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Nichiren Shoshu

Brief:

Nichiren Shoshu is the modern name of the Fuji School of Nichiren's teachings, (sometimes also refered to as True Buddhism) that claims a relatively unbroken lineage from Nichiren Daishonin Himself, through Nikko Shonin and a succession of High Priests, including Nichimoku Shonin, Nichiu Shonin. It consists of a hierarchy of Priests, a head temple and branch temples, and both "members" and offshoot groups. The offshoot groups include the Sokagakkai, Shoshinkai, and Kenshokai. It is currently headed by Nichimyo Shonin who just replaced the controversial High Priest Nikken Shonin.

More:
Their own website is at
www.nst.org
also
http://www.nsglobalnet.jp/menu.htm and: Taisekiji.net
For more on them see;
Fuji School page.

History

Taiseki-ji was founded by Nikko Shonin after he left Minobu in a feud with the other elder priests (see sixpriests.html) and the lord of the manor Lord Hakiri. (See Fuji School page) His own colleague, Niko Shonin had undermined his relationship with Lord Hakiri, and in tandem with the other priests appointed Niko Chief Priest of Minobu in his stead during the period of his departure. Consequently he settled in Taisekiji at the invitation of Lord Nanjo in October of 1289. Nanjo Tokimitsu built a temple for him in 1290 and that Temple was named Taisekiji. The school he founded eventually split up into a number of sub-schools. One of those schools was to become known as Taisekiji and later to become known as Nichiren Shoshu. Nikko then moved next door (less than two miles away) to what is now Kitayama where he built a Temple called Omosu Seminary, that was later rebuilt as Kitayama Honmonji. Nichimoku Shonin moved into Oeshikiji/Taisekiji Temple and lived there until the year that Nikko died. He seems to have thereafter travelled to Kyoto where he died by lake Biwa. This led to about 70 years of mess that was not cleaned up until the 9th High Priest Nichiu Shonin "restored" the School. Taisekiji owes as much (or more) to Nichiu and Nichikan (who restored Nichiu's doctrines) as it owes to Nikko

For more on this visit:
sixpriests.html, Nikko's page, Niko's page,or my page on the Jito Hakiri
Fuji School page

Middle Ages

There really was no "Nichiren Shoshu" until the modern era but there was a Fuji School and that Fuji School had 4 competing centers of power; Taisekiji, Kitayama Honmonji, Nishiyama Honmonji, and Yobo-ji in Kyoto. At Taisekiji the Nanjo Family and its descendents continued to play a sometimes helpful and sometimes hindering role in the subsequent history of what was to become Nichiren Shoshu, while descendents of other Jito families each played a role in Taisekiji's rivals. For more on that history visit my fuji school page for more detail.

Muromachi Period.

To summarize, from 1333-1308 Taisekiji went through a time of trouble. In 1308 the 9th High priest Nichiu began establishing Taisekiji at or near it's present location on Nanjo property. When he died in 1382 (or after) Kitayama Honmonji split off from Taisekiji. (For more read article about Nichiu.

Late Middle ages

Within 100 years the temple was subject to the teachings of its rival Yobo-ji, out of Kyoto. It was during this time that notions of the infallibility of the high priest were first advanced to counter weaknesses in the authority of the Fuji School lineage caused by such factors as the elevation of child priests and internecine family and factional rivalries. Finally,in the 1600's The twenty-sixth High Priest Nichikan Shonin(1665-1726) restored the doctrines that made it distinctive and established it as the principle school of the Fuji group of temples. For more see links to Nichiu Shonin, fujischool.html, and Nichikan Shonin.

Modern times to World War II.

NST/Taiseki-ji was almost brought low by world war II. One of its most important buildings was burned, and the Chief Priest of the time, Nikkyo, self immolated. During the war it had embraced the ideas of Chigaku Tanaka as developed by its own theoretician Ogasawara. During this time groups like Myoshinko dominated Nichiren Shoshu, while a little known group known as the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai confined its activities principally to publishing and propagating Buddhism among teachers.

Sokagakkai

After the war the hypernationalistic ideas of Ogasawara were mostly discredited, and the rival ideas of the Sokagakkai, founded by Tsunesuburu Makiguchi were embraced for a time. The avatars of Shinto-Nationalist-Buddhist Fusion didn't completely disapear however. Instead they conglomerated around the rival (to the Gakkai) lay broup known as the Myoshinko (Kenshokai now) led by Shoei Asai, and others groups, all collectively known as -- "Hokkeko". However, the most active group was the Sokagakkai and under the determined efforts of Josei Toda, in cooperation with High Priests Horigome, others, and retired High Priest Hori and other High Priests of the time, Josei Toda Toda grew Nichiren Shoshu, adding some 200 temples and helping the High Priest get most of his Temples under more or less strict central control. The Sokagakkai restored the existing plant and buildings, and added new temples and new members by conducting what was known as "shakubuku" all over Japan but mainly in the Cities. Nichiren Shoshu became larger with the help of the Sokagakkai.

From 1945-1991 the Sokagakkai was the leading "son" of Nichiren Shoshu and its most avid defender and supporter. This became true, not only at home, but outside Japan. Disciples like Mr. Williams, Joseph Asomani and Richard Causton promoted Nichiren buddhism abroad, each of them building successful organizations of their own.

Building Sho Hondo

The apogee of that relationship came with the building of the Sho Hondo in the Seventies, under the direction of both the 65th High Priest Nittatsu, and of the then young leader of the Sokagakkai and Toda's successor, Daisaku Ikeda. (For more click on each term to go to a referenced website)

Troubles with the Gakkai

Relationships between the Gakkai and NST hadn't always been orderly or harmoneous. In 1945 the founder of the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai, Tsunesuburu Makiguchi died in Prison, and his successor Josei Toda directly laid the blame on at least one Nichiren Shoshu priest named Ogasawara. In 1952, he had 47 of his disciples waylay and punish this priest in a move that shocked the other priests because they were used to being treated with complete deference. Things got worse under his successor when rivalry between the lay organizations of the progressive Sokagakkai and its nationalistic and nearly fascist rival the Myoshinkai led to internal disputes over what the Sho-Hondo was and whether it could be a "national ordination platform" in the absence of a formal decree. Nittatsu Shonin, the priest of the time, was forced to excommunicate the Myoshinkai when they questioned his authority and took him to court.

At around the same time the Sokagakkai started putting more of its resources into building community centers for its own members and staff, and less into building temples for the priests. And even worse, the priests started learning that Gakkai leaders were painting Ikeda as if he were a Buddha. Ikeda gave a lecture, which was published in English and Japanese, on the Gosho called the Shoji Ichidaiji Kechimyaku Sho, in which he asserted that his own lineage, based on his master/disciple relationship with Toda and Makiguchi, was a lineage of faith that continued the spirit and traditions of Nichiren. This lecture disturbed the late High Priest Nittatsu more than anything else, and he forced Ikeda to apologize and step down from his position as head of the Hokkeko. Ikeda did so and backed off from asserting these ideas, although not from talking up the renamed "mentor/disciple" spirit. These ideas challenged the authority of the High Priest by asserting that the lineage of Buddhism didn't need to be directed from the "Chair" of the Seat of the Law. The model that Nichiren Shoshu used was a model of "lineage" that borrowed elements from both Tendai/Shingon and Zen. The High Priest was said to have inherited a "Golden Utterance" passed on from Head Priest to head priest, and he also inherited the "throne of the law" which was analogous to becoming a divine King.

Split with the Gakkai

Unfortunately for settling things rapidly, on July 22, 1979 Nittatsu died suddenly. It was up to his successor to work things out. The new High Priest sixty seventh High Priest Nikken Shonin (they refer to him as "Geika") who took power on the death of his predecessor faced dissension from within the ranks of the priests. About 200 of them bolted the organization after he asserted his blanket authority and refused to answer questions on whether he had really received the "Golden Utterance" from Nittatsu Shonin.

NST now needed help, and it was forced to turn to Daisaku Ikeda himself for authority. This also contributed to the departure of these priests as they had more questions about the Sokagakkai than they did about the lineage. They formed the Shoshinkai or Correct Faith organization. Ikeda had already been left with an "honorary" position, and now that "honorary" position became, for a time, the real power behind the thrones of both organizations. Later Gakkai apologists would blame turncoat members like Yamazaki for the conflict. But the Priests had reasons to be suspicious of the Gakkai having designs to "take them over," while the Gakkai had resentments towards Nichiren Shoshu which had been building since the beginning of their relationship. More importantly both groups had different interpretations of Nichiren's message and their role in propagating it. In 1974 there was a flap because the fourth President Hojo said so openly.

For the next 12 years, while openly professing friendship and love, both groups seemed to have their own contingencies. Finally in 1991 with Ikeda's 35th anniversary speech, both sides had had enough with fawning adoration and pulled out the knives. For more on this see temple.html and personal.html).

Post Gakkai

Nichiren Shoshu continues to teach that Nichiren was the true Buddha and that Nikko Shonin was the specific treasure of the priest (see truebuddha.html and Kechimyaku.html). They also teach a number of doctrines based on original enlightenment and esoteric (oral teachings and teachings that claim to find hidden meaning in texts) interpretations of Nichiren's writings. Many of it's members are very literalminded in their faith in the doctrines as taught them by their priests. Strangely though, all of those teachings are based on heavy interpretation of Nichiren's Gosho, sometimes standing the literal meaning of the Gosho on it's head with "hinted meanings", "reading between the lines", and even creative rewritings of texts. The central idea lately seems to be that the High Priest is equated to the Dai-Gohonzon and linked to Nichiren himself, and others must be obedient to this linkage in order to receive enlightenment. The Gakkai maintains that people don't need this linkage (intermediaries) to reach enlightenment, though curiously some of them insist that people need to be linked to Ikeda and to them, of course. Meantime the Gakkai spends way too much energy trying to "refute" and "defeat" them. The issues have become very personal.

Oral Legacy

What makes these esoteric teachings unique is that they, while based on an oral tradition, also insist that they are exclusively true. For an example of some of the doctrines see this page (tonoko.html) in which a Shoshinkai priest discusses Gongyo and the "oral" legacy of his school.

Nichiren Shoshu also insists that one can practice correctly only if one practices with Nichiren Shoshu as taught by the current High priest and is connected to Nichiren Daishonin through the Dai-Gohonzon and the current High Priest. This connection is referred to as kechimyaku. Nichiren Shoshu claims it's lineage as infallible all the way back to Nichiren Daishonin through a lineage from Nikko Shonin, to Nichimoku Shonin and through a long series of disciples. They claim that this lineage forms a direct link to Nichiren Daishonin. Indeed they claim that through the High Priest Nichiren Daishonin is present in this very age. They therefore exchew reliance on literal proofs if it contradicts their inherited doctrines of the opinion of the current high Priest.

This can be shown to be a backwards claim. A heritage is a transmission from fallible human being to fallible human being, and is only as good as the "vessels" that receive it and transmit it. This is the teaching of the Gosho written to Akimoto. Since the doctrines of the school have definately evolved from early teachings to those of the 9th high priest nichiu Shonin, to a period when those doctrines were disregarded, to their restoration under the tutelage of Nichikan Shonin, to claim that the doctrines of the current high priest necessarilly are the correct ones is absurd. All those people were not teaching the same thing. Priests, like anyone, should be messengers of the Buddha, and so they should certainly be transmitting the teachings of Nichiren and the Buddha to this very age, but the notion that their teachings are infallible sounds way too much like a poor imitation of Catholicism for my taste. For more on this subject you might want to follow my nstissue.html link. The High Priest does admit that he can make mistakes but he also asserts that he is the center of spiritual and religious authority for Nichiren Shoshu. Maybe so, but if so, then his opinions are like those of a Supreme Court Justice, only to be taken as policy and where they have jurisdiction, and always subject to being "corrected" by a later teacher.

Nichiren Shoshu and the Gakkai

The Sokagakkai was founded by complicity between the Gakkai and the high priests Reverend Hori and Reverend Horigome. They wanted a lay group to propagate true Buddhism and really felt that it was time for the teachings of the Daishonin to be spread to the masses. For more on the troubled relationship between the two groups see temple.html. For more on issues. In 1979, Reverend Nittatsu Shonin faced down some major internal dissension by getting the third president of that group to resign. In 1991, the next High Priest, Nikken Shonin, excommunicated that same person and the ties between the Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu were dissolved. Up until 1991 SGI and Nichiren Shoshu were (at least on the surface) One organization. Since 1991 there have been issues between NST and SGI. The result is that these two organizations have diverged considerably one from the other. For more on SGI visit sokagakkai.html. For more on this subject visit: temple or to see how the issues have been made personal see personal.html.

Right now the two organizations are still virtually at war with one another, one hopes that war ends eventually. It is because the Gakkai was once a lay organization of the Nichiren Shoshu School that the Gakkai has devoted so much attention to their parent organization. It is difficult for a "child" organization to differentiate it's own teachings from that of it's parent without going through a transitional period of anger and rejection. For more on the "War" follow this link to my temple issue pageSee sgissue.html and temple.html for more detail on this subject.

More about NST

If you want to find out more about the issues with NST you can start with for issues with NST. For more on NST as seen from my point of view you should visit some of my other pages such as the one on the "Temple Issue" or how the NST and Gakkai have made their schism personal. For more on NST as they see themselves you can visit their homepage at www.nst.org.

Links and footnotes

BUDDHISM | index | Gosho Study | Illuminated Gosho Passages

link to the untold history:http://www.garyrossproductions.com/samples/uhfs/uhfschap.pdf

Links and Sources

Sources:
http://dmoz.org/Society/Religion_and_Spirituality/Buddhism/Nichiren/
Jim Celers "Bone" site |
| clearingup the clearing house site
Gakkai Online
Nichiren Shoshu History
Links:
Link to Nichiren Shoshu
SGI
Nichiren Shoshu UK:http://www.hokke.co.uk/
http://www.nichirenshoshu.or.jp/eng/indexe.html
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