Both Nichiren Shoshu and the SGI have a "leader", High Priest Nikken and President Daisaku Ikeda, respectively. The relationship they have with their followers, however is fundamentally different. This section examines those relationships, and shows that Nichiren Shoshu's glorification of its High Priest has no justification within the teachings of Nichiren. 

SGI President Daisku Ikeda, June 23, 1996, to a gathering of SGI-USA members in Florida: 

"In a buffalo herd, all the individuals follow the lead buffalo; they go where he wants to go and do what he wants to do. In other words, they merely wait for the instructions of the leader . . . As a far more successful type of organization, the book's authors (Belasco and Stayer: Flight of the Buffalo) propose an image based on a flock of geese. The flock they envision flies in a V formation, with the role of the lead goose changing frequently as different geese take turns. It is a model in which everyone takes responsibility, everyone is equal and everyone unites solidly for a shared objective." Addresses in the United States, June/July 1996, pp. 111-112 
That is Mr. Ikeda's vision of the organization he leads: that each member be able to lead it, that each member realize the joy of practicing Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, and working on behalf of others and for world peace. 

The relation between President Ikeda and the members is that of mentor and disciple. Those who choose him as their mentor do so because, to them, he exemplifies the correct application of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism in a global society. There is no special significance attached to his person, or to the position except, of course, what the holder of that position brings to it, e.g., the subjective determination that the prosperity of the SGI and the welfare of its members is ultimately his/her responsibility. Mr. Ikeda, as SGI president, has accepted this responsibility, and in his execution of that responsibility demonstrates to the disciple the disciple's own potential. We seek his wisdom, not his grace. 

He has said: 

"I always place high value on personal initiative. Spontaneity underlies the spirit of autonomy and independence; conversely, taking action because one is told to amounts to slavery of the spirit. Kosen-rufu will be advanced by brave people armed with the spirit of independence who voluntarily strive to fulfill the vow they made at the time of kuon-ganjo. Because they struggle on their own volition, they have no complaints of grievances. The greater the obstacle they face, the greater the courage, wisdom and power they muster from within." February 14, 1990, in Los Angeles; Seikyo Times, March 1990, p. 14 [March 1990 Seikyo Times material is available online

This is the way of the SGI, for those who follow Mr. Ikeda. As he said recently: 

"Buddhism is a teaching of great impartial wisdom. All members are presidents. All are block leaders. All are champions of kosen-rufu. This is the Soka Gakkai." April 25, 2001, in Tokyo; World Tribune, May 25, 2001, p. 6 
President Ikeda lectures extensively on Buddhism, but not ex cathedra. His lectures and references impart confidence in the Buddha's teachings; they apply the 13th Century words of the Gosho to the 21st Century; they educate. He gave a lecture at Harvard, for instance, applying the concept of dependent origination as the basis of a model for peaceful problem solving. On a more personal level, SGI-USA published a book of his lectures on Gosho written to little-known individuals in various depths of suffering, emphasizing the Daishonin's compassion and understanding thus encouraging his listeners while simultaneously giving them an ideal to strive for. They do not re-interpret ("the Gosho says this, but it really means that") they apply. 

Can we imagine the High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu telling his followers "All members are the high priest"? Have we ever witnessed the High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu addressing an inter-denominational group of scholars? Or taking any active interest at all in joining a global dialogue on ameliorating international problems? 

A May, 1992 Myogyoji News, lecture by Rev. Shoshin Kawabe: 

"After we receive the Gohonzon, we must then practice shakubuku with mercy for those who have yet to learn about this teaching. Underlying this, however, is a need for a belief in the successive High Priests as the ones who pass on the correct teachings and guide us in propagation." p. 7
In Nichiren Shoshu, it is doctrine that the High Priest holds a special status. While SGI members' relation to President Ikeda grew organically through their continued contact with him over the years, the adulation of the High Priest is mandated as a tenet of faith in Nichiren Shoshu from the beginning of one's practice. 

What is the "special status the High Priest holds? From the October 1991 Myodo

"The High Priest succeeded to this position, and by definition his wisdom and mercy is equal to that of the Daishonin." p. 10 
There is no debating the merits of the holder of the office: the office comes with the wisdom and mercy of the True Buddha. Whereas Nichiren prescribes nothing but faith, prayer and action as the means to attain enlightenment, it is Nichiren Shoshu doctrine that there is one other way, and that is transference from one person to another. 

From the Dai Nichiren Special "On the Soka Gakkai Problem II: The Correct Way of Faith in Nichiren Shoshu" (Dai Nichiren is written by the Nichiren Shoshu Bureau of Religious Affairs, and will henceforth be abbreviated as DN): 

"C. Absolute Faith In and Strict Obedience To the High Priest: When the priests and lay believers of the faith of Nichiren Shoshu have the occasion to be in the presence of the High Priest, with palms pressed earnestly together in sincere gratitude, we pay prayer-like reverence to him as the Master who embodies the Living Essence of the Body of the entirety of the Law of all existence, which has been passed down through the generations since the lifetime of the Daishonin." pages 13-14 
Nichiren Shoshu members deny that they "pay prayer-like reverence" to High Priest Nikken. The following is from an experience from a group of Washington, DC, Temple members found in the January 1992 Myodo
"This time, Austrians, Taiwanese, Koreans and Americans waited excitedly for his arrival with heads bowed to the tatami, juzu between our hands." p. 19 
SGI members respect President Ikeda as one who has absorbed and applied the principles of Buddhism to his own life and to society, and we look at him as an encouraging example of what we ourselves can do if we are determined to do it. Nichiren Shoshu members are told to regard their High Priest no matter who it is or what he has accomplished as the one and only being embodying the ultimate principle of existence. 

From the October 1991 Myodo

"Further, the High Priest transcribes the words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nichiren, and additionally, his own name onto the Gohonzon. This indicates that the Gohonzon, Nichiren Daishonin and all successive High Priests correspond to each other and are inseparable." p. 15 
The High Priest's name is on the Gohonzon because he did the transcribing. Nichiren enumerated the names that are to be inscribed on the Gohonzon to represent all humanity, whose natures are illuminated by Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The term "High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu" is not found in either "The True Object of Worship" or in "The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon." 

From the October 1991 Myodo

"Forty-eighth High Priest Nichiryo Shonin's Zoku Kechu Sho, a biographical survey of all High Priests, can be summarized: Taisekiji we possess the Heritage of the Law passed from Master to Disciple. We must believe that the High Priest, who receives this lineage, is equal to Nichiren Daishonin. Thus we can sow the seed of Buddhahood among the people." [elision in original] p. 10 
In the view of a Buddhist, the writings of Nichiryo or any other person would be regarded as "interpretation", while the Gosho and the Gosho alone is the source of true doctrine. But this illustrates that the priesthood has long been amending the Gosho. Nichiren Shoshu followers "must believe" that the High Priest is "equal" to the True Buddha. 

From NST News Special Issue:

"One should never worship anything as a Gohonzon that has not been authorized as such by the High Priest, who has inherited the Heritage of the Law, even if it was inscribed by Nichiren Daishonin himself, or even if it is a mandala transcribed by Nikko Shonin or any of the successive high priests." p. 3-4 
Well, perhaps the High Priest is not "equal" to the True Buddha in Nichiren Shoshu doctrine; it appears here he is greater than the True Buddha, since he can nullify an action Nichiren took out of his compassion. 

From the DN Special Edition, no. 3: 

"In other words, because the enlightened life of Nichiren Daishonin, or the Body of the Law of the Three Treasures of the Buddhism of the Sowing continues to exist through the transmission of the Face to Face Bestowal of the Living Essence of the Law to the only one who is to receive it, we are being strictly directed to believe in the existence of that enlightened life within the body of each high priest." pp. 1-4, 1-5
The enlightened life of the Daishonin exists in High Priest Nikken's body, not through any actions Nikken took, but just because he holds the position of high priest. And his followers "are instructed" to believe this. 

From the June 1991 Myodo

"...the subsequently came to disregard the High priest's enlightenment, which is inherent within the direct heritage of the Law from the Daishonin ..." p. 8-9 
Despite Nichiren Shoshu members' Internet denials that what the high priest "inherits" is his personal enlightenment, this is the teaching of their sect. They deny because they realize it is a heretical, supernatural teaching. Why, then, do they remain in Nichiren Shoshu? Because they hate the SGI, and their bitterness and vituperation are encouraged in Nichiren Shoshu (see the section on SG-eye). 

From the June 1991 Myodo

"If you cannot accept the High Priest teachings, it is the same as saying you cannot accept Nichiren Daishonin's teachings..." p. 6 
The arrogance there almost speaks for itself, but note the subtlety. Nichiren admonished us to trust the sutras over commentaries, the Buddha's words over interpretations. Here Nichiren Shoshu wiggles around that admonition by equating the commentating, interpreting words of the High Priest with the words of Buddha. Thus, to his followers, he is not commenting, not interpreting he himself is the Buddha, therefore his teachings are those of the Buddha. It's rather clever, and quite damaging to those who fall for it. 

DN Special Edition 3 (quoting 31st HP Nichiin): 

"The successive High priests which follows Nikko Shonin become again the same as he, because the Treasure of the Buddha is based upon the inner enlightened life which continues in succession. Because of their outer form, they seem to be the Treasure of the priest, and therefore, the honorable Buddha, which flows from Nichiren Daishonin, the Great Master of the Buddhism of the Sowing of the Latter Day of the Law, merely seems to take the form of the Treasure of the Priest because of the existence of the outer body." pp. 1-5 
The "Treasure of the Buddha" is not "based on the inner enlightened life which continues in succession". There was no "inner enlightened life which continues in succession" when Shakyamuni attained enlightenment, or when the True Buddha recognized the workings of the Law and became one with it in the remote past see "The Entity of the Mystic Law," WND, p. 421. In fact, that passage makes it quite clear that the Buddha is based on the Law, and that the Law exists quite independently of the existence of Nichiren Shoshu. Here Nichiren Shoshu attempts to confuse its followers into believing that it itself has supplanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo was the basis for attaining Buddhahood, that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is a function of Nichiren Shoshu. 

DN Special Edition 3: 

"Since times long past, our greeting the High Priest with palms pressed together in reverence comes from the view that he is truly in possession of that inner enlightened life, the body of the Law, which is the Treasure of the Buddha and the Treasure of the Law." pp. 1-5 
"The 3 Treasures exist in the High Priest". Nichiren Shoshu used to teach (correctly) that they exist in the Gohonzon, but that was before Nikken became High Priest. 

Dai Nichiren Special Edition III: 

"It follows that the faith of both the priests and lay members of this sect must be unconditionally based upon the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary and the Face to Face Bestowal of the Living Essence of the Law upon (the One and Only) each successive High Priest." "Remonstrance to Disband," p. 1-1 
Faith based on the High Priest says so right there. Nichiren Daishonin taught faith in the Gohonzon, and only in the Gohonzon, nothing else. 

DN Special Edition 3:

"Moreover, when one practices the observances of the faith through which one offers oneself to the Gohonzon of True Buddhism, the True Body of the Three Treasures of the Buddhism of the Sowing, as based upon the correct Master and disciple relationship, one begins to fuse his own subjective wisdom with the objective reality of the Gohonzon, ones being is infused with the pure Living Essence of the Law which has been passed down from the Daishonin, and one becomes able to attain the Great Buddhist Result of the attainment of enlightenment in this lifetime. But members of this faith must be very, very cautious, because on the other hand, if one rejects the teaching of the Master and disciple relationship between the priesthood and the laity, and thereby fails to establish the relationship of faith between Master and disciple through which the Pure Living Essence of the Law of the Three Treasures of the Buddhism of the Sowing flows freely, through the slanderous sin of shutting out the Master, a member of the faith will eventually fall into hell without fail." pp. 1-8 
June 1991 Myodo:
"As followers of the Daishonin and the successive high priests, who alone receive the life of the Daishonin or the Dai-Gohonzon through the heritage of the True Law..." p. 5 

100 Q&A: (#30): 

"Nikko Shonin in The Twenty-six Articles of Warning" states, 'The followers of this school are to thoroughly infuse the Gosho into their hearts and receive its highest principles from the Master'....Those highest principles have been transmitted in the lifeblood from our founder, the Daishonin, to Nikko Shonin, Nichimoku Shonin and the successive High Priests." p. 18 
100 Q&A (#42): 
"As these passages indicate, the Gohonzon is the soul of the Law of the Founder, Nichiren Daishonin, and it is transcribed through the bequeathal of that soul of the Law received by only a single person. Therefore, those who deny the bequeathal received by only a single person also deny the Gohonzon itself." p. 24 
These four texts all are based on the same rather odd concept that the fundamental principle of Buddhism, the true entity of all phenomena, is a finite thing that can be handed off from one person to another. 

For one thing, they confuse "current High Priest" with "Original Master" who, in Buddhism, is the Buddha Nichiren Daishonin. Of course, Nichiren Shoshu equates the current High Priest with Nichiren, based on the fallacy that Nichiren's enlightenment as the Original Master is a finite thing restricted to one person, capable of being "passed along". Nichiren Shoshu members on ARBN have said quite clearly that the personality of the High Priest is irrelevant, that the fact that he became High Priest and that alone means he has come into possession of the wisdom, compassion and enlightenment of the Buddha. In other words (to be admittedly extreme), he could kill someone and, by definition, it would be a wise, compassionate and enlightened act, beyond reproach. 

They have reduced the Buddha's enlightenment to a "Get Out of Jail Free" card; "just pass Go and collect enlightenment." 

The transference of an embodied principle through ritual is, by any definition, superstition: one can buy a potion to make one irresistible to women, one can fuse with the actual body of Christ because an authorized priest performed a ceremony, one can gain good fortune by kissing the Blarney Stone. Or, one can be have a ceremony performed and thus become "the Soul of the Law". "the Essence of the Law" or "the life of the Daishonin." 

Of course, superstition is common within Nichiren Shoshu: 

DaiNichiren Special Edition 3, pages 1-7; ("Remonstrance to the Soka Gakkai to Disband," Part I-B): 

"As explained earlier, because a common priest who absolutely believes in and strictly obeys the High Priest established a connection with the Living Essence of the Law within the High Priest and thereby becomes part of the Treasure of the Priest, members of the faith of this sect must view the Head Priest of the local temple they belong to with the attitude that the priest is the Tetsugi Master who possesses the pure Living Essence of the Law. The priests of this sect train following the observances of the established rules of this sect, receive their charges from the High Priest, and wear both an unlined pale gray silk robe and a five-paneled surplice. These religious robes are truly expressions of the Daishonin's Buddhism of the Sowing. Concerning the virtuous fortune to be derived from religious robes, Nichikan Shonin states: 'Since there is great virtuous fortune to be derived from wearing a koromo (Buddhist robe) even in jest, how much greater is the fortune to be derived from wearing one in earnest?'

"Because priests wear the robes of the Buddhism of the Sowing of the True Cause, both their bodies and minds become a part of the Treasure of the Priest, and they serve as the Tetsugi Master who has received the pure Living Essence of the Law." [emphasis added]

"Even if worn in jest" ROBES grant virtuous fortune, according to "Nichiren" Shoshu. That means it's the robes themselves that have the Special Powah! 

Other items of note from this: 

  • A priest must believe in Nikken in order to grab some Living Essence. 
  • Believing in Nikken qualifies a priest to be everyone else's Tetsugi Master. 
  • Nikken has the Living Essence "inside" him. 
  • One's "behavior as a human being" is not especially significant. The position, belief in Nikken, and putting on the robe is what matters. 
Search all you want for a Gosho that says "I Nichiren have woven my life with thread". You won't find it. In fact, it is the lack of such superstition, so common in other religions, that sets Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism apart. 

100 Q&A (#45): 

"We can realize true sokushin jobutsu (attaining Buddhahood with this very body) only by following the guidance of the successful High Priests, who have received the lifeblood of the Law since the time of the Daishonin, the Original Buddha, by deeply believing in the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teachings, and by carrying out the practice of faith." p. 26 
On the contrary, Nichiren Daishonin says that beings can attain Buddhahood in their present form through faith in the Law see, for instance, "The One Essential Phrase," WND, p. 923; a passage concludes with: "He is referring to the example of the dragon king's daughter, who achieved Buddhahood in her reptilian form through the power of the Lotus Sutra." [emphasis added] 

Nichiren Shoshu Monthly, June 1996: 

"Please be confident that by fostering a strong bond with your local temple in the United States, establishing absolute faith in the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of True Buddhism, and persevering in upholding the correct faith of Nichiren Shoshu, in direct association with the Head Temple, you will achieve enlightenment in your present form, based on the powerful authority of the Dai-Gohonzon and the compassion of our High Priest Nikken Shonin." p. 8 
Enlightenment due to High Priest Nikken's compassion? In Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, it is Nichiren's compassion that opens the way to Buddhahood: 
"If Nichiren's compassion is truly great and encompassing, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will spread for ten thousand years or more, for all eternity, for it has the beneficial power to open the blind eyes of every living being in the country of Japan, and it blocks the road that leads to the hell of incessant suffering." "Repaying Debts of Gratitude," WND, p. 736 
Whereas President Ikeda and the SGI teach a direct connection between the individual believer and Nichiren Daishonin, Nichiren Shoshu has made every effort through the years to invent doctrines that place the High Priest in the middle. And this is truly tragic for its followers. While it is typical of most religions Catholics, for instance, need sacraments, and sacraments can only be administered by priests who alone can bring Jesus to the believer the true Buddhism of Nichiren overturns this, offering empowerment to every individual directly through faith in the Gohonzon our own lives are directly connected to the enlightenment of the Buddha. This is the "road" Nichiren Shoshu tries to block. 

As Nichiren said in what is the very first Gosho included in most anthologies: 

"Nevertheless, even though you chant and believe in Myoho-renge-kyo, if you think the Law is outside yourself, you are embracing not the Mystic Law but an inferior teaching . . . You must never think that any of the eighty thousand sacred teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha's lifetime or any of the Buddhas or bodhisattvas of the ten directions and three existences are outside yourself. Your practice of the Buddhist teachings will not relieve you of the sufferings of birth and death in the least unless you perceive the nature of your own life." "On Attaining Buddhahood," WND, p. 3