Questions and Answers on the Temple Issue
A Pamphlet Published by the Soka Gakkai International-USA,
- WHAT IS THE TEMPLE ISSUE?
- WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO KNOW ABOUT THE TEMPLE
- WHAT SHOULD I KNOW ABOUT NIKKEN?
- WHAT IS THE REAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE
TEMPLE AND THE SGI?
- IF THE PRIESTHOOD HAS BEEN MISGUIDED ALL
ALONG, WHY DID THE SGI SUPPORT IT IN THE PAST?
- WHY DID THE SGI START TO ISSUE THE GOHONZON?
- WHY DOES NICHIREN SHOSHU CLAIM THAT THE
GOHONZON ISSUED BY THE SGI IS "COUNTERFEIT"?
- WHY ARE MEMBERS EXCHANGING THEIR NIKKEN-TRANSCRIBED
GOHONZON FOR ONE TRANSCRIBED By NICHIKAN? WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN THESE GOHONZON?
- I HAVE BEEN INVITED TO VISIT A NICHIREN
SHOSHU TEMPLE? IS IT ALL RIGHT TO GO?
- WHAT IS BEHIND THE TEMPLE'S PROMOTION OF
MEDIA REPORTS THAT PAINT THE GAKKAI IN A NEGATIVE LIGHT?
- WHY DON'T THE SGI AND NICHIREN SHOSHU TALK
TO EACH OTHER?
- WHAT EFFECT WILL THE PRIESTS' ERRORS HAVE
ON THOSE WHO FOLLOW THEM, AND WHAT CAN I DO FOR THOSE PEOPLE?
- HOW WILL THE TEMPLE ISSUE AFFECT THE SGI
IN THE FUTURE?
- HOW CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT THE TEMPLE ISSUE?
- SUGGESTED READING
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This pamphlet attempts to outline some key elements
of what has become known in the Soka Gakkai International (SGI)
as the "temple issue" events and information related
to Nichiren Shoshu's attacks on the SGI, and its continued efforts
to undermine SGI's movement.
When the priesthood of Nichiren Shoshu began a series
of measures against the SGI at the beginning of this decade intended
to disband and destroy the organization, it may have been shocking
and disturbing, but it was not surprising from the standpoint
of Nichiren Daishonin's teachings and of history. Many incidents
and events going back to the Soka Gakkai's inception before World
War II indicated that within the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood there
existed the potential for hatred and jealousy toward lay believers.
It was evident in the attitude and behavior of more than a few
priests. As the Gakkai's growth and influence increased, so did
the number of priests who harbored such an attitude until, eventually,
it reached the office of high priest.
Buddhism means growth, progress, improvement
- of the individual and of society; it spurs development through
a deep inner reformation. This reformation, as it progresses in
the life of the individual, sends waves of vitality, humanity
and harmony into the family, the workplace, the community and
society. This is the process of human revolution as it unfolds
into the broader process we call kosen-rufu. The ultimate aim
is to secure a world of peace, harmony, fulfillment and happiness.
This most elemental purpose of Buddhism has never
been well received by those with a strong stake in the status
quo, in the established order - particularly when that order is
stagnant and calls for passivity or unquestioning obedience on
the part of ordinary people.
The Soka Gakkai since its inception has been
based on the purest intent of Buddhism, aiming at a fundamental
reordering of the lives of the people who embrace its practice
and philosophy. Because of this, the movement and its leaders
have been maligned, hated and looked upon with contempt by those
who feel threatened by its energy and the changes it promises
to bring. There is no question that the passage in the Lotus Sutra,
"And since hatred and jealousy toward this sutra abound even
when the Thus Come One is in the world, how much more will this
be so after his passing?" (LS10, 164), applies precisely
to the Soka Gakkai's situation, as it did to Nichiren Daishonin.
The human revolution and social renaissance of
the SGI are particularly distastefUl to those whose authority
and power are rooted in a weak and dependent people. The practice
of Buddhism produces a happier and more aware populace; a socially
responsible and politically involved citizenry; a people who know
what true leadership means, whether religious or secular, and
who are perceptive and courageous enough to unmask self-serving
History abounds with examples of oppression by
religious or secular authority over those who advocated a new
way of thinking or tried to empower ordinary people. Many new
traditions sprang fi-om the courage of these ordinary individuals
who overcame such oppression. The world's major religions have
all experienced such opposition during their early history.
Examples of opposition to those who spread Buddhism
in its true spirit are many in Buddhist scripture, particularly
in the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren Daishonin chronicles in detail the
persecutions, by cunning and self-serving priests and political
leaders, that he and his supporters underwent in thirteenth-century
Buddhism characterizes opposition by authority
as devilish functions, as obstacles, as influence by "bad
friends" or ultimately, as opposition by the third of the
"three powerful enemies," and also addresses the internal
ramifications of these in the life and faith of the believer.
But in its harshest form, the formula of oppression in the history
of Buddhism is always the same: A religious authority perceives
the teachings or movement promoted by a genuine Buddhist leader
as a threat, and then, colluding with secular authorities, attempts
to use whatever means are at his disposal to suppress, disband
or do away with that leader or movement. Because that leader is
innocent of any secular wrongdoing or religious error, crimes
and misdeeds are invented and rumored, with the ultimate aim to
quash the influence and respect afforded to those committed to
Another vital point to keep in mind is this:
Meeting opposition to our efforts to spread the Daishonin's Buddhism
does not mean that the SGI has done something wrong and is therefore
experiencing retribution. On the contrary, as we know from the
Daishonin's own history, he himself experienced many persecutions
from the government and harassment from the religious authorities
of his day. Such obstacles, the Daishonin explains, are not only
a natural consequence of one's efforts to spread Buddhism but
also an indication of the correctness of the teaching that he
or she practices:
If you propagate it, devils will arise without fail. Were it
not for these, there would be no way of knowing that this is the
true teaching. One passage from the same volume reads, "As
practice progresses and understanding grows, the three obstacles
and four devils emerge, vying with one another to interfere....
You should be neither influenced nor frightened by them. If you
fall under their influence, you will be lead into the paths of
evil. If you are frightened by them, you will be prevented from
practicing true Buddhism." This quotation not only applies
to Nichiren but also is the guide for his disciples. Reverently
make this a teaching of your own and transmit it as an axiom of
faith for future generations. (MW-1, 145) And: When I examine
these passages, I know that if I do not call forth these three
enemies of the Lotus Sutra, then I will not be a true votary of
the Lotus Sutra. Only by making them appear can I be a true votary.
When the Lotus Sutra states, "hatred and
jealousy toward this sutra abound," it puts no limits on
who might become susceptible to such base impulses. Any of us
is prone to selfish or spiteful emotions. It is only through a
life devoted to developing the "greater self," to ceaseless
efforts to improve ourselves and take responsibility for the happiness
of others, that we can guard against succumbing to such tendencies.
Position, status or role in the realm of Buddhism or society do
not guarantee the nobility of one's deeds.
The Daishonin admonishes: "Strengthen your
faith day by day and month after month. Should you slacken even
a bit, demons will take advantage" (MW-1, 241-2), so that
we may win over our weaknesses and never fall victim to our own
"demons" of greed, anger and foolishness.
To criticize anti-Buddhist attitude and behavior
or to refuse to follow those who maintain such an attitude and
behavior in no way contradicts Buddhism. It is in fact the only
correct action to take if one regards the Daishonin's teachings
on such matters seriously. This has been the stance of the Gakkai
toward the "Nikken sect," the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood
in its corrupt state under the leadership of Nikken Abe.
Ultimately, all the difficulties that the Soka
Gakkai and SGI have undergone in regards to the temple issue herald
the arrival of a glorious time - a time when Nichiren Daishonin's
Buddhism will be spread widely by the Bodhisattvas of the Earth
to serve as the philosophical basis of world peace and humanity's
happiness in the centuries to come. This is called the Soka Renaissance.
Therefore, we can confidently say that by being
excommunicated by Nikken, the Soka Gakkai has actually liberated
itself from the shackles of the priesthood and its authoritarianism.
This also means that the Daishonin's Buddhism has been given the
grand opportunity in this time period to be taught exactly as
it was by Nichiren Daishonin.