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Buddhism of the Sun

The Many Treasures Group—Your Brilliant Contributions Will Shine in the History of Kosen-rufu

[48]

The Many Treasures Group—Your Brilliant Contributions Will Shine in the History of Kosen-rufu

Part 3

LECTURE

Nichiren Daishonin highly praised his disciples who fought, advanced and overcame adversity alongside him from the early days of his struggle to spread the Mystic Law, writing, “Even if in the future other men and women become my believers, they will not replace you in my heart” (“Letter to the Brothers,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 502). Expressing gratitude for the earnest efforts of such disciples, he also stated, “In what lifetime could I possibly forget [your devotion]?” (“The Place of the Cluster of Blessings,” WND-1, 1069).

My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, often told me, “Always praise the members who have fought their hardest!” Honoring our dedicated members who have striven tirelessly for kosen-rufu as “emissaries of the Buddha” is a tradition of the Soka Gakkai.

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Our Pioneer Members Are the Eternal Treasures of Soka

I, too, will never forget the pioneer members with whom I have shared joys and hardships, and together surmounted difficult struggles. I continue to pray, day after day and month after month, for the good health, long life and happiness of these men and women who have made outstanding contributions that will shine in the history of kosen-rufu.

For many years, our pioneer members have practiced Nichiren Buddhism steadfastly, praying and working for the happiness of each person around them, and exerting themselves wholeheartedly to create a peaceful and secure world for people everywhere. They are true treasures of Soka whose lives sparkle with jewel-like brilliance.

President Ikeda with friends of the SGI-USA, Malibu, California, January 1981. Photo by Seikyo Press.

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Imparting Hope to Generations to Come

Through their noble examples, our pioneer members in the Many Treasures Group are imparting courage and conviction to our younger members, good fortune and benefit to their families and loved ones, and hope to future generations.

These champions of wisdom have advanced kosen-rufu while surmounting countless obstacles and changing karma into mission. There is no doubt that their lives will shine eternally as “wonderful stories without compare” (see “Letter to the Brothers,” WND-1, 499).

In this installment, I would like to explore some passages from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings together with my friends of the Many Treasures Group, as if we were seated beneath a great cherry tree in glorious blossom, engaged in a conversation about kosen-rufu and life.

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The Admirable Faith of Abutsu-bo and the Lay Nun Sennichi

It is the treasure tower adorned with the seven kinds of treasures—hearing the correct teaching, believing it, keeping the precepts, engaging in meditation, practicing assiduously, renouncing one’s attachments, and reflecting on oneself. You [Abutsu-bo][1] may think you offered gifts to the treasure tower of the Thus Come One Many Treasures, but that is not so. You offered them to yourself. You, yourself, are a Thus Come One [a Buddha] who is originally enlightened and endowed with the three bodies.[2]

You should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with this conviction. Then the place where you chant daimoku will become the dwelling place of the treasure tower. The [“Treasure Tower,” the 11th chapter of the Lotus Sutra] reads, “If there is any place where the Lotus Sutra is preached, then my treasure tower will come forth and appear in that spot” [see The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 210].[3](“On the Treasure Tower,” WND-1, 299–300)[4]

Nichiren Daishonin sent the letter titled “On the Treasure Tower” to his disciple Abutsu-bo, a lay follower on Sado Island. In it, he reveals that Abutsu-bo’s life is a supremely noble treasure tower.

Founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi underlined this passage in red in his personal copy of Nichiren’s writings, indicating that he regarded this letter as extremely important.

In another letter, which the Daishonin sent some time later to Abutsu-bo’s wife, the lay nun Sennichi, he earnestly praises the couple for their sincere support during his exile on Sado, writing:

Every single steward and Nembutsu believer worthy of the name kept strict watch on my hut day and night, determined to prevent anyone from communicating with me. Never in any lifetime will I forget how in those circumstances you [Sennichi], with Abutsu-bo carrying a wooden container of food on his back, came in the night again and again to bring me aid. It was just as if my deceased mother had suddenly been reborn in the province of Sado! (“The Sutra of True Requital,” WND-1, 933)

The couple had admirably persevered in their Buddhist practice despite facing numerous obstacles, including being driven from their land, being fined and having their house confiscated (see WND-1, 933).

Abutsu-bo’s and Sennichi’s unwavering efforts to seek and protect Nichiren remind me of our pioneer members, who have likewise stayed true to their faith through all manner of hardships since the early days of our movement.

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The Light of Inner Transformation Adorns Our Lives

In the passage we are studying from “On the Treasure Tower,” Nichiren Daishonin begins by saying, “It is the treasure tower adorned with the seven kinds of treasures—hearing the correct teaching, believing it, keeping the precepts, engaging in meditation, practicing assiduously, renouncing one’s attachments, and reflecting on oneself” (WND-1, 299).

Just what exactly is this treasure tower?

As Shakyamuni’s preaching of the Lotus Sutra proceeds into “The Emergence of the Treasure Tower,” the 11th chapter, a tower suddenly rises out of the earth and stands suspended in the air. It is a colossal, magnificent tower adorned with seven kinds of precious materials, such as gold, silver and lapis lazuli. Inside the tower is Many Treasures Buddha, who affirms that everything Shakyamuni Buddha has taught is true.

The passage just before the part we are studying reveals that the treasure tower is the life of each person who upholds the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law. This can be seen in Nichiren’s words, “Abutsu-bo is therefore the treasure tower itself, and the treasure tower is Abutsu-bo himself” (WND-1, 299).

The treasure tower is nothing other than our own lives, and the seven precious materials such as gold, silver and lapis lazuli mentioned in the sutra symbolize our own essential brilliance. These “seven kinds of treasures” represent the seven indispensable elements of Buddhist practice—hearing the correct teaching, believing it, keeping the precepts, engaging in meditation, practicing assiduously, renouncing one’s attachments and reflecting on oneself. In terms of Nichiren Buddhism, they correspond to: hearing the teaching of the Mystic Law; believing in the Mystic Law; observing the precept of the Mystic Law [i.e., embracing and upholding the Lotus Sutra (the Gohonzon) (see The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 37)]; focusing our mind on the Mystic Law [i.e., chanting to the Gohonzon]; exerting ourselves diligently in faith and practice; casting aside our self-centeredness by putting faith first; and engaging in honest self reflection while continually trying to improve ourselves day after day.

Today, these seven indispensable elements of Buddhist practice serve as guidelines for our human revolution—our inner transformation—and are all inherent in our daily Soka Gakkai activities.

The light of the sun reflected over the Atlantic Ocean, Havana, Cuba, June 1996. Photo by Daisaku Ikeda.

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Many Treasures Groups Throughout Japan and Around the World

Those members of our Many Treasures Group who have exerted themselves in faith and practice over long decades are especially commendable. Their lives shine with brilliant achievement and benefit.

The first Many Treasures Group was formed in November 1988, in trailblazing Kyushu (the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands). After that, similar groups were formed in Tokyo and Kansai, and then on the national level in Japan.

Watching these members serve as models for younger generations over the years has brought me tremendous joy and reassurance.

Now, wonderful Many Treasures Groups have been established in countries all over the world, its members brimming with vigor and energy.

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Rich Sources of Wisdom and Experience

It is my heartfelt wish that the members of the Many Treasures Group will continue to take action with a fresh spirit and live out their golden years triumphantly and without a single regret. At the same time, I see them as having the mission of demonstrating that an aging society is a society imbued with happiness, and that a maturing society is a fulfilled society.

The American futurist Hazel Henderson, with whom I published a dialogue, said:

Viewed in another light, the aging of society and stabilizing population means the gradual maturing of society. Conventional wisdom has it that a slowing of population growth . . . is a terrible thing. But I do not agree. An aging society with healthy life-expectancy is maturing and becoming broader so that it can provide leadership for the world in all kinds of ways.[5]

Dr. Henderson sees an aging society as an opportunity to create a more mature and tolerant society. She has also expressed her high hopes for the Soka Gakkai, calling our organization an inspiring model for such a society.

The question is how to make the best use of the rich wisdom and experiences of our esteemed pioneer members, who have steadfastly overcome the challenges of turbulent times.

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Respecting the Elderly Is the Key to a Flourishing Society

Shakyamuni taught that those who cherish the elderly attain an increase in life, beauty, happiness and strength.[6]

Nichiren Daishonin also stresses the importance of respecting the elderly through a reflection on Chinese history, writing:

King Wen[7] of the Chou dynasty was victorious in battle because he took care to provide for elderly people. During the thirty-seven reigns spanning eight hundred years in which his descendants ruled, there were some incidents of misgovernment, but on the whole the Chou dynasty prospered due to that fundamental virtue. (“An Outline of the ‘Entrustment’ and Other Chapters,” WND-1, 916)

This insight is even more significant in the context of today’s aging society. Indeed, the lives of our elderly members, who have deeply internalized Nichiren’s teachings, shine as beacons of a new philosophy illuminating humanity.

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“Treasures of the Heart” Are Indestructible

We are, of course, mortal beings, and as we age our bodies inevitably experience physical decline. Some of our elderly members are battling illness, while others have lost their life partners or are living alone without much support from others.

As Nichiren Daishonin approached the age of 60, he highlighted the inescapable sufferings of birth, aging, sickness and death: “I have already undergone birth, and sixty years have now passed. And without doubt I have undergone aging as well. All that is left for me are the two terms ‘sickness’ and ‘death’ ” (“Reply to Abutsu-bo,” WND-2, 683).

In society today, as the average life span increases, we are seeing a steady rise in the number of issues relating to aging, sickness and death. But regardless of circumstances, the “treasures of the heart” (“The Three Kinds of Treasure,” WND-1, 851) that we have accumulated through connecting our lives with
the Mystic Law and the realm of kosen-rufu can never be destroyed. They are forever indestructible.

In contrast, the “treasures of the storehouse” (material wealth) and “treasures of the body” (physical health, practical abilities and social status) are benefits limited to this lifetime (see WND-1, 851). The “treasures of the heart,” however, endure throughout the three existences of past, present and future, adorning our lives in lifetime after lifetime.

Those who embrace the Mystic Law are guaranteed to be protected. Our members—shouldering the mission of lessening the karmic suffering[8] and transforming the destiny of their families—are changing poison into medicine and accumulating good fortune that will flow on to their descendants for generations to come.

In the final chapter of our lives, our wealth in terms of “treasures of the heart” is unshakable proof of our good fortune; it signals that we have established a state of genuine absolute happiness.

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Conviction in the Nobility of Our Lives

Nichiren Daishonin tells Abutsu-bo: “You may think you offered gifts to the treasure tower of the Thus Come One Many Treasures, but that is not so. You offered them to yourself” (WND-1, 299). This is because our life itself is the supremely noble treasure tower.

Nichiren then goes on to highlight the nobility of each person’s life by revealing that each of us is the “Thus Come One who is originally enlightened and endowed with the three bodies” (WND-1, 300). In other words, we are fundamentally enlightened Buddhas endowed with the Dharma body, the reward body and the manifested body.[9]

In this way, he is stressing the importance of each of us chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the deep conviction that we are the treasure tower, we are a Buddha.

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Wherever We Are Is the “Dwelling Place of the Treasure Tower”

“The place where you chant daimoku [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] will become the dwelling place of the treasure tower” (WND-1, 300), writes Nichiren Daishonin. The treasure tower does not exist somewhere distant or far away from us. Furthermore, the place where we are right now is the treasure land, as Nichiren indicates when he says, “It is not that [the Buddha] leaves his present place and goes to some other place” (OTT, 192).

What’s important is that we continue taking action to realize the Daishonin’s ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.” Let us keep striving to positively transform our environment—in the spirit of “purifying the land three times” as described in the Lotus Sutra (see LSOC, 212–13)—firmly convinced that the place where we are right now is the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light.[10]

SGI President Ikeda expresses his appreciation
to a woman living near the SGI-Hong Kong
Culture Center, February 1997. Photo by Seikyo Press.

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The Joy of Sharing the Law in the Latter Day

Be diligent in developing your faith until the last moment of your life. Otherwise you will have regrets. For example, the journey from Kamakura to Kyoto takes twelve days. If you travel for eleven but stop with only one day remaining, how can you admire the moon over the capital? No matter what, stay close to the priest who knows the heart of the Lotus Sutra, keep learning from him the principles of Buddhism, and continue your journey of faith. (“Letter to Niike,” WND-1, 1027)[11]

Nichiren Daishonin begins his “Letter to Niike” with the words, “What a joy it is for us to have been born in the Latter Day of the Law and to have shared in the propagation of the Lotus Sutra!” (WND-1, 1026).

He then goes on to say: “Be diligent in developing your faith until the last moment of your life. Otherwise you will have regrets” (WND-1, 1027).

True faith means remaining steadfast in our Buddhist practice until the very end. We mustn’t reach a point where we feel that, just because we’ve practiced wholeheartedly since our youth, we’ve done enough and can take a break in our “journey of faith.” And, more importantly, we must never abandon our faith altogether.

The spirit of the Buddha is to strive with unflagging determination to keep going until the last moment. With that spirit, each step we take will be a step toward triumph in the final accounting of our lives.

This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of the American poet Walt Whitman (1819–92). Toward the end of his life, Whitman wrote: “A battle-contest yet! Bear lively there!”[12] In other words, he still had a vigorous fighting spirit. Let us, too, remain active and energetic no matter what our age. Let’s continue to encourage and support each other, and cheer one another on. This will cause boundless joy, fulfillment and good fortune to well forth in our lives.

Mr. Makiguchi started practicing Nichiren Buddhism at the age of 57, and he continued to energetically share the practice and proclaim its greatness to others well into his 60s and 70s.

In Mr. Toda’s novel Human Revolution, there is a scene in which Mr. Makiguchi and a senior diplomat are having a frank discussion on the former’s theory of value. As the novel’s hero, Gan—who represents Mr. Toda himself—watches them discoursing passionately for over two hours, he reflects: “There are elderly people who, though their bodies have aged, still possess a youthful spirit, and there are those whose bodies are young, but who have lost their passion and inspiration, and grown old of heart.”

It is just as Nichiren describes, “You will grow younger, and your good fortune will accumulate” (“The Unity of Husband and Wife,” WND-1, 464).

Let us strive to remain young at heart and continue to feel passion and excitement in our Soka Gakkai activities and our daily lives.

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Continuing Our “Journey of Faith” Each and Every Day

In “Letter to Niike,” Nichiren Daishonin points out to his disciple Niike that if he ends the 12-day journey it takes to get from Kamakura to Kyoto a day early, he will not reach his destination. He also encourages Niike to seek out a “good friend” who has gained a profound understanding of the Lotus Sutra and to continue his “journey of faith” (see WND-1, 1027).

We cannot carry out our Buddhist practice in the fullest sense apart from the Soka Gakkai, the organization advancing kosen-rufu in the real world just as Nichiren teaches. To attain Buddhahood in this lifetime and help others do the same, we need to strive wholeheartedly in faith while living out our lives together with the Soka Gakkai. The key is to continue seeking the way, challenging ourselves and giving our all.

That’s why it’s essential that we practice with the spirit of striving even one more day. With pure and steadfast faith, we can bring our lives and our efforts for kosen-rufu to a magnificent completion.

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The Sure Path of Eternity, Happiness, True Self and Purity

Josei Toda burned with passion for kosen-rufu until his final moment. He declared: “The Soka Gakkai is my life. It must always remain an organization of pure faith that exists to accomplish kosen-rufu”; and “President Makiguchi and the Soka Gakkai have faithfully kept Nichiren Buddhism alive.” He also called out: “Fight adamantly against any corruption!” and “Never slacken in your struggle against evil!”

With this spirit, he continued to boldly take the lead in our movement for kosen-rufu and protect the realm of the Soka Gakkai, the harmonious community of practitioners dedicated to carrying out the Buddha’s intent.

Our Many Treasures Group members have inherited this faith of the lion king of Soka that brims with invincible fighting spirit. Maintaining the determination to strive today and every day assures us of having a “correct and steadfast mind at the moment of death.”[13] We will be able to forge a path that will imbue our lives with the noble virtues of eternity, happiness, true self and purity[14] throughout the three existences of past, present and future.

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Steadily and Patiently Exerting Ourselves Day After Day

Achieving this, however, doesn’t require any special or unusual form of practice.

As Nichiren Daishonin states in The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, “Morning after morning we rise up with the Buddha, evening after evening we lie down with the Buddha” (OTT, 83).

All we need to do is keep pressing ahead in our faith day after day, steadily and patiently, with confidence and good cheer. In this way, we will experience gratitude and the joy of faith amid our seemingly ordinary lives. Even if, as we age, we can’t get about as easily as we once could, we can encourage others over the phone or in writing. We can chant for their happiness and victory. As Many Treasures Group members, your very presence is a great source of inspiration.

As long as we continue chanting to the Gohonzon each day and practicing alongside our mentor and our fellow members, we will have no cause for anxiety or fear. We will reside in a realm of complete security and peace of mind.

The purpose of our Buddhist practice is to attain indestructible happiness, no matter what. It enables us to continue our eternal journey experiencing joy in both life and death.

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Walking the Great Path of Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime Together

The Mystic Law is “the great lantern that illuminates the long night of the sufferings of birth and death” (“A Comparison of the Lotus and Other Sutras,” WND-1, 1038).

Our efforts for kosen-rufu day after day guarantee us an unsurpassed life state, true to the words that practitioners of the Lotus Sutra will enjoy “peace and security in [our] present existence and good circumstances in future existences” (see LSOC, 136),[15] as well as “perpetual youth and eternal life” (“Reply to Kyo’o,” WND-1, 413). They also assure that we will continue our mission for kosen-rufu, “constantly being reborn in various Buddha lands together with our mentor” (see LSOC, 178).

In the golden years of our lives, let us keep moving ahead together, one step at a time, on the great path of attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime!

Translated from the April 2019 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.

References

  1. Abutsu-bo: A lay follower who lived in the province of Sado, an island in the Sea of Japan. When Nichiren Daishonin was exiled to Sado in late 1271, Abutsu-bo converted to his teaching together with his wife, Sennichi. The couple assisted Nichiren during his exile, supplying him with food and other necessities for more than two years until he was pardoned and left the island in 1274. After the Daishonin went to live at Mount Minobu, Abutsu-bo made several journeys to visit him there. ↩︎
  2. Three bodies: Three kinds of body a Buddha may possess. They are the Dharma body, the reward body and the manifested body. The Dharma body is the fundamental truth, or Law, to which a Buddha is enlightened. The reward body is the wisdom to perceive the Law and is called so because a Buddha’s wisdom is considered the reward derived from ceaseless effort and discipline. And the manifested body is the compassionate actions the Buddha carries out to lead people to happiness. ↩︎
  3. A rephrasing of the Lotus Sutra passage. ↩︎
  4. Nichiren sent “On the Treasure Tower” to Abutsu-bo in March 1272 in reply to a question from him about the meaning of the treasure tower that is described in the Lotus Sutra. He explains that the treasure tower refers to the Gohonzon, and that those who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo are themselves the treasure tower and Thus Come One Many Treasures. He calls Abutsu-bo “a leader of this northern province [of Sado]” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 300) and praises his deep faith. ↩︎
  5. Hazel Henderson and Daisaku Ikeda, Planetary Citizenship: Your Values, Beliefs, and Actions Can Shape a Sustainable World (Santa Monica, California: Middleway Press, 2004), p. 159. ↩︎
  6. “For those who are always courteous and respectful of elders, four things increase: life, beauty, happiness, strength.” The Dhammapada: Sayings of the Buddha, translated by Thomas Cleary (New York: Bantam Books, 1995), p. 40. ↩︎
  7. King Wen (n.d.): The ruler who laid the basis for the founding and long prosperity of the Chou dynasty (circa 1100–256 BCE), paving the way for the conquest of the Yin (Shang) dynasty by his son King Wu. King Wen governed with benevolence and was revered as a leader of outstanding virtue. ↩︎
  8. Lessening one’s karmic retribution: This term, which literally means, “transforming the heavy and receiving it lightly,” appears in the Nirvana Sutra. As a benefit of protecting the correct teaching of Buddhism, we can experience relatively light karmic retribution in this lifetime, thereby expiating heavy karma that ordinarily would adversely affect us not only in this lifetime, but also over many lifetimes to come. ↩︎
  9. See footnote 2. ↩︎
  10. Land of Eternally Tranquil Light: Also, Land of Tranquil Light. The Buddha land, which is free from impermanence and impurity. In many sutras, the actual saha world in which human beings dwell is described as an impure land filled with delusions and sufferings, while the Buddha land is described as a pure land free from these and far removed from this saha world. In contrast, the Lotus Sutra reveals the saha world to be the Buddha land, or the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light, and explains that the nature of a land is determined by the minds of its inhabitants. ↩︎
  11. This letter was addressed to Niike Saemon-no-jo, a disciple who lived in Totomi Province (present-day western Shizuoka Prefecture). In it, Nichiren Daishonin writes of the joy of being born and propagating the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law. He further goes on to assert that faith in the Mystic Law is the key to attaining Buddhahood and stresses the importance of diligent practice. ↩︎
  12. Walt Whitman, “Old Age’s Ship & Crafty Death’s,” in Leaves of Grass (New York: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1968), p. 440. ↩︎
  13. In “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life,” the Daishonin asserts that “one who summons up one’s faith and chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the profound insight that now is the last moment of one’s life” will savor immense inner peace and tranquillity when they die, protected by a thousand Buddhas (see WND-1, 216). This is the meaning of a correct and steadfast mind at the moment of death. In other words, those who strive in faith with the spirit that now is one’s last moment are on the path of attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime. ↩︎
  14. Eternity, happiness, true self and purity are known as the four virtues. Describing the noble qualities of the Buddha’s life, the four are explained as follows: “eternity” means unchanging and eternal; “happiness” means tranquillity that transcends all suffering; “true self” means true and intrinsic nature; and “purity” means free of illusion or mistaken conduct. ↩︎
  15. “The Parable of the Medicinal Herbs,” the 5th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, states, “Once these living beings have heard the Law, they will enjoy peace and security in their present existence and good circumstances in future existences” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 136). ↩︎

Advancing Together Wisely, Harmoniously and Joyfully

Forging Deep and Strong Roots of Faith