May 3, 1979
Excerpt from
The True Purpose of Religion," an essay by SGI President Ikeda

The 40th Soka Gakkai Headquarters General Meeting, at which we were to celebrate the successful completion of the Seven Bells — a vision of seven seven-year periods punctuating the organization’s development from its inception — was about to begin in the Soka University gymnasium. Under normal circumstances, I would have celebrated the Soka Gakkai’s triumph with a speech outlining a new vision for kosen-rufu. It would have been a day of great joy, with our members burning with enthusiasm for the next, exciting goal, their hearts filled with the brilliant light of hope. It would have been a day on which these noble champions of kosen-rufu toasting each other with jeweled cups, a day on which they would freely ring the bell of resounding victory.

However, insanely jealous Nichiren Shoshu priests, joined by a number of corrupt and scheming Gakkai members who had discarded their faith and succumbed to the dark world of Anger, robbed our members of that jubilant celebration. Shortly before the meeting, scheduled to begin at 2:00 pm, the bus carrying these iniquitous priests pulled up to the university. I stood at the bus door and bowed, greeting them politely, but they refused to return my greeting with even a word or a nod. They stalked arrogantly past me with cold, emotionless expressions.

That day the Headquarters General Meeting, a grand tradition of our organization, had none of the Gakkai’s usual effervescent joy and dynamism. Instead, an unholy atmosphere pervaded. It was as if everything were under the control and supervision of the 'authority of the cloth' — the priesthood. One leader later said that the atmosphere was so frosty, it was as if the members had been made to sit on cold gravestones. Many were angered by what took place that day. The applause for me was restrained. The top Soka Gakkai leaders who took the podium — individuals who had referred to me as 'Ikeda Sensei' quite naturally at meetings just a few days earlier — did not say a word about me. Apparently, they feared reprisals from the priesthood.

I didn’t care what they might do to me. But their actions constituted a betrayal of the sincere faith of the members, who were linked together by strong ties of mentor and disciple that spanned the three existences of past, present and future. A women’s division member at the gathering commented angrily later: 'Why didn’t the leaders have the courage to proudly declare that the phenomenal development of the kosen-rufu movement was all due to President Ikeda?!

When I left the meeting, the applause again was hesitant. I had heard that one of the top youth division leaders had told members not to applaud very much at the meeting for it would antagonize the priests — and, in particular, not to applaud at all for me. He had been poisoned by the frightening evil of the priesthood. He had turned cowardly in the face of those bellicose asuras. The eyes of the members as they watched me on stage were earnest, filled with concern. I keenly felt the tremendous effort they were making to control their urge to call out to me.

Leaving the gymnasium, I was walking along a pathway leading to another building, when a group of stalwart women’s division members came running up to me. I will never forget that encounter; it is deeply engraved in my heart.

In a special reception room after the meeting, I once again courteously greeted the priests, but again they coldly ignored me. Their blatant rudeness made me question their humanity. They will most certainly be judged harshly, in accord with the strict Buddhist law of cause and effect, which operates in the depths of life. I thought at the time that those unscrupulous operators who had allied themselves with the priests and caused such trouble in the Gakkai were no doubt convinced that they had succeeded. They were thinking that their strategy of destruction had gone according to plan. They were filled with conceit, believing victory theirs. I could see their treachery and arrogance as clear as day. Their actions revealed them for the sly, duplicitous people that they were.

We must never, never allow ourselves to follow such perfidious, scheming individuals. Whatever oppressive measures they may take, we must remember that faith means endurance. We of the Soka Gakkai are practicing in complete accord with the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin. We are devoting ourselves selflessly to propagating the Mystic Law. We should always wear the gentle armor of endurance. Those self-serving priests who bore hostility toward the Soka Gakkai, borrowing the guise of the Daishonin, sought to turn the true emissaries of the Buddha — the Gakkai members — into pawns, exploiting them and finally destroying the Soka Gakkai. We were confronted with an insane rampage of the terrible, insidious nature of authority.