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 #7 

"Counterfeit Gohonzons": a repeat of the Gakkai's 1977 heresy of the reproduced wooden Gohonzon. 

The Gakkai deceived its members by reporting in the Seikyo Shimbun on October 24, 1978 that: "With the permission of High Priest Nittatsu Shonin we have respectfully made wooden Gohonzons." 

Afterwards, Nittatsu Shonin addressed the issue of those objects of worship manufactured by the Gakkai saying: "The Gakkai transformed some of its Gohonzons into wooden form, but I knew nothing about it" (Renge, July 1978). As he stated here, these "Gohonzons" were made without Nittatsu Shonin's permission. 

Receiving strict direction from the priesthood, the Gakkai was forced to publicly disclose: 

"We have received repeated direction from the High Priest on the matter of the Gohonzons that we impudently had carved, and have surrendered them to the Hoanden (Taiseki-ji's storehouse). From now on, in matters that concern the Gohonzon, such as handling and procedures, as well as the concerns of the present situation, we will deeply respect the tenets of Nichiren Shoshu and redouble our efforts as we proceed forth in strict conformity." (special study meeting text) 
At that time, with the Gakkai's apology, and on the premise that it would never make any such mistakes again, Nittatsu Shonin closed further discussion on the matter of the creation of the imitation "Gohonzons." The Soka Gakkai is now trampling on the generous spirit of Nittatsu Shonin. The Gakkai is once again acting arrogantly and maliciously in arbitrarily reproducing the Gohonzon transcribed by Nichikan Shonin and distributing the copies. The Gakkai is committing a grave slander (NST News, Special Issue, pp. 14-15). 

Rebuttal to allegation #7 

(i) In 1974, the Soka Gakkai asked High Priest Nittatsu for permission to have several of the Gohonzon in its possession, including the joju Gohonzon enshrined at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters, transferred into wooden form in order to preserve them. At that time, Nittatsu responded that because these Gohonzon belong to those who received them, they may be transferred into wood in order to cherish them based upon faith, indicating that it was up to the Soka Gakkai if they wished to do so. Nittatsu stated that this was not something for others to meddle in. He further stated that transferring paper Gohonzon into wooden form is an accepted practice from the past and that there is no particular problem with the procedure. 

(ii) Upon obtaining Nittatsu's permission, the Soka Gakkai proceeded, in 1974, to have eight Gohonzon reproduced in wooden form. The Seikyo Shimbun, in issues dated January 4 and July 17,1975, reported that the joju Gohonzon at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters and the Kansai Headquarters respectively had been transferred to wood. The priesthood expressed no complaint or objection to this at the time. 

(iii) In 1977, two years after the Gakkai transfer of these Gohonzon to wood had been made public, a group of young priests who were later expelled from Nichiren Shoshu and formed a group called the Shoshinkai began using this issue as a pretext to attack the Gakkai in league with Masatomo Yamazaki, a former Gakkai legal counsel later found guilty of extortion and sentenced to prison. 

(iv) In 1978, these Shoshinkai priests gained so much influence within the priesthood that the Nichiren Shoshu Administrative Office could no longer ignore them. Pressed by these Shoshinkai priests about the Soka Gakkai's wooden Gohonzon, Nittatsu stated at a certified priests' guidance meeting in June 1978: "The Gakkai transformed some of its Gohonzons into wooden form, but I knew nothing about it." He then said: "However, I understood and acknowledged it afterwards. Therefore, I ask that you please do not fight with one another over this matter." 

Taking Nittatsu's statement "I knew nothing about it" out of context, Shoshinkai priests continued to blame and attack the Gakkai. On a later occasion, Nittatsu stated regarding the same issue: "I had received a request from the Gakkai. I thought that I would receive an official document of request later, but I did not." At that time, however, the priesthood had no prescribed procedure or instructions regarding such a request. 

(v) On September 2, 1978, Soka Gakkai leaders met with High Priest Nittatsu and asked him about the handling of the wooden Gohonzon. On that occasion Nittatsu stated, "It is all right if all [the wooden Gohonzon] are kept at the Gakkai headquarters as treasures of the Soka Gakkai." When the Seikyo Shimbun reported this the next day, Shoshinkai priests pressed Nittatsu again, stating, "The high priest was deceived and taken advantage of again by the Gakkai." To help the priesthood resolve its internal turmoil, the Soka Gakkai returned the seven wooden Gohonzon to the head temple, except for the wooden joju Gohonzon at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters. 

(vi) Nevertheless, the Shoshinkai priests continued to attack the Gakkai on the pretext of these wooden Gohonzon. Therefore, Nittatsu issued an October 3, 1978, memorandum, stating, "All discussions about the Soka Gakkai's wooden Gohonzon will be prohibited henceforth." 

(vii) On November 7, 1978, at a representative Soka Gakkai leaders meeting, Takehisa Tsuji, then a Soka Gakkai vice president and now chairperson of the Soka Gakkai Executive Advisors Conference, made the following comments: 

"In this sense, as far as the wooden Gohonzons which the Soka Gakkai carelessly allowed to be inscribed, we have already dedicated them all to the Treasure House of the Head Temple based on the guidance we received from the high priest. Henceforth, regarding the treatment of the Gohonzon and the procedure for receiving it, we will value the time-honored way of Nichiren Shoshu in a much stricter manner." 
World Tribune, February 5, 1979, p. 6
Regarding this statement, Mr. Tsuji has since testified that on the night before this meeting, the priesthood requested strongly that he insert the word carelessly [impudently in NST's translation] in order to silence the clamoring of the Shoshinkai priests and settle the priesthood's internal turmoil. The Soka Gakkai accepted this request solely to protect High Priest Nittatsu and help the priesthood to resolve its internal confusion. 

(viii) Regarding these wooden Gohonzon, at a meeting with priests and their families on May 29,1979, Nittatsu said: "The Gakkai's wooden Gohonzon were transcribed and engraved exactly after the Gohonzon of Nichiren Shoshu. Therefore, they are not counterfeit." Nichiren Shoshu General Administrator Nichijun Fujimoto also testified in a Tokyo District Court on July 8, 1982: "Upon receiving permission from Nittatsu Shonin, the Soka Gakkai had its eight paper Gohonzon transferred into wooden form. This is something neither to be criticized nor to be called a slander of the Law." 

It may be noted that the Shoshinkai priests had expressed virulent anti-Soka Gakkai sentiments for quite some time. In this sense, their use of the wooden Gohonzon issue was actually an expression of their general animosity toward the Gakkai, fearing that the Soka Gakkai and its facilities would supplant their future authority as chief priests. These priests later sued Nikken and the priesthood, alleging that Nikken did not actually or legally inherit the office of high priest from Nittatsu. 

While in the past supporting the Soka Gakkai's right to have produced these Gohonzon as in the above testimony by Nichijun Fujimoto the priesthood under Nikken is now contradicting itself simply to support its own agenda against the Gakkai. 

(ix) Mr. Takeshi Akazawa, president of Akazawa Choyo, Inc., and the Buddhist craftsman directly involved in making the wooden Gohonzon for the Gakkai, made the following statement in an interview for the Seikyo Shimbun: 

"[High Priest Nittatsu] had known about the Gakkai's wooden Gohonzon from the beginning. I heard about it directly from both [High Priest Nittatsu] and President Ikeda. I heard from President Ikeda in January 1974." 

[Question: Was this before you started to transfer the Gohonzon into wooden form?] 

"Yes, it was. At the end of 1973, I heard from the Soka Gakkai Headquarters that it wished to transfer several of its Gohonzon into wooden form. At that time, I replied, If you let the high priest know, it would be reassuring for us. In January 1974, when I met President Ikeda, he spontaneously told me: 'I have reported to the high priest about the Gohonzon. The high priest has told me that it would be all right [to transcribe the Gohonzon into wood] because it is being done in order to protect and cherish them. So please rest assured.' 

"On a different occasion, I directly confirmed that [High Priest Nittatsu] had agreed to this from the beginning. In autumn 1974, I had an audience with [High Priest Nittatsu] to discuss a matter of business in a reception room in the high priest's living quarters. After discussing the business at hand, just as the high priest was about to leave, he suddenly turned to me and asked: 'By the way, Akazawa is carving the Gakkai headquarters' Gohonzon, isn't it?' I replied, 'Yes.' The high priest then asked, 'Are you doing others?' I replied: 'Yes, we have. Actually, President Ikeda told me that he had already reported this to you.' The high priest said: 'Yes, I heard about it from President Ikeda. He asked me if he could have five or six more Gohonzon done.' He then left the room." 
Seikyo Shimbun, September 30, 1993

(x) The transfer of paper Gohonzon to wooden has been a common practice in Nichiren Shoshu. For example, Nichiko, the 59th high priest, had the Gohonzon that Nichiren Daishonin inscribed for the Imperial Palace reproduced in wooden form and worshipped it. This procedure has also been common at branch temples of Nichiren Shoshu as well. Myohon-ji temple in Chiba Prefecture reproduced ten wooden Gohonzon based on a photograph of one paper Gohonzon. 

In a similar procedure, Jozen-ji in Miyazaki Prefecture had seven wooden Gohonzon made. The Soka Gakkai's reproduction of wooden Gohonzon in 1974 was done in exact accord with the doctrines, traditions and procedures of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood and was done by the craftsman commonly employed by Nichiren Shoshu to carve its wooden Gohonzon

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