Major events in the history of SGI and Priesthood


              Division between Soka Kyoiku Gakkai and the priesthood surfaced because of the priesthood’s obedience to the authorities’ demands during the II World War to regard the Emperor as superior to the Buddha.


              After the war ended, the second president, Mr Toda was banned in 1952 from entering the Head Temple, because of Soka Gakkai’s youth demand of an apology from a priest who cooperated with the military authorities.

Toda wrote: "I thought I'd receive a reward for my loyalty in rebuking slander of the Law, but instead of praise, they handed me a reproof: ‘You're banned from visiting the head temple!' My disciples replied in unison, ‘Then we won't visit either, so there!'" 

Source: People are Sovereign


               The priesthood banned P. Ikeda from giving guidance, demanded his resignation from presidency, and demanded absolute obedience of SG organisation to the priesthood.   P.Ikeda turned that setback into a victory through focusing on world wide movement and strengthening SGI. 

Despite the pressure and harassment, lay believers never stopped assisting the Head Temple, donating land, buildings and branch temples: the Soka Gakkai built a total of 356 temples, of which 320 were built while I was president. Also, over the years, we conducted countless group pilgrimages to the head temple – the aggregate attendance coming to more than 70 million”.

Source: People are Sovereign


                 Many Soka members were uncomfortable with the arrogant conduct of some priests and with their expensive life style (using members donations to buy luxury cars etc...),  Ordinary members raised their complaints about local priests excessive demands for conducting spiritual services, such as at marriages or prayers for the deceased (and which required considerable donations).

Together with the monopoly on issuing Gohonzon, the priesthood refused to  consider lay believers as one of the Three Treasures (being: the Buddha, the Law and Samgha or the Community of Practitioners), asserting that the title of “Bodhisattva” - and also the Treasure of Community - as a property of the Priests-only, and that members are only “followers” of the priests.  Another matter of disagreement was the concept of Heritage of the Law, with the priesthood asserting that the heritage belongs only to one person (the High Priest), excluding laity.


                “Then, in December, as 1990 was rapidly drawing to a close, the priesthood suddenly sent the Soka Gakkai with a letter of inquiry. It contained a list of the most ridiculous charges – such as the accusation that singing Beethoven’s great hymn to universal human freedom, ‘Ode to Joy’, constitutes ‘praise for non-Buddhist teachings’.

Furthermore, the priesthood demanded a response to their charges within seven days”.   Source: People are Sovereign

SGI request for dialogue with the priesthood was rejected by the Head Temple - assuming that lay believers will leave SGI organisation and register in temples. Members, however, submitted a petition asking for the resignation of the High Priest. Finally, the SGI was excommunicated from the Head Temple (28 November 1991), a date recognised by SGI as the day of spiritual independence of ordinary people.

“We must ensure that the common people are eternally free from domination by evil tyrants. The people are the base upon which all things rest, the most important factor. A power that does not rely on authorities, that is unswayed by them, is to be found in the power of humanity, of unity and of democracy.

We must never allow this power to be diminished.

This is the profound significance of the Buddhism of human revolution,

which stimulates and nurtures this human power to the highest degree.”

Source: SGI Newsletter 5821, 5826 (Dec. 2003)  


               Several temples refused to follow the High Priest and disassociated themselves from the Head Temple - forming “The Association of Reformist Priests” giving their support to SGI. One of the basic issues between the Priesthood and the Association of Reformist Priests is the demand for the Head Temple’s apology for supporting the war and for altering Nichiren’s letters.


               The Priesthood completed destruction of its Head Temple, the Shohondo building, which was donated by the Soka Gakkai.


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