BECAUSE of the cramped space of the single, small second-floor room in an ordinary dwelling in Akasaka that was its headquarters, Reiyu-kai was building a new, more spacious meeting place at Iikura Itchome to accommodate its rapidly increasing membership. In the mornings, after milk deliveries, I rode my bicycle to the construction site to help with the work. I returned home for evening deliveries and for night guidance work. The new building was completed at the end of 1937. On the thirtieth and thirty-first of December, grand ceremonies were held to celebrate the conclusion of construction; and on January seventh of the new year, a conference of chapter heads from all over the country was held. Everyone involved in the meeting was excited, since it was said that we were about to make Reiyu-kai the most outstanding religious organization in Japan. Though as an officer, I too was excited, in the back of my mind were shadows of doubt.
There were two reasons for this. First, I felt that the organization was going much too far in its efforts to increase membership. For example, it was tacitly assumed that each chapter that enrolled one hundred new members in a month would enroll two hundred the following month, four hundred the next, and so on in geometric progression. Each new member was required to purchase a sutra scroll for fifty sen and a roster for the names of his ancestors for one yen and thirty sen. Chapter chiefs who were very concerned to remain on the good side of the organization's executives went so far as to purchase these things themselves, even though they had no new members to take them off their hands. In time, some purchased more scrolls and rosters than they could store in their houses and were forced to build sheds for them. The head of our chapter, Mr. Arai, was a scholar. He had no intention of doing such a thing and often laughed at the excessive measures to which other chapter chiefs resorted.
My second reason for doubt was more serious and basic. I had heard that organizational headquarters was displeased about Mr. Arai's lectures on the Lotus Sutra. I could not imagine why this should be. What could be the objection to lectures on the sutra that was the basic scripture of Reiyu-kai? Reiyu-kai members read extracts from the Lotus Sutra in morning and evening worship services. Furthermore, Reiyu-kai's fundamental incantation was the Daimoku, Namu Myoho Renge-kyo, which means "Hail to the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law." Nonetheless, since all of us younger members regarded Mrs. Kimi Kotani (then president) and our teacher and leader Kakutaro Kubo as virtual buddhas, we did not let our doubts about their stand on the matter take the form of action.
The nationwide meeting on January seventh had another purpose, apart from initiating a drive to make Reiyu-kai the strongest of all Japanese religious organizations. For about a year, rifts among the top echelons of the leadership had become frequent; and it was hoped that the conference would restore solidarity. In 1935, Shodo Okano a former director, and his wife broke away from the group to form their own organization, called Kodo-kyodan. In the following year, Kakutaro Takahashi and several hundred believers seceded and established Reisho-kai. Since Reiyu-kai was expanding rapidly, losses of this kind were unimportant; but they offended Mrs. Kotani. As if to increase the clouds of uncertainty already surrounding everything, for unknown reasons, at the time of the ceremonies to celebrate the completion of the new building, the heads of two chapters that had been extremely important in the development of Reiyu-kai were fired from their positions.
On the first day of the conference, which I attended with Mr. Arai, the chairman, Taira Ishida, addressed the group. "Ladies and gentlemen, our goal is to make Reiyu-kai the number-one religious organization in the country. In this, we shall be indebted to Mr. Kubo for his teaching and guidance. If anyone has anything to say on these subjects at this time, please speak up without hesitation."
For a while, one person after another asked questions and expressed opinions, until suddenly Mrs. Kotani, who was seated in the middle of the platform, arose abruptly, stalked to the speaker's desk, and shouted at the audience, "What the hell is all this about? You are supposed to be believers, but you act as if you were big shots. If anyone has a gripe, step up."
We were all astounded. A dark, unpleasant atmosphere enveloped the room, as, like water bursting through a dam, Mrs. Kotani gave full vent to her feelings. "Lectures on the Lotus Sutra are out of date. Anyone who tries anything like that around here must be inspired by the devil."
On hearing this, Mr. Arai, a strong-willed man, rose quickly and said to me, "I can't sit through any more of this. I'm going home. But you stay to the end and find out what they've got to say." I did as he ordered and remained in the conference room until nine o'clock at night.
Although I had the deepest respect for Mrs. Kotani and had no objection to Reiyu-kai's teachings of devotion to ancestors, I could not swallow the insistence that study of the Lotus Sutra be abandoned. For me this was the decisive issue. By the end of the meeting, I was ninety percent convinced that I could no longer remain in the organization.
On the following day, I visited Mrs. Naganuma to discuss the matter. She agreed that Reiyu-kai's stand was untenable and stated that she could no longer remain a member. With an attitude somewhat more positive than most Japanese women would take, she said, "Mr. Niwano, let's convince Mr. Arai to join us and set up a new organization of our own." I consented. The two of us immediately went to Mr. Arai's house, told him of what had transpired at the conference after his departure, and related our own ideas about a new organization.
"Yes, I agree that it's impossible to go on with Reiyu-kai. But I don't want to make an unpleasant scene by defying Mrs. Kotani, and I was the go-between at Mr. Kubo's wedding. Besides, I'm too old for revolutionary work. You two are younger. You take the lead in forming an independent group. As far as teaching and doctrine are concerned, I'm willing to help you as much as I can."
We all felt a debt of gratitude that made it difficult, even somehow reprehensible, to leave Reiyu-kai; but we could not allow feelings of fondness and attachment to interfere with our profound respect for the greatness of the Lotus Sutra. Mrs. Naganuma and I had another discussion and decided to form a new organization. We were young, and there were only two of us. The matter was settled easily and quickly.
We needed someone to head the group, but I was not the right choice. I had heard that my old boss Ishihara had joined Kokuchu-kai and had been studying the Lotus Sutra. I decided to get in touch with him, and he introduced us to Nichijo Murayama, a member of Kokuchu-kai. Mr. Murayama became our director general, and Ishihara our vice-director general. I was the general manager, and Mrs. Naganuma's husband the accountant. In addition, there were about thirty members whom Mr. Arai, Mrs. Naganuma, or I had taught in guidance sessions. We had no intention of forcing the growth of our membership.
To solemnize the institution of the organization, we held ceremonies at Mrs. Naganuma's house and then made the headquarters a room on the second floor of my house. And this is the way the Dai-Nippon Rissho Kosei-kai came into being, on March 5 , 1938. The Rissho part of the name means "establishing the teaching of the true Law [that is, the Lotus Sutra] in the world." The Ko of Kosei signifies mutual exchange of thought among people of faith, that is, the principle of spiritual unity among different human beings. Sei stands for the perfection of the personality and attainment of buddhahood. On the occasion of the founding of the organization, I changed my first name to Nikkyo, and Masa Naganuma changed hers to Myoko. It was as Myoko Sensei, or Teacher Myoko, that she was to become familiar to thousands of people.
When doubts or problems concerning doctrine and faith arose, we went at once to Mr. Arai for instruction and help. We continued to do so until he passed away of old age in 1949; and ever since then, good relations have continued between Rissho Kosei-kai and the surviving members of his family.
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