Mack: So, perhaps I should hold my tongue on this, but perhaps not. I'm not, after all a Kempon Hokke member, but I would like to explain why that is, why I choose to comment here and now, and why I think Shamon (Rev. Tsuchiya) has a point in his criticisms.
I came to the Kempon Hokke after a disruptive event in my life looking to address the concerns I had always had about the doctrines SGI has inherited from Nichiren Shoshu. This conversion was not easy for me, and in my opinion there are two fundamental reasons for this.
First of all, this blog spends more time condemning SGI as hellbound heretics than it does expounding on the teachings of Nichiren and Shakyamuni. Mark, you claim that simply reading the texts gives one a straightforward understanding, but the reality is that 1) not everyone draws the same conclusions that you, personally draw from the texts. This is an issue of hermeneutics. What's more there are often times where you seem to contradict yourself within one or two blog posts (though I give the benefit of the doubt and assume you have simply not expressed yourself clearly,) thereby making the points you wish to make with the texts you cite all that much more difficult to accept. It seems, at times, as if you are simply honoring your own opinion, you own interpretations of the texts, as the ultimate truth.
Mark: I follow the guidelines in Establishing the Correct Teachings for the Peace of the Land and not your's or any other's [regarding SGI]. This blog is one man's preaching which you are free to accept or reject. That which accords with the teachings should be accepted and that which is contrary to the teachings should be rejected. The texts that have been authenticated do indeed reveal both a straightforward path and lead to a straightforward understanding. The difficulty lies in following the texts. It is more a soteriological issue [issue of salvation] than a hermeneutical issue [issue of interpretation]. Why would it matter that I contradict myself? Are you following the Law or the person? If you care about my salvation and I am making a serious error or committing a serious slander, then you should correct me but you had better have some clear passages of proof to back up your assertions. As far as getting it right, I have outlined the criteria:
The Nichiren Shoshu/SGI doctrine of Nichiren as True, Eternal, Original Buddha, is nothing more than "ornate rhetoric and meaningless talk". The moment Nichiren revealed the Three Great Secret Laws, nothing else remained hidden in the depths, either within the Lotus Sutra or the teachings of Nichiren. Faith or lack of faith in the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin is the issue.
Accurately following the teachings is different than originalism or seeking out what the Daishonin had in mind, the interpretation of others, or hearsay. Nichiren was a scriptural Buddhist. What Nichiren actually wrote is that which should be believed and embraced. It is not easy to cull what the Daishonin actually wrote because there are many forgeries in his name. But it is not impossible, as proven by the efforts of various scholars and scholar-priests. By utilizing their methods, we can come to know the truth of the teachings. One method is textual parsimony. What this means is that the writings are weighted. Those actually found in Nichiren's hand are weighted more heavily. Those considered more profound by the majority of priests and scholars, for example, the Five Major Works, are weighted more heavily. Those principles found in the majority of the authenticated works too, are weighted more heavily. The principles in the unauthenticated works are accepted or rejected in light of the Five Major Works and in light of the entire body of authenticated works. Utilizing this method, one can forge strong faith and therefore understanding [because Nichiren's teachings are fundamentally consistent and non-contradictory].
Mack: You also seem overly focused with making the point that SGI members are hellbound without making provision for their conversion.
Mark: This assertion is baseless. Shakubuku [the forceful practices] is the provision for their conversion.
Mack: This behavior is more characteristic of Abrahamic religions like Islam, Christianity, and Judaism than it is of Buddhism.
Mark: I am truly surprised at your statement. Read the Lotus Sutra [Chapters 3 and 20] and read Nichiren. He makes hundreds of references to hell. if you don't like all of Nichiren's teachings, if you accept only that which you like and reject the rest, you are no different than SGI and you are not a Nichiren Buddhist.
Mack: In focusing on Nichiren's writing that says that Mappo will have as few good friends as dirt under a fingernail when compared to the grains that comprise the world, you ignore Nichiren's larger goal of converting all of humanity to the teaching and transforming this whole Saha world into a Pure Land.
Mark: I try and focus on accuracy and quality so the teachings will long endure. SGI and others will destroy the teachings in no time. I think your view is both shortsighted and lacks historical perspective. We live in a relatively peaceful time. People, in general, are complacent and satisfied with the little they have, thinking it a lot. When the next hydrogen bomb explodes over or within a populous area, or when the coastal cities are swallowed up by the ocean, or when great winds and drought leave the land littered with corpses, millions will take up the faith as they did immediately after World War II. This time however, thanks to the efforts of those who really care about the faith, they will take up the correct faith that actually leads to Buddhahood and the Buddha's land.
Mack: Your stance makes Buddhism a practice for an exclusive elite rather than a mission for sowing the seeds of Buddhahood for all living beings.
Mark: I believe you only see what you want to see and hear what you want to hear:
"But for your person, as a householder, the essence is for you to chant 'Namu Myôhô renge kyô' with no other thought and also to make offering to the monks. And also, if it is according to the Sutra text, one should also 'expound it according to their strength', shouldn't one? When the world is sorrowful, though you think, 'Even the sufferings of the present life are painful, how much more the sufferings of the world to come,' chant 'Namu Myôhô renge kyô', and when it joyful also, think, 'The joy of the present life is a dream within a dream; it is the joy of the Pure Land of Spiritual Mountain (Ryôzen jôdo) that is the true joy' and with this chant 'Namu Myôhô renge kyô', and, practicing without backsliding, wait for the time approaching the very end and see! If you run and climb the Mountain of Sublime Enlightenment and take a good look at the four directions, how fantastic! The Realm of Dharmas is the Land of Tranquil Light with lapis lazuli as its earth and the eight ways bounded with ropes of gold, and from the heavens the four types of flowers rain down, in the void music is heard, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas caressed by the winds of Eternity, Bliss, Self and Purity, indeed rejoice and are happy. And is it nearing the time when we too shall be ranked in that number, disporting and playing and taking pleasure. When the mind of faith is weak, one cannot go to such an auspicious place; one cannot go!" (The ninth day of the twelfth month of the Second Year of Kenji (1276): KHS, p.581) -- Reply to Lord Matsuno
Mack: You seem to view martyrdom - actually a means to an end - as the highest calling in Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism. This is completely illogical, perhaps even fanatical. You seem to view extreme persecution and the suffering that comes along with it as an end to itself rather than a means to spread the teaching during extreme circumstances. I don't think getting ourselves killed for the Dharma is the highest calling of Buddhism, nor does anything that Nichiren or Shakyamuni have left us indicate to me that we should measure our spiritual progress exclusively by how much we are reviled and abused.
Mark: Actually, I follow the Lotus Sutra Chapter 13 in particular and Nichiren Daishonin on such matters:
Mack: The tradition describes votaries as being abused for standing up for the teaching against persecution, not individuals seeking out conflict. As far as I can tell, you seem to interpret the scriptures of our tradition as calling for the latter.
Mark: Nichiren wasn't seeking out conflict when he gave his first sermon on the evils of Nembutsu but he knew it was coming: "But once a person of forceful character has come forward to make this sutra passage known in a bold and uncompromising fashion, then grave matters are certain to occur." Likewise, I am not seeking conflict but fully expect that it will occur.