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Independent Reassessment Group

Independent Reassessment Group
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FAX: (310) 538-5679


January 16, 2000
Daniel Nagashima
General Director
606 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Dear Mr. Nagashima:
We are writing as the Independent Reassessment Group. We have prepared the attached position paper on the Temple Issue for your consideration. We are seven individuals with a common interest in helping our organization, the SGI-USA, grow in a vibrant and healthy manner. Voluntarily joining efforts to present this work, we do not represent anyone other than ourselves. We are of the opinion, however, based on our research and communications, that the opinions expressed in the accompanying paper are held to some extent by a significant proportion of SGI-USA members, both current and former. We feel this issue is important and needs to be seriously reconsidered by the leadership of our organization.

We hope you can find the time to review this document and share it with others on the Central Executive Committee, as well as with the SGI leadership in Japan, specifically including President Ikeda. We invite comments from you and others in the SGI-USA leadership, and we look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

We will wait until February 7, 2000 before we post this paper to our web site and distribute it to other interested persons via the Internet. Any comments received within that period will be considered for possible modifications to our paper. We will not post any such communications publicly without the express permission of the author(s); however, as with our previous material, this paper will be posted to our web site and distributed as widely as possible, along with any official response we receive from you or the CEC.

Respectfully yours,

The Independent Reassessment Group

Laurie Chandler, Andy Hanlen, Dana Hanlen, Christopher Holte, John Nicks, Mulcogi Seng, Jay Williams

cc: SGI-USA Central Executive Committee, SGI-USA Publications, SGI-USA Public Relations, SGI-USA Organization Department, SGI-USA Vice General Directors.

The “Temple Issue”

A position paper discussing the temple issue and the SGI-USA's approach to the separation of the SGI from Nichiren Shoshu

Submitted January 21, 2000

by the Independent Reassessment Group

Section I. Overview

The Independent Reassessment Group (IRG) expressed its concern with the ongoing focus by the SGI-USA leadership on the so-called "temple issue" briefly in its original Mission Statement, submitted in the fall of 1998. Prior to the formation of the IRG one of its founding members, Andy Hanlen, had submitted an eight page document commenting on the original Questions and Answers on the Temple Issue, which was issued in 1997. With the release of the latest Handbook, Confirming Our Path of Faith, we have decided to use its contents as a starting point for a formal submittal of our thoughts on this issue.

While we are, to a certain extent, encouraged by the increased level of scholarship in the current Handbook (as compared to the previous pamphlet), and by those portions of it which present factual information fairly and advise moderation, we find that there are inconsistencies within the work which render it confusing, and that the general tone of the piece points to the unfortunate reality that, in our opinion, the SGI-USA leadership continues to pursue an incorrect and potentially destructive course for the American membership regarding this issue.

We submit that the SGI-USA's approach to the temple issue needs to be reconsidered. This paper does not aim to address the doctrinal disagreements between SGI (or SGI-USA) and Nichiren Shoshu ("NS"), although they will be discussed as needed, and no part of this paper should be construed as condoning NS and it's leader Nikken’s alleged actions in opposition to the SGI. We believe that our primary purpose as an organization should be to propagate Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism in America, and it would be better served if the leadership were to reevaluate their focus on this issue and redirect our organization's activities accordingly. In our judgement the current focus on the temple issue alienates many current and potential members and fuels our detractors, both religious and secular. In addition, the methods deployed have ranged from apparently obfuscating to seemingly propagandistic to blatantly inflammatory, whether by error, omission or intent. We are suggesting a change in approach, to one focusing on our own organization and on positive reinforcement of Nichiren Daishonin's teachings aimed at creating an environment of membership nurturing and growth.

Section II. Discussion of Key Issues

Truth and Responsibility

Incorrect information and errors of omission severely undermines propagation efforts and organizational integrity. It only takes one sentence to turn away an intelligent and caring member from our organization, whether new or old in practice. In the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin as we understand it, the end does not justify the means; rather, the means (cause) determines the end (effect). Obfuscation and omission can only breed commensurate results.

The Handbook discusses events throughout the history of the Gakkai and NS in support of its current position, but fails to mention those events which point to any responsibility on the part of Gakkai leadership for the problem. On page 2, in the final paragraph, it states:

"It is our sincere wish that this handbook will promote a deeper understanding of the real nature and significance of what has come to be known as the "temple issue..."

While we applaud this aim, upon review of the history of the Gakkai it is clear that our organization, led by Toda and Ikeda, for years unequivocally supported NS and all of its doctrines. Even during difficult periods such as 1954, 1977 and 1980-81 the end result was a complete endorsement, by the leaders of our organization, of NS doctrines and NS high priests. We are now told that the separation is largely due to schemes and manipulations by the priesthood, and that the priesthood, led by Nikken Abe, have newly "deviated" from Nichiren Daishonin's orthodox teachings. While we understand that there is a certain degree of truth in these positions, we feel that it is inadequate to present them as the whole picture. In fact, NS doctrine is essentially unchanged since the time of Nichikan, with the possible recent (this century) emphasis on priest-only Gohonzon eye-opening and authorization. Nothing has been particularly altered by the current High Priest. Lacking an explanation of these matters, the Handbook cannot be seen as promoting a true “deeper understanding” of these events.

The Handbook points to deviations by earlier high priests, thus confirming that Nikken is not an original thinker in this regard. Specifically, on page 31 discussing the year 1482 it states that

"...the priesthood begins for the first time to propound doctrines asserting that the high priest is absolute and infallible. (This idea is revived by Nikken Abe to strengthen his own position and power in the 1990s.)" [emphasis added]

This is in marked contrast to the following, found on page 12:

"Never before in the history of Nichiren Shoshu and certainly nowhere in the doctrines of Nichiren Daishonin can one find a reference to a doctrine stating that the high priest alone should be viewed on the same level as the Gohonzon." [emphasis added]

In a recent report by Guy McCloskey on this matter, he said:

"The Daishonin's teachings are very clear: the Nikken sect is no longer Nichiren Shoshu; it is a completely different religion. It is not based on Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism. Our opposition to the Nikken sect is based on their distortion of the Daishonin's teachings; they are misrepresenting Buddhism."

While we are in agreement with the SGI interpretation of the Daishonin's intent, it is by no means clear, from the perspective of an objective observer, that the NS position is in error. As with most religious texts, these matters are open to interpretation depending on one's agenda and purposes. We believe that the Gakkai position is correct in its understanding of the actual intent of the Daishonin's fundamental teaching of the equality of all believers, as stated in the Handbook. There are extant writings, however, which can be construed to support the NS position, if looked at from that perspective. For example, the following quotes can be (and have been) used to bolster the current NS stance:

"I have appointed Byakuren Ajari Nikko as the So-kanzu, the general chief priest, and transfer the entirety and every detail of the true doctrine of Nichiren. The top senior priests down to every disciple must regard each of the successive High Priests transferred from Nikko to each in succession to be the So-kanzu, general chief priest,without any opposition as in this time for throughout eternity in the future.” (Nichiren Daishonin, On the One-Hundred and Six Articles, Gosho Zenshu, p. 869)

"This Heritage and the essential matters of the Gohonzon are documents of the transmission of the Law from Nichiren to the successive Master of the Seat of the Law. They concern the transmission bestowed at the treasure tower, the transmission of the Heritage of the Law exclusively from one to the next." (Nichiren Daishonin, Hon'ninmyo Sho, Gosho Zenshu, p. 887)

"The Buddhas of the Three Existences and the lives of the successive high priests since the Daishonin, passes through the procedural masters, so set your heart firmly upon the master and believe." (9th High Priest, Nichiu, On Formalities, Rekidai Hossu Zenshu, vol. 1, p.341)

"The formal teachers have been installed according to the instructions of the Buddhas of the Three Existences, that is, the successive high priests since Nichiren Daishonin. Therefore, these teachers have been decided upon very carefully and faith must be placed in them. In addition, my disciples must believe in me in the same manner. When this occurs, both I and they will become the body and mind of Myoho Renge Kyo. We will become complete Buddhas. This is called, attaining Buddhahood with this very body." (9th High Priest, Nichiu, On Formalities, Rekidai Hossu Zenshu, vol. 1, p.341)

"I offer my sincere devotion to Nikko Shonin, the primary High Priest of the ten thousand years of Mappo and the founder of the Head Temple Taisekiji. I offer my sincere devotion to the High Priest Nichimoku Shonin, the master of the seat of the Law and to each of the successive High Priests to whom the Law is transmitted. In this way, one should single-mindedly chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and fix one's mind on the Three Treasures, fingering the prayer beads." (26th High Priest, Nichikan Shonin)

The Gakkai spent many years supporting just such Nichiren Shoshu doctrine and the priesthood's interpretation of it. At least since 1979, if we are to believe President Ikeda, and seemingly long before that, it was clear that NS doctrine was aberrant. We have, in a very real sense, been the "enablers" who allowed NS to grow into what it's become. Without the Gakkai it would be just another of the thirty-plus small Nichiren sects in Japan, and we did not demand that it correct its erroneous doctrines fifty years ago, or even twenty. In one sense, it is because Nichiren Shoshu allowed Mr. Makaguchi to found a lay organization based upon his “Philosophy of Value” that Nichiren Shoshu enjoys its present prominence. Much of the history of the Gakkai from that time until the split is a history of "expedient means."

In this context the members were, for years, told things that were not true. Although Nikken may be more authoritarian than some of his predecessors, he is not original. He may have begun more strictly enforcing certain doctrines, and have invented a few new rules, but basic Nichiren Shoshu doctrine is the same now as it was in 1950. While we rejoice at the freedom to go back and rediscover the Daishonin's true teachings, it is unfair to fail to note the Gakkai's responsibility in raising the priesthood to its current level, and to fail to honestly point out that we supported their doctrine for many years. Nichiren Shoshu is the same Nichiren sect that Toda protected and, on occasion, either placated as an "expedient means," or else sincerely believed to be correct. The tactic of calling them a new sect, recently diverting from the true path, is disingenuous, in our opinion, as evidenced by the following quotes:

President Toda:

"We, ourselves, cannot produce the Gohonzon. Since it's the enlightened entity of Nichiren Daishonin no one has the authority other than the successive High Priests who have been the sole heirs to the Heritage of the True Law. We take no part in this. Therefore, the objects of worship inscribed by those in the Butsuryu and Minobu factions [of the Nichiren sect] are absolutely powerless. They are worthless because they are fake. In fact, they contain the power of evil spirits. That is why they are dangerous." (Josei Toda, Daibyaku Renge, 98, p. 98)

“Since the time of the former president, Mr. Makiguchi, the Gakkai spirit has been to support any High Priest, and the Gakkai will keep this spirit forever. If anyone in this organization complains about this, and goes against this Gakkai spirit, I'll be ready to expel him from the organization even if he should be a top leader. The lay believers' spirit and attitude toward the Head Temple must be like this.

“A couple of years ago, a Gakkai member in the Kansai Area spoke disparagingly about the High Priest. He eventually received great negative effects from the Gohonzon, and his life completely came to ruin. I have no further comment about this. It is quite natural for this to happen to a person who slanders the High Priest.

“No matter who becomes the High Priest, I will try to support him the same way I supported High Priest Nissho Shonin. I will, in fact, support the new High Priest as I would support Nichiren Daishonin and shall proceed on our journey towards Kosen-rufu. Now we have two retired High Priests who are living, which means that we have three High Priests. I am so appreciative of the virtues of each successive High Priest over the last 700 years. We would be unable to see the great development of Nichiren Shoshu without the High Priest. Please keep this spirit in mind as the fundamental spirit of the Gakkai.” (From a speech given by the 2nd President of the Soka Gakkai, Josei Toda on January 29, 1956. Toda Josei Zenshu, Vol. 3, p. 235)

“It's no good unless these three, an excellent Law, an excellent master and an excellent lay believer, are all present. Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is of course the excellent Law. Furthermore, the High Priests are the only ones who have received the Daishonin's teachings, and as our masters, have transmitted to us the Daishonin's innermost enlightenment exactly as it is with nothing lacking during 64 transmissions. Therefore, when we worship the Dai-Gohonzon through the High Priest, benefits will definitely come our way.” (The Complete Writings Of Josei Toda, Vol. 4, p. 399)"

President Ikeda:

"We conduct the third prayer to express our deepest appreciation to Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law. In this third silent prayer, we also offer our gratitude to Nikko Shonin, the second High Priest and the founder of Taisekiji. Further, we offer our appreciation to the third High Priest, Nichimoku Shonin, and all the successive High Priests of Nichiren Shoshu, each of whom transmitted the Heritage of the Law to the next. Presently, as you know, the 67th high priest, Nikken Shonin, has inherited the Law. Now he is the master of true Buddhism." (Daisaku Ikeda, Buddhism in Action, vol. 1, p. 107)

"The fundamental principle of Nichiren Shoshu is the Heritage of the Law transmitted to a sole person. It is, indeed, the correct objective for both Priesthood and laity to follow the High Priest who has received this Heritage of the Law. If we err on this single point, everything will crumble. The Soka Gakkai has followed the successive High Priests. I am confident, therefore, that we will absolutely prosper for eternity." (Daisaku Ikeda, Jan. 24, 1982, Soka Univ. gymnasium.)

"In this sect (Nichiren Shoshu), the Living Essence, Uninterrupted Light of the Law has been bestowed like the transferal of the water of the Law from one vessel to another upon each specifically chosen High Priest in the lineage until the present day. To the last, the True Buddha is Nichiren Daishonin, and we must revere the inner enlightenment of the High Priests, which is only bestowed on and between High Priests, in the same way that we revere the Daishonin." (Daisaku Ikeda, May 3, 1979)

" . . . the 'Treasure of the Priest' refers to the High Priests in the line of Nikko Shonin, who are the only ones who have received the transmission of the Living Essence of the Law until the present day. Furthermore, all of the Priests are the disciples of the High Priest. They are the House of the Law. Consequently, no matter what the circumstances may be, we must hold the Priests in a place of importance." (Daisaku Ikeda, February 28, 1978)

"Any person who is not obedient to the High Priest, whatever the reason may be, is no longer a Priest or lay member of Nichiren Shoshu. This is because there is no error more fundamental than this." (Daisaku Ikeda, November 24, 1981)

"The foundation of Nichiren Shoshu is the Bestowal of the Living Essence of the Law upon the One and Only Person. The only correct path for both Priests and lay believers is to proceed in obedience to the High Priest because of that Face to Face Bestowal of the Living Essence of the Law." (Daisaku Ikeda, Jan. 24, 1982)

President Akiya:

"There is no disputing that the transmission of the Heritage, by which only one man is conferred direct succession to the oracle, is in Nichiren Shoshu from the beginning source of the creed. It must be said that denial of it while in the Nichiren Shoshu Priesthood is the greatest hostility to the teachers, is as a parasite in the belly of a lion and is outrageous" (Soka Gakkai President, Einosuke Akiya, December 23, 1990)

"It is an unmistakable fact that the Shoshinkai denied His Excellency (Nikken Shonin's) inheritance. Denial of the inheritance is in itself a denial of the fundamental doctrine of Nichiren Shoshu, and would be an extremely sinful deed, wouldn't it? We (the Soka Gakkai) think one could never go too far in censuring especially this. In that sense, whatever the excuse the Shoshinkai gives for it's denial of the inheritance, the essence of the thing is in the perversion of their faith, and I think it has nothing to do with the Soka Gakkai." (Soka Gakkai President, Einosuke Akiya, January 1, 1991)

Given the public availability of these statements, and the strength of them, we feel that it is a mistake to fail to acknowledge or address this part of our history. It is fair to speculate, in our opinion, that the support for NS given by our leadership in the past is a large part of the reason for its current strength. Had Toda, Ikeda and others chosen to take a stronger stance in the past, we believe that the situation would be very different today.

We feel it is appropriate and necessary for the leadership to address these facts, and explain the reasons for them. Only through honesty and truth can we regain the trust of the members.

Focusing on Positive Growth

The SGI-USA exists for the propagation of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism in America. This purpose is not being adequately met while time and energy is being spent focusing on the temple issue. The Handbook has numerous places where it emphasizes negative points which, we feel, detract from a forward-looking attitude for our organization.

The Foreword states in part:

"The definition of evil in Buddhism can be summarized as that which causes or leads people to misery, or that which blocks the way to enlightenment and happiness. Good or evil in Buddhism is defined in terms of whether something enhances and enriches life (good), or whether it kills the spirit and leads to misery or the destruction of life itself."

This seems fair enough, and should warrant directing our attention to the horrors we see in the world, such as slavery in the Sudan or the treatment of women by the Taliban in Afghanistan, or even the basic misery suffered by the billions who practice religions which teach that they are not fundamentally responsible for their own lives. Unfortunately, the Handbook goes on to equate the activities of Nikken and NS as qualifying under this definition. While it is not our purpose to prove the unprovable, it seems clear that "happiness" or "misery" are subjective judgements. Many of us have friends and acquaintances in NS who are ostensibly happy and prosperous. We also know both NS and SGI members who are struggling and suffering. Using the happiness/misery gauge seems a bit dangerous at minimum.

Also in the Foreword (page 2) is the following statement:

"The fact that Nikken, since 1990, has been trying to use his religious authority to disband and destroy the Soka Gakkai is another reason to view his actions as evil."

Misguided? Wrongheaded? Unfair? Petty? All of these and more would qualify, but the fact remains that, not only is "evil" quite a stretch, but also it is manifestly apparent that he has failed, and will continue to do so. The barking of a toothless dog does not, in our opinion, warrant the ongoing fanning of these negative flames.

The portions in the Handbook quoted from President Ikeda (pages 4 - 7) contain rhetoric which is in appearance inflammatory and negative. He speaks of "cowardly" priests, and their attitude toward Soka Gakkai members "as if they were their personal slaves." This kind of speech can only be designed to raise emotional responses. It is patently absurd to think of the temple issue in terms of slavery, for example, since there is no possibility of force or violence in this context. All are free to leave, at any time. This comparison diminishes the significance of the actual slavery endured by the forbears of many Americans reading this material.

He also speaks of the recent events, saying that "Nichiren Shoshu began propounding erroneous doctrines..." [emphasis added]. As discussed above, this is not the case. In a most astonishing sentence, he says, referring to the priesthood's activities, that they are

"no different from the Nazi's actions in Germany."

Not only is this untrue, it is a slight to the memory of the victims and to the survivors of the actual Nazi Holocaust, who in truth suffered unimaginably, and completely against their own volition. He could as well have compared the priesthood's actions to those of the Japanese military during the Rape of Nanking, and been no more correct or justified. Not only have no deaths occurred; no torture or imprisonment or slaughter on the grand scale seen in Europe, but the priesthood, and Nikken specifically, has no power to do so even if they should wish it. This kind of emotional rhetoric is tremendously destructive, in our opinion, and needs to be eliminated.

President Ikeda goes on to discuss their "profligate spending and licentious behavior," "their true nature as the minions of hell," and their "crazed and destructive behavior." This is a far cry from identifying incorrect doctrine and calmly refuting it with truth, and can only be intended to incite strong response, which can only be negative. While we cannot speak to the appropriateness of such language in Japan, where it may be fine, we strongly believe that it creates no value in our own organization.

In closing the section, President Ikeda quotes President Toda:

"Leave those lowly losers be. Betraying the Soka Gakkai is betraying the Daishonin. In the end, they'll receive the punishment of the Buddha, you'll see."

This quote contradicts President Ikeda's anti-Nikken campaign. While we would not put it so strongly, we completely agree with "leaving those...[NS and traitors to the SG] be." They cannot hurt us if we are righteous and strong. Mr. Toda had it right.

Later in the Handbook (page 23), President Ikeda is quoted saying:

"Today if you should visit Taiseki-ji, rather than benefit, you will receive the rebuke of Nichiren Daishonin. The effect you will receive will be negative...Nichiren Daishonin will severely reproach you..."

Rhetoric of this nature, couched in superstition, while perhaps appropriate in other societies, can only be off-putting in an American publication. Further down the same page he says that "no benefit is to be gained by seeing the Dai-Gohonzon if one must betray the Daishonin's intent to do so." The implications here do not differ substantively from the NS doctrinal position that there is benefit in the first place from making a pilgrimage, and is in contradiction of the Daishonin's words about seeking this Gohonzon nowhere outside ourselves. It is inconsistencies of this nature which we believe to be confusing and harmful.

The most encouraging section of the Handbook is Mr. Wada's guidance (pages 27 - 30). He encourages moderation and tolerance. It is interesting to note that he encourages us (page 29) to "avoid using overly emotional language such as 'destroy the Nikken sect' in talking about this issue." We agree, and would suggest that comparisons of Nikken and the priesthood to slave masters and Nazis exactly qualifies as “overly emotional language.”

SGI-USA members who are encouraged to study and sincerely chant Daimoku to the Gohonzon and help others to do the same, grow in their own lives and have the resulting benefits to share with friends, family and neighbors. On the other hand, SGI-USA members embroiled in the campaign against the temple have demonstrated an increasing comfort level with vitriolic invective and negativity which can not be value creating in the long run. Among other things, it creates alienation in new members who know and care nothing about these matters. We know personally of many instances where potential new members have chosen not to practice the Daishonin’s Buddhism, based on this conflict alone. Historically, ideological war has led to actual war. While we do not suggest that this is a possibility in the case under discussion, we do feel that the spiritual violence being committed, and encouraged by the leadership, is damaging and harmful to our organization’s growth. Negative speech and actions can only generate negative results.

Historical and Societal Context

In the Daishonin's time there was an authoritarian government in place in Japan. In conjunction with established temples it ruled the lives of the people with absolute power. It was not unusual for dissenting individuals to be arrested, have their property confiscated, be imprisoned, tortured, exiled or executed on little more than hearsay and a powerful official's whim. There was no such thing as freedom of religion or the idea of democratic methods. Separation of church and state was not even a concept; in fact the reverse was true, normal, and the means by which that society was run.

It was in this context that the Daishonin courageously and compassionately risked his life and well being repeatedly to establish the foundations of this Buddhism, not only for the sincere followers and believers around him, but for all of us to come. As described in the Handbook, he spoke vehemently against the very real powers then in existence in Japan in opposing erroneous sects of Buddhism, refuting their false doctrines and using language like "drive them out," "attack," rebuke," "oust," "punish," and so forth. It was critically necessary at that time that he take such a strong stance, since all of the sects he opposed were to a greater or lesser extent in positions of real authority, backed by government force, over the Japanese people.

While his teachings about the efficacy of our faith based on the Lotus Sutra and his own life experience are absolutely valid today, it is reasonable to look at some of the circumstances which are different, in determining how to approach Nichiren Shoshu's doctrinal errors.

First and foremost, Nichiren Shoshu has no real power or authority over any person in the United States (or the Japan of today, for that matter). We are guaranteed freedom from force or violence in our religious decisions. We choose to believe what we believe voluntarily, and no force exists which can change that, at this writing. All Nichiren Shoshu members may come or go as they choose, as may SGI-USA members. Furthermore, there is no likelihood of government complicity or coercion. No temple or church in America has any authority to collect taxes or direct the lives of its constituents beyond whatever authority its individual constituents grant it.

If we view the Daishonin's teachings in this context, we believe it is fair to assume that he would act in some ways very differently, were he alive today, and viewing modern American and world society. Certainly none of his direction and guidance regarding faith, the truths derived from the Lotus Sutra, and his own realizations would be changed. But while he would not be bashful in voicing his opinion about erroneous beliefs and doctrine, it seems clear that he would not feel the need to continue to direct such strong invective against those in error, following an initial statement of correct doctrine, simply because he would not be faced with the possibility of his followers being unable to freely choose the correct path. His compassion was so great that he certainly would speak strongly about the potential for suffering inherent in false doctrines (and he may well have a lot to say about Christianity and Islam, were he to encountered them), but his fundamental belief in the individual's rights and responsibilities would lead him to state the obvious truths and leave it at that. Without the force of a restrictive and authoritarian government reinforcing the erroneous doctrine his life was dedicated to correcting, there would be no need for further invective.

There is no threat of force or violence against religious practitioners today in America, excepting criminal elements who are outside of the law. For this reason we submit that the vehemence and urgency of the anti-NS campaign is misplaced, inasmuch as it claims to be based on the admonitions of the Daishonin as quoted in the Handbook. Today we believe he would be happily encouraging his followers while compassionately praying for the deluded and the unfortunate, knowing that his own followers are free to practice as they see fit without threat of harm. While it would be irresponsible to ignore real threats to our organization here in the United States, Nichiren Shoshu does not have the force of authority to be such a threat, and the dire threats faced by the Daishonin have yet to manifest in post WWII America.

Section III. Conclusion

The Daishonin said "…that, so long as no seriously offensive act is involved, then, even though one should depart to some slight degree from the teachings of Buddhism, one should avoid going against the manners and customs of the country." (MW, vol. 6)

In the United States, the “manners and customs of the country” specifically include religious tolerance and religious freedom. The founders of our nation included these provisions in our Constitution with complete knowledge of the horrors of wars based on religious conflict and religious intolerance which had occurred, and were still occurring, in Europe and elsewhere. It is our belief that the wisdom of the Daishonin, coupled with the wisdom of the founders of our country, should be our guide in the matter of the “temple issue.” Also integral to American “manners and customs” is open dialogue and forthrightness. We as a society are not comfortable with less than full disclosure from our leadership, whether that leadership be secular or religious in nature.

The Independent Reassessment Group is united in its devotion to Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism and in its determination to support the growth of the SGI-USA. We believe that our efforts are best spent in study and propagation activities, and that the temple issue should be relegated to a "maintenance" activity at most. Understanding that the SGI-USA is an autonomous constituent member of the SGI, according to Item 6 of the SGI Charter, it is our considered opinion that the SGI-USA Central Executive Committee should take the following steps:

1. The SGI-USA leadership should publicly acknowledge the reality of the current situation, which is that we are permanently divorced from NS due to "irreconcilable doctrinal differences,” and declare victory and a conclusion to the “temple issue.”

2. The SGI-USA leadership should compile a statement enumerating the doctrinal differences between NS and SGI, clearly stating where it believes NS to be in error. This document should be calm and scholarly, without any inflammatory rhetoric, and without referencing any of the real or perceived wrong actions taken by NS in the past. The point is simply to document how we are doctrinally different, and therefore why we decided that we could no longer support NS doctrine.

3. An explanation of the Gakkai’s past support of erroneous doctrines should be prepared, detailing what positions were taken, when, and why. If an apology to the membership is appropriate, it should be included. We believe that the members will need this information in order to alleviate the confusion and apparent contradictions between past and present positions.

4. The SGI-USA leadership should publicly and unilaterally declare “détente" with Nichiren Shoshu and state its belief that it supports the SGI Charter, and specifically Items 3 and 7, and sees no reason for any furtherance of hostilities. This should not be contingent on a similar statement from NS or the SGI.

5. The SGI-USA leadership should send a request, and publish it for all members to read, to the NS Temples in the United States to inform their membership that the SGI-USA has unilaterally ceased any publication of negative material about NS, and that it has requested that its membership cease negative speech and/or actions toward NS and Hokkeko. It should include a request that the leaders of NS and Hokkeko make the same requests of their own membership.

6. Regarding the Handbook, Confirming Our Path of Faith, we feel that it should be replaced by a fair and impartial explanation of the issue (see items 2 and 3, above), and the prior Questions and Answers on the Temple Issue pamphlet should be withdrawn.

We thank you for your attention to these matters, and for taking the time to review this position paper. We look forward to your response at your earliest convenience.

Respectfully submitted by the Independent Reassessment Group:

Laurie Chandler
Andy Hanlen
Dana Hanlen
Christopher Holte
John Nicks
Mulcogi Seng
Jay Williams

Addendum 1

Comments on “Confirming Our Path of Faith” Temple Issue Handbook

Following are further notes and comments on the Handbook, for your reference. We have not included details on those portions which are already mentioned in the main body of this position paper. Specific comments will refer to page numbers where the quotes are to be found. General comments will refer only to the section being referenced.


As a general comment this section sets the mood for the entire piece, which is at times encouraging, at times confusing or contradictory, and at times alarming. The primary thesis is stated as follows (page 1):

“Opposing evil influences is fundamental to the widespread propagation of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. Today, Nikken, the 67th high priest of Nichiren Shoshu, and his priesthood exactly correspond to the “one evil doctrine” and should thus be challenged.”

Upon this premise hinges the SGI-USA (coming from the SGI) policy towards what it refers to as the “temple issue,” and it is this premise which we believe to be, at minimum, flawed. While we agree that “opposing evil influences” is very important, we see many more, and worse, evils in the world than are evident in an organization of members who 1.) chant nam-myoho-renge-kyo, 2.) recite the Hoben and Juryo chapters of the Lotus Sutra to the 3.) Gohonzon, while freely and voluntarily following priests who preach what we consider to be erroneous doctrine, based on a different interpretation of the Daishonin’s teachings than our own (an interpretation which, until the early 1990s, we also held to be correct).

The rest of the forward contains a convoluted justification for judging NS and Nikken to be “evil,” cleverly mixing valid concepts, such as the Daishonin’s clear endorsement of the equality of all believers, with some very flawed comparisons. One point made (page 1) states that

“From the egalitarian standpoint of the Lotus Sutra, this is similar to a secular tyrant who, at his sole discretion, arbitrarily bestows or denies freedom to his citizens. If such a secular ruler is evil, then clearly, Nikken is evil.”

Not mentioned is the secular tyrant’s secular army and secular secret police and secular torture rooms and firing squads, none of which are possessed by Nikken. Also not mentioned is the fact that none of Nikken’s followers, at least in the United States, lack any freedoms, most especially the freedom to walk away, and, unlike the secular tyrant, Nikken has no ability to deny this freedom. This, like many of the other arguments and comparisons, is intellectually dishonest.

Other points in the Foreword section are discussed in the body of our paper, above.

The Daishonin’s Viewpoint on Admonishing Slander

The opening paragraph of this section (page 3) states:

“But if we truly care, we will confront that person. And if that person does not listen, we will responsibly warn those who may be endangered by that person’s behavior.”

Again we see an intellectually dishonest approach, in that a sincere and trusting reader, wanting to be a caring individual, must conclude that confrontation is necessary and further that warning others is necessary, because of the implied danger. The implication is that to do otherwise would be uncaring.

The remainder of this section contains a wonderful series of quotes from the Daishonin, unfortunately lacking an explanation of historical and societal context (see Section II, Item 3, above).

Refuting Nichiren Shoshu’s Doctrinal Errors

This section does an admirable job of identifying the specific doctrinal errors of Nichiren Shoshu. Unfortunately, it persists in the implication that these are new errors, and by omission forgets to mention that the Gakkai in the past supported exactly these doctrines (See Section II, Item 1, above).

The section on Pilgrimages contains a certain amount of historical creativity. The opening paragraph (page 22), speaking of NS’ encouragement of all members to make a pilgrimage, states that “this is true even of its members overseas, who have to bear considerable expense to make the trip.” What is omitted is the fact that this was exactly the practice of the Soka Gakkai for many years, and that raising funds for NS was the purpose of pilgrimages as promoted by Toda (which is explained below). In other words, Nichiren Shoshu has learned from the Gakkai, and apparently learned well. Most members who have practiced twenty years or longer in the United States will recall exactly this kind of pressure, coming from Gakkai leaders, and recall being encouraged about the tremendous benefit such an effort would bring. Again we see condemnation of NS without acknowledgement that the Gakkai has any responsibility for the error.

The section on the Priesthood’s Errors During World War II is interesting, but seems to have little to bear on the current issue, other than to confirm that Nikken is not original in his doctrinal deviations.

Section II on SGI General Director Eiichi Wada’s Guidance on the Temple Issue is, for the most part, and as mentioned above, the bright point of the Handbook. He does reference the “new” teachings of Nichiren Shoshu (page 28), but doesn’t elaborate.

Mr. Wada closes stating that “there will be no quick solution to the temple issue,” with which we disagree. We feel that it is incumbent on our leadership to bring about a “quick solution,” and that it is a matter of choice rather than inevitability that this issue continues to be an issue.

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