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Relationship with Nichiren Shoshu

As the Soka Gakkai gained momentum thanks to the progress of the propagation drive under Todaʼs leadership, the organization put even greater emphasis on supporting the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood.

An event commemorating the 700th anniversary of the establishment of Nichiren Buddhism, 1952

During the war, under the influence of the Japanese governmentʼs prevailing militarist ideology, the priesthood had agreed to accept the talisman that was used to promote national Shintoism and the militaryʼs conduct of the war, although this contravened Nichirenʼs injunctions against denigrating the core principles of Buddhism. The priests distanced themselves from Makiguchi and Toda, who, from the standpoint of upholding the correct teaching and defending the freedom of religion, stood firm against accepting the talisman. Afraid of drawing the ire of the authorities, the priests prohibited Soka Kyoiku Gakkai members from making pilgrimages to the head temple. In contrast, many leaders of Soka Kyoiku Gakkai were imprisoned and President Makiguchi died in prison.

However, after being released from prison, Toda chose not to denounce the cowardice of the priesthood, which had betrayed the members and contributed to Makiguchiʼs death in prison. He was pained by the degraded condition of the priesthood, which had lost sight of its true priorities. It was his strong desire for the priesthood to overcome their corruption and decay, and he encouraged them to propagate Nichirenʼs spirit in unity with the members of the Soka Gakkai. Hence, he endeavored to rebuild the head temple, and placed greater priority on contributing temples than construction of Soka Gakkai facilities. To establish a financial foundation for the priesthood, he organized regular pilgrimages to the head temple for members.

Toda speaking on the 700th anniversary of
the establishment of Nichiren Buddhism, 1952

In August 1952, when the Religious Corporation Law came into effect, the Soka Gakkai was registered as a religious corporate body. It was Todaʼs belief that by taking the position of an independent corporate body of lay people, they would be in a freer position to propel kosen-rufu than before, and could support the priesthood more effectively.

However, in reality, the majority of priests thought that they had sole authority for teaching Nichiren Buddhism. They subscribed to the feudalistic and authoritarian notion that it was the function of the priests to preach and that of the lay believers to merely listen. There were even voices within the priesthood criticizing Toda for lecturing on the Lotus Sutra, which some described as an unforgivable act of impertinence.

Toda was well aware of the priesthoodʼs attitude, and repeatedly criticized those priests who abused their authority and looked down upon the sincere lay believers:

“Those priests who hide behind the Daishoninʼs robes and long to be respected, though they are not worthy of it, are nothing more than cunning foxes.”

Toda had a true insight into the real nature of the priesthood, which had discarded the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai and caused his mentor, Makiguchi, to die in prison during the war. Years later, despite the fact that they had been wholeheartedly supported and protected by the Soka Gakkai, the priesthood once again became corrupt. This eventually resulted in the Soka Gakkaiʼs decisive separation from the priesthood in 1991.


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