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Buddhist Study

The ‘Wish-Granting Jewel’ Within

Illustration by Filo / Getty Images.

Beset by the struggles of daily life and a world filled with division, violence and despair, it can be hard to believe in our limitless potential or that of others. Yet Nichiren Buddhism teaches that we each possess Buddhahood, the power source for transforming our lives and the world and establishing pathways to peace.

The jewel in the robe is a well-known parable in the Lotus Sutra that illustrates how, often unbeknownst to us, we each possess this priceless jewel of Buddhahood.

In this story, a poor man visits his wealthy friend. After a night of drinking, the wealthy friend sews a priceless jewel into the lining of the robe of the still-sleeping poor man, then leaves before the poor man wakes up. After he wakes up, not knowing of the precious jewel in his robe, he goes on with his life. Years later, the wealthy man runs into his still-poor friend. He asks him what he did with the jewel. For the first time, the poor man learns of this jewel in his robe that could grant his every wish.[1]

The poor man in this story represents ordinary people, who are not yet aware that they inherently possess the jewel of Buddhahood. The wealthy man represents the Buddha. By practicing the heart of the Buddha’s teachings, we can realize this unique, precious jewel in our lives with which we can construct a life of unsurpassed value and happiness.

Nichiren Reveals the ‘Wish-Granting Jewel’

Nichiren Daishonin vowed to lead all people to enlightenment. In his journey to fulfill this vow, he named the universal Law of life, or Buddha nature, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. He also established the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to bring forth the Buddha nature inherent in each person’s life. Connecting the wish-granting jewel of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the parable of the jewel in the robe, he writes:

Since the beginningless past, we living beings have never for an instant been separated from this wish-granting jewel of Myoho-renge-kyo. But, befuddled by the wine of ignorance, we fail to realize that it is hidden in the lining of our robes, and we are content with merely a little gain.[2]

Despite the highs and lows of life, by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can reveal the priceless jewel in our lives to break through any limitations and generate boundless value, joy and fulfillment.

The “wish-granting jewel” represents the essential message of the Buddha and the cause for all living beings to attain Buddhahood. Nichiren both grasped and distilled it into the simple practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, an accessible and empowering practice through which all people can become Buddhas. He writes:

Showing profound compassion for those unable to comprehend the gem of the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life, the Buddha wrapped it within the five characters [of Myoho-renge-kyo], with which he then adorned the necks of the ignorant people of the latter age.[3]

The ‘Wish-Granting Jewel’ Inscribed on the Gohonzon

In addition to establishing the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nichiren also inscribed the Gohonzon, a mandala embodying the universal Law of life, as the means for cultivating our own belief in the Buddha nature inherent in all life. Down the center of this mandala is inscribed Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the “wish-granting jewel,” and on both sides are inscriptions of Buddhist figures that represent various functions of our lives. This Gohonzon serves as a clear mirror that reflects our fundamentally enlightened nature.

Nichiren describes the characters on the Gohonzon, writing:

This mandala is in no way my invention. It is the object of devotion that depicts Shakyamuni Buddha, the World-Honored One, seated in the treasure tower of Many Treasures Buddha, and the Buddhas who were Shakyamuni’s emanations as perfectly as a print matches its woodblock. Thus the five characters of the Lotus Sutra’s title are suspended in the center, while the four heavenly kings are seated at the four corners of the treasure tower. Shakyamuni, Many Treasures, and the four leaders of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth are side by side at the top. Seated below them are the bodhisattvas, including Universal Worthy and Manjushri, and the voice-hearers, including Shariputra and Maudgalyayana. [Beside them are] the gods of the sun and moon, the devil king of the sixth heaven, the dragon king, and an asura. In addition, the wisdom kings Immovable and Craving-Filled take up their stations to the south and north. The evil and treacherous Devadatta and the ignorant dragon king’s daughter form a group. Not only Mother of Demon Children and the ten demon daughters, who are evil demons that sap the lives of people throughout the major world system, but also the Sun Goddess, Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, and the seven reigns of the heavenly gods and five reigns of the earthly gods, who are the guardian deities of Japan—all the various great and small gods, that is, the main gods, are ranged in rows.[4]

Nichiren includes beings on the Gohonzon that represent all conditions of life in the Ten Worlds, from hellish beings to Buddhas, which indicate the reality that one’s life includes all of these conditions. He teaches us that we can access Buddhahood from any state of life with this “wish-granting jewel” of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Ikeda Sensei writes:

By praying to the Gohonzon, which was inscribed based on the Ceremony in the Air,[5] we become one with the eternal and universal life in the present. We open a state of life in which we can survey the entire universe from right where we are. Through our daily practice of reciting the sutra and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can join the eternal Ceremony in the Air here and now. We can cause the treasure tower to shine within us and to shine within our daily activities and lives. That is the wonder of the Gohonzon. A magnificent cosmos of life opens to us, and reality presents itself as a world of value creation.[6]

Regardless of our current circumstances, when we chant to the Gohonzon, we are immediately transported to the life state of Buddhahood, where the wisdom of the universe is at our disposal.

Many consider statues or images of the Buddha as sacred objects to be revered. But such static images Nichiren felt could not fully convey the ultimate Law of life that pervades the universe. Rather, he wanted to express the reality that all people are Buddhas. Sensei writes:

We are all “eternal Buddhas.” Ordinary people are Buddhas just as they are.

There are no grades or distinctions among people. We are all equal; we are all equally Buddhas. The only difference among people has to do with whether, or the extent to which, we realize this in our hearts.[7]

This is what Nichiren expressed in inscribing the Gohonzon, using Chinese script. Simply sketching an image of Shakyamuni would limit what he was striving to convey: that each person is a Buddha endowed with the power of the universe. Sensei says:

Why do you suppose he used script? The mind has an infinitely broad richness that transcends time and space. The Buddha’s mind certainly cannot be fully expressed in something physical like a statue or painting, which are limited in time and space.[8]

• • •

It is extremely difficult to express the eternal and universal Law with a painting or carving. To express for all people the “eternal Law that is one with the eternal Buddha” and ensure its propagation, the Daishonin manifested it not as an image but in script. …

Words and writing guide us toward the heart and toward “cause.” By contrast, painting and sculpture tend to focus our attention on “effect.”[9]

If our object of devotion were a person or location, we would disconnect ourselves from the reality that our own life possesses the Buddha nature in the place we are now and would see the Buddha as an external being. As a result, we would be unable to develop belief in our own Buddha nature. Nichiren displayed the reality that each life is as vast as the universe, possessing limitless possibilities.

Unlocking the Treasures of the Universe

How do we go from one possessing this wish-granting jewel to one who is actively benefiting from its limitless value? Nichiren has emphasized that “the Gohonzon is found only in the two characters for faith.”[10] When we chant to the Gohonzon with faith and the conviction that we are Buddhas that can overcome any challenge, we unlock the power of the wish-granting jewel from within. We should be cautious about falling into the trap of thinking that the Gohonzon or Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is a good luck charm. It’s through our power of faith and practice that we can reveal the benefits of the Gohonzon.

For instance, we might have the latest gadget that can make life convenient sitting on our shelf. But unless we learn how to use it, we can’t fully utilize all that it has to offer. Similarly, we activate the power of the Gohonzon by chanting to it with a determination to overcome our various sufferings, achieve our goals or support friends and family. Chanting in this way to the Gohonzon, we can immediately bring forth the qualities necessary from within to set our lives in the direction we desire.

The true aspect of our lives is that we are Buddhas who strive for the happiness of others while courageously facing our own problems, transforming everything into great value.

When we fuse our great vow for kosen-rufu with our prayer to the Gohonzon, we can fully reveal the treasures of our lives and, by extension, perceive the dignity and limitless value of all life. Sensei writes:

The Gohonzon is the embodiment of the Buddha’s compassion. But if we pray to the Gohonzon without taking any concrete action for kosen-rufu, the immense compassion of the original Buddha will not infuse our lives. Only when we are “of the same mind as Nichiren” and we become “Nichiren’s disciple”—that is to say, when we stand up with the same determination as him for kosen-rufu—will his immense compassion flow through our beings like a great river.

The benefit of the Gohonzon is infinite, inexhaustible. It is so boundless, so immeasurable that the immense benefit you have already received cannot possibly begin to compare with what is possible. The supreme benefit of the Gohonzon is to change the destiny of humankind, and it is the faith of the Soka Gakkai that is bringing forth this benefit.[11]

In chanting to the Gohonzon and taking action for the happiness of others with the “same mind as Nichiren,” we can gain benefits and develop our lives to a degree that goes beyond our own imagination. Despite the challenges in our individual lives and society, this concept of the wish-granting jewel affirms that everything we need to break through and create maximum value resides within. And with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and the Gohonzon, we can blaze a path forward.

—Prepared by the Living Buddhism staff

From the December 2023 Living Buddhism


  1. See The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, pp. 191–92. ↩︎
  2. “Sovereign, Teacher, and Parent,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 36. ↩︎
  3. “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” WND-1, 376. ↩︎
  4. “The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,” WND-1, 831–32. ↩︎
  5. Ceremony in the Air: A scene from the latter half of “Treasure Tower,” the Lotus Sutra’s 11th chapter, through “Entrustment,” the 22nd chapter, where Shakyamuni Buddha, seated next to Many Treasures Buddha reveals that all people have possessed the Buddha nature since the beginningless past. ↩︎
  6. The World of Nichiren’s Writings, vol. 1, revised edition, p. 295. ↩︎
  7. The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 4, p. 186. ↩︎
  8. The World of Nichiren’s Writings, vol. 1, revised edition, p. 298. ↩︎
  9. Ibid., 299. ↩︎
  10. “The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,” WND-1, 832. ↩︎
  11. The World of Nichiren’s Writings, vol. 1, revised edition, p. 308. ↩︎

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