3. Doctrinal Deviations and Ikeda’s resignation as president


Chapter 2: Ikeda’s Assumption of the Office of Third President of the Soka Gakkai and his Subsequent Resignation (continued)

The Problems of Doctrinal Deviations

From around 1974, the Soka Gakkai leaders started to make light of Nichiren Shoshu doctrines. They put pressure on Nichiren Shoshu [to comply with their demands] and promoted the idea of worshipping Ikeda. This became apparent when members in certain Gakkai groups severely censured priests who were critical of the Gakkai’s inappropriate activities. The Gakkai’s deviation from Nichiren Shoshu faith and doctrines also became evident. This issue was referred to as the “Doctrinal Deviation Problem.” Examples of Gakkai leaders’ remarks include:

The priests only conduct ceremonies. They do not even devote themselves to their Buddhist studies or try to propagate the Law to the public. A temple today is no longer a place for the believers to gather, let alone a place for Buddhist practice.

(Dai-Nichirenge, March 1977, p. 25)

Sooner or later, we will have no choice but to cut off any residual ties with the Head Temple. In order to make sure that the Gakkai isn’t victimized…we should make a plan now to eventually administer the Head Temple, in order to defend ourselves.

(“Yamazaki and Yahiro Document,”
dated April 12, 1974)

The major points taught by the Soka Gakkai that seriously deviated from Nichiren Shoshu doctrines include the following:

  • The origin of Soka Buddhism is the attainment of enlightenment by President Toda while he was in prison.
  • Faith in the Lifeblood Heritage of the Law that is entrusted to a single person is denied.
  • The Human Revolution is the Gosho of the modern age.
  • President Ikeda is the great, eternal teacher who possesses the three virtues of sovereign, teacher, and parent.
  • A temple is merely a place for conducting ceremonies, while a Gakkai community center is the training hall for kosen-rufu.
  • The participation by Gakkai members in the festivals of other faiths is to be tolerated.
  • The Soka Gakkai is qualified to accept Gokuyo from lay people.

High Priest Nittatsu Shonin was distressed by the Gakkai’s incorrect policies and teachings that deviated from Nichiren Shoshu doctrines. Thus, he gave the following guidance:

If a teaching that is not Nichiren Shoshu doctrine or the Daishonin’s teaching spread throughout the world, I do not believe that the Daishonin would be pleased.

(Dai-Nichiren, August 1974 edition, p. 20)

The guidance of Nittatsu Shonin reinforced the criticism that many people had leveled against the Soka Gakkai. More than one million members who disagreed with the Gakkai’s new direction withdrew from the organization.

On June 19, 1978, Nichiren Shoshu sent the Soka Gakkai a questionnaire of 34 articles regarding various doctrinal issues. After receiving this questionnaire, the Soka Gakkai retracted all of its previous policies. The Gakkai leaders vowed to return to the primary faith of Nichiren Shoshu. Subsequently, on June 30, 1978, the Gakkai announced a set of new policies correcting its deviations from Nichiren Shoshu doctrines. This announcement was published in a Seikyo shimbun article entitled “Concerning the Basic Issues of Doctrine.”

The Issue of Counterfeit Gohonzons

In January 1978, during the Gakkai’s doctrinal deviation affair, it was discovered that the organization had created several counterfeit wooden Gohonzons. Beginning around 1973, without High Priest Nittatsu Shonin’s permission, Ikeda ordered wooden copies to be carved of several paper Joju Gohonzons that had been conferred on him as well as on the Soka Gakkai. Then, he allowed the members to chant to them. This is a grave slander.

The counterfeit wooden copies that were made at the time were of the following Gohonzons that had been conferred upon Ikeda and the Soka Gakkai:

  • The Gohonzon enshrined at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters (May 19, 1951, transcribed by Sixty-fourth High Priest Nissho Shonin with an inscription for the achievement of the great aspiration for kosen-rufu)
  • The Gohonzon enshrined at the Kansai Headquarters (Dec. 13, 1955, also transcribed by High Priest Nissho Shonin)
  • The Gohonzon enshrined at the European Headquarters (Dec. 13, 1964, transcribed by Sixty-sixth High Priest Nittatsu Shonin)
  • The Gohonzon enshrined at the Soka Gakkai Bunka Kaikan (June 15, 1967, also transcribed by High Priest Nittatsu Shonin)
  • The Gohonzon enshrined in the president’s room of the Soka Gakkai Headquarters (May 1, 1967, transcribed by High Priest Nittatsu Shonin)
  • The Gohonzon enshrined at the U.S. Headquarters (June 29, 1968, transcribed by High Priest Nittatsu Shonin)
  • The Gohonzon issued in celebration of the completion of the Sho-Hondo (Jan. 2, 1974, transcribed by High Priest Nittatsu Shonin)
  • Daisaku Ikeda’s Omamori Gohonzon (May 3, 1951, transcribed by High Priest Nissho Shonin)

Ikeda ordered the reproduction of the first Gohonzon and conducted the enshrinement ceremony himself. This caused a huge problem, which then escalated. Eventually, on Nov. 7, 1977, High Priest Nittatsu Shonin officially approved this Gohonzon. However, based on his strict guidance, the rest of the Gohonzons were surrendered to the Head temple in September 1978, after High Priest Nittatsu Shonin reproached the Gakkai.

The Tozan of Apology

The Soka Gakkai’s heresy was corrected for the time being, but the Gakkai members were in shock. Ikeda and the Gakkai leaders were forced into a corner. On Nov. 7, 1978, they held the “Representative Soka Gakkai Leaders Meeting to Commemorate the Forty-eighth Anniversary of the Establishment of the Soka Gakkai” (known as the Tozan of Apology) in the Great Lecture Hall at the Head Temple, with 2,000 Gakkai officials in attendance. This is known as the “Tozan of Apology.”

At the meeting, board chairperson Hojo made a vow that the Gakkai would comply with the three principles that governed its establishment as a religious corporation. Admitting the Gakkai’s faults, Tsuji, a Soka Gakkai vice president, made the following comments:

The Head Temple Taisekiji is the fundamental place for Buddhist practice. Our faith does not exist apart from the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary. Receiving strict guidance from the High Priest, the Gohonzons that were carelessly engraved and reproduced were placed in the Hoanden.

(Seikyo shimbun, Nov. 8, 1978)

Furthermore, President Ikeda made a proper apology: “On this occasion, as the one who holds the position of So-koto, I deeply apologize for these mistakes.” Then, High Priest Nittatsu Shonin responded: “On the condition that the Gakkai’s policy is correctly pursued, this disturbance is now settled….” (Dai-Nichiren, December 1978 edition, p. 45)

Due to his profound compassion, Nittatsu Shonin pardoned Ikeda and the Soka Gakkai with the understanding that they sincerely regretted their heretical conduct during these various incidents.

Daisaku Ikeda’s Resignation as President and So-koto

The chaotic situation continued within the Soka Gakkai. Some Gakkai members didn’t trust the compassion of Nittatsu Shonin and Nichiren Shoshu and felt that “Ikeda Sensei was being disrespected.” On the other hand, within Nichiren Shoshu, some priests who did not believe the Gakkai’s apology to be sincere, continued to criticize the Soka Gakkai. Finally, on April 24, 1979, Ikeda stepped down as president of the Soka Gakkai and So-koto of the Hokkeko, taking full responsibility for the situation. On April 28, 1979, at a representatives meeting for professors, High Priest Nittatsu Shonin stated the following:

It will never be the case that Ikeda will take the presidency of the Soka Gakkai again in the future.

On May 3, 1979, at the Headquarters General Meeting held at Soka University, Nittatsu Shonin, announced the resolution of the Soka Gakkai Problem, on the condition that the Soka Gakkai, as a lay organization, strictly follows the doctrines of Nichiren Shoshu.

Revision of the Corporate Laws and the Establishment of the “Soka Gakkai Regulations”

On the day of Ikeda’s resignation as Soka Gakkai President and Hokkeko So-koto, Hiroshi Hojo assumed his post as the fourth president of the Soka Gakkai.

Under Hojo’s presidency, the Soka Gakkai established the “Soka Gakkai Regulations” at a General Council Meeting. Concerning these regulations, the Soka Gakkai made the following statement in its in-house publication, Dai-Nichirenge:

The Soka Gakkai Regulations institute the basic character of the Soka Gakkai more definitely, by stating: “Based on the doctrines of Nichiren Shoshu, we, the Soka Gakkai members, revere Nichiren Daishonin as the True Buddha in the Latter Day of the Law. We also uphold our faith in the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching, the ultimate entity inscribed on October 12, in the second year of Ko’an (1279), enshrined at Head Temple Taisekiji.”

(Dai-Nichirenge, June 1979 edition, p. 32)

Furthermore, President Hojo declared the purpose of the organization in the following way:

Our desire is kosen-rufu—to propagate the true Law of Nichiren Shoshu to all the people in the world.

(ibid., p. 46)