October 2004, Kansai, Japan --- Mount Fuji and Kawaguchi Lake, with cherry blossom branch --- Image by © Michele Falzone/JAI/Corbis


Time flies so quickly, so fast that I cannot catch up with it. Fifteen years have passed so quickly since I departed from Nichiren Shoshu. I was just 30 when I formed a group together with ten comrades aiming at reforming Nichiren Shoshu and hopefully, the entire world of Buddhism.

In those days, the chief administrator of Nichiren Shoshu was Nikken Abe. Five youthful priests including myself had a chance to express our will to leave Taiseki-ji in front of Mr. Abe. It was around 7 P.M. on March 30 in the 4th year of Heisei (1992). At that time we were surrounded by more than one hundred emotion-charged acolytes. In this uproar, we were abused, grabbed, and easily seized; we were so defenseless in front of so many opponents. Since I realized that this might develop into a horrible, blood-shedding incident, I somehow managed to run out of the Dai-bo lodging of Taiseki-ji to report to the police. Before that, however, Mr. Yuri So (whose last name is now Usukura) hit my face with his fist several times. Because of this impact, a lens of my glasses fell off, and its frame was distorted. I suffered such injuries that the doctor judged would take two weeks to heal.

As I take a look at the warped frame of my glasses, I recall the passion of youth that I showed on that day, feeling as if the event took place only yesterday. When we drafted our declaration of departure from Nichiren Shoshu, we came up with the lofty name of “The Association of the Youthful Priests for the Reformation of Nichiren Shoshu” for our group, never dreaming in those days that this name would survive and spread so widely and for so long. This amazing reality is totally thanks to many outstanding efforts on the part of my comrades. Though limited in my ability, I have been doing activities as part of this association. At the same time, I decided to study at a graduate school despite my age, specializing in the study of Buddhist thoughts.

In December in the 16th year of Heisei (2004), I was already beyond 40, the age by which one should be free from delusions. At that time I made a determination to do something new that will mark a milestone in my participation in the reformist movement. I was ready to expose my long-cherished view of the doctrines of Taiseki-ji. I published in Volume 20 ofThe Journal of the Institute of Oriental Philosophy a thesis titled, “The Meaning in Faith of the Present-day Taiseki-ji School’s Transfer of the Heritage of the Law through the Sole Lineage of Its Successive High Priests,” that actually became the basis of my second thesis of this book. It was a thesis in which I confirmed the fact that the contents of the heritage (that Nichiren Shoshu claims only exists in the lineage of the successive high priests of Nichiren Shoshu) are already disclosed theoretically in modern times.

The current Nichiren Shoshu seems to have looked upon the disclosure of my theory as a challenge against its core teachings. Ever since, the Administrative Office of Nichiren Shoshu  published its rebuttals one after another against my view. They published no less than four books in just a matter of four years to rebut my revelation. At first I had no intention to argue with the Administrative Office of Nichiren Shoshu. The documents published by the Administrative Office were in violation of the basic rules of academic study. They were filled with emotional slander of me. Disgusted, I did not feel inclined to argue with them. However, since these documents were widely exposed to the public through the Internet orDaibyakuho, Nichiren Shoshu’s organ, I found myself in a position where I needed to respond to their intent to show the gesture that I was sticking with my theory.

Then last summer I submitted to Mr. Nikken Abe, then chief administrator of Nichiren Shoshu, a letter of ten questions that I wrote from an academic perspective. It is attached as an appendix to this book. As I expected, Nikken and his priesthood could not argue with me on an academic level, and after an exchange of letters, the Administrative Office of Nichiren Shoshu unilaterally sent a letter of notification on January 24 this year, stating “We will not respond to your questions any more.”

The doctrinal debate that erupted between Nichiren Shoshu and me thus came to a sudden end. Through a series of debates, I was exposed more than enough to the particular way of thinking on the part of the current Nichiren Shoshu, a circular pattern of thought that bogs the school down to various myths. These myths seem to have taken robust roots in the Taiseki-ji School especially around the time when the school began to call itself Nichiren Shoshu.

This sentiment strongly caused me to write this book under the title of The Myths of Nichiren Shoshu. The debate that took place for about a year between Nichiren Shoshu and me seems to have focused on the difference between Nichiren Shoshu’s attachment to its myths and my emphasis on historical facts. Our confrontation was not necessarily on a doctrinal level.

The original faith that was once cherished at Taiseki-ji was not so mythological as its current one. The doctrinal concepts that Nikko upheld when he founded Taiseki-ji at the end of the 13th century (that is, faith in which one places belief in the mandala Gohonzon in the center, the oneness of the Mystic Law and Nichiren that is manifested in the way Nichiren inscribed it, the idea of Nichiren’s life being the object of devotion, and the consciousness of Nichiren Buddhism’s being on its own while regarding T’ien-t’ai’s faith in the Lotus Sutra as theoretical) are all revealing and not mythological. As to the heritage of Buddhism, the heritage of faith was once the basis of the Taiseki-ji School’s doctrine. Faith in Nichiren’s mandala Gohonzon is equal to believing in the heritage of the Law that Bodhisattva Superior Practices inherited. This faith is in itself the inheritance of the heritage of Buddhism. The inheritance of the entity of the Law that is manifested in the object of devotion is possible only based upon faith in the mandala Gohonzon transferred to Bodhisattvas Superior Practices. In this regard, the doctrinal inheritance of the heritage of Buddhism serves only as a supplement to the heritage of faith. In other words, even without receiving the secret doctrinal teachings, people can attain Buddhahood as long as they have doubt-free faith in the Gohonzon that embodies the Person and the Law, the ultimate object of devotion that Nichiren established, or the faith with which they are devoted to spreading the Law in the same unsparing sprit as Nichiren did. In actuality, however, without knowing the ultimate doctrines of Nichiren, it would be difficult to transmit it to posterity while developing faith as Nichiren did. For this reason, it is necessary to cherish the heritage of the ultimate doctrine to carry on correct faith. The original meaning of the heritage of the Taiseki-ji School was nothing but the heritage of faith, and it should be pointed out that Taiseki-ji was free from the shackles of the myths that are seen in modern Nichiren Shoshu.

Incidentally, publishing this book was a tough challenge. In the past I published several books including those that I coauthored. I was able to publish all of them rather easily, so I was not aware of the real difficulties in sending out this particular book to the public and world. However, when it comes to publishing a particular Buddhist book that focuses on academic criticism of one particular Buddhist school, it was so hard to find a publishing company that would take interest in publishing such a title. At first I could find no publishing company that would accept my request even on conditions that I will take care of all the expenses that would incur for publishing this book. In early spring this year (2006), I spent day after day searching for a publishing company that would accept my request.

On top of that, it took so much painstaking effort to complete all the manuscripts for the publication of this book. This book deals with various subjects that are directly connected with many people’s faith matters. Day and night I had to go through tremendous challenges both physically and spiritually. To be honest, I almost gave up on the idea of publishing this book on several occasions, since this task seemed to be beyond my capacity.

However, as it turned out, I was able to publish this book with the support that resulted from changes in my circumstance. An editor, who is a friend of mine, was kind enough to introduce me to Ronso Sha Publishing Company, a company noted for the publication of the academic books of human affairs and sociology. The skill of the assigned editor of Ronso Sha was amazing despite many cumbersome and complicated chores related to the publication of this book. While I repeated vast changes at the final stage of proofreading, Ronsho Sha was very generous toward my intent, which I deeply appreciate. I would like to express my deepest thanks to President Norio Morishita.

I am also appreciative of the warm and beneficial advice from my seniors and friends. I would have been deadlocked in my study and this book would have never been published without the help I received from my seniors who were well-versed in Nichiren Buddhism. I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to all those who provided me with their precious materials and photos.

The pianist plays the piano every day to polish his or her skill, presenting the public with his or her dedication to his or her piano practice. The scholar ponders something, collecting his thoughts and putting them into words to gain their evaluation from the public. Publishing a book is my ordinary task. I would like to make constant and continuous efforts to appeal to people through the power of words as an individual who believes in the invisible power of thought.

Lastly, in commemoration of the publication of this book, I decided not to use any more my Buddhist name (Yumo) that I was given when I was within Nichiren Shoshu. As a man of seeking spirit, I am determined to deal with the reformation of Buddhism.

Mikio Matsuoko
November 12 in the 18th year of Heisei (2006)

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