Issues Regarding Nichiren Shoshu Claims
I. The Two Transfer Documents:The Nichiren Shoshu claim that Nikko was designated the sole heir of Nichiren Shonin in two transfer documents, allegedly written by Nichiren himself. However, no one outside the priesthood of Nichiren Shoshu (including the priests and scholars of other Fuji school lineages of Nikko) gives any credence to their authenticity.
The first is the "Nichiren Ichigo Guho Fuzoku Sho" (Gosho Zenshu, p. 1675) aka "Minobu Sojo" supposedly written at Minobu in September of 1282. It says:
"I transfer this Dharma, which I, Nichiren, have propagated throughout my life to Byakuren Ajari Nikko. He is to be the supreme leader for the propagation of Honmon. When the sovereign accepts faith in this Dharma, the Kaidan of Honmonji Temple must be established at Mount Fuji. You must wait for the time to come. This is what I call the Actual Dharma of the Precept. Above all, my disciples must uphold this document.The second is the "Minobu-san Fuzoku Sho" (Gosho Zenshu p. 1675) aka "Ikegami Sojo" supposedly written October 13, 1282. It says:
"I transfer the Venerable Shakyamuni's teachings of fifty years to Byakuren Ajari Nikko. He is to be the Head Priest of Minobu-san Kuonji Temple. Those priests and lay believers who refuse to accept this are slanderers of the Dharma.The first reference to these transfer documents is in a work called the Hyaku-gojikka-jo written by Nikkyo (1428-1489?) at Taisekiji Temple in 1480. Nikkyo was originally a priest at Juhonji in Kyoto (a precursor of Yoboji Temple), but he moved to Taisekiji and became the disciple of Nichiu, the ninth high priest of Taisekiji. However, there are said to be discrepancies between the text of the transfer letters cited in Nikkyo's writing and the copies that exist today at Taisekiji.
It is also said that the reference to the Honmonji Temple at Mt. Fuji actually refers to the Nishiyama Honmonji temple which was established in 1343 by Nikko's disciple Nichidai after he was ousted as the head priest of Kitayama Honmonji. It could be that the "Minobu Sojo" was even forged by a high priest of Nishiyama Honmonji. In any case, the Nichiren Shoshu claim that when the Honmon no Kaidan is finally established, Taisekiji will be renamed Honmonji in order to conform to the wording of the "Minobu Sojo". Kitayama Honmonji, however, has a much stronger claim if one accepts this because it was founded by Nikko at Mt. Fuji with the name Honmonji.
According to the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, the original copies of the transfer documents were kept in a storehouse at Kitayama Honmonji until March 17, 1581 when they and other treasures were allegedly stolen by followers of Nishiyama Honmonji and the lord of Kai, Takeda Katsuyori and his soldiers. Neither Kitayama Honmonji nor Nishiyama Honmonji were affiliated with Taisekiji at that time. The originals of the two transfer documents were thus lost to history if they in fact ever existed at all.
Besides the absence of the original of these two transfer documents and the supposed discrepancies between the existing copies today and the citations of them in the earliest text to mention them, there is other evidence which would indicate that Nichiren did not designate Nikko as his sole heir. The most important is in Nikko's own hand. Nikko wrote a record of Nichiren's funeral called the "Shuso Gosenge Kiroku" which is preserved at Nishiyama Honmonji. The document also has the seals of Nissho, Nichiro, Nikko, and Nichiji on it. According to this document, Nikko was not given any special place of honor during the funeral. Rather, the two senior disciples Nichiro and Nissho took the lead in the front and rear processions respectively. Also, according to Nikko, he received a horse and some clothes, whereas Nissho received Nichiren's own annotated copy of the Lotus Sutra (the Chu Hokkekyo) and Nichiro received the statue of Shakyamuni Buddha that Nichiren had kept with him ever since the Izu Exile.
A writing called the "Rembo Cho" which exists in two versions outlines the rotation system concerning the rotation system which the six major disciples were to follow in maintaining Nichiren's grave and overseeing Kuonji at Mt. Minobu. Nothing is said in either version of Nikko being designated the head priest of Kuonji or the sole heir of Nichiren.
There are other things written by Nikko which would indicate that he knew nothing of the two transfer letters. One of them is the "Fuji Isseki Monto Zonchi-no-koto" in which Nikko wrotes, "The Master [i.e. Nichiren] who preceded me had not decided on any country or any particular place. It is customary, at least in Buddhism, to choose the most scenic spot and build a temple there. Then, Mt. Fuji is Sugaru (Shizuoka Prefecture) is the supreme mountain in Japan. We should build our temple there." Why would Nikko write this if he had the "Minobu Sojo" which directed that the Honmonji Temple should be built at Mt. Fuji? It is also odd that in the "Hara dono gohenji" or "Letter to Lord Hara" Nikko laments that he must leave Mt. Minobu because of his disagreements with Niko and the others. He also complains about the distribution of goods after Nichiren's funeral since he wished to inherit the statue of Shakyamuni Buddha. But even in this letter he does not refer to any sole succession or transfer documents nor does he refer to the need to establish a Honmonji Temple at Mt. Fuji nor does he claim that Nichiren had designated him as the chief priest of Kuonji.
What he does say is:
"I can hardly tell you how ashamed I was and how sorry I was for leaving Minobu creek [where Nichiren's tomb is located]. However, on further consideration of the matter, it's not important where I am; it is important to accede to the teachings of Nichiren Shonin and to spread it all over the world. All of the [other] disciples are against the Master. They disobeyed the teacher [i.e. Nichiren Shonin]. I believe that only I, Nikko, am the one who protects the Shonin's doctrine and practices according to his original intention..."Nikko does believe that only he is protecting the teachings and practicing in accord with the true intentions of Nichiren Shonin, but he does not make the claim that Nichiren himself designated him sole heir or successor at Kuonji on Mt. Minobu nor that he received any special mission to establish the Honmonji on Mt. Fuji. This, along with the other evidence, makes it apparent that the transfer documents were the creation of later priests in Nikko's lineage who used them to bolster their claims of supremacy over their rivals.
My thanks to Senchu Murano, Jackie Stone, Bruce Maltz, and Chris Holte for providing all this information
Namu Myoho Renge Kyo,