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Nikken Abe
Religion Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism
Alma mater
Other names Shinno
Born (1922-12-19) December 19, 1922 (age 95)
Sumida, Tokyo
Senior posting
Based in Mount Fuji, Taisekiji, Shizuoka Prefecture Japan
Title 67th High Priest
Period in office 15 April 1978 - 15 December 2005
Predecessor Nittatsu Hosoi
Successor Nichinyo Hayase
Religious career
Ordination 28 August 1928
Previous post Director General of Ch?sen gakk?
Chief Priest of Hongyoji, Heianji, Jozenji Temples
Head of Study / Doctrinal Department of Nichiren Shoshu
67th High Priest of Nichiren Sh?sh?
(Living, Retired)

Nikken Abe (?, Abe Nikken; also known as Nikken Shonin-- Born 19 December 1922 in Sumida, Tokyo) was the 67th former High Priest of Nichiren Sh?sh? Buddhism, along of its head temple, Taiseki-ji, in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka, Japan.

Previously, he served as the Head for the doctrinal department of Nichiren Shoshu and compiled many of its religious documents and its re-translation process after 1991.

As High Priest, Nikken affirmed the expulsion of Soka Gakkai on 28 November 1991 and restored the Taisekiji Head Temple to its traditional and orthodox Buddhist practices prevalent before 1970.

Early life

Born Shinobu (), Abe was the first son of H?un Abe, then the chief priest of J?zen-ji in Sumida, Tokyo, and later 60th Nichiren Shoshu High Priest Nichikai. His mother, Myoshuni was also a female Priest. He entered the priesthood in 1928 by tonsure, taking the Buddhist name Shinno ().

He graduated from Rissh? University in 1943 training as a priest. After his return from the Japanese Imperial Navy duty, he served as chief priest of three major local temples:

  1. Hongy?-ji Temple (Sumida ward, Tokyo, 1947)
  2. Heian-ji Temple (Ky?to, 1963) where his mother was a resident priest
  3. J?zen-ji Temple (Sumida ward, Tokyo).

Ultimately, he was appointed head of the school's Ky?gakubu (The doctrinal office of orthodoxy, often rendered Taisekiji Study Department) in 1961. At this time, he also served as a Director General for Ch?sen gakk?, a school that taught Korean Japanese students.

In this position, he was one of the two Nichiren Shoshu priests who traveled overseas to conduct the first initiation rites (Gojukai) for new believers outside Japan in 1961, for which the 67th high priest gave him the name "Etsuyo" (: "he who crosses the seas"). Abe was named Nichiren Shoshu S?kan (the school's second-highest ranking priest) in early 1979.

On 22 July 1979, Abe took over as high priest shortly after the passing of the former 67th High Priest Nittatsu Hosoi. At the time, he changed his name three times: he initially changed his name to Nichi-g? (the name beginning with Nichi that all priests have but use publicly after certain seniority) from "Nichiji" () to finally "Nikken" () in deference to a more-senior priest who is the next high priest, Nichinyo's father of the same name.

On 4 December 2005, Abe announced his intention to step down as high priest before the end of the year. He performed the ceremony of transferral of the Heritage of the Law on 12 December 2005, in which he appointed Nichinyo Hayase (1935--) as his successor. He officially retired on 15 December 2005, four days before his 83rd birthday after a total of 26 years as high priest. Sixty-eighth High Priest Nichinyo Sh?nin ascended the high priest's seat at a ceremony on 16 December 2005.

Period as High Priest

Abe's tenure as high priest was marked by a mixture of progress and controversy.

He officiated several milestone celebrations such as the following:

  • 1981 --The 700th anniversary of Nichiren's passing.
  • 1982 -- The 650th anniversaries of the passing of Taiseki-ji's founder Nikk? and his successor Nichimoku
  • 1990 -- The 700th anniversary of Taiseki-ji's founding
  • 2004 -- The 750th anniversary of Nichiren's proclamation of his teachings

In addition, Nikken Shonin also oversaw the compilation and publication of several important works--previous high priests' letters, treatises, and sermons; official biographies of Nichiren:

  • 1981 -- Nichiren Daish?nin Sh?den
  • 1982 -- Nikk? Sh?nin, Nichimoku Sh?nin Sh?den
  • 1999 -- Revision of 1978 Nichiren Sh?sh? Y?gi (a comprehensive overview of Nichiren Shoshu doctrine)
  • 1994 -- Heisei Shimpen Nichiren Daish?nin Gosho , a new compilation of Nichiren Daishonin's Gosho based on thorough historical and documentary surveys.

Further, Abe also initiated and oversaw the publication of the following important Taisekiji documents:

  • The annotated edition of 26th High Priest Nichikan's doctrinally definitive work Rokkansh? ("The six volume writings" in 1996)
  • A revised edition of the Lotus Sutra with its prologue and epilogue sutras (Shimpen My?h?rengeky? Narabini Kaiketsu in 1998)
  • The compilation of Nichikan's Gosho Mondan in 2000
  • The exegesis on 14 of Nichiren's most important writings (Nichikan Sh?nin Gosho Mondan, 2001)
  • The publication of Jury?hon Sepp? in 2003, a compilation of sermons on the "Life Span of the Thus Come One" (Jury?) chapter of the Lotus Sutra which he delivered over a period of 23 years.

On the other hand, Abe's succession to the position of high priest was challenged in December 1980 by a group of Nichiren Shoshu priests belonging to the Shoshinkai after he excommunicated five of them for disobeying repeated admonitions to cancel a massive anti-Soka Gakkai rally (August 1980) and to stop attacking Soka Gakkai from their temple pulpits. Ultimately, Abe excommunicated over 200 Nichiren Shoshu priests who had aligned themselves with Shoshinkai, which balked at Abe's erstwhile policy of reconciliation with Soka Gakkai after a conflict with the group that had surfaced in the early 1970s and lasted through the end of the decade.

Abe also worked to restore the Nichiren Shoshu faith to what he saw as a certain orthodoxy that he strongly felt had been lost during the school's association with the Soka Gakkai, a lay organization formerly chartered by Nichiren Shoshu. These reforms began with changing back the start of Ushitora Gongyo, a prayer service for the worldwide propagation of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, from 12:00 midnight forward back to its 2:30AM timeslot so the service would span the eponymous "hour of the ox (Ushi) and tiger (Tora)".

Abe also left his personal mark on the grounds of Nichiren Shoshu Head Temple Taiseki-ji: He had numerous old lodging temples rebuilt and parts of the compound re-landscaped. In conjunction with some of the anniversary celebrations mentioned above, he had a bare-concrete building removed and a plaza and garden built in its place, as well as several quickly-built concrete lodgings replaced with two modern structures. And after Nichiren Shoshu's excommunication of SGI, he also had demolished several ferro-concrete edifices donated by Soka Gakkai, replacing them with buildings more in keeping with the atmosphere of a traditional Japanese Buddhist temple. This was highly controversial considering the buildings were built through Soka Gakkai member contributions. The ''Dai Kyakuden'' (English: Grand Reception Hall) for example, was made of materials from 46 countries constructed after a four-day fund-raising drive in 1961 in which members contributed $9 million USD.[1]

After the excommunciation of the Soka Gakkai, Abe founded numerous temples overseas (the last temple he founded was the ''Kaimyo-in Temple'' in Singapore in December 2005) and minor propagation centers in Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America as well as Europe and North America. He also frequently visited them personally despite his advanced age.

Abe eventually excommunicated Soka Gakkai and it's senior leaders in November 1990, alleging doctrinal deviations and the usurpation of ceremonies such as the Higan-E Equinox and funerals without Nichiren Shoshu priests officiating the ceremonies, along with the controversial "Ode to Joy" Christian-themed concert performances that did not support Nichiren Shoshu doctrines, along with a transcription of audio speech of then SGI President Daisaku Ikeda deemed highly vulgar with regards to the priesthood.

In response, such actions were interpreted by the Nichiren Shoshu Priesthood as retaliation for the priesthood's admonitions of the Soka Gakkai leadership urging them to follow through on what they say were earlier promises to uphold Nichiren Shoshu traditions, which many in the priesthood and traditional lay organizations felt Soka Gakkai was ignoring or furtively undermining since the death of former Hokkeko leader, Josei Toda.

Since its 1992 excommunication, Soka Gakkai has adopted the accusation of Shoshinkai's that Abe is a pretender to the former 66th High Priest position (on claims that Abe was unable to substantiate proof) that Nittatsu Hosoi transferred the position to him in the traditional ceremonial format.

Expulsion of the Soka Gakkai

Soka Gakkai further attributes Abe's motivation for demolishing the Shohondo building (completed in 1972), the Dai Kyakuden (English: Grand Reception Hall) (1964), and other buildings in the Taiseki-ji compound donated by Soka Gakkai, to resentment towards and jealousy of Soka Gakkai's leadership and to a desire to usurp the achievements of his predecessor. Abe's demolition of the main temple building, has been particularly controversial. The construction of the Sho Hondo was completed in 1972, largely through the efforts and financial donations of Soka Gakkai members, and was regarded as a notable work of Japanese architecture.[2]

In response, Nichiren Shoshu stated that the official petitioner of the Sho Hondo, Daisaku Ikeda was no longer a Nichiren Shoshu believer, therefore this structure to serve as the High Sanctuary building at Head Temple Taisekiji is no longer warranted. In addition, he also personally oversaw the ceremonial transfer of the Dai Gohonzon to the "Shimonobo" Temple inside Taisekiji during the construction of its new home, the Hoando.

Addiional views claim that Abe's decision to expel Soka Gakkai was personal vendetta against SGI President Daisaku Ikeda due to the several wooden Gohonzons that were manufactured by Ikeda without the permission of former High Priest Nittatsu Hossu Shonin, the deliberate overtaking of Nichiren Shoshu ceremonies for Hokkeko believers without the presence of priests, and the 35th anniversary speech given by President Ikeda that was deemed as vulgar language towards the dignity of the priesthood.[3] However, Nichiren Shoshu insists that the issue behind the demolition of the Sho Hondo and the subsequent erection on the same site of the new High Sanctuary, the Hoando, was a necessary step in establishing a building based on correct orthodox faith in Nichiren Shoshu.

By contrast, the Soka Gakkai vehemently rejects these charges, claiming that it is Abe who has deviated from the doctrines of Nichiren Shoshu, particularly their independent interpretation of Nichiren's teachings. It further alleges that Abe himself is personally corrupt and that his motive for excommunicating the SGI was to bolster his personal power over believers. The SGI leadership has been consistently scathing in its criticism of Abe in particular and the priesthood in general, claiming accusations of simony, sexual hedonism, monopolizing the Dai-Gohonzon and claims of declaring it as forgery through the extant notes of another senior Priest, Jitoku Kawabe (1929--2002).

Later years

Abe was the first high priest in Nichiren Shoshu's history to reach 80 years old while actively serving in the position. By the time he retired about midway through his 27th year, he had reconfigured Head Temple Taiseki-ji in a manner more congruent with tradition and restored a number of ceremonies to their traditional times and formats.

In the view of Hokkeko believers, Nikken Abe ensured that Nichiren Shoshu doctrine was communicated to believers without reinterpretation of convenience. He also survived attempts against efforts from three breakaway groups, the Kenshokai, Shoshinkai and Soka Gakkai.

At present, Abe is retired and living, but continues to participate in the ''Gokaihi'' ceremonies at the Dai-Gohonzon with overseas Hokkeko believers both in November and April, the most important months in Nichiren Shoshu calendar.

Sources and references


  1. ^ Brannen, Noah S. (1968). Soka Gakkai: Japan's Militant Buddhists. Richmond, VA: John Knox Press. p. 81. 
  2. ^ Buddhism in America, Seager R H, Columbia University Press, 2000, p.83
  3. ^ "A Major Eruption At the Foot of Fuji". Washington Post. June 14, 1998. Archived from the original on 1999-11-03.  This article is also referenced in Jane Hurst, "A Buddhist Reformation", in Global Citizens: The Soka Gakkai Buddhist Movement in the World eds. David W. Machacek, Bryan R. Wilson, Oxford University Press, 2001, p.70

External links

Official Nichiren Shoshu Temple site (USA)

Official Soka Gakkai / Soka Gakkai International (SGI) sites

Preceded by
Nittatsu Hosoi
Nichiren Shoshu High Priest
Succeeded by
Nichinyo Hayase

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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