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Excommunication

After Ikeda's resignation as president of the Soka Gakkai, the dust of the conflict between the Gakkai and the priesthood seemed to settle. Later, Ikeda was again able to fulfill a more public profile in Japan as a Buddhist leader. The tensions, however, had not yet been finally resolved, as events would dramatically show.

Ikeda encourages Soka Gakkai members during the conflict with the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood

Ikeda encourages Soka Gakkai members during the conflict with the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood.

Among the priests there had always been those who had resented the appearance and development of the powerful lay movement, and those who had supported it to a greater or lesser extent. In 1990, a decade after Ikeda's resignation, it became apparent that the members of the former group, led by the then high priest, Nikken Abe, had conspired either to disband the Soka Gakkai or bring it under their direct control. Working in collusion with the priests were the same ex-Gakkai leaders who had earlier orchestrated Ikeda's resignation.

After raising a list of complaints against the lay organization, the priesthood summarily excommunicated the entire lay movement. The grievances consisted of a list of nine issues (four were later withdrawn) that included questionable accusations that Ikeda had publicly criticized the high priest, and criticisms of a suggestion by Ikeda that Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" be sung at a Soka Gakkai leaders' meeting. The priesthood's objection in the latter case related to the song's Christian origins and references. Following notice of the organization's excommunication, some SGI members chose to follow the priesthood, disassociating themselves from the SGI. The vast majority, however, remained with the SGI, which has now come to view its excommunication as a liberation from an archaic institution, giving the organization the freedom to pursue a more modern and enlightened approach to the application of Nichiren's teachings to the conditions of modern globalized society.