2. Daisaku Ikeda becomes the third president of the Soka Gakkai

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Chapter 2: Ikeda’s assumption of the office of third president of the Soka Gakkai and his subsequent resignation

Unquestioning veneration for the President is promoted in the Soka Gakkai

After obtaining corporate status as a religious organization, the Soka Gakkai started to expand. On April 2, 1958, second president Josei Toda passed away. On May 3, 1960, Daisaku Ikeda became its third president. During his inaugural ceremony, Ikeda stated:

Our Soka Gakkai is a lay organization of Nichiren Shoshu. Therefore, I believe the fundamental spirit of the Soka Gakkai is to take sincere faith in the Dai-Gohonzon and strictly follow the guidance of the High Priest.

(Collected Speeches of the President,
first edition, vol. 1, p. 1)

Ikeda declared that upholding faith in the Dai-Gohonzon and strictly following the High Priest is the fundamental principle of the Soka Gakkai. After that, the Soka Gakkai conducted extensive propagation activities with its firm organizational power. By 1964, the membership grew to approximately five million households.

In April 1964, on the occasion of the establishment of the Grand Reception Hall at the Head Temple, Daisaku Ikeda was appointed as Hokkeko Sokoto by Sixty-sixth High Priest Nittatsu Shonin. Thus, Ikeda was given the position of head representative of the Nichiren Shoshu lay believers.

Interference with the Freedom of Speech and Press Incident

In November 1961, the Soka Gakkai established the Komei Political League (Komei seiji renmei) as a seemingly separate organization. Prior to this, Ikeda had claimed that the Gakkai would not expand its operations into politics:

The Soka Gakkai will not run in the House of Representatives. We are a religious organization and not a political organization.

(ibid. p. 86)

In May 1964, however, the Soka Gakkai announced the establishment of a political party and declared its move into politics. In November of that year, the Gakkai formed the Komeito Party. In January 1967, it set a target to win 25 seats in the Lower House elections.

In 1969, while the Gakkai was in the midst of advancing into politics, an “incident of infringement on freedom of speech and press” occurred. With concerted efforts, the Soka Gakkai and the Komeito Party had harassed authors and their publishing companies for their publications that were critical of the Gakkai. However, members of the media and intellectuals protested the Gakkai’s and Komeito’s actions, and afterward, this issue was perceived as a significant social problem.

In order to settle this issue, on May 3, 1970 at the 33rd Headquarters General Meeting, Ikeda apologized for the Gakkai’s interference with the freedom of speech and press. Furthermore, he declared that he would refrain from running candidates in the election and would ensure that the Soka Gakkai and Komeito would honor the separation of religion and state.

The Establishment of the Sho-Hondo

In October 1972, the Sho-Hondo sanctuary was established at the Head Temple. Daisaku Ikeda was the petitioner who made the request to have the structure built. On the occasion of the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of the Sho-Hondo, Ikeda expressed his view of its significance, citing the Gosho passage regarding the High Sanctuary, in “On the Three Great Secret Laws” (“Sandai hiho-sho”):

The Sho-Hondo signifies the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching of the Lotus Sutra.

(Dai-Nichiren, November 1968 edition)

Ikeda declared that the Sho-Hondo is the True High Sanctuary of the Daishonin’s will, which is to be erected at the time when kosen-rufu has been achieved. However, his statement deviates from the doctrines of Nichiren Shoshu. The intention behind it was merely to deceive people into believing that Ikeda himself was the one to achieve Nichiren Daishonin’s will.

In the midst of discussions regarding Ikeda’s high-handed remarks about the Sho-Hondo and the protests against it by a group called the Myoshinko, the High Priest made a pronouncement about the definition of the Sho-Hondo. On April 28, 1972, High Priest Nittatsu Shonin issued a decree containing the following statement:

The Sho-Hondo is the True High Sanctuary at the present time, and carries the significance stated in the Transfer Document, “Document for Entrusting the Law that Nichiren Propagated Throughout his Life” (“Nichiren ichigo guho fuzoku-sho”) and [the Gosho] “On the Three Great Secret Laws.”

(Collected Words of High Priest Nittatsu Shonin, vol. 2-1, p. 3)

Nittatsu Shonin made it clear that the Sho-Hondo, at this time, was not to be regarded as the True High Sanctuary that was the Daishonin’s directive.

Ikeda was dissatisfied with the High Priest’s guidance. In 1974, High Priest Nittatsu Shonin bestowed a Gohonzon to Ikeda in celebration of the completion of the Sho-Hondo. Ikeda urged the High Priest to inscribe an endorsement on the back of this Gohonzon stating, “On the Establishment of the Sho-Hondo, the True High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching.” He made this request so he could claim to have proof that the establishment of the Sho-Hondo fulfilled the will of Nichiren Daishonin to erect the True High Sanctuary. However, High Priest Nittatsu Shonin inscribed an endorsement stating that the Sho-Hondo was established “comparable to” the Daishonin’s instructions stated in the Gosho “On the Three Great Secret Laws” to erect the True High Sanctuary. By using the words, “comparable to” (“jun jite”), High Priest Nittatsu Shonin rejected Ikeda’s definition of the significance of the Sho-Hondo.

Daisaku Ikeda’s Hostility toward Nichiren Shoshu and Signs of Attempts to Control the Sect

These events after the establishment of the Sho-Hondo led Ikeda to harbor hostility toward High Priest Nittatsu Shonin and Nichiren Shoshu. He then started to criticize Nichiren Shoshu openly and repeatedly. Furthermore, this led him to decide to stop protecting and supporting Nichiren Shoshu. Instead, he coined and promoted the concept, “Chapter Two of Kosen-rufu,” among his members and expounded “Soka Buddhism” based on his arrogance and biased views. He deviated from the doctrines of “the Buddha from the infinite past of kuon-ganjo,” “Eternal Master,” and “Lifeblood Heritage of the Master and Disciple Relationship,” and spread these distortions throughout the organization, so that the members would worship Ikeda as the True Buddha.

Behind the scenes, the Soka Gakkai secretly planned to take control of Nichiren Shoshu, or to become independent from it.

Agreement with the Communist Party

On December 28, 1974, the Soka Gakkai entered into an agreement with the Japanese Communist Party called the “Sokyo Agreement.” The main purpose was non-interference with each other and peaceful coexistence.

This agreement shocked other religious groups and political parties. The Japanese Communist Party interpreted this agreement as an opportunity for the two groups to join together, battle other organizations, and cause trouble for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. However, the Soka Gakkai and Komeito, did not expect the Communist Party to interpret the agreement in this way. So, the Soka Gakkai apologized, saying that it was not interested in joining forces against other parties. Instead, it wanted to promote harmony. The Gakkai and the Komeito Party really did not want to damage their relationship with the government or the Liberal Democratic Party. The agreement with the Communist party collapsed one year after it was formed.