Rebutting the Nichiren Shoshu Priesthood's Condemnation of the Soka Gakkai's Conferral of the Gohonzon 
The following is a point-by-point rebuttal to charges made by the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood in a document they published called NST News, Special Issue: Soka Gakkai Announces Issuance of Counterfeit Gohonzons, in which the priesthood argues that the Gakkai does not have the right to confer the Gohonzon on its members. Any special brackets "{}" include text we have added for clarity, based upon the full text of the NST document. "NST" is the acronym for the religious corporation "Nichiren Shoshu Temples" in the United States. 
NST allegation #8 

Worshipping counterfeits while preaching slander: the Gakkai is no different from the Nichiren Shu Denomination. 

The believers of the Nichiren Shu Denomination of Minobu worship Shakyamuni as the true Buddha and claim that teachings of Nichiren Daishonin do not include the doctrine of the Transmission from one single individual (High Priest) to another. They view the pure orthodoxy of Taiseki-ji with enmity. Even if followers of the Nichiren Shu Sect pray day and night to a mandala inscribed by the Daishonin, it is evident that they will never be able to attain enlightenment. 

In the same way, the Gakkai today looks up to Mr. Daisaku Ikeda as if he is the true Buddha and views Taiseki-ji as an enemy. If the members pray to the Gakkai counterfeit object of worship, they will not only be barred from attaining enlightenment, they will certainly fall into hell. 

However sacred the Gohonzon transcribed by Nichikan Shonin, a reproduction of this Gohonzon made without legitimate permission has utterly no relation to the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary, and is nothing more than a material object. Such objects of worship are similar to counterfeit bank notes made by copying real bank notes. The members of the Gakkai, who will pray to these counterfeit objects of worship and inevitably fall into hell, are pitiable indeed (NST News, Special Issue, pp. 15 -16). 

Rebuttal to allegation #8 

(i) Other Nichiren denominations do not view Nichiren Daishonin as the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law but instead regard him as a Bodhisattva- priest subordinate to Shakyamuni Buddha. For this reason, they fail to recognize the Gohonzon, which embodies the oneness of the Person and the Law, as the fundamental object of worship. Confused, they worship statues of Shakyamuni and other objects along with Gohonzon. 

The SGI firmly believes in Nichiren Daishonin as the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law and, since its inception, has been declaring so without compromise to the rest of the world. Furthermore, the SGI embraces nothing other than the Gohonzon as the fundamental object of worship. The faith of the SGI is solely based on the orthodox teachings of the Daishonin's Buddhism and is clearly different from that of other Nichiren schools including Minobu. The Soka Gakkai, in fact, represented by Daisaku Ikeda and other youth, thoroughly refuted the Minobu sect in the famed Otaru Debate of 1955. 

(ii) Although believers of other Nichiren sects may chant Nam-myoho-renge- kyo to Gohonzon inscribed by the Daishonin himself, because their understanding of the Daishonin's teachings is shallow and distorted, as mentioned above, they cannot tap the beneficial power of the Gohonzon. 

Likewise, even if Nichiren Shoshu priests and Hokkeko members pray to the Gohonzon (though it has become clear through the testimony of many that priests at Taiseki-ji tend to be extremely lax in this area), because they believe their enlightenment depends on the authority of the high priest an erroneous teaching that has no basis in the Gosho and because they support an individual who actively attempts to destroy kosen-rufu, they will not benefit from their practice. 

Our sincere faith and practice dedicated to kosen-rufu are what are most important in tapping the powers of the Buddha and the Law embodied in the Gohonzon. As Nichikan states, "Those who exert the powers of faith and practice will accomplish the practice of observing one's mind through the powers of the Buddha and the Law" (Selected Commentaries of Nichikan Shonin, p. 455). "Observing one's mind" means to call forth Buddhahood from within one's life. 

(iii) The Nichiren Shoshu priesthood's own recorded history indicates that Nichiren Shoshu priests themselves very often have been "no different from the Nichiren Shu Denomination." In 1922, for example, other Nichiren sects, including Minobu, petitioned the emperor to bestow the title "Great Teacher Rissho" upon Nichiren Daishonin. At that time, Nissho Abe, the 57th high priest of Taiseki-ji, willingly signed the joint petition along with the other, slanderous Nichiren schools. 

At the ceremony to celebrate the emperor's bestowal of that title, Nissho joined a group of priests from these errant sects in the recitation of the sutra, which was led by the high priest of the Minobu sect (to which the NST News is now comparing the SGI). According to the clear guidelines of Nikko Shonin, Nissho's conduct clearly constitutes shameless complicity in slander of the Law. 

To begin with, the petition to the emperor to bestow the title of "Great Teacher" upon Nichiren Daishonin gravely debased the Daishonin's spirit. The title "Great Teacher" is the highest honor an emperor can bestow upon a priest. The fact that Taiseki-ji petitioned the emperor to bestow this title upon the Daishonin means that Taiseki-ji must have complied with Minobu's and the other sects' view of the Daishonin as merely a priest-Bodhisattva. This deprecated the Daishonin's status as the Buddha of the Latter Day, subordinating him to the ruler. This act clearly betrays the priesthood's desire at the time to ingratiate itself with the authorities and be accepted by the other Nichiren schools, no matter what the Daishonin or Nikko Shonin would have thought about the matter. 

(iv) On September 29, 1941, the Nichiren Shoshu Study Department issued a memorandum instructing the deletion of passages from the Gosho. Targeted were those passages that place the Sun Goddess, which Shinto considers a supreme deity, or the nation's sovereign, in a role subordinate to the Buddha or the Buddhist Law. For example, the priesthood deleted the following passage where the Daishonin declares himself to be the Buddha of the Latter Day, stating: "I am the foremost sage in the entire world" (MW-2, p. 259). 

This Nichiren Shoshu study department memorandum also prohibits use of the deleted passages, stating, "Do not quote [them] in sermons or lectures." Nichiren Daishonin never quailed before authority, nor did he ever court favor of any kind from the rulers of his nation. When offered status and his own temple by the authorities of his day in exchange for his silence about the errors of other sects, he adamantly refused. The actions taken by the priesthood cited above are grave betrayal of the Daishonin's Buddhism and are no different from other erroneous Nichiren denominations, including the Minobu sect. 

(v) In his letter titled, "On the Buddha's Behavior," the Daishonin states, 
"One may make use of my counsel, but if I am not given due respect as the votary of the Lotus Sutra, then the country will perish" (MW-1, 190). 

Although, on the surface, some may appear to practice the Daishonin's Buddhism, if they go against the true intent of his teachings, they will in effect be slandering the Law itself thereby bringing suffering not only upon themselves but also inviting destruction upon society. 

High Priest Nissho, who signed the joint petition requesting bestowal by the emperor of the title of "Great Teacher" upon the Daishonin with Minobu and other Nichiren sects in 1922, developed a malignant tumor in his lower jaw and died the following year. In June 1945, High Priest Nikkyo, who instructed the deletion of the Gosho passages, accepted a Shinto talisman and tried to get the Gakkai to accept it as well to escape government pressure, died tragically in a fire at the head temple. Had he lived, he would have witnessed the utter destruction and defeat of Japan's military machine, which, to appease, he had been willing to compromise the Daishonin's Buddhism. 

The Buddhist Law elucidated by the Daishonin does not discriminate based on status or position. Even a high priest will suffer retribution if he slanders the Law or betrays Buddhism. If an ordinary believer with no rank or status practices with the same sincerity, spirit and courage as the Daishonin did, then the state of life he or she manifests will not be inferior in the least to any of the successive high priests. 

(vi) The priesthood's analogy, comparing Gohonzon issued by the SGI to "counterfeit bank notes," is puerile, at best, and may even be said to shortchange the dignity of the Gohonzon. Yet if the priesthood insists upon using this analogy, let us try to view it in the proper perspective based upon the events that have taken place. 

First, it is important to note that the high priest has never inscribed Gohonzon. He transcribes or copies them based on the Dai-Gohonzon. Following the priesthood's contention, if the Gohonzon being issued by the Gakkai are counterfeit because they are copies, all Gohonzon produced by Nichiren Shoshu, including those transcribed by Nikken, would be counterfeit as well. 

Genuine bank notes are reproductions of an original template. As long as they are printed in accord with the rules to which the people of the nation agree and have adopted, they are accepted as real bank notes bearing monetary value, which can be used to pay for goods and services. 

Imagine the following scenario: A president or prime minister of a democratic country attempts to usurp power through a coup. He dissolves the congress, the people's representatives, and declares himself the absolute authority. The treasury secretary, part of his cabinet, announces: "Only money with my signature on it will have any value from now on. Any other currency will be invalid. Only those who pledge allegiance to this administration will be issued these notes!" The people, however, resist and reestablish an electoral system of government, which votes to issue money once again on behalf of the people. Forced into exile, the president-turned-dictator and his treasury secretary continue to cry that the people's notes are counterfeit. Yet the people can go back to their former state of prosperity using the new currency, which differs only in that it is signed by a different treasury secretary. These notes, produced by the mandate of the people, are valid based upon the good faith the people and businesses have placed in them. 

The people entrust the treasury secretary with the responsibility of printing and circulating bank notes to contribute to the welfare of the people. Even though the treasury secretary is directly involved with the printing of bank notes, the authority to issue bank notes fundamentally rests with the government, that is, the people. 

The analogy of bank notes certainly does not do justice to the power and the dignity of the Gohonzon. Traditionally, however, successive high priests at Taiseki-ji have been entrusted with the role of transcribing Gohonzon and issuing them to those who sincerely seek to practice the Daishonin's Buddhism. Yet the responsibility for reproducing the Gohonzon fundamentally derives from the will of the Daishonin to accomplish kosen-rufu. Now that the priesthood has abused and betrayed its role, this responsibility naturally rests with those who unstintingly practice the Daishonin's Buddhism in harmonious unity toward kosen-rufu.

Nikko Shonin spent the major part of his life transcribing the Daishonin's Gohonzon for the benefit of believers. There even exists a Gohonzon, the ofude-dome Gohonzon (Gohonzon of the Last Writing), that Nikko Shonin transcribed while practically on his deathbed. This Gohonzon's weak brush strokes attest to Nikko Shonin's waning life force at the time. In contrast to Nikko Shonin's selfless dedication in providing the Gohonzon to believers, Nikken has opted to use the Gohonzon as a bargaining chip, as a trump card to lure believers into his fold. Out of this motivation, he has refused to confer the Gohonzon upon members of the SGI. Under such circumstances, the Soka Gakkai has risen to its responsibility to provide the Gohonzon for those who sincerely seek it. If it failed to do so, it would be betraying the spirit of Nikko Shonin. The SGI's conferral of the Gohonzon is in exact accord with the Daishonin's original intent in inscribing the Dai-Gohonzon for all people.
 
 


All material is from the booklet Reaffirming Our Right to Happiness, issued by SGI-USA, and used without permission.