All religions stress the importance of the fellowship of believers. The Three Treasures of Buddhism are the Law, the Person, and the Priest (Sanskirt: Sangha). Specificially, the Treasure of the Priest signifies Nikko Shonin. Generally, however, Sangha signifies the Buddhist Order. Shakyamuni referred to the band of disciples who followed him as the sangha.
The original sangha of Shakyamuni was composed of followers with a very wide range of talents and abilities. Shakyamuni treasured all of his followers equally; they, in turn, shared with the Buddha his deep commitment to preserving and spreading Buddhism.
The sangha was the center of Buddhist life. Followers lived and worked in close harmony; all members were equal. Up until his final days Shakyamuni asserted that he was merely one of its members, sharing the same goals and philosophy of life. Like the others, he was a seeker of truth and meaning. He always assumed the role of friend and comrade.
Only with the passing of the centuries did the sangha come to be associated with the priestly class (Jpn. so). But this is not an integral principal of Buddhism. Rather this tradition grew from social and historical religious traditions in India, China and Japan as Buddhism spread. Tragically, NST has defined sangha as the successive high priests; more tragically it translates sangha into “the priesthood” implying that all priests in general are the Three Treasures.
Questions for Shinga Takikawa and Yuzui Murata:
Do the relationships of members at Myosetsu-ji live up to the ideal of the sangha? Why do you so infrequently talk about how NST members should take good care of each other?
Shakyamuni entrusted the future of Buddhism to the sangha. He carefully raised future leaders whom he trusted. How are the leaders of the temple chosen? How do they earn the trust of temple members? How are successors raised?
Are all members treated equally and fairly? Are there favorites? Are people of all abilities respected? How are grievances aired?
The SGI has special interest activities as Boys & Girls Group, Teenage Workshops, Mothers Groups, Golden Stage, Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender Group, Italian/Chinese/Korean Study, and Substance Abuse Meetings. Will NST develop comparable groups?