What if you’re wrong (on Nichiren Shu)?

What is the right approach when we deal with other non-Gakkai Nichiren Buddhist sects, in particular Nichiren Shu? Should we refute them thoroughly at first contact or should we make an effort to understand the historical context and consider our current situation before responding? A more civilised and humane approach would be more persuasive we think.

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Don: Nichiren Shu is wrong. Founded by one of the five senior priests who were picked by Nichiren as successors. Instead of inheriting the teachings and spirit of Nichiren, they went against his teachings and expounded their own views.

Niko (single ‘k’) disregarded Nichiren’s instructions. Fearing persecutions, he founded Nichiren Shu, distorted Nichiren’s teachings, claimed Sakyamuni as the original Buddha, and Nichiren only a messenger. This is the greatest slander of Niko.

The five senior priests criticised Nichiren’s uncompromising stance in refuting other sects. Some erected statue of Sakyamuni, explicitly forbidden by Nichiren, in order to curry favour with their local authority and be accepted by other sects. Nichiren Shu uses the Gohonzon as their object of worship only in the background. Sakyamuni Buddha statue in the forefront.

It is out of disappointment that Nikko Shonin (double ‘k’) decided to leave Minobu and settled at the foot of Mount Fuji. He felt Minobu has become a land of slander and no longer able to protect the pure lineage of his mentor’s teachings. Nikko’s formed the Fuji School, a.k.a. Nichiren Shoshu.

The details published in The Untold History of the Fuji School book.

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We are talking about the pure lineage of Nichiren Daishonin. Will his teachings be defiled and distorted by the interpretations of Nichiren Shu? If we ignore Nichiren Shu and do nothing, then, are we also betraying Nichiren Daishonin?

Deng: You seems pretty pissed.

Don: Of course I am. Say, if someone uses your name and start taking large loans from banks, will you be angry? They (Nichiren Shu) are claiming to be Nichiren’s heir. This is identity theft.

This rebel group, the NBA, is associating with Nichiren Shu. Are we suppose to do nothing? The decision to expel is correct. If I am GD, I’d have done the same. Protect our members. If any SGM leader/member is seen to associate with the NBA or Nichiren Shu, immediate expulsion is appropriate.

The top leaders are not doing it to punish people. They are trying to protect this precious organisation. Protect the true Law and the pure lineage of the Daishonin’s Buddhism.

Deng: I agree with the historical facts, but not the chopping. I am not arguing on the doctrinal points you raised. Put that aside for a while, and try to follow my points.

The General Director, correct me if I’m wrong, is to spearhead the propagation activity and enable more people to better understand the Daishonin’s Buddhism, right?

Don: Yup.

Deng: Top leaders need to open the door widely and welcome every one to enter and learn and practice joyfully together. Here, the top leaders are slamming the door shut, kicking out people. Why?

I’ve read a fair amount, not everything, of Sensei’s writings. Yet to come across anything that Sensei spoke on Nichiren Shu, let alone condemning them. I did recall several times that Sensei explain how the five senior priests betrayed Nichiren Dashonin. He did, however, published many dialogues with Islamic leaders (Abdulrrahman Wahid, Majid Tehranian) and Christian’s Theologians (Harvey Cox, Bryan Wilson). A common theme is different religions co-existing in harmony. He never condemn.

We are living in a different world from Nichiren.

Instead of claiming superiority and condemning others, it is more persuasive to save more people from suffering. It’s no point shouting at the top of our lungs, thumping our chest and showing our fangs. In one Peace Proposal, Mr Ikeda related how Sakyamuni pulled the arrow from the deer, while two Brahmans are having an intellectual debate. Buddhism is about compassion and relieving suffering.

Nichiren’s time is different.

In the World of Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings, vol.1, Mr Ikeda explained that Nichiren took a hard stance in refuting other sects because the Lotus Sutra was being distorted by the priests and the authorities in collusion. This threatened the Lotus Sutra and was causing untold sufferings to the people. All stated in On Establishing the Correct teachings for the Peace of the Land, Rissho Ankoku. Refuting does not mean a shouting match, expelling people or character assassination.

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In the 21st century, the Lotus Sutra is not in danger from Nichiren Shu. We are, instead, engage in a humanitarian competition. Makiguchi said it. How much good can you do? You want to prove the validity of your school, do it through your behaviour. Not by condemning others.

That’s the reason why Sensei focused on cultural activities, despite strong opposition, in the 60s. He understood what was suitable to the socioeconomic in Japan during that time. And also how to propagate the Daishonin’s Buddhism worldwide. Through culture and education, not expelling people who associate with Nichiren Shu.

Unfortunately, SGM’s top leaders, got stuck in a time warp of 13th century Japan. Living in a cave, gripped by fear and jumped at the sight of a single photo. Will Nichiren Shu expel their members if they participate in SGM events? Why is SGM top leaders so out of time? Perhaps, they need to study the five guides to propagation. Anger and ruthlessness never bring people in. It only pushes them out. Humanity and compassion must be the fundamental principles.

Don: What you mention is about inter-faith, different religions, and of course, we need to respect one another. But Nichiren Shu is ‘intra’ religion. We need to have a different approach when we deal with intra-faith matters.

Deng: Is there a difference here? Are those in Nichiren Shu not human, and do they not possess Buddhahood? Or their Buddhahood any less than yours? Can those associated with Nichiren Shu be treated as scum, as a plague, an abomination and only engage with extreme hatred? Where is the humanity, Don?

Because of ‘intra-religious’ conflicts in Christianity, Catholics and Protestants, Europe has seen many wars before the 17th century. After the Thirty Years’ War, untold bloodshed, millions of lives lost unnecessarily, thinking people in Europe came to their senses, and established the Royal Society. What we see today, the rapid development of the western civilisation, can be attributed largely to the influence of the Royal Society, that focuses on science and rationality. Intra-religious is really foolish and wasteful. Read them up in Choose Life, A dialogue between Mr Ikeda and Arnold Toynbee.

Sensei always stress, the religion in the 21st century must be a religion for the sake of the people, and not people for the sake of religion. Don’t sacrifice people for religion. People comes first. Religion serves people. Treating people as pawns, asserting controls on their behaviour and lives, and chopping people who disagree is very much against the spirit of a 21st century religion.

Don: But what if you are wrong? What if these trouble makers really plotted to take over the Gakkai and they were in cahoots with the evil priests from Nichiren Shu to destroy Gakkai?

Deng: You cannot chop people based on a hunch. Investigate it thoroughly. If they indeed have misguided views, we win them back through our character, our earnest prayers and sincere actions, never giving up hope on them. We don’t chop. We don’t use violence. And we never treat them as enemies, but as a human being, a Buddha.

Don: Then, why were they expel?

Deng: They raised questions on SGM internal problems and pushed for urgent and thorough reform within. The top leaders refused to listen. Instead of admitting to problems, they blamed it on outside factors, like evil forces, Nichiren Shu or concocted some conspiracy theory. Redirecting the attention outside. To make their story credible, they sacked these vocal leaders. When the photos surfaced, they saw a golden opportunity. Pounced on it, saying that this is evidence, and widely circulated the photos in social media, casting dark shadows on these leaders’ character and intentions.

The true essence of humanism lies in our compassion and earnest commitment to pray and exert ourselves for the growth of our fellow members, particularly those newer in faith. The SGI is a humanistic organisation. It isn’t run on authority or orders from above. It moves forward with a joy that results from coming into contact with genuine humanity.

Daisaku Ikeda, Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol.1, pg 144.

 

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