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Ikeda Sensei

Become People of True Wealth

Carlos Alfonso / Unsplash.

America is the country of the success story. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “America is another name for opportunity.” Many people came to this country in pursuit of the American dream—the dream of success. At present, society is growing more static and constrained than in the past. Be that as it may, the American dream still draws to your shores many who seem to believe that, so long as one has wits and good luck, they can easily become a millionaire.

The word for millionaire, or wealthy person, in Japanese is choja. In Buddhist scriptures, however, this word has a different connotation, that of a person of virtue and influence. Based on the formulation and terminology of T’ien-t’ai, Nichiren Daishonin distinguishes three types of wealthy people in interpreting the parable of the three carts and the burning house that appears in the “Simile and Parable” chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

The first of the three categories consists of the wealthy people of the secular world—those people, such as millionaires, who are highly successful in society. Second come wealthy people who renounce the secular world, or “supraworldly wealthy people.” These are Buddhist wealthy people, specifically, Shakyamuni Buddha. The third is the “mind-observing wealthy people,” by which Nichiren means common mortals who embrace the Mystic Law. The first group might be characterized as people of external achievement, while the second and third groups are people of internal achievement. There are profound differences between these two types of achievement.

Buddhist scriptures describe secular wealthy people as being of a good family, possessing wealth, having dignity, possessing profound wisdom, being pure in their actions, exhibiting proper manners and enjoying great prestige. In accordance with the teaching that “all laws are the Buddhist Law,” it is worthwhile for us to strive to acquire the virtues of these people. I hope that, basing yourself on faith, you will become wealthy people of virtue and influence who are widely respected.

I want to add, however, that worldly success is not equivalent to true happiness. Achieving this requires that we have a profound understanding of the nature of life. …

A person of true success is one who enjoys a free and unrestrained state of life. One who clings to the transient splendor of the world of heaven or rapture is not such a person. As Buddhism teaches, those in the realm of heaven experience the five signs of decay. The joy and success of the world of heaven will inevitably fade and wither just as the leaves of a tree scatter in autumn.

The supraworldly wealthy person is a Buddha. Attaining Buddhahood is true success; the Buddha is the eternal wealthy person. Buddhas possess the treasure of the Law, as well as all good qualities and all virtues. They defeat all obstacles and attain all kinds of wisdom. Their hearts are as vast as the ocean, and they always abide in a state of limitless freedom and bliss.

In other words, a Buddha, or supraworldly wealthy person, is characterized by abundant and strong life force. …

The third type, the mind-observing wealthy people, are “Buddhas who are at the same time common mortals”—that is, they are the votaries of the Lotus Sutra. This term votary of the Lotus Sutra specifically refers to Nichiren, but in general it includes us followers of the Daishonin who are dedicating our lives to kosen-rufu.

Put simply, “mind-observing” means to observe one’s own mind and find the world of Buddhahood inherent within oneself, or to realize that in our lives we possess the limitless treasure house of all riches gathered from throughout the universe. When we open and make free use of this treasure house, we can lead a proud and joyful life with the composure of a great wealthy person. Like the lion king, we fear nothing and are unaffected by fleeting joys and sorrows. This is what it means to be a mind-observing wealthy person. In Nichiren Buddhism, to “observe one’s own mind” means faith in the Gohonzon. Therefore, a mind-observing wealthy person is a wealthy person of faith. Such a wealthy person is one who perceives and believes that their life is itself the supreme treasure house and who opens this treasure house. …

Nichiren Buddhism … teaches how, in one’s present circumstances, one can open up the great earth of one’s life and excavate the jewel of Buddhahood existing therein. Daimoku and one’s determination of faith are key to opening the treasure house of Buddhahood. Or, to employ the metaphor of mountain climbing, Nichiren
Buddhism could be likened to a helicopter that brings one directly to the summit of Buddhahood, from where, gazing with composure down upon the other realms of life, one can channel the invigorating breeze of Buddhahood into society. …

While accumulating in our lives the treasures of the Law, as well as the treasures of material wealth, we dedicate ourselves to sowing the seeds of enlightenment in other people’s lives, thereby creating the fundamental rhythm of peace and prosperity in society. Each day becomes a golden day, a rich and precious day of value. Such is the life of a mind-observing wealthy person. …

Therefore, you who have embraced this great Law are wealthy people rich in life force who possess good fortune surpassing the wealth of even the world’s richest people. Material possessions cannot be enjoyed after death. But wealthy people rich in life force are able to freely make use of the treasures of the universe in lifetime after lifetime and enjoy a journey of eternal happiness. That is what constitutes proof of true victory in life.

Of course, to accumulate such great good fortune, you have to persevere in Buddhist practice. When you cultivate your life in this way, you will tap an inexhaustible source of good fortune within your life. It is as though by unlocking and opening a magical treasure chest, you gain access to infinite treasures.

Therefore, you should never discard faith or slacken in your practice. You should never allow any obstacle to hinder your advancement. Otherwise, you will ruin the seed of Buddhahood, which is the source of all good fortune.

I earnestly hope that each of you, firmly upholding the Mystic Law, strives to produce a new success story in this country. Please be confident that we who dwell in the world of the Mystic Law will be the main players in the true story of success. With this, I conclude my speech.

From the July 2024 Living Buddhism

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