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Monday, August 31, 2015

Why the Nichiren Shu is in many ways worse than Soka Gakkai

Critics and Opponents of Shakubuku in the Modern Times Part. 1

Author unknown 

During the Tokugawa period attempts had already began within the Nichiren tradition to codify doctrine based on Nichiren's writings, independently of the strong Tendai influence that had pervaded its seminaries. Crucial to such reformulations was the question of what role shakubuku should play in the changing era.

A pivotal figure in this connection was the scholar Udana-in Nichiki (1800-1859), one of the pioneers of modern Nichiren sectarian studies. Nichiki argued forcefully for abandoning traditional shakubuku in favor of the milder shoju. Although influenced by the accommodative Nichiren scholarship of the Tokugawa period, Nichiki's position derived explicitly from Nichiren's admonition that the method of spreading the Lotus Sutra Should accord with the times. 

He was acutely aware of mounting anti-Buddhist sentiment, having studied the critiques of Tominaga Nakatomo (1715-1746) and Hirata Atsutane (1776-1849) (see Ketelaar 1990, pp. 19-36) and having personally witnessed the ruthless suppression of Buddhism in the Mito domain (Miyakawa 1977, p. 122). Nichiki saw clearly that Buddhism had long since lost its intellectual hegemony, and that the Nichiren sect from then on would have to coexist, not only with other, more influential, forms of Buddhism, but with Confucianism, Nativism, and various European intellectual traditions. 

In his Gukyo yogi [Essentials of disseminating the sutra], Nichiki argued that shakubuku was inappropriate in an age when changing one's sectarian affiliation was prohibited by law. Criticizing other sects was also apt to provoke anger, making people adhere all the more firmly to their original beliefs and preventing them from learning the True Way. An effective expedient in Nichiren's time, shakubuku was now an outmoded approach that could only provoke contempt from educated people (J g en 1975, vol. 3, p. 5). 

Elsewhere, Nichiki wrote that the shakubuku method was readily misused by those deficient in scholarship and patience, and that those attached to its form often lacked the compassion that represents its true intent. Moreover, their arrogant attacks on other sects could drive previously innocent people to commit the sin of slandering the Lotus Sutra (Shiku kakugen ben [Discussion of the four declarations], Jogen 1975, vol. 4, p. 918). 

In the Sho shaku shintai ron [The choice of shoju or shakubuku], Nichiki welded such arguments to a reinterpretation of traditional mappo thought. Shakubuku, he said, had been appropriate during the first five hundred years of mappo a period defined in the Ta-chi ching [Great collection of sutras] as the fifth of five five-hundred-year periods in the decline of the Dharma following the Buddha's parinirvana (T #397, 15.365b). Calculating from the year 1052, which premodern Japanese scholars generally identified as the start of mappo, Nichiki concluded that this fifth five-hundred-year period, during which Nichiren had lived and taught, had ended in the year 1551 (Jogen 1975, vol. 4, p. 332). 

Moreover, in Nichiren's time Japan had been a country that slandered the Buddha Dharma, and so shakubuku was appropriate; now it was a country evil by virtue of its ignorance of Buddhism, so sh ju was preferred. Nichiki listed several occasions after the supposed 1551 turning point when, in his opinion, blind attachment to shakubuku had needlessly brought down on the sect the wrath of the authorities (J g en 1975, vol. 4, p. 596). 

Nichiki even asserted that the Rissho ankoku ron, long regarded as the embodiment of Nichiren's shakubuku practice, no longer suited the times (K jutsu zatt [Answers to various questions in the year 1850], J g en 1975, vol. 4, p. 972). Miyakawa Ryotoku suggests that in rejecting the Rissho ankoku ron for its connection with shakubuku, Nichiki also rejected its premise that the tranquility of the nation depends on establishing the True Dharma (1977, p. 125). If so, this represents a far greater departure from Nichiren's teaching than the mere adoption of a different form of propagation. It is ironic that in striving to implement Nichiren's admonition that propagation of the Lotus Sutra should fit the times, Nichiki arrived at a concept of the religion considerably different from Nichiren's. 

Nichiki's work has raised difficult hermeneutic questions about which elements define the Nichiren tradition and the extent to which they can be altered without compromising its integrity. Such questions are especially troubling for those involved in the formulation of normative doctrinal interpretations. Studies of Nichiki by Nichiren sectarian scholars today show a certain ambivalence, combining a frank admiration for his innovative attempts to meet the challenges of the Bakumatsu period with serious reservations about the extent to which he reread the doctrine (cf. ASAI 1958 and ONO 1977). Few if any Nichiren communities today engage in confrontational debate-style shakubuku, but there remains a general unwillingness to erase it from the rhetoric of orthodoxy in the explicit manner Nichiki proposed. 

Nichiki's disciples were to play key roles in guiding the Nichiren sect through the turbulent years of the early Meiji period, when the promulgation of the Shinto-Buddhist Separation Edicts, aimed at disestablishing Buddhism and promoting a Shinto based state ideology, sparked the brief but violent wave of anti-Buddhist persecution known as haibutsu kishaku. Foremost among these disciples was Arai Nissatsu (1890-1888), who in 1874 became the first super intendent (kanch) of several allied branches within the Nichiren sect (the present Nichirenshu was officially incorporated under this name in 1876). 

Like many other Buddhist leaders during the persecution years, Nissatsu saw intersectarian cooperation as his sect's sole hope of survival, a view reflecting his teacher Nichiki's position on the inappropriacy of continued confrontation." Nissatsu devoted much of his career to such cooperation, often in the face of criticism from within his own sect. 

Nissatsu was active in the Shosh D toku Kaimei (Intersectarian Cooperative League), organized in 1868 in an attempt to counter the Meiji government's anti-Buddhist policies. Like thousands of other educated priests, both Shinto and Buddhist, Nissatsu was inducted into the Daiky nin (Great Teaching Academy), the administrative center of the Kyo bush (Ministry of Doctrine), as a doctrinal instructor charged with disseminating the Shinto derived "Great Teaching" that formed the new state orthodoxy. While there, he supported the efforts of the prominent Nishi Hongan-ji leader Shimaji Mokurai (1858-1911) to have the Great Teaching Academy dissolved in the name of freedom of religion. 

Nissatsu was also instrumental in launching intersectarian Buddhist social welfare projects on the Christian model, instituting a program of prison chaplaincy in 1879 and founding an orphanage in 1876. In 1877 he joined such noted Buddhist leaders as Shimaji, Shaku Unsho, Fukuda Gyokai , and Ouchi Seiran in forming the Waky kai (Society for Harmony and Respect) to promote intersectarian understanding. 

While still at the Great Teaching Academy, Nissatsu is said to have produced a curious, ecumenical rereading of Nichiren's "four declarations." As mentioned above, the four declarations are "Nenbutsu leads to Avici hell, Zen is a devil, Shingon will destroy the nation, and Ritsu is a traitor." By assigning alternative readings to the characters and rearranging the syntactical markers that govern the Japanese reading of the text, Nissatsu produced: "Because we contemplate the Buddha, ceaselessly devils are quieted; because our words are true, traitors who would destroy the nation are subdued" (Makinouchi 1937, pp. 6~67). 

This completely undercuts the critical intent of the original reading. That Nissatsu would so radically alter a statement long considered fundamental to the tradition suggests not only his commitment to Nichiki's non-confrontational shoju approach but also his recognition of the difficulties posed by traditional Lotus exclusivism at a time when Buddhist leaders of all denominations saw the need to unite for their very survival. 

The moderation adopted by Nichiki and his disciples differed somewhat from that seen in earlier Nichiren Buddhism in that it represented, not the complacency of established institutions, but an active, creative attempt to respond to changing times. Other Nichiren Buddhists, however, reacted in a quite different manner. One can point, for example, to a sudden rise of shakubuku activity on the part of many lay Nichiren Buddhists in the Bakumatsu period, often in defiance of bakufu authority. A certain Surugaya Shichihye, a second hand clothes dealer active through his lay association in the study of Nichiren's writings, was banished from Edo and had his shop confiscated for practicing shakubuku against other sects. Akahata Jingyo, the son of a pharmacist in Nihonbashi, was thrown in prison and poisoned for displaying a flag emblazoned with the four declarations and criticizing the bakufu policy prohibiting changes of sectarian affiliation (Ishmawa 1977, p. 79). 

The reasons underlying this upsurge of shakubuku in the Bakumatsu period may perhaps be found in the writings of the Nichiren scholar and lay believer Ogawa Taid (1814-1878), said to have been Akahata Jingyo's teacher. Ogawa's Shinbutsu hokoku ron [On having faith in Buddhism and repaying one's obligation to the country], written in 1863, compares the crises afflicting late Tokugawa Japan--crop failures, epidemics, earthquakes, internal unrest, and foreign interference--to the disasters that ravaged the country in Nichiren's day and that prompted his writing of the Rissho ankoku ron. Then as now, Ogawa declared, "The safety of the nation depends on the prosperity of the Buddha Dharma" (Ogawa 1991, pg. 132). 

Ogawa was highly critical of those who advocated shoju as the appropriate practice for the age. Since only the Lotus Sutra had the power to secure the peace of the nation, he argued, shakubuku was the essential way to repay one's debt to Japan. However, he went on, the contemporary situation differed from that in Nichiren's time in that there now existed a well-established Nichiren sect unfortunately marred by internal corruption. Thus shakubuku must now entail not only challenges to other sects but a rigorous internal purification. "The time has come when both the Dharma of the ruler and the Dharma of Buddhism must undergo reformation," Ogawa warned (1991, p. 158). For Ogawa, such reformation clearly did not include the early Meiji Buddhist transsectarianism. 

In an 1872 petition to O Taku, governor of Kanagawa Prefecture, Ogawa asserted that Nenbutsu, Shingon, Tendai, and other forms of Buddhism did not accord with the principles of "revering the kami and loving the nation"; he urged that they be abolished by the imperial court and that Nichiren's teaching alone be endorsed as the true Buddhism (Ogawa 1991, pp. 456~59).

By the second decade of Meiji, when Buddhist organizations were recovering from the anti-Budddhist policies of the immediate post-Restoration years, certain Nichiren clerics and lay leaders began to reassert the tradition's exclusive truth claim in a more forceful manner, bringing them into direct conflict with the new rhetoric of intersectarian unity. Attacks appeared in several Japanese Buddhist journals after two prominent Nichiren prelates wrote to John Barrows, chairman of the 1893 World's Parliament of Religions, urging that "illegitimate" forms of Buddhism should not be represented at the Parliament (KETELAAR 1990, p. 160). Another, possibly related, incident involved the editing of the Bukky kakush koyo [Essentials of the Buddhist sects] compiled by the Bukkyo Kakushu Kyokai (Buddhist Transsectarian Committee), to which each of the major Japanese Buddhist traditions had been asked to submit an essay outlining its essentials of doctrine. 

Honda Nissho (1867-1931), a prominent cleric of the Nichiren denomination Kempon Hokke Shu, had been asked to edit the section dealing with the Nichiren tradition. Two subsections of his manuscript--one on the "four declarations" and the other on "admonitions against slander of the Dharma"-were rejected by Shimaji Mokurai, chief of the editorial board, as obstructive to the aims of the Transsectarian Committee. The resulting disagreement not only delayed publication for some years but escalated into a major ideological controversy, in the course of which Nissho, filed suit in the Tokyo courts. Though ultimately unsuccessful in having the editorial decision reversed, Nissho gained a great deal of publicity and used the opportunity to revive support for shakubuku within the Nichiren sect (Isobe 1931, pp 75-103; Kettlaar 1990, p. 198).

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