Volume 30: Chapter 6, Vow 71–80
On November 29, three weeks after the Soka Gakkai received Nichiren Shoshu’s “Remonstrance to Disband,” another document arrived titled “Notice of the Excommunication of the Soka Gakkai.”
This document stated that Nichiren Shoshu was excommunicating the Soka Gakkai because the lay organization had not complied with the demands specified in its previous notice. It also advised that it was simultaneously excommunicating “all SGI (Soka Gakkai International) organizations and equivalent organizations that accept and follow the guidance of the Soka Gakkai.”
Several top leaders of the Soka Gakkai had become members in President Makiguchi’s day and also worked alongside President Toda to rebuild the Soka Gakkai after World War II. They had witnessed the true state of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood over many long years, and now denounced the unprincipled actions of Nikken and the priests aligned with him. These leaders included Hiroshi Izumida, chairperson of the Soka Gakkai Executive Guidance Conference, as well as Hisao Seki and Katsu Kiyohara, respectively the chairperson and vice chairperson of the organization’s Executive Advisory Council.
Izumida said with disgust: “Just who have they excommunicated? Ordinarily, excommunication is an action taken against individuals, but they say they are excommunicating the organizations of the Soka Gakkai and SGI. Stating that individual Soka Gakkai and SGI members retain their status as lay believers of Nichiren Shoshu, they call on members to leave the organizations. Their ulterior motive is blatantly obvious: to steal our members and make them Nichiren Shoshu temple parishioners.
“Nichiren Shoshu’s authoritarianism, self-interest, cowardice, and dishonesty haven’t changed in the least from the past. They have no faith. That’s why they accepted the Shinto talisman and deleted crucial passages from the Daishonin’s writings [at the request of the militarist government during World War II]. And whenever some issue arises between the priesthood and the Soka Gakkai, they refuse to confer the Gohonzon on our members, using the object of our faith as a tool to manipulate lay believers.
“We should also note how they have tried to sever the ties of mentor and disciple in the Soka Gakkai.
“There is the incident involving Jiko Kasahara, a corrupt priest who, during World War II, advocated the erroneous doctrine that Buddhism is subordinate to Shinto. During a commemorative pilgrimage on the occasion of the 700th anniversary of the establishment of the Daishonin’s teachings (in 1952), Soka Gakkai youth made Kasahara apologize before Mr. Makiguchi’s tomb for his offenses. At that time, the Nichiren Shoshu Council met and adopted a motion removing Mr. Toda from his post as senior lay representative of Nichiren Shoshu and banning him from visiting the head temple. By punishing only President Toda, they attempted to drive a wedge between him and the members, sever the ties of Soka mentor and disciples, and bring Gakkai members under the control of Nichiren Shoshu.”
The Soka Gakkai is a gathering of Bodhisattvas of the Earth committed to the mission of realizing kosen-rufu, the heart of which is the mentor-disciple relationship. This is why the devil king of the sixth heaven, intent on destroying the movement for kosen-rufu, employs every possible means to sever this bond.
Leaders such as Hiroshi Izumida, who had been practicing since the early days of the Soka Gakkai, were well aware of the corruption within Nichiren Shoshu and its deep-seated contempt for lay believers. Feeling that now was the time to confront and fight this once and for all, they took the lead in protesting the actions of the priesthood.
To pass the Soka Gakkai spirit on to younger generations, there is no other way than for older, more experienced members to demonstrate it through their own example and actions. Fostering young successors is the mission and responsibility of seniors in faith.
Izumida resolutely declared: “With these recent actions, it is clear that Nichiren Shoshu is denigrating the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism and has turned into a school of slanderers of the Law. They cannot escape the stern rebuke of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin!”
The members were in jubilant spirits. All felt they could now advance joyfully, with light hearts, toward worldwide kosen-rufu, without having to worry about the authoritarian and mean-spirited priesthood.
On November 29, the day that the Notice of Excommunication arrived at the Soka Gakkai, a ceremony was held at the Soka International Friendship Hall in Sendagaya, Tokyo, to confer a Certificate of Appreciation on SGI President Shin’ichi Yamamoto. Paying tribute to his contributions to education, culture, and humanity, the accolade was presented by the Association of African Heads of Mission in Tokyo, a diplomatic group representing 26 African nations.
Ambassadors and representatives from 19 African embassies, the African National Congress (ANC) representative to Japan, and other officials were present at the award ceremony. It was extremely rare for so many African ambassadors and diplomatic representatives to make a visit of this kind together.
In his speech at the ceremony, the ambassador from Ghana, leader of the association, acknowledged the efforts for world peace being made by Shin’ichi and the SGI, citing their support of the anti-apartheid movement and their promotion of educational and cultural exchange between Japan and Africa through Soka University, the Min-On Concert Association, and other Soka Gakkai–affiliated organizations. He also called the SGI a gathering of global citizens sharing the same humanistic ideals, and said: “I am convinced that we have made the right choice in selecting the SGI as our partner in striving to realize common ideals.”
Speaking on behalf of the African delegation, the ambassador from Ghana also said to Shin’ichi Yamamoto: “In every way, you are a true world citizen and Japan’s greatest ambassador.”
The history of the African continent for too long had been one of struggle against oppression, discrimination, and countless other challenges. Shin’ichi was profoundly honored and humbled to receive this recognition from African diplomats whose keen insight had been fostered under such conditions.
When the Certificate of Appreciation was presented to Shin’ichi, the room filled with applause. The citation on the certificate read in part: “In recognition of your achievements in the promotion of world peace through education, culture, moral behavior, equality of race, respect of human rights, assistance to the poor, spiritual counseling, and dedication to the cause of humanity, the Association of African Heads of Mission in Tokyo attests to the validity of the outstanding human qualities and traits endowed in you and which you have put into the services of [humankind].”
Stepping up to the microphone, Shin’ichi said: “This is a deeply moving and historic day.”
He went on to explain that, since its establishment, the Soka Gakkai had fought to defend human dignity and equality, and noted that second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda had advocated the ideal of global citizenship. Shin’ichi promised to put even greater energy into promoting exchanges between Japan and Africa, the “continent of the 21st century” advancing toward the victory of the people.
The representative from the African National Congress also delivered a message to Shin’ichi from ANC President Nelson Mandela, conveying his personal regards and his sincere prayers for Shin’ichi’s health.
When the time came for the members of the Association of the Heads of Mission and other visiting officials to leave, Shin’ichi saw them off at the entrance, shaking their hands and expressing his profound gratitude.
It is by opening paths of education, culture, and humanity that the true spirit of Nichiren Buddhism will come to pulse vibrantly throughout the world, and the humanism and commitment to peace that are its essence will surmount all barriers and bring people together. Working to make this a reality is the right course of action as Buddhists, and a goal befitting a movement of global citizens in the 21st century.
On that day, the curtain rose on a new age of victory for human rights. The heartfelt congratulations of the African diplomats were an expression of praise and high hopes for the future of the Soka Gakkai, which had boldly achieved its spiritual independence.
On the evening of November 30, the following day, leaders meetings were held across Japan with the theme “A Great Victory for the Soka Renaissance.”
Shin’ichi Yamamoto attended the one held at the Soka International Friendship Hall in Sendagaya, Tokyo, along with President Eisuke Akizuki and other top Soka Gakkai leaders.
Shin’ichi had composed a poem to commemorate this day marking a fresh start for the Soka Gakkai and dedicated it to the entire membership:
The hour of destiny
has arrived at last—
for the champions of Soka.
At the meeting, President Akizuki introduced the poem and explained that “champions of Soka” expressed the idea that all Soka Gakkai members were “champions of faith.” He then went on to discuss the true nature of Nikken and Nichiren Shoshu:
“Nichiren Shoshu, having committed countless acts of slander of the Law, has now degenerated into the ‘Nikken sect.’ It lacks any right or authority to excommunicate the Soka Gakkai. For his grave offenses, Nikken, the high priest, is sure to be harshly rebuked by the Daishonin. . .
“I declare that Nichiren Shoshu, because of its actions to disrupt the harmonious community of believers and obstruct the progress of kosen-rufu, has without doubt already been excommunicated by Nichiren Daishonin. . . .
“The priesthood’s excommunication of the Soka Gakkai is in essence no more than an unscrupulous attempt to turn Soka Gakkai members into temple parishioners. Its ambition to dismantle the Soka Gakkai remains unchanged. We must see these actions for what they truly are.”
He loudly proclaimed: “In terms of faith, too, we have severed their dark, insidious chains, and can now advance freely and powerfully toward worldwide kosen-rufu. Today, I wish to make a declaration of great victory for our Soka Renaissance, in which we have won our spiritual independence! What do you say?”
Cheers and thunderous applause filled the hall.
Akizuki then cited the following passage from the Daishonin’s writings: “Be resolved to summon forth the great power of faith, and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the prayer that your faith will be steadfast and correct at the moment of death. Never seek any other way to inherit the ultimate Law of life and death, and manifest it in your life. . . . Even embracing the Lotus Sutra would be useless without the heritage of faith” (WND-1, 218).
He emphasized: “Faith is the true heritage of the Law, and the benefit of the Gohonzon emerges without fail when all of the four powers are activated—when the powers of the Buddha and the Law are drawn forth by our powers of faith and practice. The ‘great power of faith’ is what produces immeasurable benefit. Let us demonstrate this for all to see.”
President Akizuki announced the establishment of a ceremonies division in each ward and prefecture throughout Japan to oversee funeral services and other ceremonies. He also reported that the petition drive being conducted in Japan and countries across the globe calling for the resignation of High Priest Nikken had to date collected 12,420,000 signatures. Akizuki said he would present Nichiren Shoshu with this petition expressing outrage at Nikken’s actions from people around the world.
The audience applauded loudly in approval. Everyone felt that a momentous turning point had arrived for worldwide kosen-rufu. All were excited and exhilarated to be playing a leading role on the grand stage of a historic and new religious reformation.
At last, it was time for Shin’ichi Yamamoto to speak.
He began with a little humor: “I heard that a special celebration was happening today, so I thought I’d come along and join in!”
The audience erupted in laughter and applause. The atmosphere of the meeting was cheerful, relaxed, and filled with joy and determination.
Referring to the fact that Nichiren Shoshu had sent the Soka Gakkai its Notice of Excommunication, dated November 28, Shin’ichi said: “November 28 is now a historic date. November is the month of the Soka Gakkai’s founding and, as you all know, the number 28 is significant as the number of chapters in the Lotus Sutra. Quite unexpectedly, yet very appropriately, this date—November 28—has become the day of our spiritual independence.”
This was met with another roaring wave of applause. Hearing the words “the day of our spiritual independence,” everyone felt limitless hope and envisioned a future of boundless possibilities.
Shin’ichi reaffirmed that the members of the Soka Gakkai, while striving with a selfless spirit, had succeeded in widely spreading the Mystic Law in exact accord with the Daishonin’s teachings, and he stressed: “No other organization has propagated the Mystic Law to this extent, sharing its greatness with people all around the world. And our real work still lies ahead.
“I am convinced, just as President Toda said, that the name of the Soka Gakkai is certain to be included in the Buddhist scriptures of future ages.”
The Soka Gakkai is carrying out the Buddha’s intent, and every one of its members working with tireless dedication for kosen-rufu is a Buddha.
People do not exist for the sake of religion; religion exists for people, to enable people to become happy. Confusing or reversing this essential relationship distorts everything. Noting that this was the fundamental error of Nichiren Shoshu, Shin’ichi voiced his hopes for the future: “The Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin is the Buddhism of the sun; it is a world religion illuminating all humanity. Viewed from every aspect, the Soka Gakkai’s development, as an organization whose members uphold this great philosophy, should also be global and universal. It mustn’t be held back within a narrow, closed, feudalistic framework.”
Nichiren Daishonin writes: “When the sun rises in the eastern sector of the sky, then all the skies over the great continent of Jambudvipa in the south will be illuminated” (WND-1, 169). “The great continent of Jambudvipa in the south” here means the entire world. The sun of Nichiren Buddhism has the power to dispel the dark clouds of all suffering and misery and illuminate the entire world with the light of happiness.
Drawing on remarks made by various scholars, thinkers, and commentators regarding the issues the Soka Gakkai was facing with Nichiren Shoshu, Shin’ichi outlined the requisite qualities of a world religion:
- Administration conducted in an open, democratic fashion.
- Adherence to the fundamentals of faith while allowing free speech.
- Egalitarianism that promotes mutual respect and the participation of all believers.
- Emphasis on faith rather than ritual.
- Leadership that is open to all members, based on ability rather than birthright.
- Universal doctrines that are propagated using methods appropriate to the times.
He also shared President Toda’s guidance that the Soka Gakkai must remain directly connected to Nichiren Daishonin through the Gosho. Shin’ichi emphasized that the Soka Gakkai continued to exert itself steadfastly based on the Daishonin’s writings and in accord with the Daishonin’s intent, striving to fulfill the great vow for “kosen-rufu through the compassionate propagation of the Great Law.”1
He insisted that there was no need for anyone to act as an intermediary between us and the Daishonin, and that, in the context of the Soka Gakkai, the role of leaders was simply to help people forge their own direct connection with the Daishonin.
Presidents Makiguchi and Toda selflessly dedicated themselves to spreading the Mystic Law just as Nichiren Daishonin instructed, and set an example of how his disciples should strive in faith and practice. In the Soka Gakkai, the mentor-disciple relationship, our fellow members, and the organization all exist for teaching and learning the spirit of the Daishonin and correct Buddhist faith and practice based on his writings.
Shin’ichi Yamamoto reaffirmed the Soka Gakkai’s mission to carry the movement for kosen-rufu forward into the future and throughout the world.
“In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, the Daishonin says: ‘Now when Nichiren chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, he is enabling all living beings to attain Buddhahood in the ten thousand years of the Latter Day of the Law’ (OTT, 41). With the firm belief that anyone who strives as the Daishonin teaches can attain Buddhahood, let us set forth on a magnificent, hope-filled new start, aiming toward the future, ten thousand years hence.
“Nikko Shonin [the Daishonin’s direct disciple and successor] also writes: ‘The sacred scriptures of this country [Japan] should be translated from Japanese into Chinese and Sanskrit when the time for widespread propagation arrives’ (GZ, 1613).2 This means that, just as the words of Shakyamuni in India were translated into Chinese, Japanese, and other languages in former ages, the noble words of the Daishonin should be transmitted to India, China, and other countries at the time of kosen-rufu by translating the Gosho from Japanese into those different languages.
“It is the Soka Gakkai alone that is correctly translating the Gosho and sharing it with people throughout the world in perfect accord with these instructions. The Soka Gakkai will continue to advance based on the Daishonin’s writings, in the spirit articulated by Nikko Shonin. I am sure that both Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin would be delighted by this and praise us for our efforts.”
Shin’ichi then referred to one of the articles from the “Twenty-six Admonitions of Nikko,” which states: “Do not follow even the high priest if he goes against the correct teaching of Buddhism and propounds his own views” (GZ, 1618). This is a stern warning against following any arbitrary doctrines that contradict the Buddhist teachings, even if those doctrines are advocated by the current high priest.
Shin’ichi stressed the importance of remaining directly connected to the Daishonin, as Nikko Shonin’s admonition urges, and continuing to work energetically for worldwide kosen-rufu. In closing, he called out: “I hope that all of you will forge ahead with unrivaled good cheer and courage to build an unrivaled Soka Gakkai. Let us celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding in the year 2000 with resounding victory!”
Applause rocked the room as members expressed their determination to do just that.
The Soka Gakkai had made a buoyant fresh start toward the new century, toward the goal of becoming a truly global religious organization, and toward an age of humanism.
Members throughout Japan and around the world rose up vigorously as champions of the Soka Renaissance.
They began a fresh journey for worldwide kosen-rufu, with these words of the Daishonin ever in mind: “If Nichiren’s compassion is truly great and encompassing, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will spread for ten thousand years and more, for all eternity” (WND-1, 736).
They vowed to one another to never stray from the correct path of faith and practice they learned from the Soka Gakkai, to advance forever with the Soka Gakkai and lead happy lives, and to make sure that none of their fellow members were led astray by negative influences that might cause them to have eternal regrets. Solidifying their unity in this way, they set forth with optimism and confidence toward the 21st century, toward a century of life.
On December 27, 1991, roughly a month after Nichiren Shoshu had sent the Notice of Excommunication, the Soka Gakkai submitted to Nikken the petition calling for his resignation as high priest, which had been signed by more than 16 million people around the world. This indisputable fact will be forever engraved in the annals of kosen-rufu.
That same December, a number of local Soka Gakkai organizations held culture and music festivals, including Edogawa, Katsushika, and Adachi wards in Tokyo, and Kawasaki in Kanagawa Prefecture. In addition, the Fuji Fife and Drum Corps, the Fuji Student Light Music Orchestra, and the Fuji Student Chorus held many performances. A song titled “The Joyous Triumph of Soka”—the lyrics set to the tune of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”—was sung proudly at many of these events.
Shin’ichi Yamamoto attended whenever his schedule allowed, not only to view the performances but to encourage everyone present.
The members’ vibrant singing rang out as a fanfare of hope heralding the dawn of 1992, the Year of the Soka Renaissance.
The past year, 1991, had been truly tumultuous, but it was the year the Soka Gakkai gained its spiritual independence and underwent an important rebirth—the year that propelled it powerfully forward on the path to becoming a global religious movement.
Now, the great bastion of Soka, dedicated to creating peace and happiness for all humanity, stood magnificently. Just as the age of worldwide kosen-rufu was arriving, Nichiren Shoshu—embodying the Lotus Sutra passage “evil demons will take possession” (LSOC13, 233)—revealed its true devilish nature and cut itself off from the Soka Gakkai. A wondrous time had come. It was all in complete accord with the Buddha’s intent.
The bell of the Soka Renaissance resounded far and wide.
On New Year’s Day 1992, Shin’ichi Yamamoto did gongyo with representatives from various divisions at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters Annex, and began his efforts for that year by encouraging members.
At the New Year’s leaders meeting on January 5, he called on those present to make a fresh start, urging them to show warm concern for each member and warmly encourage them as the first step in guiding them in faith.
In 1992, many priests left Nichiren Shoshu. Some of them together sent a “Letter of Remonstration” to the school, denouncing the conduct of Nikken and the priesthood as betraying the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin.
In August of that year, Nichiren Shoshu specifically expelled Shin’ichi from its laity. They were determined to somehow drive a wedge between Soka mentor and disciples, but the members were no longer fazed by such actions.
Separated from the Soka Gakkai, Nichiren Shoshu saw the number of its followers plummet as it slid toward inevitable decline.
After excommunicating the Soka Gakkai, the priesthood stopped conferring Gohonzon on Soka Gakkai members. In response, Chief Priest Sendo Narita of Joen-ji temple in Tochigi Prefecture, who, along with his temple, had left Nichiren Shoshu, proposed that the Soka Gakkai use a Gohonzon transcribed by Nichikan Shonin [(1665–1726); the 26th high priest and restorer of the Daishonin’s teachings] in that temple’s possession as a basis to produce Gohonzon for conferral upon its members.
In September 1993, meetings of the Soka Gakkai’s Executive Council, Executive Advisory Council, Study Department Executive Conference, Prefecture Leaders Conference, and Executive Directors Council were convened to deliberate on the matter. As a result, it was decided that the Soka Gakkai would accept this offer and confer this Gohonzon on members throughout the world. It did so, in its capacity as the sole organization advancing kosen-rufu in accord with the Daishonin’s intent and as the harmonious community of practitioners carrying on the true heritage of faith.
In 1995, claiming, as a pretext, that the structure was not earthquake-proof, Nichiren Shoshu announced that it would demolish the Grand Reception Hall, and proceeded to do so. In June 1998, it went ahead and destroyed the Grand Main Temple (Sho-Hondo), the crystallization of the sincere donations of 8 million believers. One after another, Nikken set about destroying the buildings that were donated to the head temple through Shin’ichi’s initiative and which represented the achievements of his predecessor Nittatsu’s tenure as high priest.
At the end of January 1992, the Year of Soka Renaissance, Shin’ichi left Japan to visit neighboring countries in Asia.
With the Cold War over, now was the time to build bridges of peace throughout the world. Driven by this thought, he couldn’t let a moment go to waste.
While in Thailand, Shin’ichi Yamamoto had an audience with His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Chitralada Palace in Bangkok. It was four years since he last had that honor. Their conversation touched on culture, peace, and the arts. Praised as a man of culture, King Bhumibol was known for his scholarship and erudition, and his deep appreciation of the arts.
During his first audience in 1988, Shin’ichi proposed holding an exhibition of the king’s photographs. That proposal was realized in 1989, when the exhibition went on display at the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum. From there, it traveled to the United States and the United Kingdom, where it was received with great acclaim.
During this, his second audience, Shin’ichi proposed holding a concert featuring music composed by the king. This was realized the following year, in November 1993, at the Soka University Auditorium, as a special event commemorating the 30th anniversary of the first state visit to Japan by King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit.
During his third audience, in 1994, Shin’ichi proposed holding a special exhibition showcasing King Bhumibol’s paintings, which was later held in Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka (in 1996).
Throughout his stay in Thailand, Shin’ichi again devoted himself tirelessly to encouraging members.
The very heart of Nichiren Buddhism is found in the wish and action to encourage others. Its humanistic teachings shine brightly in the behavior of those who practice them.
The members of Soka Gakkai Thailand took pride in the friendship between King Bhumibol and Shin’ichi and strove to make positive contributions to society, steadily winning the trust of their fellow citizens. The organization went on to achieve great development as its members expanded their network of happiness throughout Thailand, the “land of smiles.”
On his next stop, in India, Shin’ichi met with Indian President Ramaswamy Venkataraman and Vice President Shankar Dayal Sharma, as well as other leading figures. Among them was Bishambhar Nath Pande, a direct disciple of Mahatma Gandhi and the vice chairperson of the Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti [a two-campus museum complex dedicated to the memory of the great Indian independence leader and champion of nonviolence]. And at the Gandhi museum’s invitation, Shin’ichi delivered a lecture titled “Toward a World without War―Gandhism and the Modern World.”
He also attended a culture festival held by members of Bharat (India) Soka Gakkai. Everyone had grown tremendously, and a multitude of able young people was developing splendidly. Members from Nepal, Shakyamuni’s birthplace, also gathered for the event, and Shin’ichi joined them and other members for group photos.
Shin’ichi sensed the arrival of a new dawn.