Nichiren Shoshu and SGI Buddhism


Over many centuries, Nichiren Shoshu remained as a small temple within the group of ‘Nichiren sects’ in Japan.  The priesthood’s position in society was boosted in the 17th century, by a government decree, requiring all Japanese citizens to be assigned to local temples in order to record their status and report to the government.  As representatives (or extended hand) of the government, the temples fulfilled a public census function, keeping records such as birth, death and marriages, etc.  This administrative function provided the temples with guaranteed economic base, and added a secular weight to the spiritual authority of the priests.


Allegiance between the Priesthood and government authorities was clearly manifested in Nichiren Shoshu High Priest’s Nikkyo statement of support to the emperor’s declaration of War in the Pacific (1941).  Lay believers, however, did not share the same line of the Priesthood’s obedience to political authorities, and differences between the priesthood and  laity (Soka Kyoiku Gakkai) started to emerge.  After the war ended, further friction and disagreement between the priesthood and laity widened their differences, leading finally to their complete separation in early 1990-s.


The question of “reference” in Nichiren Buddhism


The essential question behind the rift between the Priesthood and Lay Believers is about the reference one should acknowledge in Buddhist teachings.  According to the Priesthood, this reference is the High Priest - who is regarded as almost infallible, while according to the Laity, however, the reference in Buddhist teachings is the wealth of Nichiren’s writings. One independent scholar observed that:

"The priesthood claims that it is the sole custodian of religious authority and dogma, while the Soka Gakkai leadership argues that the sacred writings of Nichiren, not the priesthood, represent the ultimate source of authority, and that any individual with deep faith in Nichiren’s teachings can attain enlightenment without the assistance of a priest The Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 1992 - 19/4, D. Metraux, p. 326

Another scholar’s view of the cause of diversion between the Lay Believers and Priesthood is:"A spirit of openness, egalitarianism, and democratization pervaded the Soka Gakkai, embodying and giving new life to the idea of self-empowerment. In 1991, these liberalizing developments led to the split between the Japan-oriented, priestly Nichiren Shoshu and the lay-based, globalized SGI” Prof. M. Bumann, of the University of Lucerne, Switzerland.


After separation from the priesthood, SGI expanded its presence in many areas of activities and countries around the world.  Separation from Nichiren Shoshu and the cause of religious dispute is viewed by independent scholars as the result of: "lay members seeking religious support for their lives, priests seeking perpetuation of hierarchical institutions". Prof. Jane Hurst of Gallaudet University.


The main issues of dispute between the Priesthood and SGI


The High Priest as ‘’Absolute’’    The Priesthood ‘’Superiority”        The Three Treasures  


Validating the Gohonzon             The Heritage of the Law              Attaining Buddhahood


Nichiren Shoshu’s Deletion of Passages from Nichiren’s letters      Timeline of events  

                                        

                                          Nichiren ShoShu shallow teachings                   

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