4. Events leading up to the excommunication of the Soka Gakkai

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Chapter 3: From the Fourth Presidential Inauguration to the Excommunication of the Soka Gakkai

Daisaku Ikeda’s personal view: “Reflections on the 23rd Anniversary of the Passing of Josei Toda”

Following Nittatsu Shonin’s passing on July 22, 1979, Sixty-seventh High Priest Nikken Shonin continued his predecessor’s policy regarding the Soka Gakkai. Some priests who did not want to follow this line, however, formed a group that they called “Shoshinkai.” The members of Shoshinkai continued to criticize the Gakkai.

In response, on April 22, 1980, Ikeda presented his personal views in the article, “Reflections on the 23rd Anniversary of the Passing of my Great Teacher, Josei Toda.” He accepted responsibility for a series of problems involving the Gakkai and made the following vow:

From now on, we eternally will revere the successive High Priests as the great teachers of Buddhism.

(Seikyo shimbun, April 2, 1980)

High Priest Nikken Shonin acknowledged that with this vow, Ikeda showed his remorseful repentance and heartfelt apology to the three treasures. He gave the following guidance to the priesthood and laity of Nichiren Shoshu at the Grand Ceremony of the Transfer of the Seat of the Law:

As long as Ikeda made a pledge to alter his incorrect behavior and is already making sincere efforts, it would be a huge mistake to criticize his past slander.

(Dai-Nichiren, May 1980, p. 15)

On July 18, 1981, the fourth president Hiroshi Hojo died suddenly, and Einosuke Akiya became the fifth president.

The Secondary Soka Gakkai Problem

On Jan. 2, 1984, five years after the tentative settlement of the Soka Gakkai deviation problems, High Priest Nikken Shonin re-appointed Ikeda as So-Koto, accepting his dedication to protect the Head Temple. However, in 1990, the Soka Gakkai started to put pressure on Nichiren Shoshu in words and deeds, once again perpetrating its fabricated grievances against the sect. At various meetings, Ikeda flaunted his hostility toward the priesthood, saying, “We will fight against those with power who oppress the people.”

In response to this, Nikken Shonin gave Ikeda and the Gakkai members guidance and a warning so that the Soka Gakkai would not make a major mistake in the future. However, on July 17, 1990, President Akiya and other Gakkai officials blamed Nichiren Shoshu openly at the liaison meeting between Nichiren Shoshu and the Soka Gakkai. Thus, at the audience with the High Priest on July 21, 1990, Nikken Shonin warned both Ikeda and Akiya about their high-handed behavior. Ikeda, however, could not accept his advice. Instead, he increasingly became resentful toward Nichiren Shoshu behind the scenes.

The Speech at the Headquarters Leaders Meeting

On Nov. 16, 1990, at the 35th Headquarters Leaders Meeting held at Toda Memorial Lecture Hall, Ikeda slandered the High Priest as well as the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood with unacceptable statements. His comments included the following:

A High Priest must think about the happiness of the laity, not power.

(Dai-Nichiren Special Edition,
Jan. 25, 1991, p. 20)

The sermons are so difficult that I do not understand a thing. No one can. It is like listening to German. Even so, he says, “I am great. You are inferior laity.” That is not fair!

(ibid., p. 20)

At the time of our 50th anniversary, I was about to be beaten, I was betrayed, I was criticized, I was forced to resign as president. I was being trounced by Nichiren Shoshu.

(ibid., p. 23)

Such a speech violated Ikeda’s promise to repent the 1977 Soka Gakkai deviation problem. It was extremely shameful.

Starting in 1990, the Soka Gakkai leaders attacked Nichiren Shoshu, so that they could resume their plan to take control of the priesthood or become independent.

The Document Exchanged between Nichiren Shoshu and the Soka Gakkai

Nichiren Shoshu presented a Letter of Inquiry to Ikeda and the Gakkai leaders, concerning Ikeda’s November 16 speech. However, there was no official response from the Soka Gakkai leaders. Instead, they made an inquiry consisting of nine items based on thorough fabrications. Since the Gakkai exhibited an irreverent, provocative attitude, Nichiren Shoshu concluded that it would no longer maintain pure faith as a lay organization. On Dec. 26, 1990, Nichiren Shoshu gave the Gakkai the following notice:

Nichiren Shoshu has acknowledged that the Soka Gakkai has no intention of providing its sincere written response to our inquiry.

(Dai-Nichiren Special Edition,
Jan. 25, 1991, p. 49)

On Dec. 27, 1990, Nichiren Shoshu called an extraordinary meeting and partially amended existing bylaws. Along with this, Nichiren Shoshu dismissed Ikeda from his position of chief representative of all lay believers (Sokoto) and also dismissed other Gakkai leaders, including Akiya and Morita, from senior lay posts (Daikoto). Furthermore, Tadashichiro Abe, then chairman of the Hokkeko Federation, and Kisoji Yanagisawa, the vice-chairman, also were relieved of their senior lay positions.

Right after this, the Soka Gakkai started to attack Nichiren Shoshu relentlessly, mobilizing all of its members.

The Soka Gakkai’s Slander against Nichiren Shoshu

Ikeda’s loss of his position as Sokoto led the Soka Gakkai to slander and vilify Nikken Shonin as well as the priesthood and the Hokkeko believers, through their organ publications such as the Seikyo shimbun and the Soka shimpo and also through word of mouth. In some instances, Gakkai members exhibited violence toward the priesthood. Furthermore, the Gakkai leaders spread vicious rumors, saying things such as, “It is dangerous to go to the Head Temple, because one will find gangsters and stray dogs,” or “Food expenses during the pilgrimage are tens of thousands of yen.” In so doing, they desperately struggled to anchor the members to their group.

Soka Gakkai’s Sponsorship of Nichiren Shoshu Believers outside Japan is Terminated

On Feb. 9, 1991, Nichiren Shoshu issued a letter stating that Ikeda should self-reflect and demonstrate sincere remorse for his behavior. Nichiren Shoshu also refuted Ikeda’s slanderous behavior, and urged the Gakkai members to return to their original faith. Moreover, the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, each name listed according to propagation district, sent two documents: “Demand for an Apology” and “Protest Note,” which both refuted Daisaku Ikeda’s slander. The Soka Gakkai, however, paid no attention to these documents. Instead, they continued to slander Nichiren Shoshu.

Nichiren Shoshu concluded that if this situation continued, the correct guidance and teaching would be thwarted. Therefore, on March 5, 1991, Nichiren Shoshu decided to terminate the policy of entrusting the guidance of believers outside Japan to the Soka Gakkai International (SGI). From that day forth, the priesthood would guide overseas believers directly.

Policy Changes for Tozan Pilgrimages

Beginning on July 2, 1991, the administration of overseas believers tozan pilgrimages, which had been permitted only through the sponsorship of the Soka Gakkai organization, was changed to tensho tozan, a new system where each member is required to obtain a permission slip to go on tozan from a local Nichiren Shoshu temple.

The Ninth High Priest Nichiu Shonin stated in his On Formalities (Kegi-sho):

Those without permission from a local temple are not allowed to go on a pilgrimage to the Head Temple, whether they are laity or priesthood.

(The Essentials of the Fuji School;
Fuji shugaku yoshu, vol. 1, p. 69)

As this passage indicates, tensho tozan is a method based on the traditional observances of Nichiren Shoshu.

The Excommunication of the Soka Gakkai and SGI from Nichiren Shoshu

Since the Soka Gakkai repeatedly made doctrinal deviations comparable to the “Line of 1977” and slandered Nichiren Shoshu, the priesthood issued a document titled “Remonstrance to the Soka Gakkai to Disband” on Nov. 7, 1991, urging the Gakkai to repent. However, the Soka Gakkai and the SGI responded with defiance to the remonstrance and intensified their slander of High Priest Nikken Shonin and the priesthood.

Nichiren Shoshu concluded that it could no longer allow the Soka Gakkai, which completely had lost its original faith, to continue as a lay organization of this denomination. Thus, on November 28, Nichiren Shoshu issued a “Notice of Excommunication” to the Soka Gakkai and the SGI. With this, the 60-year long relationship between Nichiren Shoshu and the Gakkai ended.

Daisaku Ikeda’s Expulsion from Nichiren Shoshu

At this time, the Soka Gakkai’s decision to become an independent Ikeda sect came to light through its various actions: revising the silent prayers of the sutra book, making three-color prayer beads in red, yellow and blue, creating its own memorial book etc. Nichiren Shoshu sent Daisaku Ikeda, the Soka Gakkai’s most influential person, a “Notification” that he was about to be expelled from the sect, and it also gave him a chance to explain his conduct. On Aug. 11, 1992, Nichiren Shoshu sent an official notice to Ikeda, who did not respond to the previous warning. Finally, he was excommunicated from Nichiren Shoshu.