Nichiren Shoshu (Nichiren Orthodox School) has its head temple Taiseki-ji located in Fujinomiya City, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. The school and temple were founded by Nikko, a senior disciple of Nichiren, more than seven hundred years ago. The Taiseki-ji School was incorporated into the united Nikko schools of the Nichiren sect under the Japanese government’s religious policy in the early period of the Meiji Era (1868–1912). After obtaining permission from the government to become an independent religious organization, Taiseki-ji made a new departure under the name of the Fuji School of the Nichiren sect. Later on, the Fuji School changed its name again to Nichiren Shoshu. According to Yobo-ji School’s Nisshin Tomitani in An Outline of the History of This School, the name “Nichiren Shoshu” was first presented by Yobo-ji in the 11th year of Meiji (around 1878) when the united Nikko School of the Nichiren sect was considering a new name. As the Taisho era (1912–1926) started, the Fuji School (Taiseki-ji School) adopted the name “Nichiren Shoshu.” At first, the Fuji School seemed to want to call itself Daisei Nichiren Shoshu (Great Sage Nichiren Orthodox School). It is believed that the Fuji School, under protest from another school, had to settle with the name of Nichiren Shoshu.
With this prefatory remark aside, the history and doctrines of Nichiren Shoshu are filled with many myths. The word myth denotes something that is fictitious yet widely accepted. The Buddhist sutras and founder’s teachings constitute the foundation of any discussion in the world of Buddhism. Therefore, teachings that are not grounded in the original are viewed as myths. The following contention is an example of Nichiren Shoshu’s mythological views: “Nichiren Shoshu is the only correct school of Nichiren — for the past seven hundred years from Nikko Shonin, founder of Taiseki-ji, to the current general administrator, we have been inheriting the “Living Essence of Nichiren Daishonin” through the transfer of the heritage of the Law from one general administrator to another, while protecting most solemnly the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary, the purpose of the Daishonin’s advent.”
Much criticism resulted from such a dogmatic self-righteous claim by Nichiren Shoshu, which in effect brands all other Nichiren schools as heretical. The Nichiren Shu (sect), while criticizing Nichiren Shoshu from a scholastic viewpoint, claims that the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary, the foundation of Nichiren Shoshu’s religious creed, is a forgery, and that the “Two Transfer Documents” that support the Nichiren–Nikko lineage and the writing titled “Matters to Be Observed After Nikko’s Death” (Nikko Ato Jojo no Koto) are forged documents. In the 1980s, the Shoshinkai (Correct Faith Association) priests who left Nichiren Shoshu thoroughly studied the Fuji School’s old documents and objects of devotion, pointing out periodic cessations in the past transfer of the office of chief administrator (high priest) while also revealing doctrinal distortions of the Taiseki-ji School.
However, no decisive documentary and logical proof has been presented, the kind of proof powerful enough to refute the position of Nichiren Shoshu. It is also a fact that we are no longer living in an age where Nichiren Shoshu’s dogmatic teachings are beyond question. As the Western, modern-day study of history and the methodology in the study of literature invade the realms of religious study and history, Nichiren Shoshu’s doctrinal system has been increasingly exposed to academic scrutiny and the falsehood of its myths is on the verge of total revelation.
It seems to me, however, that these dogmatic beliefs of Nichiren Shoshu will not be abandoned regardless of our all-out efforts to analyze them and the history of Nichiren Shoshu through the use of modern methodology. The reason why I say this is that we cannot free Nichiren Shoshu priesthood’s current thinking pattern from their myths, no matter how effectively we may resort to the study of textbooks, the discovery of new historical data, and the scrutiny of documents.
Let me say the same thing differently and more plainly. Suppose that it has become clear that there were cases of cessation in the past transmission of the heritage of the Law in the history of Taiseki-ji through an examination of historical data. Since the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood and its lay followers are so stubbornly steeped in their myths, they will never bend their conventional ideas by interpreting historical data in an unbiased manner. They are confined within the tautology that “The transmission of the heritage of Taiseki-ji will never be disrupted because it is eternal. Therefore, the transmission of the heritage of Taiseki-ji is imperishable.” In fact, whenever I engage in a dialogue with Nichiren Shoshu, I always find our discussion going nowhere because the Nichiren Shoshu side clings to the illogical dogmatism of the absolutism of its chief administrator.
The current Nichiren Shoshu is a religion based upon myths, not because it is intellectually committing a mythological mistake but because the thought pattern of its priesthood and followers is mythological. Then, how can we refute this way of thinking? This question is the purpose that underlies the entirety of this book.
I decided to take the following approach to challenge this dilemma after much contemplation. The ultimate purpose behind my whole efforts lies in shedding light on the question of how the current mythological way of thinking was formed in Nichiren Shoshu. I will examine as minutely as possible the process of the formation of the pattern of thought that is rooted in the priesthood and laity of Nichiren Shoshu through the methodology of philology and histology. To cite a concrete example in this regard, I employed this methodology in writing the first thesis of this book. In this thesis, I attempted to clarify the process of the mythological thought of Nichiren Shoshu in terms of its belief that “The high priest of Nichiren Shoshu who inherited the heritage of the Law is absolute”
As a result of my research and study in this manner, I have gradually come to see that the idea of “the specific lifeblood of the entity of the Law received by only one person,” which was used to deify the chief administrator, was born at the end of the 15th century and established in the 17th century. My suspicions were confirmed by this discovery, but in this book, I go on to present a variety of discussions about the myths of Nichiren Shoshu to help dissolve the mythological thought pattern that occupies the minds of the current priesthood and laity of Nichiren Shoshu.
In the second thesis, “The Collapse of the Myth of the Existence of the Secret Teaching Known Only to the Chief Administrator,” I point out that the contents of the secret teaching are already publicly known. The heritage transmitted solely through the lineage of the successive chief administrators is already fully publicized on a theoretical, documentary level.
In addition, I include two more theses to dissolve the myths of the function of the chief administrator that stems from absolutism. In the third thesis titled “The Fallacy of the Myth that the Chief Administrator Alone Has the Right to Transcribe the Gohonzon,” I present undeniable historical facts to prove that this claim is far from reality. In fact, a number of priests who did not receive the heritage of the Law transcribed the Gohonzon. In the fourth thesis titled “The Deception behind Taiseki-ji’s Claim of Its Absolute Purity Throughout Its 700-Year History,” I explain through photos and data how loose and irresponsible the successive chief administrators of Nichiren Shoshu were in handling the conferral of the Gohonzon.
These four theses are independent of one another in nature. One of them has already been published in an academic journal. I rewrote it in creating one book out of these four theses. I am afraid that there is some overlap among these four theses, for which I beg the reader’s pardon.
At present, Nichiren Shoshu seems wholly enveloped by faith in the absolute authority of the chief administrator. Nichiren Shoshu even went so far as to say that “Even the object of devotion of the essential teaching produces no benefit without faith in the high priest (chief administrator) who alone inherits the heritage of the Law” (Refuting Yumo Matsuoka’s Slanderous “Refutation of Faith in the Absolute Authority of High Priest,” published by Nichiren Shoshu Administrative Office, September 2005, p. 18). The infallibility of the chief administrator is the ultimate Nichiren Shoshu myth. In the minds of the priesthood and laity of Nichiren Shoshu, the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary is no more than a function of the absolute authority of the chief administrator. They will never abandon their mythological way of thinking as long as the absolutism of the chief administrator (kanzu) is protected. It is impossible for us today to fully know all the historical facts of several hundred years ago. Those believers in the absolute authority of the chief administrator of Taiseki-ji find reasons to justify themselves all the time. Notwithstanding, if we succeed in accumulating proof that Nichiren Shoshu’s current claim is no more than a myth that was created in the course of the school’s history, Nichiren Shoshu priests and believers will lose the basis of their mythological tautology.
This is an outline of my motivation for writing this book. I am not sure whether or not I have been successful in fulfilling my original purpose. I am a former priest of Nichiren Shoshu, but I am not a specialist of either the study of Buddhist history in Japan or Nichiren Shoshu studies. I sincerely appreciate any honest criticism and comments on my work from my seniors and readers. Everything written here are my own essays, and I am solely responsible for the contents.
Nichiren’s writings were quoted from Nichiren Daishonin Gosho Zenshu (The Complete Writings of Nichiren Daishonin) compiled by Nichiko Hori and published by Soka Gakkai in 1952.Nichiren Daishonin Gosho Zenshu is adopted as the basic text. Nichiren Daishonin Gosho Zenshu is abbreviated as GZ in this thesis. The English version of The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, which is based upon Nichiren Daishonin Gosho Zenshu, is abbreviated here as WND.
Documents written by successive general administrators of Taiseki-ji are quoted chiefly from Essential Writings of the Fuji School (Fuji Shugaku Yoshu) complied by Nichiko Hori (ten volumes, published by the Soka Gakkai during 1974–1979). It is shown as EWFS in abbreviation.
Complete Works of Successive High Priests of Nichiren Shoshu (Nichiren Shoshu Rekidai Hossu Zensho, seven volumes) was published by Taiseki-ji during 1972–1988. It is shown asCWSHP in abbreviation.
The Collection of High Priest Nichikan’s Commentaries (Nichikan Shonin Mondanshu, published by Seikyo Shimbun in 1980) is also quoted in this thesis. It is shown as CHPNC in abbreviation.
Research and Study (Kenkyu Kyogaku Sho), 30 volumes, published by Fuji Gakurin in 1970, is also quoted in this thesis. It is shown as RS in abbreviation.