Skip to main content

Ikeda Wisdom Academy

‘Treasuring Each Person’—The Guiding Spirit of Our Actions As Genuine Practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism

Young men encourage one another by studying together at the SGI-USA Chicago Culture Center, December 2021. Photo by Aditya Negi

Chapter 11

“The Three Kinds of Treasure”—Part 2 of 3

Nichiren Daishonin addressed “The Three Kinds of Treasure” to a disciple who was facing dire circumstances to teach him the importance of one’s own behavior in a time of adversity. In this lecture, Ikeda Sensei focuses on the importance of supporting and encouraging each person.

To treasure each person—this is the foundation of Nichiren Buddhism. As the saying goes, “One is the mother of ten thousand” (“Conversation between a Sage and an Unenlightened Man,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 131). The enlightenment of one person opens the way for all people to attain enlightenment. Nichiren Daishonin states, “When the dragon king’s daughter attained Buddhahood, it opened up the way to attaining Buddhahood for all women of later ages” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” WND-1, 269). This is a case of “one example that stands for all the rest” (WND-1, 269). …

Mr. Toda always reassured [those struggling with all kinds of worries]: “It’s going to be all right!” “You’ll definitely become happy by practicing Nichiren Buddhism.” He also always cited Nichiren’s writings when he gave encouragement, careful to explain: “This is what the Daishonin teaches. These aren’t my words.” All who came to see him were revitalized by his confident guidance and left with a new, purposeful spring in their step. While grappling with their own karmic challenges, they followed Mr. Toda’s lead to become emissaries of happiness in their local areas, supporting and encouraging their fellow members and fostering many capable people for kosen-rufu. …

It is evident in Nichiren’s writings that he always based his guidance and encouragement on a keen understanding of the character and specific circumstances of whomever he was addressing. This is particularly apparent in “The Three Kinds of Treasure.” His expressions of concern and meticulous advice throughout this letter overflow with his boundless compassion for his disciple Shijo Kingo, who was then facing the greatest challenge of his life.[1]

Leaders Must Be Infinitely Thoughtful and Considerate

As things stand now, I have a feeling you are in danger. Your enemies are sure to make an attempt on your life. … A cart, as long as it has two wheels, does not lurch all over the road. Likewise, if two men go together, an enemy hesitates to attack. Therefore, no matter what faults you may find with your younger brothers, do not let them leave you alone even for a moment. (“The Three Kinds of Treasure,” WND-1, 848–49)

In saying “As things stand now,” Nichiren turns the focus to Kingo’s course of action going forward. First, he expresses concern that Kingo’s life is still in grave danger. Naturally, Kingo would have been aware that certain parties were actively seeking to eliminate him. But he may well have thought, I’ll be fine because I’m practicing Buddhism.

He wishes to impress on Kingo the importance of having allies in order to successfully weather the present crisis. Specifically, Nichiren instructs him to cultivate cordial relations with his younger brothers, even if they have made mistakes in the past and have various shortcomings. He further points out that if Kingo is always accompanied by his brothers, his enemies will refrain from attacking him.

The reason for the Daishonin’s strong insistence that Kingo under no circumstances travel alone was that the situation still remained so tense that he might be ambushed at any moment. He is deliberately strict here, because Kingo has just overcome one difficult hurdle by obtaining an opportunity to regain his lord’s trust, putting him at a most crucial juncture.[2]

Faith Is a Struggle With Our Own Inner Darkness

Your face bears definite signs of a hot temper. But you should know that the heavenly gods will not protect a short-tempered person, however important they may think he or she is. If you should be killed, even though you might attain Buddhahood, your enemies would be delighted, but we would feel only grief. This would indeed be regrettable. (WND-1, 849)

The Daishonin’s description likely captures a key aspect of Kingo’s personality. Kingo tended to be extremely single-minded and acted with a zealous sense of right and wrong. But this could sometimes work to his disadvantage. Therefore, Nichiren tells him bluntly that the Buddhist gods will not protect someone who is shorttempered (see WND-1, 849).

Of course, when it comes to attaining Buddhahood, there is certainly no discrimination based on personality. Anyone’s personality can shine brightly when illuminated by the Mystic Law. And it is by fully utilizing each person’s unique personality that our movement for kosen-rufu can achieve perfect and harmonious development.

We can surmise, however, that Nichiren purposely adopts a stern tone here in order to dispel Kingo’s innate darkness. …

There was a very real danger that his hot temper might get the better of him and exacerbate the situation. Carried away by their own views of right and wrong, people often forget to be circumspect or consider others’ feelings, causing friction and resentment. Nichiren worried that with Kingo, it could create an opening for devilish forces to take advantage; hence, the reason for his unvarnished words.

Nichiren further points out that if Kingo were to antagonize others and lose his life as a result, his enemies would rejoice while his fellow practitioners of the Mystic Law would be filled with sorrow. Here, the Daishonin teaches Kingo that his victory does not stop with him alone but is deeply connected to the victory of the entire community of Nichiren’s followers. Consequently, he advises Kingo to exercise the utmost care and take precautions for his own safety.[3]

An Evil Age Rife With Jealousy

While your foes busy themselves plotting against you, your lord places greater confidence in you than before. Therefore, although they appear to have quieted down, inwardly they are no doubt seething with hate. (WND-1, 849)

[Nichiren] understood the nuances of Kingo’s situation. He also deeply recognized the frightening human tendency to malign and tear others down out of jealousy, rivalry and resentment. This tendency is all the more apparent in the strife-filled saha world of the Latter Day of the Law, an evil age when people are swayed by greed, anger, foolishness, arrogance and doubt.

Nichiren himself had consistently triumphed in the struggle against the three powerful enemies of Buddhism—arrogant false sages represented by corrupt and jealous priests in the thrall of devilish functions, along with arrogant priests and arrogant lay people in league with them. …

A quote by the Japanese intellectual Kiyoshi Miki has stayed with me since my youth. He said: “Jealousy is always insidious. … Rather than prompting people to raise themselves to the same level as the person they are jealous of, it usually spurs them to bring that person down to their own level.” He also noted, “Jealousy comes from insecurity.”

There is nothing to fear once we realize that jealousy lies at the heart of all attempts to obstruct the progress of the community of believers that correctly upholds the Buddha’s teachings. The important thing is that we have courage combined with wisdom and mindful behavior. Our behavior as human beings, as taught in Buddhism, is the key to victory. …

Of course, Buddhism is a teaching that enables each of us to live with complete freedom. It gives us the power to act with unconstrained energy and cheerfulness. But as “for the time being” indicates, Buddhism also means exercising the utmost care, prudence and wisdom in our conduct at crucial moments. At such times, it is vital that we bring forth wisdom most appropriate to the situation and create the greatest possible value. We must, therefore, remain unswayed in the depths of our lives, while at the same time flexibly respond to whatever develops. This is the Buddhist wisdom of the Middle Way.[4]

A Wise Person Triumphs Amid Life’s Harsh Realities

Probably you are well aware of it, but let me cite the Buddha’s prediction about what the latter age will be like. In essence he states: “It will be a muddied age in which even sages will find it difficult to live. They will be like stones in a great fire, which for a while seem to endure the heat but finally char and crumble into ashes ….” Thus the saying goes, “Do not remain in the seat of honor too long.”

Many people have plotted to undo you, but you have avoided their intrigues and emerged victorious. Should you lose your composure now and fall into their trap, you will be, as people say, like a boatman who rows his boat with all his might only to have it capsize just before he reaches the shore, or like a person who is served no hot water at the end of his meal. (WND-1, 849)

Through earnest efforts in exact accord with Nichiren’s guidance, Kingo had overcome the tense situation with his lord, showing actual proof of victory based on strong faith. It is a reality of life and society, however, that the seeds of future defeat are often sown in times of victory—just as the seeds of future victory may be sown in times of defeat. Nichiren points out that should Kingo lose his composure now and fall into the trap of those plotting against him (see WND-1, 849)—that is, should he foolishly antagonize others and make matters worse by losing his temper, thereby playing into the hands of his enemies—then all his efforts to achieve a positive outcome will have been in vain. …

Next, the Daishonin mentions the “night watchmen of Egara” (WND-1, 849), whom he also later refers to as the “four night watchmen” (WND-1, 850). … If Kingo is on friendly terms with these night watchmen and they frequently visit his home, the Daishonin further states, it will deter attacks from enemies, who do not wish to be seen (see WND-1, 850).

Although Shijo Kingo and the four night watchmen were all Nichiren’s followers, relations among them seem to have been strained. Nichiren counsels Kingo on this point as well. Fortunate is the disciple who has such a concerned and caring mentor.

He urges Kingo to be cordial toward the four night watchmen. He says, “However disagreeable it may be to you, you should associate with them amicably” (WND-1, 849–50). …

Rather than viewing this guidance as directed only to Shijo Kingo, we should take it as an eternal guideline for all practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism. To be on good terms with everyone, to treasure our fellow practitioners— these principles also apply to the SGI. When solidly united, we can overcome obstacles and negative forces and make great strides forward for kosen-rufu. Devilish functions constantly seek to sow division. If fellow practitioners engage in petty infighting, they will only undermine one another, making it possible for devilish forces to gain advantage.[5]

Behavior Infused With Respect for Others

But since you are hot-tempered by nature, you might not take my advice. In that case, it will be beyond the power of my prayers to save you. (WND-1, 850)

Throughout his writings, Nichiren makes the point that unless he and his disciples are united in purpose and resolve, their prayers, their goals and aspirations will not be realized. Probably no other follower had put his life on the line to protect Nichiren to the extent Shijo Kingo had. But if Kingo gave in to his temper and acted rashly, forgetting all about his commitment to act in a spirit of oneness with his mentor, he would wind up again foolishly ruled by deluded impulses. In that case, Nichiren says, no matter how fervently he prays for Kingo, it will be to no avail. …

Having advised Kingo to ally himself with the night watchmen, Nichiren writes: “You must hurry and talk with these four men and report to me how the matter goes. Then I will fervently pray to the heavenly gods for your protection.”

This is a key point of personal guidance. The process doesn’t just end once the guidance and encouragement are given. The person giving guidance must continue to chant wholeheartedly for the other person’s happiness. We see that Nichiren always did precisely that. …

Shijo Kingo had been confronted with many challenges: the displeasure of his lord; slander, false rumors and attacks by fellow retainers; his elder brother’s betrayal; discord with his younger brothers; and strained relations with a number of fellow practitioners. Nichiren was concerned about each of these situations and gave pertinent advice on how to deal with them. From this letter, we can sense how much Nichiren cared about Shijo Kingo, supporting and guiding him with an affection surpassing even that which one might expect from a family member.

Indeed, the Daishonin thoroughly treasured each follower. Showing thoughtful consideration to each person is an expression of Buddhist humanism. …

The Buddhist concept of “behavior as a human being” (WND-1, 852) constitutes a philosophy of action offering a new model of conduct for the human race. The world is in urgent need of people who practice and base their actions on humanism. The conduct of SGI members in cherishing and valuing each person is being lauded around the globe as a model of humanity for a new age.[6]

The Ikeda Wisdom Academy is an SGI-USA youth leaders advanced study movement. While the following material is for this 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, pp. 175–76. ↩︎
  2. Ibid., pp. 177–78. ↩︎
  3. Ibid., pp. 178–79. ↩︎
  4. Ibid., pp. 179–80. ↩︎
  5. Ibid., pp. 181–83. ↩︎
  6. Ibid., pp. 184–86. ↩︎

Our World to Make

District Study Meeting Material