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Ikeda Wisdom Academy

The Essence of Buddhism Lies in One’s ‘Behavior as a Human Being’

Young women study together, North Hollywood, California, November 2021.

Chapter 10

“The Three Kinds of Treasure”—Part 1 of 3

Nichiren Daishonin wrote “The Three Kinds of Treasure” for a disciple in dire circumstances to teach him the importance of one’s own behavior in a time of adversity. In this lecture, Ikeda Sensei explores how Nichiren explains the way to “take strong and wise action to break through any hardship.[1]

Buddhism manifests in one’s behavior. The Law is invisible to the eye, but it can be discerned in the conduct of those who correctly practice the Buddhist teachings. This is because their actions exemplify the great merit of the Law. …

Buddhism shines the spotlight on individuals who, just as the Buddha does, show through their actions unceasing respect for people.

For the next three installments, we will study “The Three Kinds of Treasure.” In this letter addressed to Shijo Kingo, dated September 1277, Nichiren teaches his loyal disciple the importance of being a person of wisdom and how crucial one’s behavior can be in a time of adversity.[2]

Sincerity and Integrity Are the Springboards for Overcoming Adversity

Shijo Kingo had been undergoing severe trials. In an earlier letter, Nichiren Daishonin quoted him as saying that great hardships had showered down on him like rain (see “The Difficulty of Sustaining Faith,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 471). Three years prior (in 1274), Kingo had tried to convert his lord, Ema Mitsutoki, to the Daishonin’s teaching, but this only resulted in Ema marginalizing Kingo. From that time on, spiteful fellow retainers spread false accusations about Kingo and tarnished his good name. Attempts were even made on Kingo’s life. Ema’s disfavor also continued, causing tremendous hardship for Kingo and his family. This hardship took various forms, most conspicuously his being ordered to relinquish his existing fief and accept a smaller one. …

Then, as a consequence of spurious accusations leveled against him in connection with an alleged incident at the Kuwagayatsu Debate of June 1277, Kingo suddenly found himself in danger of having all his lands confiscated. Ema pressed him to recant his faith in the Lotus Sutra or else be stripped of his fief. But Kingo chose faith without the slightest hesitation or doubt. He immediately sent a pledge to this effect to Nichiren. And the swift reply he received contained the famous lines: “This life is like a dream. One cannot be sure that one will live until tomorrow. However wretched a beggar you might become, never disgrace the Lotus Sutra” (“A Warning against Begrudging One’s Fief,” WND-1, 824).

Another consistent piece of advice Nichiren gave Shijo Kingo was to not be fawning or servile. Servility is tantamount to destroying one’s own dignity or self-esteem. Even worse, behaving in a cowardly or servile manner toward devilish functions will prevent one’s Buddhahood from shining forth.

We must firmly stand up to devilish functions that bring misery to people. When confronted by people of dignity and integrity, devilish functions will always make a fast retreat. This is just like foxes fleeing when they hear the mighty roar of the lion king or like darkness vanishing the instant the sun comes out. …

What is admirable about Shijo Kingo is how he always sought Nichiren’s guidance and followed it unerringly. Because he strove in a spirit of oneness with his mentor, he could triumph magnificently over all obstacles. The mentor-disciple relationship is the driving force for victory in life and in kosen-rufu. This is an eternally unchanging principle of Buddhism.

When Shijo Kingo faithfully put his mentor’s instructions into practice, profoundly determined never to disgrace the Lotus Sutra or behave servilely, his situation changed dramatically. It happened that Ema became seriously ill, and Kingo, who was knowledgeable in medicine, was called on to treat him. He was thus presented with a great opportunity to win back his lord’s trust. This was only a few months after the threat of having his fiefs confiscated.

But the outcome of this chance to improve his relationship with his lord was still very uncertain. And Kingo’s trying circumstances remained unchanged, with no immediate solution in sight. He still faced hostility from fellow retainers as well as continuing discord with his brothers. Meanwhile, the underhanded scheming of Ryokan of Gokuraku-ji, a temple in Kamakura, and others aimed at discrediting Kingo also continued unabated.

Yet, precisely because significant developments were taking shape—including glimmerings of a positive turnaround—it was crucial that Shijo Kingo not grow overconfident or negligent. He would need to proceed carefully and cautiously toward resolving the situation. And it was imperative that he pay even greater attention to the people and things around him and secure victory through his wise behavior. This is the concrete guidance that the Daishonin offers Shijo Kingo in this letter, advising him in detail on how to view and challenge the situation confronting him. …

The Daishonin explains to his embattled disciple that the key to breaking through adversity ultimately lies in wise action and one’s own humanity. This applies not only to Shijo Kingo. Our actions, as well, reflect our faith and determine victory or defeat in our Buddhist practice.[3]

The Wise Always Have Appreciation for Their Benefactors

I am most grieved over your lord’s illness. Although he has not professed faith in the Lotus Sutra, you are a member of his clan, and it is thanks to his consideration that you are able to make offerings to the sutra. Thus, these may become prayers solely for your lord’s recovery. Think of a small tree under a large one, or grass by a great river. Though they do not receive rain or water directly, they nonetheless thrive, partaking of dew from the large tree or drawing moisture from the river. The same holds true with the relationship between you and your lord. To give another example, King Ajatashatru was an enemy of the Buddha. But because Jivaka, a minister in the king’s court, believed in the Buddha and continually made offerings to him, the blessings accruing from his actions are said to have returned to Ajatashatru. (“The Three Kinds of Treasure,” WND-1, 848)

Having followed in the footsteps of his father, Shijo Kingo was a second-generation samurai retainer of the Ema family, which was directly related to one of the Hojo regents who ruled the Kamakura military government. Both father and son had been loyal to the Ema family in times of grave peril. It is therefore not difficult to imagine that his lord would have placed deep trust in Kingo. The latter only incurred his lord’s disfavor after he tried to convert him to Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings.

Subjected to unjustified harassment and disciplinary action, including transfer to another estate in a remote province, Kingo, it appears, even considered suing Ema. Nichiren, however, urges him to exercise restraint, writing in another letter from the same period: “As vassals, you, your parents, and your close relatives are deeply indebted to your lord” (“The Eight Winds,” WND-1, 794); and “Even if he never shows you the slightest further consideration, you should not hold a grudge against your lord” (WND-1, 794). Ingratitude ranks among the very worst kind of human conduct, as it incurs evil karma.

Nichiren tells Shijo Kingo that rather than resenting his lord, who is directly bringing pressure to bear on him, he should focus on battling the real adversary—namely, the workings of the “three obstacles and four devils” manifesting in Ema’s actions. Far more deserving of blame, he points out, is Ryokan, whose villainous schemes were largely behind the persecution of the Daishonin’s followers and the false assumptions made by Kingo’s lord. He declares that Ryokan is the epitome of the group known as “arrogant false sages”—one of the three powerful enemies of Buddhism. It is an admonition to recognize the true nature of such negative and obstructive forces.

Following Nichiren’s guidance, Kingo conducted himself with wisdom and utmost sincerity in his daily life and interactions with others. As a result, when illness struck, Ema sought treatment from Shijo Kingo, who was renowned as an “excellent physician” (“On Prolonging One’s Life Span,” WND-1, 955). …

Regarding truth or error in terms of the Law or teaching, Nichiren Buddhism maintains a rigorous attitude, but when it comes to people’s sufferings, it always has a spirit of tolerance and compassion. Nichiren would do whatever he could to help those suffering, even if they were people who slandered the Law. Thinking of their plight, he exclaimed, “How tragic, how pitiful … !” (“The Selection of the Time,” WND-1, 578). At heart, he was indignant over human suffering (See “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” WND-1, 7). The essence of Buddhism is found in the heartfelt wish for the happiness of each person. …

In a family … if one person radiates the brilliance of the Mystic Law, then all family members, including those who do not practice Nichiren Buddhism, will be protected. Individuals can similarly illuminate their workplaces and their communities. That is how vast and immeasurable the benefit of the Mystic Law is. Accordingly, from the standpoint of our Buddhist practice, it is important that we ourselves, irrespective of what others may do, become like the large tree or the great river in this analogy.[4]

Buddha Nature Manifesting Itself From Within and Bringing Forth Protection From Without

Buddhism teaches that, when the Buddha nature manifests itself from within, it will receive protection from without. This is one of its fundamental principles. … What is hidden turns into manifest virtue. (WND-1, 848)

We possess this Buddha nature, and it is up to us to awaken to and manifest it. By practicing Nichiren Buddhism, the Mystic Law comes to permeate one’s life and exert its influence (see WND-1, 848)—that is, our Buddha nature, once revealed, pervades our lives in the same way that burning incense imbues our clothing with its fragrance. …

Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon, the object of devotion in Nichiren Buddhism, is in fact the same as summoning forth and praising the Buddha nature inherent in our own lives and residing in all things in the universe. In response to the sound of our chanting, through which we reveal our Buddha nature, all benevolent forces throughout the universe move into action to protect us. This principle succinctly expresses the unique character of Nichiren Buddhism, which is completely different from faith that pins hope for salvation on some external power. …

Next, Nichiren continues, “What is hidden turns into manifest virtue.” Unseen virtue turns into conspicuous reward. To practice the Mystic Law is to proceed along the path of victory; all virtue will manifest in visible form without fail. When we forge ahead with this deep, unshakable conviction, our future will open up in wonderful ways we could never have imagined. This is the conviction and the declaration of Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.[5]

Never Be Defeated by Lies and Defamation

The heavenly devil knew about this from before, and he therefore possessed your colleagues, causing them to invent that preposterous lie in order to prevent you from making offerings to the Lotus Sutra. Since your faith is profound, however, the ten demon daughters must have come to your aid and caused your lord’s illness. He does not regard you as his enemy, but since he once acted against you by giving credit to the false accusations of your colleagues, he has become seriously ill, and the malady persists. (WND-1, 848)

Devilish forces always spin lies. In this passage, Nichiren Daishonin indicates that devils invariably resort to fabrications and false accusations to discredit people. …

Nichiren says that the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, the culminating persecution that nearly saw him beheaded, was due to “endless slanders” (“On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” WND-1, 728). Slander means a twisting of the facts to malign another person. Devilish functions constantly employ such means to persuade the powerful to bring down people of integrity and justice. This is the insidious, manipulative working of the devil king. Those who fall into the category of “arrogant false sages”—the most fearful of the three powerful enemies—also employ false accusations and misinformation to incite the ruling authorities to persecute the votary of the Lotus Sutra. In contrast to those who qualify as arrogant lay people or arrogant priests—the two other powerful enemies—arrogant false sages never personally come out into the open; they do not directly strike any blows. This is the true nature of the devil king of the sixth heaven.

In view of this principle, Nichiren asserts that such devilish functions are behind Shijo Kingo’s present circumstances. In short, the devil king has influenced people connected to the Ema family, causing them to lie so that Kingo will come under fire.

Silently, imperceptibly, devilish functions wreak havoc and destruction in people’s hearts. Having the wisdom to discern the true nature of such functions reduces them in power by half. Courage—which equates to the power of faith—is what ultimately defeats devilish functions. …

How the protective functions of the universe manifest will differ widely depending on the particular circumstances. In Kingo’s case, protection appeared in the form of Ema falling ill—the result, Nichiren surmises, of Ema himself succumbing for a time to the deception of devilish forces. But because this event led Ema to regain his trust in Kingo, he, too, in keeping with the above principle, shared in the benefit of the Lotus Sutra. This clearly seems the result of Ema’s own good fortune.[6]

Justice Is Proven by Realizing Victory

“Though evils may be numerous, they cannot prevail over a single great truth” (“Many in Body, One in Mind,” WND-1, 618). It all comes down to one great truth or good. When mentor and disciple unite, devilish functions can definitely be defeated. When this victory is secured, a new page opens.

It is no exaggeration to say that the drama enacted by Shijo Kingo is a brilliant testament to his having won because of his upright, humanistic behavior—in other words, the forces of the Buddha vanquishing all devilish forces.

The times today also call for humanism. Humanistic action will no doubt become increasingly important in the future. Josei Toda once said, “You can talk about sincerity and integrity all you want, but unless your actions match your words, it’s pointless.” Our actions are what matter. The world is now waiting and yearning for the humanistic behavior that SGI members exemplify.[7]

The Ikeda Wisdom Academy is an SGI-USA youth leaders advanced study movement. While the following material is for this youth leaders study program, all SGI-USA members can read the following excerpts as part of their personal study of The Teachings for Victory, volume 1, by Ikeda Sensei.


  1. The Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, p. 161. ↩︎
  2. Ibid. ↩︎
  3. Ibid., pp. 162–64. ↩︎
  4. Ibid., pp. 165–66. ↩︎
  5. Ibid., pp. 167–68. ↩︎
  6. Ibid., pp. 169–70. ↩︎
  7. Ibid., p. 171. ↩︎

Reaching Beyond

District Study Meeting Material