BECAUSE I am often questioned on the subject, I should like to make a few comments about the origins of the Union of the New Religious Organizations in Japan and on the relation between it and the Japan Religions League.
The Union of the New Religious Organizations in Japan was founded in 1951. In the period immediately following the close of World War II, religious freedom was granted to the people of Japan; and new religious organizations sprang up with great frequency and vitality. But the prevailing social trend was to ridicule and abuse these groups, even without attempting to understand what they were about. Banding together in the Japan Religions League, the older, more established religions were able to work together for their common benefit by conducting negotiations with the general headquarters of the Occupation authorities and with various Japanese governmental organs. The new religious organizations, however, were isolated from one another and were therefore open to attack from the press and from other branches of society. But as time passed, the new organizations became so important that the older world of Japanese religion could no longer ignore them. As the new groups grew in size and significance, the need for a body to unite them became pressing. The Occupation authorities found it difficult to remain in contact with these groups as long as they existed in isolation. At one point, the head of the Occupation's department of religious affairs approached Tokuchika Miki, president of the Perfect Liberty organization, with a proposal for the establishment of a liaison office for the new religious groups. By this time the new religious groups themselves had become aware of the need for a body that would work for their common advantage and their protection.
In August, 1951, the Perfect Liberty group, Rissho Kosei-kai, Sekai Kyusei-kyo, the Seicho-no-Ie Foundation, and Ishin-kai formed the Union of the New Religious Organizations in Japan. At about the same time, leaders of Ananai-kyo, Shuyodan Hosei-kai, Tenshin-do, Ishin-kai, and the Seicho-no-Ie Foundation met to make preparations to establish a joint body called the Japan League of New Religions. Later discussions between these two groups resulted in their amalgamation in the Union of the New Religious Organizations in Japan.
Prior to the formation of this union, Kosei-kai had participated in a council of organizations of the Nichiren Buddhist sect. This council, which included Nihonzan Myoho-ji Daisanga, Hokke-shu, Myochi-kai, Bussho Gonen-kai, and Myodo-kai, came into being for the sake of unity among various Nichiren groups because some religious bodies professing faith in the Lotus Sutra had been condemning other organizations professing faith in the same sutra as heretical and wicked.
I argued that the temple on Mount Minobu, as the head of Nichiren Buddhism, is responsible for indicating the teachings that can help followers understand the true spirit of Nichiren, the founder of the sect that bears his name. Mount Minobu must teach the way in which we are to interpret the Lotus Sutra and how we must behave in regard to the focus of devotion. But the council reacted coolly to my proposal and requested that I refrain from discussing unity in religious teachings and that I permit each religious organization to follow its own inclinations in such affairs.
I realize that the issue of teachings is of paramount importance and that unity in this issue is extremely difficult to achieve in a council. Nonetheless, I insist that a council lacking firmly established principles in matters of teachings sacrifices its major significance and strength. For me, it is an ideal and an unwavering article of faith that, though the ways in which it is expressed may vary, religious truth is and must be the same. Consequently, I believe that we ought to rally around the one truth and abandon petty differences; but I found no one at the Minobu council to agree with me.
If the other members of the council were going to hold out for the validity of the teachings of their individual groups, I gradually came to see that I had no choice but to do the same. Our members continued to make pilgrimages to Mount Minobu, and eighty households in the town of Minobu became members of Rissho Kosei-kai. This greatly enraged the authorities at Mount Minobu; and in 1950, we were reprimanded and accused of having led people in Minobu to forsake their affiliation with the Nichiren sect at Mount Minobu.
In the following year, we were visited by Shuten Oishi, of the Ministry of Education, in connection with the Union of the New Religious Organizations in Japan. Oishi called first on Tokuchika Miki, of the Perfect Liberty organization. But we all three met later and agreed on the desirability of forming an organization of new religious groups. I said at the time that if the organization made public the teachings of each member group and sponsored joint study programs it could come to have great significance. Miki objected that if teachings became a premise of our action we would be unlikely to achieve the unity we required. I could see his point. After all, even the members of the Nichiren sect had found it impossible to achieve unity in teachings among themselves. Obviously it would be much more difficult for an aggregation of diverse religious organizations to attain unity in such matters. Still, I felt that we all had much to teach each other and much to learn from each other. "All who see, hear, recognize, and know the sutra shall approach enlightenment."
The first step toward mutual discussion and learning is certainly the act of joining hands in unity. Because I was convinced that this is true, I decided that Rissho Kosei-kai should participate in the Union of the New Religious Organizations in Japan. Myoko Sensei objected that it would be a bad idea to join such an organization so soon after having been accused of undermining the Nichiren sect. The senior leaders of Kosei-kai agreed with her. Against this background of opposition, I nonetheless insisted on joining, though my hopes for success were not high at the time.
But events took a decided turn for the better. The union, which had started with only twenty-four member organizations, grew to sixty in a year. All but two or three of the major new religious organizations joined. Our hope was to make the union an organization that contributes to the creation of an ideal nation and a world of peace. This hope has grown stronger with the passing years.
The generally accepted view is that the public will pay no attention to a new religious federation for five or ten years after its foundation. The prejudice that new religions are cheats taking unfair advantage of people when they are weak is deep-rooted. But in the spring of 1952, less than a year after its founding, the Union of the New Religious Organizations in Japan was admitted to the Japan Religions League.
The Japan Religions League is an organization of Buddhist, Shinto, and Christian groups. During the war, it came under severe governmental control and later disbanded. In June of 1946, however, it got a fresh start with the goal of promoting close cooperation among Buddhist, Shinto, and Christian organizations for the sake of using development in religious movements in the building of Japanese culture and worldwide peace.
In January of 1965, the Religions Center was opened by the Japan Religions League. Some people have criticized this center for being politically inspired, but I am in favor of it. Today human beings are in danger of losing an important part of their humanity because of overemphasis of material well-being and underemphasis of spiritual values. The Religions Center can, I believe, accent the vital importance of a true spirit of religion and can contribute to the development of a national popular faith and to the further strengthening of religious cooperation. It is said in the Nirvana Sutra that the people who do not believe in the Buddha's Law and therefore fall into evil ways are comparable to the full expanse of the whole earth, whereas those who believe in the Buddha's Law and attain buddhahood are comparable to a patch of land no larger than a fingernail. The Religions Center is striving to improve this situation by bringing about the unification of all religions. It has already evoked responses from educators, parents' associations, the field of learning, and the financial world.
In April of 1969, I was elected chairman of the board of directors of the Japan Religions League, which, in 1970, sponsored the first World Conference on Religion and Peace. In spite of a tendency to regard it as something of a salon-conference, that meeting became a steppingstone for further growth. I am deeply grateful to the Japan Religions League for sponsoring it. As time passes, the Japan Religions League and the Union of the New Religious Organizations in Japan are increasing their usefulness as they continue to work in closer harmony.
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