Nikken Abe bigraphy, stories - Buddhist high priest

Nikken Abe : biography

December 19, 1922 -

Nikken Abe (阿部日顕, Abe Nikken; December 19, 1922, in Tokyo–) was the 67th high priest of Nichiren Shoshu, a major school of Nichiren Buddhism, and chief priest of its head temple Taisekiji in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka, Japan. He is called Nikken Shōnin, Nikken Shōnin Geika, Goinson Shōnin (Geika), Goinsonsama, or Goinkyosama by believers and is frequently styled 67th High Priest Nikken Shōnin in English.

Period as high priest

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

He officiated several milestone celebrations—the 700th anniversary of Nichiren's passing (1981), the 650th anniversaries of the passing of Taiseki-ji's founder Nikkō and his successor Nichimoku (1982), the 700th anniversary of Taiseki-ji's founding (1990), and the 750th anniversary of Nichiren's proclamation of his teachings (2004)—as well as oversaw the compilation and publication of several important works—previous high priests' letters, treatises, and sermons; official biographies of Nichiren (Nichiren Daishōnin Shōden, 1981) and Nikkō and Nichimoku (Nikkō Shōnin, Nichimoku Shōnin Shōden, 1982); a 1999 revision of Nichiren Shōshū Yōgi (1978), a comprehensive overview of Nichiren Shoshu doctrine; and a new compilation of Nichiren's writings (Heisei Shimpen Nichiren Daishōnin Gosho, 1994) based on thorough historical and documentary surveys. Further, Abe also initiated and oversaw the publication of an annotated edition of 26th High Priest Nichikan's doctrinally definitive work Rokkanshō ("The six volume writings"; 1996), a revised edition of the Lotus Sutra with its prologue and epilogue sutras (Shimpen Myōhōrengekyō narabini Kaiketsu, 1998), and a compilation of Nichikan's Gosho Mondan, exegeses on 14 of Nichiren's most important writings (Nichikan Shōnin Gosho Mondan, 2001). In 2003, Abe also published Juryōhon Seppō, a compilation of sermons on the Life Span of the Thus Come One (Juryō) chapter of the Lotus Sutra he delivered over a period of 23 years at Taiseki-ji's annual autumn celebration of Nichiren's life, the Gotai-e.

Abe also worked to restore the Nichiren Shoshu faith to what he saw as a certain orthodoxy that he felt had been lost during the school's association with the Soka Gakkai and SGI, a mass Buddhist movement previously connected with Nichiren Shoshu as a lay organization. This stance began with moving that start of Ushitora Gongyo, a prayer service for the worldwide propagation of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, from midnight back to 2:30 am 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, due to his vindictive nature, he also had demolished several ferro-concrete edifices donated by Soka Gakkai, replacing them with buildings he falsely claimed were more in keeping with the atmosphere of a traditional Japanese Buddhist temple.

Also following the split with Soka Gakkai, described below, Abe founded numerous temples overseas (the last in Singapore in December 2005) and propagation centers—in Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America as well as Europe and North America—and staffed them with able-bodied young priests. He also frequently visited them personally despite his advanced age.

On the other hand, Abe's succession to the position of high priest was challenged in December 1980, well over a year after the fact, 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 cease attacking Soka Gakkai from their pulpits. In the end, Abe excommunicated over 200 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.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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