshu administrative matters with a clear sense of purpose toward kosen-rufu, and living a sincere and humble daily existence.
Powerful priests such as Ho’un Abe took advantage of Nichiko’s sincerity and honesty in order to oust Nitchu. Once the school was rid of Nitchu, Nichiko’s presence became annoying to them.
Those in power within Nichiren Shoshu opposed Nichiko in many ways, which is obvious from his “Confession.” His spiritual worries had already reached the limit of his capacity.
Evil Priests Entrenched Before Soka Gakkai’s Appearance
After disclosing his internal reasons for wanting to resign, Nichiko gives six external reasons. First:
It was an unbearable disgrace to conduct an election for the position of chief administrator in December 1925, having been pressured by the local government agent responsible for the management of religious organizations.
A similar description can be seen in the initial part of this chapter.
This evolution I neither sought nor desired, but many priests had to go through the disgraceful circumstances of being involved in a police investigation. Not only that, they were defamed in many ways. I had to put up with all sorts of anguish. (“Confession”)
I referred to this previously in detail. It was an “an indelible disgrace” to Nichiko that the election of a new high priest was conducted under the supervision of the police. Constantly aware that he came to the position through the intervention of national authority, he repeatedly referred to himself as “an interim high priest.”
In his “Confession,” he wrote about the heritage transmission in which he took part:
Since I was an interim high priest, I felt that I should not have to go through a major transmission ceremony; I did so, however, in response to various people’s desire and the government officials’ intervention. That I went along with this uncomfortable formality is, to me, a permanent disgrace, as I was so passive in the face of third-party pressure. (“Confession”)
Here, in great honesty, he asserts that the heritage transfer ceremony on March 7, 1926, was a disgrace.
Nichiko points out various people’s requests and the national authority’s intervention as the reasons he had to go through the uncomfortable formality of the heritage transmission.
The “various people” must be referring to powerful priests and lay believers within Nichiren Shoshu. The national authority’s intervention indicates the Minister of Education religious bureau.
Those people seem to have wanted to conduct the transfer ceremony in a grand manner so that it would clearly signal the end of strife within Nichiren Shoshu. Nichiko, however, felt disgraced by the fact that the national authority used the sacred transfer ceremony as a means to end the internal squabbling.
Things went ahead, contrary to Nichiko’s will. The public transfer ceremony was conducted March 7 at 10 a.m. at the Taiseki-ji reception hall. It ended at 1 p.m. A congratulatory reception followed at 2 p.m. An hour-long private transfer ceremony between the old and new high priest was conducted at midnight on March 8.
After completing the heritage transmission to Nichiko, Nitchu left Taiseki-ji. A priest allegedly threw stones at the departing Nitchu.
Thus, before the Soka Gakkai appeared, Taiseki-ji was a Latter Day of the Law hotbed of errant priests.
Nichiko refers to another reason he wanted to resign:
- The fact that I heard the contents of the heritage from lay believers assigned by High Priest Nissho was very puzzling; I wonder if what I had to do is in sync with the Buddhist spirit of ‘seeking enlightenment through a senior.’ [priest, not laity] (“Confession”)
Nichiko received the heritage from Nitchu in a transmission ceremony conducted at midnight on March 8, 1926, through the intervention of the national authorities.
It would seem logical that Nichiko thoroughly received the heritage from Nitchu at that ceremony. He writes in “Confession,” however, that he’d had to ask the person who temporarily received the heritage from Nissho-[57th] about the contents of the heritage. This begs the question: why?
A commotion arose within Nichiren Shoshu, compelling some to worry that the heritage transfer from Nitchu to Nichiko was insufficient, or to worry that Nichiko—who was known as a great scholar—had perceived something lacking in Nitchu’s transfer to him.
Nichiko Sensed Something Missing in Heritage Received From Nitchu
We need to confirm how the transmission of the heritage between Nissho and Nitchu was conducted in order to understand Nissho’s statement quoted in “Confession” that “I entrusted a special heritage.”
The heritage transfer was conducted under very unusual circumstances, the source of which was Ho’un Abe’s attachment to the position of high priest. As explained in detail earlier, the transfer between Nissho-[57th] and Nitchu-[58th] was conducted with two lay believers as middlemen.
Nitchu, the 58th high priest was ousted in a coup led by Nichikai.
Ho’un Abe aimed at succeeding Nissho, but his plan was not realized. Then, he focused on succeeding Nitchu, which he ultimately could not pursue because it would mean uniting with Koga Arimoto’s faction. He had no choice but to temporarily support Nichiko. As soon as Abe regained the priesthood rank he had once lost, however, he schemed to isolate Nichiko and urge him toward early resignation.
After Nichiko’s retirement, the Abe and Arimoto factions that had previously cooperated to oust Nitchu, became fiercely opposed, culminating in a terrible election for the next high priest in which bribery, intimidation and favoritism prevailed. Ho’un Abe, brought confusion to the stage upon which the heritage was to be transferred.
Ho’un Abe later became Nichikai the 60th high priest. He is the father of Nikken, 67th high priest.
The specific person “upon whom High Priest Nissho entrusted the heritage” and the individual whom Nichiko asked about its contents are mentioned in Nittatsu’s Refuting Evil: The Theory of Wooden Gohonzon Being Counterfeit. How regrettable that he had to deal with these two lay believers—Tatsu Nakamitsu and Umetaro Makino—regarding the heritage they temporarily received from Nissho to pass along to Nitchu.
Again in “Confession,” Nichiko shares his view that “I am an interim high priest,” surely referring to this unusual transfer. Since he had to humbly confer with these two lay believers, he must have felt the heritage he received from Nitchu was insufficient.
The fifth point is as follows:
- Even though I submitted seven or eight new ideas for reforming the Rules of this school, which included very important proposals, the drafters, administrative office staff and assembly members gave them the silent treatment. As I could not force my ideas upon them, sadly, I was powerless as chief administrator. I relinquished my ideas, telling myself that the time had not come yet for them to be enacted. As a result, I felt irresponsible, which caused me unavoidable pain.
Nichiko wanted to revise the Rules of Nichiren Shoshu in hopes of reforming the school. But the priesthood coldly ignored his intentions, silently killing his ideas.
Nichiko’s ideas were not overtly rejected at the assembly meeting; rather, the Nichiren Shoshu staff priests just ignored his instructions. In other words, they protested against Nichiko by not doing their jobs instead of obeying him without question.
There is no way of knowing the reforms Nichiko sought. His ideas must have been too innovative. Rejection by the Nichiren Shoshu staff must have contributed heavily toward his desire to resign.
Nichiko labeled himself “irresponsible” either for not standing up to those priests who stood against him or for not maintaining his resolve to realize his reformation plan.
Here, he describes his sixth external reason for resignation:
- Ever since I took office, I felt lacking in personal assets. I left the staff to responsibly fulfill their roles. The income from the scroll-airing ceremony that commemorated my inauguration was used for repair work on some of the head temple buildings. Despite our income, we spent so much money on the improving our structures that the staff had to go through excessive hardship. I myself have almost no money in my pocket; I am living a life of austerity. Yet, I have not heard any positive comments that the high priest and staff are doing a great job. Rather, I hear negative comments about us. Under such circumstances, I am not sure we can successfully hold an upcoming event to commemorate the passing of the founder and show him our debt of gratitude. Such an incapable high priest lacking in virtue should not stay in the supreme position for long. I wonder why I have yet to receive a letter recommending my resignation.
Nichiko Chooses Resignation to Work Toward His Sacred Mission—The Compilation of Nichiren’s Writings
Nichiko, the 59th high priest, devoted his life to compiling the writings of Nichiren Daishonin that were published in cooperation with the Soka Gakkai under second president Josei Toda.
In 1931, a great undertaking celebrating the 650th anniversary of Nichiren Daishonin’s passing was scheduled at the head temple. Nichiko thought that such a significant event should not be carried out under his administration. This was another reason he chose to resign.
In fact, Ho’un Abe’s group and Koga Arimoto’s group, the two dominant factions at Nichiren Shoshu, were both planning to hold significant 650th anniversary services conducted by their respective group leadership.
Accordingly, neither group heeded Nichiko’s instructions. They ignored him as much as possible; and Nichiko, in isolation, felt he had no choice but to resign.
On top of that, there was a particularly troubling incident. A priest who attended Nichiko became mentally unstable. As Nichiko relates:
From among the assistant priests who were serving me, I acquired an acolyte who lost his sanity. Buffeted by the stormy waves of frivolousness and wickedness in the outer world, his mind broke down, his faith filled with arrogance, his honesty becoming doubt, and his small-mindedness becoming fear. Thus he would spend each day in anger, tears, fear and empty laughter. What awful karma this is! Sinful is this insane boy. But how can I just go about blaming him for hurting my virtue? Both the ailing and the insane should be at peace under the compassion of the high priest. People have such belief. It is indeed unusual that such a young priest, who has been nurtured for more than ten years in this school, should suddenly go insane. It would unlikely be pointless to just accept it as my karma to have such an assistant priest in my environment. Deeply believing that this is how the true Buddha is teaching me things, I secretly gave up my place and isolated myself at the Sessen-bo lodging right after the oeshiki ceremony was over, even without having obtaining permission from other executive priests regarding my resignation. Here at this lodging temple, I am praying for the recovery of this sinful boy. This is how miserable I am. I am a small-minded person, but how can I shamelessly and peacefully remain in the highest position of high priest? This is justifiably an immediate reason to resign. Taking the current situation as the Buddha’s punitive admonition, I am now in isolation.
Nichiko refused to be indifferent to this unexpected situation. He concluded that he could not assume his high priest responsibilities with an insane acolyte around him. This incident became an immediate cause for his retirement. Reflecting on his not acting boldly for the renovation of Nichiren Shoshu, Nichiko’s assessment was, “My indecisive attitude has finally incurred the fury of the Buddha and heavenly gods.”
On thing to add here, however, is that all these external causes as well as his attendant having become insane were no more than supplementary reasons for his resignation.
His primary reason for resigning was internal. He had a burning desire to accomplish such sacred undertakings as compiling Nichiren Daishonin’s writings (Gosho) and the publication of Complete Works of the Teachings of the Fuji School.
Nichiko emphasizes this internal reason:
It would be so regrettable if I allowed the sacred editorial work that I desperately wanted to accomplish for the past twenty to thirty years to go unfinished. If this should happen, I won’t be able to die a peaceful death. This is my primary reason for resigning.
He had decided these should be his lifetime accomplishments, and he resolved to resign, determined that the conflicts caused by evil priests in the Latter Day of the Law would not sway him and keep his sacred work from being done.
The Nichiren Shoshu laity has been enslaved under the authority of the priesthood, which claims that Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings belong only to the priests and urges lay believers to depend on priests. The laity is nurtured to become dependent. Lay believers are encouraged neither to study nor propagate Buddhism.
Nichiko, trying to expel the stagnated air from Nichiren Shoshu, wished for the people to play a chief role in propagating the Law.
In Complete Works of the Teachings of the Fuji School, Nichiko made public the contents of such transfer documents as “Transfer Teachings on First Bath,” “The Transmission of Seven Teachings on the Gohonzon,” and “The Transmission of Three Points on the Gohonzon” that were supposed to be treated as secret teachings.
Nichiko must have worried that the transfer documents could be distorted, judging from the ugly behavior of priests like Ho’un Abe.
Or he may have wanted his juniors to not undergo the shame he had to as high priest, the deplorable situation where he had to hear from two lay believers about the contents of the heritage. Or he merely might have perceived that the time had come to publicize the contents.
It seems indeed wondrous that Soka Gakkai second President Josei Toda vowed to publish Gosho Zenshu (Complete Works of Nichiren Daishonin) together with Nichiko.
Nichikai Underwent Constant Strife
No Heritage for Someone Who Became Chief Administrator Through Corrupt Election
Nichiko publicly revealed his intention to resign at the November 1927 Oeshiki ceremony.
Nichiren Shoshu was divided into two camps—the Renyo-an Group in support of Ho’un Abe (who later became Nichikai-[60th]), and the Fujimi-an Group headed by Koga Arimoto.
A certain individual who was surprised at Nichiko’s retirement announcement at the Oeshiki ceremony, allegedly said to him:
If you quit as high priest now, this school, which has finally been stabilized, will undergo another furious battle. Please stay in the position. (from “A Document of Message”)
With firm determination, Nichiko replied:
I know further chaos will come. The division of this school into two entities will eventually cause things settle down in the way they are supposed to. You people may become excited about this seeming turmoil, or you may feel content as you may find it worth your challenge. Do as much as you want. (from “A Document of Opinion”)
Since all administrative matters were then under the Abe group’s control, Nichiko was powerless. The Taiseki-ji Administrative Office staff treated him coldly and disregarded his reformation proposal.
Nichiko had had no desire to become high priest. He was inaugurated to resolve major confusion at that had become obvious through the November 1925 coup against Nitchu. It may be more precise to say that the majority group within Nichiren Shoshu used Nichiko to realize its scheme.
Since he was now being ignored as a result of the Abe group’s influence within Nichiren Shoshu, despite having cooperated with the school’s anti-Nitchu groups since taking office, Nichiko seemingly resolved to retire early in order to focus on his study of Nichiren Buddhism.
Upon hearing of his intention to retire, Nichiren Shoshu went into election mode, sensing a fierce contest between the Abe and Arimoto groups.
After Nichiko’s inauguration, Ho’un Abe, who had earlier been demoted by Nitchu from the rank of noke was reinstated as a noke priest. It was around that time that the Abe group began to plot Nichiko’s isolation and eventual early retirement.
The Abe group, having successfully seen Nichiko removed from administrative matters, now maneuvered toward victory in the upcoming high priest election. The Arimoto camp was unprepared.
In 1927, seemingly having laid the groundwork with Nichiko, the Abe group, secretly had nine members promoted to the position of teacher. It was highly irregular for that sort of special promotion to be given within the school, and the Arimoto group naturally took issue.
This demonstrates the Abe group’s well-planned preparations for the upcoming election. The Abe camp seems to have already started its election campaign in October, before Nichiko had even revealed his intention to resign. Before the official commencement of the election, the Abe group was visiting ill priests and their families, stopping over at priests homes during trips, and sending gifts to priests eligible to vote.
The Abe group seemed relentless in its corrupt efforts to win. After the election, the Arimoto group issued its own document (dated March 13, 1928) to criticize the Abe group’s campaign wrongdoings. It reads in part:
Considering a certain temple’s chief priest to be too old, this person, lying about being a messenger from Shinagawa, had the priest driven by night to Tokyo. He secretly served this priest sake and a meal. As the priest became intoxicated, he filled out an address-change document, attempting to have him vote for Teacher Abe by sending a ballot to this new address. Via an attorney, we went to great pains to reclaim this ballot. Also, the Abe group kidnapped another temple chief priest. While dining with people from the Abe group, this chief priest was denied his freedom until he eventually agreed to vote for Teacher Abe. Yet another temple chief priest, who had vowed to the Buddha and heavenly gods that he would vote for Teacher Arimoto, was intimidated by the Abe group’s campaigners into voting for Abe.
There are many actual cases in which the Abe group hindered the Arimoto group from obtaining votes. For instance, the Abe group forced a chief priest to go out to conduct a believer’s memorial service, thus making it impossible for our group to contact him. Also, the Abe group tried to buy a vote by telling a chief priest he would be transferred to a more-prestigious temple or be promoted within the priesthood hierarchy. And they threatened to fire or transfer another chief priest unless he voted for the Rev. Abe. And they pressured another chief priest to vote for the Rev. Abe using a powerful lay believer. And they sent a misleading telegram to prevent another chief priest from voting for the Rev. Arimoto.
Jimyo Tomita, representing the Abe group, rebutted the document with his “A Document of Rebuttal” (dated December 29, 1928), which states in part:
Other priests were coerced into voting for Teacher Abe. The Arimoto group discovered this and had one of them write to the Administrative Office about a change of mind. Another priest, from the Tohoku region, sent the Administrative Office a letter expressing his change of mind, fearing intimidation from the Arimoto group. A priest from the Abe group, hearing about such intimidation by the Arimoto group, sent a new document to the Administrative Office pointing out that the priest’s reversal did not reflect his true intention.
Election campaign battles like this took place across the country. Both the Abe and Arimoto groups used the tactics of intimidation and bribery.
Despite the ugly election process, because of Nichiren Shoshu’s claim that the high priest alone possesses the Nichiren Buddhism heritage through the Taiseki-ji lineage, once a person is inaugurated into the high priest’s seat, he is automatically cloaked in the mystification of the position. The Buddha’s children—the disciples of Nichiren Daishonin—need to correct this distorted view. We must deepen our awareness of Nichiren’s original teaching regarding the heritage of his Buddhism. The true heritage of Nichiren Buddhism resides within the life of each person who, with pure faith in Nichiren Daishonin’s original teaching, is connected with Nichiren himself.
Ambitious Nichikai Was Always at Center of Conflict
December 18, 1927, was the date a new chief administrator was to be determined. It was vote-counting day at the head temple—eligible voters had sent in their votes.
Taiseki-ji was in an uproar that day, as the Abe group had asked for police mobilization. The vote counting was conducted, supervised by the police. Yet there were minor skirmishes here and there on the head temple grounds. The Arimoto group’s “A Document of Message” depicts Taiseki-ji that day.
Ho’un Abe received 51 votes while Koga Arimoto garnered 38. The Ministry of Education religious bureau had to help assess the election validity because various violations had occurred, including the aforementioned sudden increase of nine (eligible to vote) teachers courtesy of the Abe group.
Charges were filed at Omiya (currently, Fujinomiya) Police Station resulting from the confrontation between the two groups, which continued even after the election. The strife that had started with the coup against Nitchu-[58th] resulted in this legal action. Major Nichiren Shoshu priests were investigated one after another. A similar police investigation was conducted regarding the transition from 59th to 60th high priest.
The following lawsuit was detailed in the January 26, 1928, issue of Osaka Jiji Shimpo. It is a rather long quote, but it illustrates the internal condition of Nichiren Shoshu at that time.
Incidentally, this article reports that Nichiren Shoshu had 150 local temples with 170,000 believers. The reality, it seems, was only one-third of that figure. Nichiren Shoshu apparently gave false statistics to boost its image.
Embezzlement Suit Filed Against Nichiren Shoshu Senior Priest
Nichiren Shoshu (formerly, the Nichiren Shu Fuji School), whose head temple is Taiseki-ji of Ueno village, Fuji county, Shizuoka prefecture, with 150 branch temples and 170,000 believers throughout the country, has been undergoing internal strife since the end of last year, which causes the Minister of Education to refrain from approving the appointment of the new chief administrator. The Mukojima Police Station, requested by the Omiya Police Station of Shizuoka prefecture, interrogated for several hours the Rev. Ho’un Abe, chief priest of Josen-ji (175 Koume, Mukojima). Mr. Abe, who holds the title of gon-no-sojo in the priesthood hierarchy, was announced as having been elected new chief administrator. He was temporarily allowed to return home in the evening. A record of the investigation was immediately sent to the Omiya Police Station.
The contents of this investigation were kept secret. The aforementioned Ho’un Abe, who was elected as next chief administrator last November and Koga Arimoto, chief priest of Myoko-ji (Mitsuki, Minami-Shinagawa, Soto-Shinagawa-cho, Tokyo), with the title of gon no sojo in the hierarchy of priesthood, ran for this election. After votes were counted on December 18, Ho’un Abe had won the election 51 to 38. Dissatisfied with this result, the Arimoto group filed a lawsuit at the Omiya Police Station, claiming that Rev. Ho’un Abe had used the value of the head temple’s trees to fund his election campaign in collusion with the Rev. Shudo Mizutani, general administrator of the General Administrative Office; that the Rev. Ho’un Abe had embezzled 2,000 yen as a maintenance fee for Renyo-an where Nakako Kaneko, widow of the former chief administrator Nichio Oishi, and a woman named Myoden reside. This lawsuit was filed against the Rev. Ho’un Abe and the Rev. Mizutani by Mr. Nakane (Sendagaya, Tokyo), who is now a layperson and was once a junior priest to the Rev. Koga Arimoto, and Mr. Matsumoto, former secretary of Josen-ji (Nishitobe, Yokohama City).
Ho’un Abe was interrogated at Mukojima Police Station for suspicion of bribery. Shudo Mizutani, against whom a charge was also filed, later became Nichiryu-[61st].
In “A Document of Message,” the Arimoto group touched upon this lawsuit:
Rumor has it that our side having filed a lawsuit against the Rev. Abe and the Rev. Mizutani was not beneficial to us. As the newspapers reported, it was a fact that both of them were sued, but we ourselves did not file this lawsuit. The Rev. Abe, however, reported on the occasion of the third anniversary of Nichio’s passing that Renyo-an’s basic fund of 4,000 yen would be kept in the bank as savings. At this time, one of Nichio’s disciples sent a certified letter to the Rev. Abe to confirm this matter. The Rev. Abe responded by certified mail that this money was withdrawn from the bank, that it was responsibly kept by him, that he should rest assured that there would be no problem, and that the Rev. Abe would make a new announcement of this money on the occasion of the seventh anniversary of Nichio’s passing. Nichio’s disciple, however, was not convinced by this report. It was rumored that some of this 4,000 yen was lent to a certain individual. There was another rumor that some of this 4,000 was lent to a certain shop in Ginza. Today, even big banks do not lend money so easily. It is most dangerous to loan money to individuals. The money we are talking about had been offered in good faith by sincere believers, a crystallization of their genuine faith and hard work. The disciple sent another certified letter to the Rev. Abe, demanding that he disclose immediately how he would be keeping the money, instead of waiting for the seventh anniversary of [Nichio’s] passing the following year. The Rev. Abe’s temple’s secretary, the Rev. Kimura, then replied that the Rev. Abe was out of town. Since then, there has been no further response from the Rev. Abe. We told another individual about the Rev. Abe’s silence. As a result, this individual, objected to the result of the election, is said to have sued the Rev. Abe. We can tell which side is wrong once we understand what happened in this lawsuit, which we did not file. We think it inexcusable that the Rev. Abe, a senior priest, made a loan of Renyo-an’s funds, which came from believers’ pure faith, to another individual, without having discussed the matter with others. It is only natural that [Nichio’s] disciple could not trust the Rev. Abe, who says that he would disclose the matter the following June. We will see how the police investigate this matter.
Nichiren Shoshu’s inner conflicts, which involved the police, seemed endless. According to the news article, the amount of money embezzled was 2,000 yen. By the Arimoto group’s reckoning, however, it was 4,000 yen. The 2,000-yen differential may point to money whose use was later revealed, even though how it was used remains unknown. Regrettably, because of limited information, the lawsuit outcome is unknown. Ho’un Abe was never arrested. Perhaps, his case did not become a criminal case, as he might have justified using the money to make both ends of the balance sheet meet.
On June 2, 1928, Ho’un Abe, with permission from the Ministry of Education religious bureau, formally became Nichiren Shoshu chief administrator. As the vote counting had been held the previous December 18, it means it took six months to get governmental approval. Of course, both the Abe and Arimoto groups repeated their respective petitions to the government.
Nichiren Shoshu had previously resolved internal conflict through intervention by the Ministry of Education religious bureau regarding the transfer from Nitchu-[58th] to Nichiko-[59th]. Now the school required an abnormally long period of reconciliatory support from the religious bureau to gain governmental approval for the transition from Nichiko-[59th] to Nichikai-[60th].
It was a religious school in which conflicts arose one after another, major conflicts involving the national authorities. Nichikai (Nikken’s father), with his sights set on being high priest, was always at the center of controversy.
 One of the thirty-six types of hungry spirits listed in the Meditation on the Correct Teaching Sutra. According to this sutra, one who preaches the Buddhist Law, or teachings, out of the desire to gain fame or profit is reborn as a Law-devouring hungry spirit.
 Jimon Ogasawara, would later play a key role in the priesthood’s wartime behavior, proposing that Nichiren Shoshu adopt the doctrine that the Buddha is subordinate to the Shinto deity.
 This is from a story found in Chang-an’s Annotations on “The Treatise on the Observation of the Mind.” When a snake was about to bite the king, who was laying on the grass resting, a white crow flew down to alert the king. Saved from the danger, the king ordered his vassals to find the bird, but they were unable to do so. Determined to express his appreciation, the king then bestowed his favor on a black crow.
 Noke is an exclusive group of the highest-ranking priests. There are only five or six noke at any one time.