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The Shōshinkai (正信会: "correct faith association") is a Japanese Buddhist group formed in July 1980 by over 200 Nichiren Shoshu priests and their followers who were critical of the Soka Gakkai. For several years during the 1970s, the Soka Gakkai undertook a number of activities and propagated several notions that many in the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood and laity saw as gradually increasing deviations from traditional Nichiren Shoshu doctrine. As these incompatibilities grew, more and more Soka Gakkai members began to quit the lay organization and associate themselves directly with local temples, and many priests began to openly encourage them to do so. Eventually sentiment within the priesthood and traditional lay organizations grew so strong that a split became imminent, and, at a special leaders meeting held at Nichiren Shoshu Head Temple Taiseki-ji on November 7, 1978, Soka Gakkai's leadership apologized to the priesthood and promised to correct the incompatibilities and never deviate from Nichiren Shoshu doctrine again. On April 24, 1979, Soka Gakkai's President Daisaku Ikeda stepped down to take responsibility for the incident. At the 40th General Meeting of the Soka Gakkai on May 3, 1979, the contemporary high priest, 66th High Priest Nittatsu Hosoi, declared his decision to accept the organization's apology and forgive the matter on condition that Soka Gakkai observe its promise to uphold Nichiren Shoshu doctrine. Separately, he instructed priests to stop open criticism of Soka Gakkai and to cease encouraging Soka Gakkai members to affiliate themselves directly with the temples.
On July 22, 1979, High Priest Nittatsu died and was succeeded by 67th High Priest Nikken Abe. High Priest Nikken made clear that he intended to carry on with his predecessor's policy of giving Soka Gakkai a chance to redeem itself. But the priests who later formed the Shoshinkai disagreed, claiming Soka Gakkai had only taken its deviations underground. They continued their campaign of criticism and formed Shoshinkai to organize their efforts into a movement. Despite repeated admonitions from the Nichiren Shoshu leadership to cease and desist, Shoshinkai went ahead with a major rally on August 24, 1980. For this defiance, the Nichiren Shoshu leadership punished a number of priests for their involvement, including five excommunications.
In retaliation, the priests of the Shoshinkai on December 13, 1980, sent a document to High Priest Nikken casting doubt on the legitimacy of his assumption of post. They then filed suit with a local court on January 21, 1981, demanding that the court annul High Priest Nikken's status on the ground that he had not been named successor by High Priest Nittatsu.
Because negation of the high priest's position and role is considered in Nichiren Shoshu an act of heresy and a manifestation of loss of faith, the Nichiren Shoshu leadership demanded that the Shoshinkai priests retract their assertion or face excommunication, and began excommunicating priests who refused. In the end, High Priest Nikken excommunicated over 200 priests. Many of these priests also sued for reinstatement, but the courts rejected all claims (including the petition for annulment of High Priest Nikken's status) as internal matters to be resolved internally.
Though Shoshinkai continues its anti-Soka Gakkai and anti-High Priest Nikken activities, even accepting new acolytes into the priesthood and conferring initiation ceremonies for new believers, it has lost momentum over the past decade. Most Shoshinkai priests continued living in their Nichiren Shoshu temples, but many of these have reverted to Nichiren Shoshu as their occupants have died or been ordered by the courts to vacate. Several Shoshinkai priests have also reverted to Nichiren Shoshu, and a number of men who joined the priesthood through Shoshinkai have converted to Nichiren Shoshu as well.
On the other hand, several Shoshinkai priests have initiated ties with other Nichiren schools, particularly the Nichiren Shu headquartered at Kuon-ji on Mt. Minobu—a usual direction for a Nichiren Shoshu offshoot. Shoshikai has also opened a research center called Kofu Danjo (興風談所) that has spawned some interest-gathering books that have attracted attention from other Nichiren-Buddhist organizations for their scholarly content.
Most recently, a number of Shoshinkai priests have admitted to knowing that High Priest Nittatsu had, in fact, passed the Heritage of the Law to High Priest Nikken; i.e., that High Priest Nikken's status is legitimate.
Sources and references
- Japanese Wikipedia article on Shoshikai
- Shoshū Hashaku Guide (Jp: 諸宗破折ガイド: Guide to refuting [erroneous teachings of] other schools). Taiseki-ji, 2003 (no ISBN); pp. 178–79.