NST Priest: SGI Members Caused Katrina and Tsunami
NST priest Jisei Nagasaka claimed on September 4th, 2004 that SGI members are responsible for both Hurricane Katrina and the recent tsunami in India. In so doing JN must think he can invoke Nichiren Daishonin’s great treatise of 1260, the Rissho Ankoku Ron (Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land). Nichiren’s teachings are said to both begin and end with the Rissho Ankoku Ron. As will be demonstrated in this essay, JN’s interpretation reveals a frightening blindness to the underlying meaning of this writing and an ignorance of both the intent and spirit of Nichiren. By extension, his interpretation tramples on humanity as well, something most disgraceful for a priest who has allegedly sworn to protect and expound the humanity of Nichiren’s teachings.
In the Rissho Ankoku Ron Nichiren probes the underlying causes of natural and man-made disasters and concludes that the disordered spirit of the people invites calamities. According to Nichiren, establishing the peace of the land necessitates the grounding of human actions on the life-affirming principles of the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren demonstrates through this writing that the courage of human self-development and dialogue are the two keys to liberating the human spirit from dysfunction and hence securing the peace of the land.
In an act of supreme courage, Nichiren submitted the work to Hojo Tokiyori, the center of political power in Japan. It must be noted how, in contrast, JN hides from public accountability for the remarks he makes. Instead he issues irresponsible, hit-and-run, slash-and-burn statements behind closed doors but has consistently avoided engaging in public discourse. For example, as will be mentioned below, JN refused to accept either mailed or hand-delivered invitations from the SGI New York Youth Division to engage in a discussion about his September 4th statements. This reduces whatever comments he makes to heartless, cowardly, and offensive “farts in the wind.”
Yet courage is the very essence of Nichiren’s Buddhism. The Gohonzon is the fusion of Person and Law. It is therefore impossible to understand Buddhism without grasping the spirit of Nichiren. Nichiren first chanted Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo in 1253. By 1256 Japan was stricken by waves of natural disasters. Displaying his courage, Nichiren internalized the pain of the people of Japan and determined that he would single-handedly right the situation and relieve their suffering. In slinking away from public accountability JN denudes Nichiren’s Buddhism of its heartbeat—courage—and replaces it with its antithesis—cowardice. This destroys the vital essence of Buddhism and leaves only empty trappings such as ritualistic formalities.
In the Rissho Ankoku Ron Nichiren identifies the path to courage in the statement, “Therefore you must reform the tenets of your heart.” Needless to say, Nichiren fully lived what he preached; Nichiren challenged is own heart first before asking others to take action. To illustrate, he isolated himself for two years at Jissoji Temple in order to conduct research to confirm his inner hunches about the cause of natural and human-made disasters. Driven by a powerful sense of compassion to relieve the suffering of the people, he racked his brains to create a document that was so powerful that it could change the course of history. For these two years, during a time of great famine and disease, he lived communally in the temple, engaging in every pursuit shared by priests—most of whom practiced the very sects he was refuting. What a contrast to JN who retreated, shutting up like a clam, when he was approached by the SGI Youth Division members. He should have been fearless if he were a courageous practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism.
During these two years at Jissoji Nichiren met and forged a life-to-life bond with Nikko. It must have been Nichiren’s courageous humanity that struck Nikko. He must have seen the Daishonin as a man with the spirit of a lion who was trying to defang a beast with his bare hands. Because Nikko himself was an earnest young person of tremendous character he could discern the greatness of Nichiren. Yes, they talked about the great truths of Buddhism buts they also must have laughed, sang, cried when colleagues died during the pestilence (records indicate that about half of the population died during this time), and probably drank sake together as well. No less dramatic was the human encounter many years later on Sado between Nichiren and Abutsubo who came to Nichiren’s hut with the intent of killing him. Instead, the courageous brilliance of Nichiren’s humanity stopped Abutsubo dead in his tracks, opened his heart, and launched an eternal example of the mentor-disciple relationship. In contrast to this rich humanity is JN’s cold detachment, refusing to even to sign for the receipt of a registered letter from the New York SGI Youth Division.
Nichiren’s intellect was complex and multidimensional as well as courageous. On the one hand he strictly spoke the truth, yet on the other hand he was able to work within well-respected intellectual circles of his time. If he were just a doom-and-gloom-street-corner-prophet how could he have won the cooperation of the noted scholar Yadoya Nyudo who agreed to present the treatise to Tokiyori? Nichiren’s intellect contrasts greatly with JN whose posted sermons do not encourage his members to read widely or to return to school. In fact they do not extend much beyond NST-sanctioned talk: the conclusions of his one-track, one-speed-only messages pretty much always lead to “follow Nikken” and “follow priests.”
Next come the issues of intellectual honesty and responsibility. Whereas Nichiren took two years to ponder and write the Rissho Ankoku Ron after consulting all available Buddhists texts, JN simply came to the conclusion that the SGI is responsible for Katrina and the tsunami. Whereas Nichiren research demonstrated intellectual integrity, JN’s careless comments reveal a naked intellectual barrenness. For example, JN is completely detached from the intense collective self-reflection that took place throughout the country after Katrina: why did the multiple warnings about New Orleans’s inadequate infrastructure go unheeded for so long? what does the unbalanced number of victims who were elderly or people of color say about our values? what does the poor response of relief say about our country’s sense of compassion?
Human self-development hinges beliefs and attitudes that accord to the spirit of life. From JN’s viewpoint, anyone who practices NST’s narrow brand of Buddhism is practicing a true teaching; all other people practice erroneous teachings. In fact, JN rather quickly dispatches everyone else into insignificance:
Whereas, for those people who embrace the teachings of their various gods, it is impossible for them to contact the wisdom of the True Buddha. Thus their actions remained governed by what common mortals taught in the bible [sic] or other scriptures; and the will continue to manifest negative causes and therefore endure meaningless sufferings.
OK, JN has just taken it upon himself to condemn just about all of humanity.
In the Rissho Ankoku Ron Nichiren hurled devastating criticism at the teachings of his time which bred human passivity and thereby were responsible for weakening the human spirit. To Nichiren, the single correct teaching was the Lotus Sutra, the teaching that confirms the potential enlightenment of all living beings and the pulsating existence of a universal life force through which this enlightenment bursts forth spontaneously. Teachings that embrace this life view are life affirming; teachings that deny these principles weaken human life. From this perspective Nichiren attacked the Nembutsu sect because its priests taught that salvation comes only from the external power of Amida Buddha. He also criticized the True Word sect because its priests claimed that enlightenment could be achieved through occult means.
In actuality, there are many life-destroying ways of thinking today that resemble Nembutsu and True Word and likewise divert and poison human energy. Certainly, key points of JN’s preaching can be criticized in this vein. For example, his notion of “The Living Essence,” as in the following statement, “our sincere faith in the Dai Gohonzon and the Living Essence as held by the successive high priests determine our good fortune or misfortune” smacks of an external power sources and secret teachings that have no grounding in Nichiren’s teachings.
JN in his sermons has consistently turned a blind eye towards other life-destroying doctrines that abound today in both religious and secular realms. Numerous people are infected by cynical outlooks towards life that keep them snickering on the sidelines rather than plunging into the crucial issues of today. Others drown in life views infected by apathy, paralyzed at the core of their lives and unable to care or take a stand. So many people are frozen by their inability to move beyond anger and grudges that bind them to the past and consequently make them unable to look clearly and freshly about issues. The disease of extremism has unfortunately reached into all the major religious groups—Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Judaism. Regardless of titular denominations, people infected by extremism are characterized by an adherence to ideology that numbs their sense of empathy for the humanity of others. JN’s speeches remain silent on these core ideologies that plague the human spirit today despite the fact that many of these viewpoints are widely evident among his congregants.
Perhaps most worrisome is JN’s total misunderstanding of the importance of dialogue in Nichiren’s Buddhism. Above all else, the Rissho Ankoku Ron is about dialogue. The traveler and host engaged in a relentless dialogue in the pursuit of truth. Throughout the process the host (Nichiren) attentively listened to every point and objection made by the guest. At different times the guest was inquisitive, combative, or enraged. Nichiren did not even stop the dialogue when the guest become mollified and convinced; he continued talking until he could move the guest to the point of taking action. Through dialogue Nichiren entirely won over both the guest’s heart and mind.
Throughout his life Nichiren repeatedly engaged in this type of fierce and fearless dialogue to reveal the truth. Never did he stop because he thought someone was poisoned or unreachable. In fact these were the very people he sought to engage in dialogue. This is in sharp contrast to JN’s on-going and cowardly refusal to engage in open dialogue with SGI leaders. For example, in 1994 he responded to a New York SGI Youth Division letter requesting an open dialogue, “Regarding a public debate, it would be a waste of time considering your hypocritical attitude.” Form the safety of his pulpit he tells his followers to “shakubuku” SGI members but when SGI members accept this invitation and come to his temple they are asked to leave. He chose to ignore an entire group of SGI Youth Division leaders who attempted to deliver a one-page letter to him. A true priest would have jumped at the chance to single-handedly convert an entire group of people to what he regarded as the correct teaching. Did not Nichiren alone engage a thousand heretical priests in Sado and win to the point that they threw away their prayer beads in disgust swearing to never again chant the Nembutsu?
Why is JN so afraid to openly test the correctness of his beliefs in an open public forum? I believe his congregants would want to know.