Buddhism is the most egalitarian of religions, teaching that, fundamentally, every human being possesses the life conditon of Buddhahood, with no distinctions among them. Traditional religions (includsing pre-Nichiren Buddhism) make a distinction between laity and clergy, attributing to clergy certain practices and properties not possible for laity. Under High Priest Nikken, Nichiren Shoshu has reverted to this type of authoritarian religion as we see in this section, quoting Nichiren Shoshu's own teachings on the subject.
In the April 1995 Nichiren Shoshu Monthly, in an article entitled "On the Essential Points of Activities Within the Hokkeko", the NST Director of General Affairs Gikan Hayase quotes Nikken as follows:
"Thus, the fulfillment and advancement resulting from the unity between the priesthood and laity of the Hokkeko, indeed, form the true foundation for kosen-rufu through the propagation of the Daishonin's True Buddhism..." p. 7That sounds wonderful. In reality, however, "unity between priesthood and laity" in Nichiren Shoshu, means total subjugation of the laity to the priesthood. In the same article, Hayase says:
"It is not up to lay believers, however, to arbitrarily judge whether or not a teacher priest has violated the Heritage of the relationship between master and disciple. It is only natural that the judgment and decision should be left up to the High Priest who is the actual master." p. 7The Dai Nichiren Special Edition III says:
"...although the priest and lay believer become one equal body, because one reaches that stage through the actual aspect of the observance of faith, an absolute difference between priests and lay person exists in the lineage of the Master and disciple" p. 1-18In outlining the origins of the current schism, it then goes on to say:
"The problem is that, beginning with a letter to the Bureau of Religious Affairs from the Soka Gakkai, dated January 1, 1991, the Soka Gakkai has been actively advocating the theory of the equality of the priesthood and the laity, which departs from the original significance of this sect" p. 1-18Other significant statements of priestly superiority in the same publication:
"Next, concerning the relation between the priesthood and the laity, as explained earlier, according to the lineage of the Master and disciple, a difference does exist between a priest and a lay person. More specifically, while this difference is a matter of course to members of this faith in regards to the High priest..." p. 1-17Quoting Nichiin Shonin:
"What is more, it is certain that the lay followers will eventually fall into Hell if they disobey their local chief priest because disobedience is the Slander of Disbelief." pp. 1-7, 1-8It also quotes Nikko Shonin's "Last Will and Admonition":
"Even though a priest may be very young, he must not be put in a seat of lesser rank than even a high ranking lay believer",and totally distorts its meaning, even the meaning of the words used:
"He states that there is clearly a difference between the priesthood and laity in terms of seating." p. 1-6First of all, this admonition is a warning to not kowtow to someone just because he's wealthy or has political power. And, it says nothing about "superiority" of the priesthood, which is what this is all about.
High Priest Nikken has, for some reason, chosen Nikko Shonin as the object of special mangling in order to assert his own (and priests') superiority. Article 17 of Nikko's 26 Admonitions has always been:
"Do not follow even the High Priest if he goes against the Buddha's Law and propounds his own views."But, since 1991, Nikken has insisted that it is:
"Even the Head Priest of the time must not use a person who sets forth his own doctrines which deviate from Buddhism." (NS Monthly, May 1995, p. 16)This new version eliminates from discussion the possibility of the High Priest being capable of error, and shifts the blame for errors to his appointees. The NS Monthly even has the gall to say "This shows the limits of the authority of the Head Priest of the time" (ibid.) in other words, the High Priest himself would never be considered fallible, but some employee of his might be.
And Article 25 used to say, in part:
"However, even if a High Priest or a priest striving for practice and understanding should temporarily deviate from the principle of sexual abstinence, he may still be allowed to remain in the priesthood as a common priest without rank."In these two articles (17 and 25), Nikko Shonin made it clear that he never considered that any priest, even the High Priest, could be free of error or that it would be wrong to criticize him. He knew that priests would be human beings, capable of error, even flagrant error even of heresy.
But see how Nikken has twisted this:
"However, if the Head Priest of the time or a senior priest should engage in a singular incident of debauchery, do not make an issue of it with the general believers." ibid., p. 17Nikko says that such a High Priest should be allowed to continue only as a "common priest" in other words, should be removed from office. High Priest Nikken says such a priest should be protected from revelation of his debauchery.
Such disdain for the laity! The Dai Nichiren Special Edition II (the one dealing with 1990-91) repeatedly makes it clear that the Gakkai's biggest "sin", in Nikken's eyes, was daring to criticize priests. It also makes it clear that the only acceptable course for a lay person in such a case is to "confess and apologize" no matter how strong that person's convictions may be.
"The root cause of the problem is Honorary President Daisaku Ikeda's staunch refusal to repent of his past errors, which in turn is a result of his having forgotten, in his conceit, his position as a member of our faith..." p. iUppity boy forgot his place!
"However, criticism of the High Priest and the priesthood have continued within the statements of the executive members of the Gakkai, and severe warnings against such criticism have been issued by the Bureau of Religious Affairs. Yet, the Gakkai leaders have not demonstrated the slightest evidence of penitence." p. 5The Gakkai dared to state that the High priest should not abuse his power, should not look down on the laity who were doing the hard work of kosen-rufu. Further, the Gakkai pointed out that members were upset at the behavior of some priests. For this, they were ordered to be quiet, to "repent".
The same document contains a section entitled "Addendum Stipulating Disciplinary Action against Lay Members of the Faith". The bylaws were changed in 1990 because, it says:
"as a matter of course, it has been an unpardonable act to libel, slander, or even merely criticize the High priest".But, while punishment for those acts was spelled out for priests there was nothing in the bylaws that said a lay person could be "disciplined" for "merely criticizing" His Holiness. That had to change! Can't have unpunished laity hanging around!
The priests of the Nikken sect regard the laity as so many fools, unable to fathom the Gosho on their own, unable to understand the Gohonzon without explanations by the priests themselves and the laity can't even entertain the thought that perhaps the priest is in error. The laity who buy into this do nothing but aggrandize the already arrogant priests. And, in Nichiren Shoshu, that is what the laity is there for.