Nichiren Shoshu Timeline

 Today's temple issue has roots that extend much further back than the founding of the Soka Gakkai in 1930. In fact, problems arose as soon as Nichiren Daishonin died, in 1282. Here's a timeline of Nichiren Shoshu's history:

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1282  Before he dies in October of this year, the Daishonin writes his "Document for Entrusting the Law That Nichiren Propagated Throughout His Life," which names his disciple Nikko Shonin as his legitimate successor. 

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1285  When a statue of Shakyamuni is erected at Mount Minobu and one of the six senior priests, Niko (not Nikko Shonin) calls this an appropriate object of devotion -- going completely against the instructions of Nichiren Daishonin -- Nikko Shonin leaves Mount Minobu in order to protect the purity of his mentor's teachings.

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1289  Nikko Shonin establishes Taiseki-ji as the head temple of the Daishonin's school, at the foot of Mount Fuji. It becomes the center of what comes to be known as the Fuji School, in modern times referred to as Nichiren Shoshu.

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1333  After the third high priest, Nichimoku Shonin, dies, two priests fight over succession rights, setting in motion a land dispute that lasts for 70 years and splits the head temple into two factions. Also, by this time, four errant schools have branched off from the legitimate Fuji School founded by Nikko Shonin.

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The 1400s  The 9th high priest, Nichiu, unifies the three factions at the head temple, which has fallen into decline as a result of the long dispute.

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1482  When a 13-year-old is appointed high priest, in order to counter challenges regarding his qualification, the priesthood begins for the first time to propound doctrines asserting that the high priest is absolute and infallible. (This idea is revived by Nikken Abe to strengthen his own position and power in the 1990s.)

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The 1500s  The head temple falls into its most serious decline, one reason being that it is located far from the political and cultural center of the day, Kyoto. The priesthood, in desperation, starts making overtures to priests from a prestigious but heretical Minobu Nichiren-school temple in Kyoto, Yobo-ji. The aim is to elevate the status of Taiseki-ji by inviting priests from Yobo-ji, who are respected in elite circles, to become its high priests. These priests, like Niko during the time of the second high priest, worship statues of Shakyamuni. This heresy continues into the next century.

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1718  Nichikan becomes the 26th high priest. He works tirelessly to clarify the Daishonin's teachings and the correct practice of them, reestablishing the importance of the Gohonzon and bringing the head temple back on track. (Today, the Gohonzon that SGI members receive is a copy of one transcribed by Nichikan.)

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1872  The government issues a notice to loosen the restrictions that were enforced upon all Buddhist priests by the Tokugawa Government during Japan's Edo period (1600-1865) and allow priests to marry, eat meat, grow out their hair and wear secular clothing. The 56th high priest, Nichio, becomes the first married high priest. 

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1930 Despite Nichikan's efforts, Nichiren Shoshu has again experienced a prolonged period of decline until the Soka Gakkai is founded in 1930. Under the leadership of presidents Makiguchi and Toda, Nichiren Shoshu's number of believers begins a gradual increase.

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1943  During World War II, the Japanese military government requires all sects to accept a Shinto talisman and thereby pay homage to the deity of the militarist government. Nichiren Shoshu agrees to compromise with the government order in this matter, while Makiguchi refuses. Imprisoned as a result of his stance to protect the Daishonin's teachings, Makiguchi dies in prison.

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1950s-1980s  Toda, who was also imprisoned, rebuilds the Soka Gakkai after the war with his disciple, Daisaku Ikeda. The temple, as a result of the Soka Gakkai's explosive growth, experiences a golden age never realized in its seven-century history. Soka Gakkai members donate billions of dollars and hundreds of facilities to Nichiren Shoshu.

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1990  Nikken, high priest since 1979, starts enacting measures to exert control over the SGI and devises Operation C (C for Cut), a plan to take control of the now 12 million practitioners who belong to the organization worldwide by "cutting" President Ikeda from his position of leadership. The current temple issue begins as the plan is set in motion. 

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1991  The head temple excommunicates 12 million people, and the SGI and the temple become two separate entities. Nikken reintroduces the doctrine of the infallibility of the high priest, leading Nichiren Shoshu once again far astray from the intent of the Daishonin's teachings.

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1992  A number of temples begin to secede from Nichiren Shoshu in protest of Nikken's distortion of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism. 

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1997-98  Nikken surreptitiously removes the Dai-Gohonzon from the Sho-Hondo, the Grand Main Temple, without informing the general priesthood, and begins demolition of the structure. He states his reason as being that the building was donated by slanderers meaning the Soka Gakkai members. Nevertheless, he makes no move to return or demolish the hundreds of temples the organization had built and donated over the years. 

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1999  Notes are released recording Nikken as declaring the Dai-Gohonzon a forgery at a meeting with Jitoku Kawabe at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo in February 1979. In response to this and the temple administration's deficient explanations, temples and priests begin anew to secede from their affiliation with the Nichiren Shoshu head temple. 

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 From this history, it is easy to see that the Daishonin's teachings have been distorted and denigrated by Nichiren Shoshu repeatedly over the centuries.
 In reviewing the above facts, we can be absolutely certain that the SGI is the only organization currently upholding correct faith in the Daishonin's Buddhism. Nichiren Shoshu has become a religion entirely estranged from his teachings. Free of the priesthood's formalistic restrictions and dogma, the SGI has thrived in recent years. Since 1991, SGI members have tried to help as many people as possible understand what is at the core of the temple issue and the true history of Nichiren Shoshu.
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Source:Confirming Our Path of Faith: Temple Issue Handbook, SGI-USA Temple Issue Committee (Santa Monica, CA: SGI-USA {1999})