3) "SGI Uses Dai Gohonzon as Pawn"
This is concerning the "Kawabe Memo", which was a record of a conversation between Nikken (before he became high priest) and one of the senior priests of Nichiren Shoshu. It is the Nichiren Shoshu contention that the recorded conversations were about something else; they attempt to blame Nikken's comments about the authenticity of the Dai Gohonzon on an alleged SGI attempt to "devalue" it. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This is an analysis of "The Kawabe Memo", including: the translation of the memo itself; five points of analysis, including general conclusions; and a postscript on its relation to the 1991 excommunication of the SGI.
The main points of this analysis are delineated here. Further, the main points of each section (excepting the memo itself) will be delineated at the beginning of that section.
This is a tentative translation of what has been called "The Kawabe Memo". It's a synthesis of translations by two people: one an SGI member, the other someone who quit the SGI and has no particular sympathy for it. They have been cross-checking work, with me as the go-between. The discussion is ongoing; hence, an attempt at a reconciled translation.
Rev. Kawabe, an important top-level NST priest, kept a journal in which he took notes of meetings, phone conversations and conferences. The "Kawabe Memo" is one page from this journal. The Memo, which was leaked from Nichiren Shoshu, is page 51 of the journal, dealing with three days in February, 1978. On July 9th, 1999, Nichiren Shoshu issued a statement concerning the Memo, arguing that this page was taken out of context. It did not, however, deny that the Memo is genuine, that the conversations it records took place, or that the conversant called "A" is Reverend Abe.
Within the translation there are some parenthetical comments from either the translators or myself.
No. 51[Translator comment: There is no way of definitively knowing who wants to meet with whom. This could be Abe wanting to meet with Akiya, or Abe telling Kawabe that Nittatsu wanted to meet with Akiya. Or something entirely different. There is no way of knowing for sure.]
General Director Morita came to Shin'ei Yagi's. He came and said that it must be rough on the 9th.[Author's comment: "Ji-shi" = "master Nichiji"; "U-shi = "master Nichiu". This is the appellation for High Priests used within Nichiren Shoshu]
G says this impossible.[Author's comment: G is "geika", that is, the high priest at the time, Nittatsu Shonin]
G says it is impossible to have all appointments, recovering order etc., carried out by the priesthood in the future.[Disputed translation, 1st version]:
G feels that the idea that things will return to normal after two or three years even if separation from gakkai occurs is superficial.[Translator comment: "too optimistic?" not sure the nuance is right]
[Disputed translation, 2nd version]:
G has an easygoing idea that things will return to normal after two or three years even if we separate from Gakkai.[Re: above section: One possible translation is that G thought the idea is superficial. The other is that he himself had the idea, and Abe calls it superficial. What is agreed is that Abe and Nittatsu had discussed separating from the Gakkai in 1978, and disagreed on the ramifications for Nichiren Shoshu.]
Nichizen Honzon was first at Kitayama. Someone at Kitayama put it up for sale.I. THE NICHIZEN GOHONZON, KITAYAMA AND TAISEKIJI
The Kawabe Memo says:
"Nichizen Honzon was first at Kitayama. Someone at Kitayama put it up for sale. Nichio found this somewhere and purchased it (Gohonzon of the 3rd Year of Koan)".This is presumably a summary of what Mr. Abe had said in the course of their conversation.
Kitayama Honmoji was originally the expanded Omosu Seminary founded by Nikko Shonin. When a priest named Nichigo got into a land dispute with the fourth high priest Nichido (c. 1335), the seminary supported Nichigo. Nichigo eventually left Taisekiji with a Gohonzon inscribed by the Daishonin, and founded Myohonji temple, which later became the main temple of the Hommon Shu. Kitayama maintained contact with Taisekiji until about 1590; and during a government-ordered consolidation of Buddhist Sects in 1876, it joined into a federation with Taisekiji and six other Nichiren sects. Kitayama left the federation in 1899 and aligned with Myohonji; Taisekiji left in 1900, and in 1912 became "Nichiren Shoshu". It was around this time that Nichio, the 56th high priest, "found" the Nichizen Gohonzon "somewhere" and purchased it, placing it in Houdoin Temple in Tokyo. In 1970, it was brought to Taisekiji.
Kitayama temple says it received the Nichizen Gohonzon in 1539. Its whereabouts were unknown until then, when it was purchased by a feudal lord who admired the calligraphy. But soon after, according to the story, an epidemic broke out, and a seer told the lord that the reason was the inscription on the Gohonzon that it was to be kept eternally at a temple called Honmoji. Thus, the lord saw he had no right to it, and brought it to Kitayama.
Nissho Shonin purchased the Nichizen Gohonzon sometime between 1889, when he became high priest; and 1922, when he died (he had resigned as high priest in 1908).
II. THE NICHIREN SHOSHU EXPLANATION
On July 9th, 1999, Nichiren Shoshu issued a statement on the Kawabe Memo. Its main rebuttal to the charge that Rev. Abe had called the Dai Gohonzon "fake":
"Whilst this conversation took place more than 20 years ago, and thus His Holiness does not remember all of his statements at that time, the conversation was in fact an explanation to Rev. Kawabe of various doubts that had been raised previously from outside of the sect concerning the Dai Gohonzon of the Sanctuary, including a court case at the time."On July 10th. Nichiren Shoshu issued another statement, this one an "Apology and Testimony by Jitoku Kawabe", which says:
"If my recollection of the discussions at that time serves me, at the time a variety of topics were discussed concerning the doubts presented with respect to the Dai Gohonzon of the Sanctuary, both during the then ongoing court case, and prior to that incident. In this context, I had asked about the possibility of distorted theories being raised, even within our sect, concerning the relationship between the Dai Gohonzon of the Sanctuary and the Gohonzon Conferred on Nichizen, which was delivered to the Head Temple in 1970, since they were both large Gohonzons and since they were similar in the thickness of the brush strokes, and about refutations if these distorted theories were presented."So, according to Nichiren Shoshu, the conversation was not about what Mr. Abe thought, but what other sects might say. And, it was Mr. Kawabe who initiated the discussion by bringing up the subject.
Can this be correct?
B) WHAT OTHER SECTS SAY
As one member of Nichiren Shu correctly pointed out on the Internet, other sects have questioned the authenticity of the Dai Gohonzon for hundreds of years, and the particulars of their charges are well known to, and had already been addressed by, Nichiren Shoshu. None of these charges involve the Nichizen Gohonzon of May 1280.
What's more, it is impossible that any new charges involving this Gohonzon were being, or about to be, made. The Nichizen Gohonzon had been in the private possession of Nichiren Shoshu at least since 1922 (the year of Nissho's death, assuming he "found it" in the last year of his life), and probably since about 1900. It had been at Taisekiji since 1970, according to Kawabe's own testimony.
Did Nichiren Shu suddenly become aware of it and start asking questions? Nichiren Shu has no specific allegation concerning the origin of the Dai Gohonzon, except a suspicion that the it may have been a Gohonzon given to a layman, later appropriated by the 9th High Priest for designation as Nichiren Shoshu's supreme object. It has, to this day, raised no theory about the Nichizen Gohonzon.
Did the Kempon Hokke raise a question? That sect has never had contact with the Nichizen Gohonzon. Concerning the Dai Gohonzon, it has a number of convoluted theories involving it being fashioned anytime after 1279, but says the writing on it resembles a Gohonzon housed at Myokaiji Temple in Numatsu, near Mt. Fuji.
And what about the Hommon Shu, the sect housed at Myohonji, the temple founded by Nichigo, and affiliated with Kitayama, home of the Nichizen Gohonzon for hundreds of years? Their claim is that there is a "superior Gohonzon" not the Dai Gohonzon but one enshrined at Myohonji.
Obviously, what they refer to as the "superior Gohonzon" is not the Nichizen. "Obvious" because:
In 1977, Abe wrote an article for Renge, a Nichiren Shoshu publication, on the accusations of other sects regarding the Dai Gohonzon.
Whether it was for the article or not, it is indisputable that no one but a high ranking Nichiren Shoshu priest could have authorized a handwriting analysis of the Dai Gohonzon, and no one but a high ranking Nichiren Shoshu priest could have inspected the Gohonzon inscribed for Nichizen.
The Kawabe-Abe conversation was assuredly not about the charges of other sects.
C) THE COURT CASE
The court case was filed by a man named Matsumoto, who was suing the Soka Gakkai for the return of his donation for the building of the Sho Hondo, where the Dai Gohonzon was enshrined. The basis for his claim was that the Dai Gohonzon was fake, and therefore the donation was solicited fraudulently.
The case was initially dismissed on the grounds that it was a dispute about religious doctrine, over which the court had no interest. Matsumoto appealed, and had it re-instated. But the Gakkai appealed to the Supreme Court, who overturned the appellate court, affirming the decision of the lower court to refuse to hear the case.
In other words, at no time was there an opportunity for anyone to introduce the issue of the Nichizen Gohonzon into evidence. The arguments were over legal technicalities and jurisdiction.
No one could have introduced the issue anyway: only the priests of Nichiren Shoshu had access to the Nichizen Gohonzon.
Most definitely, doubts about the Nichizen Gohonzon were not possible in "the court case at the time".
III. CONTEXT ACCORDING TO NICHIREN SHOSHU
Nichiren Shoshu members on the Internet have argued that this one page of notes, page 51, is out of context, and that release of the other pages would prove that the conversation was about other sects.
As we have seen, that is impossible.
What's more, Nichiren Shoshu itself would most certainly have released the other pages if they helped Nikken Abe show that he has no question about the Dai Gohonzon. It has not.
The reason for that, it's members say, is that the Kawabe Memo - all its pages, was "stolen" by the Soka Gakkai eight years ago, "along with Operation C".
Operation C will be discussed later. First, was the Kawabe Memo "stolen"?
In August 1999, the Soka Shimpo published a note written by Kawabe to himself on July 9th. That was the day of the first Nichiren Shoshu response to the Kawabe Memo, and the day before Kawabe's own statement of responsibility. The note was featured in the Soka Shimpo as a photograph, showing that it was written in Kawabe's own hand. The note said:
And besides: if no one in Nichiren Shoshu has seen the Kawabe Memo for eight years because it was "stolen", how do they know what's on the other pages?
Nichiren Shoshu has overlooked that it is not "Page 51" that discusses the Dai Gohonzon it is the entry for "February 7th." Page 51 comprises three separate entries, each a self-contained account of what Kawabe considered significant conversations for those specific days.
The dominant topic of the conversation on those three days is the relationship between the Soka Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu. That is the context of the conversation.
IV. THE REAL CONTEXT OF THE DAI GOHONZON CONVERSATION
The cause of this tension lay in events subsequent to the completion of the Grand Main Temple, the Sho Hondo, in 1972. Until then, the Soka Gakkai had concentrated its donation campaigns on building temples. After 1972, with the assent and understanding of high priest Nittatsu, the Soka Gakkai turned its attention to its own physical and organizational infrastructure. Many priests were alarmed that they would not be getting new temples, and went looking for, and found, further "examples" of the laity not having sufficient respect for the priesthood and its traditions. They lobbied for punitive measures to be taken against the leadership of the Soka Gakkai.
In his July 10th apology, Mr. Kawabe says:
"I had asked about the possibility of distorted theories being raised, even within our sect, concerning the relationship between the Dai Gohonzon of the Sanctuary and the Gohonzon Conferred on Nichizen, which was delivered to the Head Temple in 1970, since they were both large Gohonzons and since they were similar in the thickness of the brushstrokes, and about refutations if these distorted theories were presented."His apology continues:
"The discussions made a very strong impression on me, and I cut out the prior and subsequent context in making my notes, so that the context of the memo appears to state that His Holiness the Lord of the Law had stated that the Dai Gohonzon of the True Sanctuary was a fake. This was a clear mistake in recording on my part."As became apparent later, with the leaking of his notes for July 9, 1999, Mr. Kawabe was pressured into releasing a statement quickly, in which he would take the entire responsibility for the Dai Gohonzon conversation recorded in the February 7th entry.
So Mr. Kawabe is saying that he asked about what Nichiren Shoshu would say in the face of possible accusations, and Mr. Abe's answer made a "strong impression" on him.
Such a strong impression that he recorded the accusation, but not the answer.
There was no answer, because Mr. Abe was not answering accusations; he was making his own.
What is the real context of the conversation?
For two days prior February 5th and 6th what Mr. Kawabe found significant enough to record were items about separating from the Soka Gakkai.
On the 5th, he heard about a priest who had devised a way to lure Gakkai members away:
"It appears that Kotokuji has told Mr. Imaoki of Ikedamachi that if he quits the gakkai and follows the priesthood they will give him a Joju Gohonzon if asked."Note that "follows the priesthood" is contingent upon "quits the Gakkai," a clear indication that, in some priesthood circles at least, Gakkai membership was incompatible with belonging to a temple. Further, if there was no movement within the priesthood at the time to abolish the Soka Gakkai, why would priests be promising special Gohonzons as a reward for leaving? In Nichiren Shoshu, all Gohonzon are transcribed by the high priest, they insist; and a Joju Gohonzon is one that has the believer's name. So the "bait" for Mr. Imaoki would have had to been supplied by Nittatsu Shonin himself.
The entry for the 6th is entirely taken up with impending conferences with Soka Gakkai executives. The Soka Gakkai, therefore, is "the problem at present."
But then there is what appears to be an odd rhythm of February 7th. It begins with Mr. Abe discoursing on why the Nichizen Gohonzon is the template for the Dai Gohonzon: signs of tracing were found on the former, a handwriting analysis done on the latter. Then to topic returns to "the problem at present", the Soka Gakkai, and Mr. Abe's conversation with the high priest on the future implications of a separation. Then, the conversation returns to the Nichizen Gohonzon, specifically where it's been and where it is now.
In 1978, the Matsumoto suit was still moving through the courts, and its outcome far from decided (the Supreme Court ruled in 1981). Given that, it is perfectly understandable that Abe and Kawabe would be concerned that, were Nichiren Shoshu to expel the Gakkai, and the Gakkai lose the case, it would then sue Nichiren Shoshu as the actual party responsible for the Dai Gohonzon.
So it was vital to Abe that the Gakkai not have access to the information which had led him to the conclusion that Matsumoto was correct. Who had seen the Nichizen Gohonzon? Who knew where it was? Where has it been? These were the very questions asked and answered on February 7th. The answer, apparently, was that the secret was safe, and the court case should have no bearing on whether or not to expel the Soka Gakkai.
Then, the flow of February 7th, and of Page 51, makes perfect sense: separating someone from the Gakkai meeting with Gakkai leaders ramifications of court case on separation Nittatsu thoughts on separation safety of evidence in the event of a separation.
The main thrust of February 7th is that, in Mr. Abe's opinion, the Dai Gohonzon is fake, but no one will ever find out.
It was the opinion of Mr. Abe, and Mr. Abe alone, that the supreme object of worship of his sect is "fake".
This should have staggering implications for members of Nichiren Shoshu throughout the world, especially since Mr. Abe is the same Nikken Shonin who separated them from the Soka Gakkai with a new doctrine of his own pre-eminence based on the Dai Gohonzon.
The most fundamental and basic teaching of Nichiren Shoshu the foundation for everything else it believes is that the Dai Gohonzon was inscribed by Nichiren Daishonin on October 12, 1279. Without that, there is not one single doctrine of the sect that is valid. It is the basis for all their arguments and all their teachings.
The booklet Refuting the Gakkai's Counterfeit Object of Worship 100 Questions and Answers, published in 1996 by Nichiren Shoshu Temple, begins:
1. What is the correct object of worship in Nichiren Shoshu? The correct object of worship . . . is the Dai Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teachings, as is clearly stipulated in the third article of the Rules and Regulations of Nichiren Shoshu... This Dai Gohonzon was revealed by our founder Nichiren Daishonin to achieve the ultimate purpose of his advent... As this passage indicates, this Dai Gohonzon has been handed down to Nikko Shonin, to Nichimoku Shonin and to the successive High Priests upon the transmission of the lifeblood of the Law entrusted to only one person.... Nichikan Shonin explains "Above all, the Dai Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teachings of the second year of Koan is the supreme of the supreme, the ultimate purpose of all ultimate purposes of advents. It is in fact the foremost of the hree Great Secret Laws." This shows that the Dai Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teachings inscribed on October 12, 1279 is the object of worship which forms the doctrinal basis of Nichiren Shoshu. "The successive High Priests, through the authority they have received by inheriting that transmission, transcribe the Dai Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teachings, the Inner Realization of the Daishonin's enlightenment, and bestow the transcribed Gohonzons upon priests and lay believers."Later, in Question 4, it states:
"All other Gohonzons other than the Dai Gohonzon are like leaves and branches in relation to their source, the Dai Gohonzon. Their power also all flows from the Dai Gohonzon." p. 3In other words, it is the teaching of Nichiren Shoshu that the Daishonin's enlightened life as the True Buddha was inscribed into the Dai Gohonzon and only the Dai Gohonzon; that the Dai Gohonzon is bequeathed from one high priest to the next high priest and only the next high priest; that because of this bequeathal each high priest possesses the enlightened life of Nichiren Daishonin "within (his) body" (Dai Nichiren Special Edition 3, "Admonition to the Soka Gakkai to Disband," p. 5 of part 1); and because of this possession, the high priest can transfer the Daishonin's enlightened life into other Gohonzon; and that the benefits one receives by practicing to the Gohonzon are possible, only because of the high priest's bequeathed enlightenment, based on his custody of the Dai Gohonzon, inscribed October 12, 1279.
If there is a breakdown anywhere in this chain, then, according to Nichiren Shoshu's own teaching, Nichiren Shoshu is a useless religion.
In the discussion with Kawabe on February 7, 1978, Abe presents his own opinion that the very first link in the chain the inscription of the Dai Gohonzon by Nichiren Daishonin is broken.
Would not an honest seeker of the truth, at that point, have abandoned Nichiren Shoshu, himself, at least? And would he not have alerted its millions of practitioners that they have been following a fraudulent religion that can bring them no benefit?
Instead, Mr. Nikken Abe declares the authenticity in which he himself does not believe, and with a new twist that he, Nikken Abe, is central to faith in the Dai Gohonzon.
It's one of the greatest, and most transparent, self-serving, deliberate frauds in the history of Buddhism.
It should be noted that the entire "chain" Nichiren Shoshu teaches from the Dai Gohonzon to the individual believer in which the high priest is the key link is something totally different than what Nichiren Daishonin taught, and the Soka Gakkai duly teaches. Individual believers receive benefit because the Buddhism taught by Nichiren works in their lives, not because a high priest with inherited power transcribed their Gohonzon. SGI members are directly related to the True Buddha a relation established, maintained and manifest by their own faith and practice, exactly as Nichiren Daishonin describes in The Entity of the Mystic Law (Jpn: Totaigi Sho):
"The Buddha who is the entity of Myoho-renge-kyo, of the Juryo Chapter of the essential teaching, who is both inhabiting subject and inhabiting realm, life and environment, body and mind, entity and function, the Buddha eternally endowed with the three bodies he is to be found in the disciples and followers of Nichiren. Such persons embody the true entity of Myoho-renge-kyo; these are the meritorious workings that the spontaneous transcendental powers inherent in it display. Could anyone venture to doubt it? Indeed, it cannot be doubted!"POSTSCRIPT: OPERATION C, THE KAWABE MEMO, AND THE TRUTH OF THE SCHISM
This is important because of its implications concerning the current schism, and the ongoing efforts of Nichiren Shoshu to destroy the SGI. Since 1991, Nichiren Shoshu has tried to convince its members, SGI members, and the world, that the actions taken against the SGI, including its excommunication by Nikken Abe, were orchestrated by the SGI itself, and that Nikken was only protecting the purity of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism. The priesthood and its followers have, for years, denied there was anything like an "Operation C", the plan to alienate SGI members from their leaders and organization, and especially from its president. They have said that "Operation C" is an invention, meant to make the priesthood look guilty.
But in its haste to blame the Soka Gakkai for the Kawabe Memo, Nichiren Shoshu became careless. On July 11, 1999, a lay Nichiren Shoshu member who is well connected to the priesthood, and receives information regularly from the Chicago temple, wrote:
"They were stolen over 8 years ago, at the same time when the 'Operation C' memo was stolen." Craig Bratcher, post to alt.religion.buddhism.nichiren, Sunday July 11, 1999, 16:43:18 GMTThus, the priesthood's culpability for the events of 1990-91 was confirmed by Nichiren Shoshu itself.
In a section entitled "Stage Three," Point Number 5, Operation C says:
"After the situation calms down maybe one or two years from the commencement of this operation we will organize ex-Gakkai believers. . ."Then note the entry in the 1978 Kawabe Memo:
"G feels that the idea that things will return to normal after two or three years even if separation from gakkai occurs is superficial"All along, there has been a sentiment within the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood that, if they were to take steps to denounce SGI President Ikeda, members would leave the Gakkai so quickly that Nichiren Shoshu would have everything reorganized in a very short time. Mr. Abe had discussed this sentiment with Nittatsu Shonin. And it shows up as part of the planning for Operation C.
And there are further parallels between the events of the late 1970's, Operation C, and what really occurred in 1990-91.
Stage Two, Paragraph (B) of 1990's Operation C includes this note:
"It is desirable that the contents (of a letter of demands to President Akiya) be something difficult for the Soka Gakkai to accept."Both in the Seventies and the Nineties, the first step was to accuse the Soka Gakkai of slander of the priesthood. The aforementioned letter to Mr. Akiya, as described in Operation C, was to include: Mr. Ikeda's dismissal as sokoto; Mr. Ikeda relegated to an "honorary" position; Mr. Ikeda forbidden from giving guidance or appearing in publications; replacement of "half of the officers" of the Soka Gakkai with priests appointed by the high priest.
The first order was to be given to the Soka Gakkai on August 20 (Stage 2-A); it was anticipated that, only a week later, the reaction would be so great that on August 20 a "task force to deal with the Soka Gakkai problem" could be formed (Stage 3-1).
For various reasons, the plan was delayed until December but the outline was followed nearly to the letter. On December 27th, 1990, Mr. Ikeda was dismissed as sokoto. On January 6th, 1991 one week later "Six Guidelines In Response To the Problems With the Soka Gakkai" were issued to temples around the world, including direction on how to handle people ready to leave the Soka Gakkai.
Surely anyone seeking a solution to a controversy would allow more than a week before designating it a "problem," which would result in the dissolution of an organization of over 10 million.
Obviously, the priesthood planned and executed events that would allow it to rationalize ordering the Soka Gakkai to disband (November 7, 1991), and excommunicating the Soka Gakkai (November 28, 1991).
The priesthood had applied similar pressure to the Soka Gakkai in the late Seventies, but the Gakkai's reaction at that time probably surprised those priests who wanted a separation. In their desire to maintain unity with the priesthood, Soka Gakkai leaders acquiesced to every demand placed upon them. They "apologized" publicly in 1975 for an internal memo critical of the priesthood, whose points were never even put into practice. Subsequent to the February 7, 1978, conversation recorded by Mr. Kawabe, in 1979, Mr. Ikeda resigned as president and became "honorary" president. Priests appointed by the high priest were placed on the executive council and on doctrinal committees (Seikyo Times, June 1979, p. 19). After Mr. Abe became high priest, Mr. Ikeda was made to issue another public apology.
The lesson that was learned (and put into practice in 1990), as noted above in Operation C, was that their demands had to be such that the Soka Gakkai could not accept them.
At the center of the 1978 discussions was Mr. Abe. At the center and beginning and end in 1990 was Mr. Abe. It has clearly been his intention, for over 20 years, to abolish the Soka Gakkai and appropriate its members.
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