*The Three Kinds of Treasure
President Ikeda's Guidance
The following story appears in the Buddhist scriptures: 'There were once seven practitioners of Buddhism who had come from a distant land to receive instruction from Shakyamuni Buddha. All lived together in a single lodging. However, though they had come with the intention of seeking the Buddhist way under the guidance of Shakyamuni, they passed day after day together in their lodging, amusing themselves with small talk and gossip. One day Shakyamuni paid a visit to the seven and preached to them as follows:
"In life there are, in general, five things that everyone depends on for his sense of security. These are youthfulness, physical attractiveness, strength and ability, material wealth and social status or position. But are these truly dependable? The seven of you have been spending your days amusing yourselves with small talk, but what is it exactly that you are relying upon to feel secure?"
'With this, Shakyamuni began to expound the impermanent and fleeting nature of life and the doctrine of the four universal sufferings of birth, old age, sickness and death. Hearing this, the seven began to realize for the first time just what it was they ought to be doing. Making a fresh determination, they began to devote themselves to Buddhist practice.'
'What is it exactly that you base your existence upon?' was Shakyamuni's question to them. What is it then, that we should seek as our 'nourishment' in life? In clarifying this, Nichiren Daishonin describes the 'three treasures' of life. These are the treasures of the storehouse, the treasures of the body, and the treasures of the heart.
The 'five things' which people tend to seek, as mentioned in the above story, fall under the categories of treasures of the storehouse and treasures of the body: material wealth, needless to say, is a treasure of the storehouse; and youthfulness, physical attractiveness, strength and ability, and social status or position are, from the Buddhist viewpoint, all treasures of the body.
Each of these treasures has a certain measure of value for one's daily life and existence, and therefor it may seem only natural to seek them. But the problem lies in whether or not these are, in fact, true treasures that will serve as eternal nourishment for our life. Some people become victims of treachery or even murder because of their wealth and material possessions. More than a few women, on account of their beauty, have become objects of intense jealousy or been subject to manipulation. Also, there are many who, after having gained fame, become arrogant and follow a miserable course in life. Those with high social status are often enslaved to the devilish nature of authority. There have been too many such examples to be enumerated. Among these so-called treasures there is not one that will endure eternally. Since this is the case, neither treasures of the storehouse nor treasures of the body can be regarded as the nourishment for life which will enable one to experience true happiness. With these alone, a person cannot even begin to lead a truly fulfilled existence.
On what; then, should people base their lives? Nichiren Daishonin unequivocally teaches that 'the treasures of the heart are the most valuable of all' (Major Writings, Vol 2, p. 279). By the phrase, 'treasures of the heart', he means faith. Faith is the only eternal 'treasure' and 'nourishment' for human life.
Faith includes unfathomable benefit and limitless good fortune; it contains the great power of the universe, transforming even the land in which one lives. Faith is the source of infinite joy, wisdom and compassion, enabling one to make full use of the treasures of the storehouse and the treasures of the body towards the end of realizing eternal happiness. Each of you already possesses this supreme nourishment for life. All that you have to do is tap its limitless power.
Life passes quickly. If you waste your time in hesitation, complaining or criticizing others, or if you yield to your own lazy nature, before you know it, your youth will have passed you by. Each and every day is important. It is my hope that you will spend a fulfilled life, in which you feel as though each day is as valuable as a thousand years or even a thousand aeons. And that for this purpose, while young, you will persevere amid the realities of life, at the same time pondering the vastness of the universe and the nature of eternity.
Pascal, the great French philosopher, defined every activity that turns one's attention away from the true aspect of life as a 'diversion'. Diversions, in this sense, indicate activities that do not contribute to the development of one's life and possess no inherent value, such as partaking of simple amusement or pleasure.
Socrates believed that in order for human beings to awaken to their true nature, it is first necessary to do away with ignorance of oneself. Herein lies an excellent view of life which makes Socrates one of the truly great philosophers of Greek antiquity. It is something that no second or third-rate thinker or critic could have come up with. It is not too much to say that all kinds of unhappiness without doubt arise from ignorance of oneself. In reality, however, most people are unaware of their true 'self', the eternal aspect of their lives, and spend the better part of their time courting a shallow self, whose existence is based on material wealth and fame, pleasure and status. This amounts to nothing more than pursuit of the treasures of the storehouse and the treasures of the body, which, in themselves, fall under the category of diversions. If one pursues only such diversions, unable to avoid life's impermanence, he will ultimately be swept away by the current of unhappiness.
In contrast, when one discovers his true self and has come to understand what constitutes authentic happiness and value in life, he will never settle only for mere diversions. Manifesting the true self, one takes action, prays and creates value for the sake of establishing eternal happiness. One thus is able to acquire the supreme treasures of the heart.
The important issue in life is whether, not being deceived by his shallow self, a person can keenly perceive his true self, which is endowed with all of the Ten Worlds, in particular the ultimate condition of Buddhahood. I believe that this is the true meaning for Socrates' emphasis on philosophy (literally, love of wisdom) as the clarification of the self.
Many years ago, I read a documentary called 'Bread Crust'. It was an unforgettable story of the life and death of a young mother who had struggled to survive in the middle of a big city while caring for her five small children. Her husband had gone to another province for seasonal work, but the amount of money he sent home was small and she was forced to take on a low-paying job in order for her family to survive. After feeding her hungry children there was often little left for her to eat, and in the end she died of malnutrition. After her death, her diary was discovered and it was learned that she spend her last several months eating nothing but bread crust. It appears, however, that she did not die of malnutrition alone. Her diary entry on the day she passed away reads as follows: 'I no longer have the energy to go on living, but I'm afraid of dying. If only I had someone to support me - someone to talk to..... People here seem so cold.' While alive she had steadfastly refused to accept handouts.
Though her case may seem exceptional, her will and determination to live and support her family through her own means must have been greater than that of most people. It seems that she possessed the confidence to work to obtain the physical nourishment necessary for her family to survive. However, she lacked the 'spiritual nourishment' of having a friend to whom she could talk. In my opinion, this was the reason why she lost the fundamental energy to go on living. When I think of the chilling image of this young mother, totally isolated and alone, with no one whom to depend, I feel a sense of indignation towards a society that is unable to lend a hand to save people who have no one to rely on and no means to support themselves.
This incident prompts us to consider once again the important question of what it is that people can base their lives upon. Again, I cannot help but wonder how different the outcome would have been for this young mother if she had only had a friend who was a member of the Soka Gakkai. Few people are filled with the goodwill or possess the kindness of heart of our fellow Soka Gakkai members, spending whatever little spare time they have to wholeheartedly encourage those who are suffering and help them to overcome their loneliness and isolation. Through showing people the existence of the Mystic Law and the correct way of practice based on it, and through their strong encouragement, they have enabled many people to show actual proof of the principle that 'myo means revitalization'. In this sense, our fellow members are truly invaluable, and the Soka Gakkai is like a beacon of hope in a society where individuals are completely isolated from one another in their hearts.
If she had only known of the Soka Gakkai and the Mystic Law, that young mother would not have died as she did; rather, there is no doubt that her life would have been revitalized. That this did not happen is truly regrettable. At the same time, it is my heartfelt prayer that you will advance with an even greater sense of honour as you further expand your powerful activities, giving hope to many people.