Shōretsu vs. Itchi Approach

Recently I’ve been refining my explanation of why I left Soka Gakkai and joined the Sacramento Nichiren Buddhist Church and Nichiren Shū.

Here’s the most recent example:

I joined Nichiren Shoshu in 1989 and when the split with Soka Gakkai occurred I stayed with SGI. Beginning around 2010 I felt a strong need to expand my practice. I attended more meetings, and volunteered at the SGI community center. I also read all of Nichiren’s writings, first in the Nichiren Shoshu translation and then in the Soka Gakkai. But instead of growing closer to SGI, I grew further away. Finally on Jan. 1, 2015, I severed ties with SGI and called Rev. [Kenjo] Igarashi and asked when the next service was scheduled.

A man on a plateau, feeling thirsty,
Dug a hole in order to get water.
As long as he saw the dug-out lumps of earth were dry,
He knew that water was still far off.
When he found the earth wet and muddy,
He was convinced that water was near.

In the same manner, Medicine-King, know this!
Those who do not hear
The Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma
Are far from the wisdom of the Buddha.

That quote from the Lotus Sutra, Chapter 10, The Teacher of the Dharma, describes my experience. All of the moisture is sucked out of the ground by SGI’s focus on President Ikeda. The Lotus Sutra is not studied. Śākyamuni is not worshiped as the original Buddha. Nichiren’s role as a great bodhisattva, the reincarnation of Jogyo, is ignored. I found moisture in Nichiren Shū and as I have continued to practice and study I have found water. I have a personal website where I store this water, with quotes from books and daily recitations of the Lotus Sutra and other dharma material. I also created the church’s website and stocked it with brochures from the Nichiren Buddhist Information Center and Rev. Igarashi’s lectures in an effort to attract more people to the church. I am no longer the newest member of the congregation.

I have been reading book three of the Nichiren Mandala Study Workshop’s The mandala in Nichiren Buddhism. Book three focuses on analysis of the mandala structure and development of the Gohonzon within successive Nichiren lineages. Last night I came across this explanation of the split in Nichiren schools.

The first schisms and formation of lineages

It is generally thought that the first division within the Nichiren Sangha was caused by different views about the calligraphic mandala versus the three-dimensional representation, made with a set of statues. Another important point of contention raised by the third and fourth generation disciples was the Shōretsu versus the Itchi approach to the Lotus Sūtra. The Shōretsu School considers the first half of the Sūtra as inferior, since the essence is found only in the second fourteen Honmon chapters. The Itchi School instead maintains that the entire 28 chapters should be considered as a whole. The two factions were basically centered on the following temples:

A flowchart illustrating lineages of Nichiren Buddhism. Click to see full image.
Shōretsu group

  • Nikkō faction: Taiseki-ji, Fuji Honmon-ji, Hota Myōhon-ji, Kyoto Yōhō-ji
  • Nichijō faction: Kyoto Myōman-ji, Kyoto Myōsen-ji
  • Nichijin faction: Echigo Honjō-ji, Kyoto Honzen-ji
  • Nichiryū faction: Kyoto Honnō-ji, Amagasaki Honkō-ji, Kyoto Myōren-ji
  • Nichishin faction: Kyoto Honryū-ji

Itchi group

  • Hama faction: Kamakura Hokke-ji
  • Nichirō faction: Kamakura Myōhon-ji, Ikegami Honmon-ji, Hiraga Hondo-ji
  • Nichizō faction: Kyoto Myōken-ji, Kyoto Myōkaku-ji, Kyoto Ryūhon-ji
  • Rokujō faction: Kyoto Honkoku-ji, Kyoto Honman-ji
  • Minobu faction: Minobu Kuon-ji, Mobara Sōgen-ji, Kyoto Myōden-ji
  • Nakayama faction: Nakayama Hokekyō-ji, Kyoto Chōmyō-ji, Kyoto Honpō-ji

In brief, the Shoretsu group considers just the Hoben and the Juryō chapters of the Lotus Sūtra as being essential and includes only the 2nd and 16th chapters in daily practice. The Itchi group studies and chant portions from the whole Sūtra. Nevertheless these two chapters are regarded as the most important and included among others in daily worship.

When I read this it occurred to me that this further explained the reason why I found the dirt so dry when I was digging for water under Soka Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu. SGI and Nichiren Shoshu are Shōretsu. The Sacramento Nichiren Buddhist Church and Nichiren Shū are Itchi. (Rev. Igarashi considers himself a member of the Minobu school.) “Those who do not hear the Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma are far from the wisdom of the Buddha.” To consider any part of the Sūtra to be inferior sucks even more of the moisture from the ground. The wellspring is found in the 28 chapters of the Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.