THE PRIESTHOOD

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The Soka Gakkai, since its inception, has created a proud history. Makiguchi gave his life, the ultimate sacrifice, to protect the Daishonin's teachings. At that time the priests acquiesced to authority out of their cowardice. How despicable!

But with Nikken, the outrage grew worse. The priests were openly amassing money, spending the members' hard-earned contributions on themselves, and amassing their own fortunes. The reports came in continually about these priests, year after year. President Ikeda did all he could to keep the unity between the priesthood and the members in Soka Gakkai. In the late 70s, Mr. Hojo wrote a scathing letter about the priesthood's despicable behavior. This incensed Nikken and gave him the opportunity to take it out on President Ikeda. Even though Hojo was right, Sensei, still trying desperately to protect unity, reprimanded Hojo. In this way, he hoped to protect the members. But this didn't work. Now this despicable priest wants President Ikeda to apologize for acts he didn't even commit to satisfy his own appetite for authority.

At the time of the trouble in the 70s, some of his top leaders approached President Ikeda asking him to sign an apology to the priesthood even though he was innocent because they felt it would ease the tensions. President Ikeda said I will do so for the members' sake but I will never forget you forced me to do it. At that moment it must have occurred to him, being a man of justice, that even though he was willing to sacrifice his own integrity to prevent disunity and protect the members it would only promote more disunity.

You can never really work together or protect those who are habitually entrenched in lies or act in an unscrupulous manner be it Nikken or anyone else. You can only put yourself in harms way out of necessity to protect the people only for so long. But such a unity can only result in the blackmail of the people themselves. 

As President Ikeda recalls:

"A few days prior to May 3, 1979, I resigned and became Honorary President of the Soka Gakkai. Behind this were the schemes of a group of conspirators.

The Soka Gakkai Headquarters General Meeting on May 3 that year was held at the Soka University gymnasium, taking place amidst a firestorm of insult and defamation that can only be described as pure madness. The top leaders of the Soka Gakkai could not conceal their uncertainty and anxiety. They were hesitant and restrained in their applause for me -- out of fear of incurring the displeasure of the priests present. It was a sad sight indeed, no, it was pitiful.

When I left the gymnasium after the meeting and made my way along a pathway outside to another building, a group of Women's division members called out to me. There were tears in their eyes.

"Thank you" I said, "I hope you are all well." I waved vigorously to them with all my might. Now who will protect members such as these good people?

I did not return to the Soka Gakkai Headquarters after the meeting. I decided that I would begin a new struggle from the Yokahama facility. On May 5th, picturing my mentor's face, I wrote down my pledge as a piece of calligraphy. I wrote the single word "Justice". In the margin next to it I wrote "I will carry the banner of justice alone."

I knew that my real struggle was only beginning. Whatever circumstances I found myself in I would fight resolutely, even if I was alone.

My vow that day to take the lead in opening the second chapter of the Kosen-rufu movement - to draw the sword of the Law, the jeweled sword of faith and with it cut through all adversity and triumph over evil without fail - was the deepest of commitments."

The proof of Sensei's commitment to justice came again, when all through the 80s, the behavior from the priests intensified in arrogance. The SGI was spreading throughout the world and Nikken thought Sensei was getting too much power and at the same time the reports of his priests' wrongdoing were becoming too numerous. He decided to get rid of President Ikeda.

But this time something had changed. Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism was now a world religion thanks to the SGI. We now had high visibility. Most people generally accept the fact that priests are religious authorities and therefore highly respected. What would the world think of the True Buddha's teachings if they observed the priests behaving in this manner? This is just common sense. They would slander the teachings.

This time President Ikeda would not accept this despicable behavior of Nikken and the Priesthood for any reason. He was now setting an example for us. The main focus is on the individual's integrity. It is never to be sacrificed to protect people of unethical and evil behavior to maintain unity. President Ikeda tried to help and protect these people through everything for this reason, but it didn't work.

It is here that Sensei teaches us our most valuable lesson. That each of us must have the courage to stand alone when confronted with lies or deceptions no matter what area we find ourselves in, even if we are threatened with being ostracized by our own peer group. He is telling us to follow his example. He is compelling us to be the type of people who could stand alone in society, even in our own organization if there are unjust actions.

Unfortunately, when people stand up to injustice and say they are following Sensei's example, they are castigated and told they are being arrogant. How could they possibly compare themselves to Sensei, they are asked. We know we are not fighting on the same scale as Sensei, yet it is not arrogant to recognize the dignity of your own struggle, your own fight.

People who will stand up on their own are exactly the type of people we have to cultivate. Statements suggesting people are arrogant when they merely have dignity, discourage and prohibit them from displaying their true potential. The point is that Sensei wants us to cultivate people with such character and make these people the majority in our organization, not the minority.

A leader mentioned recently that justice is a part of our practice. This is inaccurate. Justice is not a part of our practice, our practice is entirely about justice. This is Mappo, where the emphasis on integrity and character has come to a halt, gaining low priority. Cunning, status and cleverness have become fashionable. It is obvious that in this era we as Buddhists must put the highest priority on traits such as character and integrity.

The other great lesson that the Kansai members have taught us is that the fundamental basis of humanism is loyalty to the integrity of the individual. No organization, no matter how great its banner, can survive if the people are taught to turn their back on their friend. Slogans about unity and references to "karma" are all too ubiquitous at present, while the victim is blamed.

The priests told the SGI members that it was just a "feud between President Ikeda and Nikken, between father and son". Nikken said it was none of the members' business. President Ikeda would have to go through the "correct channels". Nikken's power was absolute. There was no recourse for President Ikeda. All the charges, lies, deceptions against President Ikeda could not be challenged. There was no due process. The priests were the accusers and the judge. If the members dared to challenge the priests or look into things, they were treated as though they were breaking unity. How dare they question the authority of the High Priest? Now the very teachings that were supposed to liberate the members were used to chain them and shut them up. Obedience and allegiance were demanded at all costs.

But something amazing happened to the members! They made it their business. They would not allow Nikken to sweep President Ikeda under the rug of oblivion.

This triggered an action that revealed their true identity. They made it their business to investigate this injustice. They became strong and embraced the real practice of True Buddhism. Thus they became distasteful to those whose authority and powers are rooted in a weak and dependent people.

Those that tell the people that the unjust actions of those around them is not their concern and say it will be taken care of or say they must keep it quiet are usually the very ones who are sweeping injustice under the rug and preventing the people from righting what is wrong.

The people need to know if there is evil doing in their organization so that they can protect themselves and the organization. They must know what is going on and be courageous enough to unmask self-serving authority. They must look into matters and investigate for themselves no matter what priests , leaders or authorities might say.

Nikken causes his own demise by abusing the members he is pledged to serve and protect. It is the same with any organization where the self-serving attitude of the leaders goes unchecked by those they are supposed to be serving and representing.

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