Kent: My first concern was spotting and eliminating sectarian bias, so I read three versions of the Lotus Sutra: one produced by the SGI (Burton, by far the coarsest and least scholarly), one by the Rissho Kosei-kai (my favorite) and the first english translation, by a Christian, (H. Kern, 1884). After reading and comparing these versions, I concluded that Nichiren's evaluation was correct, and that the theologies of other Chinese and Japanese schools are no longer appropriate for this time.
Mark: This paragraph makes little sense to me. Could you rephrase it?
Kent: The next issue was determining how to practice Nichiren's teachings correctly. However, there is considerable dispute about the actual content and practice of his teachings, dating back to his original 6 senior disciples. Now, Nichiren certainly knew his teachings best, and would therefore be in the best position to judge who among those 6 understood them correctly.
Mark: Only one of the six elder priests understood the teachings correctly? What Gosho is that from? I don't remember reading it any where except in a copy of a copy of a copy of a "Gosho" found at Taisekaji.
Kent: He probably would therefore have passed his teachings on to that person or persons.
Mark: No, to all who embrace and uphold the Sutra at the cost of their lives.
Kent: This led me to investigate the matter of the inheritance.
A. Matters regarding the inheritance.
Murano, Shu and KHK maintained that all six elder disciples inherited the teachings equally, but I had serious doubts about the veracity of this claim.
Mark: When you read the Gosho, you see that Nichiren's Buddhism has not one particular inheritor and the Succession is Through the Scrolls of the Sutra [and the authenticated writings of Nichiren]. Remember, Namu MYOHO RENGE KYO? Since all of these men embraced and upheld the Sutra to the best of their abilities, they were all true votaries and inheritors of the Law. The present day Kempon Hokke members too inherit the Law.
Kent: First, this view is contradicted by Nichiren's actual behavior regarding Kuonji Temple, as we shall see in a moment. In addition, Japan in the 13th century was a very hierarchical society. Appointing all 6 equally would have run contrary to secular custom of the time, contrary to common practice in all temples at the time, contrary to common practice in all other sects at the time,
Mark: That is correct but for different reasons than you espouse.. As your colleague Dave Cole has pointed out, both Shakyamuni and Nichiren were iconoclasts. Nichiren, as the True Votary of the Lotus Sutra, realized that the Lotus Sutra is so radically different and ahead of its time, that all people are equal by virtue of the Succession Through the Scrolls of the Sutra(and Nichiren's authenticated works).
Kent: and contrary to common sense.
Mark: Any succession outside the scrolls of the Lotus Sutra and writings of Nichiren Daishonin is contrary to common sense and contrary to the teachings: "Follow the Law and not the person."
Kent: If you want to corrupt an organization or ontology, appoint several "equal" leaders- the result will be chaos).
Mark: If you want to create a revolutionary organization based on the Law rather than the person, you identify everyone who chants the Daimoku as a Bodhisattva of the Earth and you identify The Master of Teachings Lord Shakya of the Original Doctrine as sole Teacher and Jogyo as sole leader.
Kent: I examined the following evidence:
1. The history of Kuonji Temple. This temple was built by Hajiri Sanenaga, the Lord of Minobu, for the Daishonin, and was completed in 1281. The Daishonin was it's first Chief Priest. In 1282, the Daishoinin passed away in Ikegami. According to Dictionary, Shu and Murano, Nikko Shonin did in fact succeed the Daishonin and become the 2nd Chief Priest of Kuonji.
Mark: Nichiren instructed that there be a rotating abbottship. Only Nikko was, at first, able to keep his promise due to geopraphical considerations and faith (I surmise).
Kent: He appointed Membu Ajari Niko as Chief Instructor of Priests in 1285. Nikko then departed in 1289, leaving various relics that were specifically willed to Sanenaga and Niko, and intentionally or unintentionally, some portion of Nichiren's ashes. Niko was then appointed by Sanenaga to become Chief Priest. This is a matter of historical record at Kuonji, and is not disputed by Shu, who inherited the temple and its records via Niko. As we can see, Nikko did in fact succeed Nichiren as the abbot of the chief temple of the denomination at that time, Kuonji.
Mark: But not by the decree of the Daishonin as you assert. By virtue of his close location to Kuonji and his strong sense of responsibility.
Kent: 2. The Gosho. Nikko Shonin's appointment as the head of the denomination is supported by other documents in the Daishonin's hand. In particular, the Hyakurokka Sho (One Hundred Six Articles) states "I have appointed Byakuren Ajari Nikko as the So-Kanzu, the general Chief Priest, and transfer the entirety and every detail of the true doctrine of Nichiren. The top senior priests down to every disciple must regard each of the successive High Priests transferred from Nikko to each in succession to be the So-kanzu, General Chief Priest, without any opposition as in this time for throughout the eternity in the future." (NS)
Mark: Both SGI Jim Celer and even your own Rev. Hori have refuted the authenticity of at least parts of this Gosho. What is it that Rev. Hori states? "There have been additions to the One Hundred and Six Articles." If there are additions (which to the other Nichiren sects is a given) the Gosho must either be partially in the hand of another or must be a copy. Therefore, what you stated has been proven to be false and you you had better reform the tenets in your heart.
Kent: The original is available for perusal at Taisekiji.
Mark: Could you please allow Rev. Kubota to peruse it? I can have it arranged.
Kent: 3. The behavior of the 5 elder disciples. Although they certainly objected to Nikko's interpretations, they never actually questioned the legitimacy of his inheritance.
Mark: Could you please provide some documentation for this assertion? Rev. Yasahara would be very interested in reading it.
Kent: Nichijo, a third level successor to Nichiro of the opposing Minobu School, was the first to question the succession.
Mark: Could you please provide some documentation for this assertion? Rev. Yasahara would be very interested in reading it.
Kent: But this did not occur until 1480, nearly 200 years after the fact. Furthermore, he was in the process of establishing a competing sect at the time this accusation was made.
Mark: The Kansho accords date from this time and there is no mention of this dispute. Are you sure you are not making it up?
Kent: 4. The transfer documents. I found that the existence of two transfer documents (Minobu Sojo and the Ikegami Sojo) is a matter of record in the Nichiren Shu Shugaku Zensho, although their contents are disputed.
Mark: Not only their contents but their authenticity is disputed. Why didn't the Nichiren Shu burn these records along with all the other Gosho as the Nichiren Shoshu (through a forged letter of Nikko) alleges? If it told of Nikkko's succession, surely the Shu would have it burned? Isn't it the evil Shu who burned those Gosho's pertaining to the DaiGohonzon yet who preserved Nichiren's Five Major Works? You have a lot to answer. We will be waiting.
Kent: I then looked to see if the contents were borne out by historical fact. I found that as per these documents, Nikko became abbot of Kuonji, assumed leadership of the sect at least to the point of vociferously criticizing and reprimanding the other 5, and acquired the land for the Precept Sanctuary at Fuji (which has yet to be constructed).
Mark: I criticize the other sects, does that make me the one you should all follow? Are some of my criticisms valid? Are some invalid? Are all Nikko's criticisms valid? Are all invalid? Isn't it human nature to criticize one's colleagues when one feels that they have been unfairly passed over for promotion? Nikko too wasn't perfect. That is why we follow the Law. How much more so in the case of Nikken or Ikeda?
Kent: 5. The document of October 8, 1282. The only translation of this document I have ever seen was abridged, so the context is missing and therefore open to conjecture. However, it reads more like a set of instructions than an inheritance document. Remembering that each of the 6 were engaged in propagation in separate areas at the time without formal appointment or temple abbotship (except Nikko), my opinion is that the Oct. 8 document was intended to formalize their appointments as his primary disciples. If anybody has a complete translation from an unbiased academic source, please forward a copy to me.
Mark: First, let me establish the general view of the 35 or so other Nichiren sects:
(From Daniel Montgomery)
"These sub-sects, cut off from the sacred Mount Minobu, from the principal temples in Kyoto, and from each other, were hard-pressed to establish their titles to orthodoxy. The distinctive feature of the Fuji school is its claim that the only true line of descent from Nichiren is via Nikko, the chosen heir. In 1488, two centuries after the death of Nichiren, Nikkyo, a priest at Taiseki-ji, claimed to have discovered two documents written by Nichiren, passing on full authority to Nikko alone (Murano, 'Sokagakkai'). The original documents have disappeared, but 'true copies' are preserved at Taiseki-ji. Other Nichiren bodies ignore them as forgeries.
"The first of these documents, called the 'Document for Entrusting the Dharma which Nichiren Propagated throughout His Life,' is said to have been written by Nichiren on Mount Minobu in September 1282, a month before his death. It reads, 'I transfer all my Buddhism to Byakuren Ajari Nikko. He should therefore be the great leader for the propagation of true Buddhism. When the sovereign establishes this religion, he should erect the Kaidan of Hommon-ji at the foot of Mount Fuji. All we have to do is await the time. This will be the Ordination Platform of the original Gate (Hommon no Kaidan).'
"Needless to say, this document played especially into the hands of the Hommon-ji party since that temple is specifically named, but it says nothing about Taiseki-ji. Since it was written in Chinese, the key phrase could also be interpreted as, 'At Hommon-ji of Mount Fuji the Kaidan ought to be established,' thus making it more specific yet. In any case, its propagation did nothing to settle the dispute between the two temples.
"The second document, called 'Document for Entrusting Mount Minobu,' is supposed to have been written by Nichiren on the day he died. It reads, 'I transfer the fifty-year teachings of Shakyamuni to Byakuren Ajari Nikko. He is to be the Chief Abbot of Kuon-ji on Mount Minobu. If anyone, clergy or layman, opposes this, he is no disciple of mine.'
"The two documents are contradictory. The second says that all authority is to go to Nikko, who is appointed High Priest of Kuon-ji, Mount Minobu, whereas the first says that the official High Sanctuary (Kaidan) is not Mount Minobu, but Hommon-ji at the foot of Mount Fuji. In any case these documents convinced few people, and Nichiren Shoshu, which published them, remained a minor sect right up to the end of World War II, when it had less than 3 per cent of the Nichiren faithful. Its sudden rise to prominence since then has been owing to other causes." (Fire in the Lotus pp.169-170)
Kent: The document of October 8, 1282. The only translation of this document I have ever seen was abridged, so the context is missing and therefore open to conjecture.
Mark: If it (the second Transfer document) were in Nichiren's hand and universally accepted, it would not be open to conjecture. As long as it is open to conjecture (for you and I at least), we must defer to the evidence. The evidence is that these so clled "Transfer Documents are no more than the fabricatiion of the Taiskeaji sect who despite having these so-called Transfer Documents, remained a backwater temple until the SGI came along. The Taisekaji evidence must not have been very convincing even to the contemporaries of Nikkyo. Why should we believe in them today?
Kent: 6. The funeral procession. A description exists in Nikko's hand, validated by the other 5. Nikko assumes the most important position, that of personal attendant to Nichiren's coffin.
Mark: Not in my copy of Nikko's Record of the Funeral Cortege.
Kent: My conclusion was that Nikko was in fact Nichiren's designated successor as the leader of the denomination. However, there is also the possibility that the other 5 senior disciples also correctly understood Nichiren's teachings.
Mark: That is why even our conclusions are not to be trusted and why we must have faith in the Lotus Sutra, the "opinion" of the Buddha.
Kent: Therefore, the next order of business was to determine whether or not any of the remaining 5 was correct.
Mark: I will let you answer my rebuttal first and then we can move on to your other assertions, if that is ok with you?
Kent: There was one exception: you asked for documentation re the 5 elders questioning the legitimacy of Nikko's inheritance- I have looked high and low, and have not found any documents where the 5 elders disputed same.
Mark: Actually, of course, you will not find any such document. They did not question Nikko's "sole" inheritence because there never was a sole inheritence.
Kent: One would think that if such documentation existed, the descendants of those 5 would surely be waving them in our faces.
Mark: Why isn't Taisekaji waving Nikko's authenticated writings in our faces where he suppots what is written in the so called 106 Articles? all Nikko, stated, was, "I think", reguarding his assertion of a more perfect understanding of the teachings. This letter would have been an opportune time for Nikko to have restated what was said in the 106 Articles, and the two transfer documents. We know why he did not mention them. Because they didn't exist!!! We know that the successive High Priests of Taisekaji are not stingy quoting from these so-called Gosho. Why was Nikko who, supposedly received these teachings directly, stingy in quoting them? Taisekaji is a castle built on sand and quicksand, I might add. That is why you and your comrades are sinking ever deeper into error.
Kent: Beyond that, I found little worth constructive remark. For example, you state that "Nichiren instructed that there be a rotating abbotship"- well, this is an opinion shared by Shu and KHK but is unsupported by any documentation.
Mark: Perhaps I can supply some documentation, however, at this time, by Oct. 8th 1282, Nichiren, on his death bed at Ikegami, he had become too weak to write anything let alone the so-called Transfer Documents. Therefore, I believe, whatever accounts there are, are from the Six Senior Disciples and these accounts indicate that he designated the Rokurosa (Six Senior Disciples) on this day. What I do know is that there is a document signed by Nikko in which there is a schedule of attendence for the overseeing of Kuonji temple at minobu which reads:
"January, Nissho; February; Nichiro; March, Echizenko:..........September, Nikko" and so on.
Kent: And it is clearly in opposition with historical fact.
Mark: What fact might that be? That there were Six Senior Disciples? Evn Taisekaji doesn't dispute this fact. Nevertheless, whether their were in fact six senior disciples or only one, this fact could never supercede the teachings of the Lotus Sutra or Nichiren's lifetimes teachings on the succession through the scrolls of the Lotus Sutra; the saving power of the Daimoku, and following the Law rather than the person.
Kent: Another example is where you state "Any succession outside of the scrolls of the Lotus Sutra is contrary to common sense and contrary to the teachings" and then quote the Lotus Sutra out of contrext.
Mark: Can you quote the Lotus Sutra in or out of context where it indicates the inheritance of the Law through a sole successor (save for Jogyo Bosatsu). The Lotus Sutra and the writings of Nichiren are very clear that Shijo Kingo, Nikko, Nanjo Tokimitsu, Toki Jonin, Nichiro, Soya Nyudo Nichiju, Lady Nichinyo Rev. Kubota, and Bonnie Bennett, for example, are all Bodhisattvas of the Earth.
Kent: In other cases, you present interpretations of teachings as actual teachings, and in several instances, you present interpretations of history as actual history.
Mark: At least I am not going against the admonitions of Nikko that those who forge documents are parasites and by inference, those who use these forged documents to change the teachings.
Kent: And then with regard to your remark about the October 8, 1282 document: you have used this document to refute the legitimacy of the transfer to Nikko, and yet you have never seen a complete translation of it, and are therefore unsure of its context?
Mark: Daniel Montgomery's passages above quote several passages. Anyway, I don't make it a habit to study the disputed texts when there are so many authenticated texts in which to learn the teachings.
Kent: Mark, forgive me, but this leads me to the conclusion that you are considerably more interested in supporting your ontology than in getting at the truth.
Mark: Since the ontology I embrace is the Lotus Sutra and Shakyamuni Buddha, there is no doubt as to its truth. You are right, it is my life's work to support my ontology, to the best of my ability. I am sorry that you are not as convinced about your ontology that you entertain doubts about it.. Might that be because you do not embrace the Lotus Sutra and you abandon Shakyamuni Buddha?
Kent: And I have no interest in and will not engage in idle "debate". If I am wrong, and you sincerely want to pursue these matters, fine. As a start, I suggest that you visit the websites of KHK, Shu, Tendai and Butsu. I don't mean to sound arrogant, but so far, you have given me nothing of substance to even discuss. best regards,
Mark: I suggest you reread the Lotus Sutra and the Kaimoku Sho. Then perhaps we can discuss the Identity of the Original Eternal Buddha.