The Three Kinds of Treasure - Living with Honour Means to Dedicate One's Life for the Well-Being of Others

It is rare to be born a human being. The number of those endowed with human life is as small as the amount of earth one can place on a fingernail. Life as a human being is hard to sustain – as hard as it is for the dew to remain on the grass. But it is better to live a single day with honour than to live to 120 and die in disgrace.

(Passage from “The Three Kinds of Treasure”, The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p851)

This letter was written by Nichiren Daishonin at Minobu in the ninth month of 1277 and addressed to Shijo Kingo.

Sometime around 1274, Shijo Kingo had begun making efforts to convert his lord, Ema, to the Daishonin’s teachings, and as a result, incurred the wrath of his lord. Kingo’s colleagues also took the opportunity to spread slanderous reports about him. Lord Ema gave Kingo an ultimatum – discard faith in the Lotus Sutra or face dire consequences. Despite these trying times, Kingo maintained strong faith in the Daishonin’s Buddhism.

Subsequently, Lord Ema fell ill and Kingo, applying his medical skills, helped to cure him. The lord was most grateful and Kingo regained his trust.

This letter was written in response to Kingo’s report that he had achieved great victory over his adversity.

In it, the Daishonin expressed his concern that Ema’s renewed trust in Kingo might invite greater jealousy from his colleagues and endanger Kingo’s life. The Daishonin advised him in great details, cautioning Kingo to curb his short-tempered nature and not to act thoughtlessly.

In this passage, Nichiren Daishonin spoke on the transient nature of human existence. On top of this, the Daishonin reminded us that within our limited life span, it is important to live a single day with honour.

Here, by teaching us “to live with honour”, the Daishonin does not mean to encourage us to strive to gain secular fame and status. Rather, he urged us to lead an honourable life as a human being. It means to polish ourselves and live a life of value-creation that is dedicated to the well-being of the society.

Quoting this passage from the Gosho, SGI President Ikeda once said:

“Of course, we all wish to live as long as possible, but even more significant is what we accomplish in the limited amount of time we have. What kind of contribution have we left behind? How many people have we helped become happy? How much have we elevated our life? With each passing year, I continue to work hard for the sake of kosen-rufu and my precious fellow members, striving to accomplish a week’s or a month’s worth of effort each day.”

The value of one’s life is not determined by its length. One who dedicates one’s life for the lofty cause of kosen-rufu based on the spirit of “oneness of mentor and disciple” can be said to be leading a golden life of supreme nobility.


The life experience of Mrs Sayoko Asai, a WD assistance prefectural leader in Gunma Prefecture, is a living testament of this Gosho passage.

In 1959, Mrs Asai gave birth to a son but her joy was short lived. Soon after his birth, her son was diagnosed to be suffering from cerebral infantile paralysis. She felt as if her whole world had fallen apart.

With the single-minded prayer to cure her son’s illness, she decided to take up faith when she was introduced to Nichiren Buddhism. Everyday, she chanted hours and hours of daimoku fervently and carrying her son on her back, she attended Gakkai meetings and carried out propagation activities sincerely.

When her son was two, he passed away peacefully as if he had fallen asleep. Witnessing how his son had lived out his life to the fullest, her husband who had all along been against her practice, decided to take up faith. Even though her son’s life was a short one, he had led his entire family to the Daishonin’s Buddhism, the loftiest teachings.

With deep gratitude to her son, Mrs Asai continued to exert herself in kosen-rufu activities. One year after her son’s passing, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy and deepened her conviction in her practice even more.

Since her conversion to the Daishonin’s teachings, her relatives had been openly expressing their objections to her practice. Some persistently asked her why she had joined the Soka Gakkai while others yelled furiously at her. Even her sister refused to communicate with her and she was told by her relatives “not to appear” at their weddings.

Even though she was treated with such intense discrimination and verbal abuse, she gritted her teeth and persevered throughout her ordeal based on daimoku.

She also put in great effort to enable the people around her to understand the truth about the Soka Gakkai through her own actual proofs. She actively participated in activities in her community and was well-liked by the people around her as she was always cheerful and kind to others.

She was even recommended to be a committee member in the PTA board, the chairperson of a women group, staff member of the traffic safety association, the volunteer group leader for the old folks home and board member for another old folks home. In this way, she did whatever she can to contribute to the welfare and good of her community.

Many people, including renowned figures in her community and her relatives who were once so strongly against her practice, are now subscribers and avid readers of the Seikyo Shimbun and they attended events organized by the Soka Gakkai with joy and enthusiasm.

Furthermore, her younger son, who had overcome cancer two times, is now a chef at a national nursing home while her eldest and third daughters are managing their own companies in Tokyo. Her second daughter is striving hard as the women division prefectural chief in Gunma.

The fact that Mrs Asai had been able to overcome all her family karma and show actual proof of victories can be attributed to her single-minded determination to chant daimoku until her prayers are answered. Till today, at the age of 77, she wakes up at 4.30am everyday to chant daimoku with deep gratitude and cheerfully engage herself in Gakkai activities.

Having encountered the lofty teachings of the Mystic Law and a great mentor in life, Mrs Asai has dedicated her entire life to the happiness of others about her community. There is no doubt that she had demonstrated with her life what it truly means “to live a single day with honour” as taught by Nichiren Daishonin.

Key points of the Gosho passage:
1. To be born human is itself a great good fortune if we considered the fact that we could be born among the countless types of non-human living beings. Only as a human being, can we live a life of absolute happiness by actively striving to attain the state of Buddhahood.

2. The life span of a human being is relatively short and is dependent on one’s karma. Since life as a human being is so rare and precious and we do not know how long one could live, it is important that we cherish each day of our life and makes it as happy and full of value and honour as possible. The Daishonin taught that when we dedicate ourselves to practicing and propagating the Mystic Law, creating happiness for others and ourselves, we would definitely develop a life of great honour.

3. The Daishonin stated, “But it is better to live a single day with honour than to live to 120 and die in disgrace.” To use an anology, to live with a single day with honour is like 1 x 1,000,000 (worth of value) = 1,000,000 and to live to 120 and die in disgrace is like 120 x 365 x 0 (worth of value) = 0.

Translated and adapted from an article written by Mieko Onozato, Women Division Study Chief for Gunma Prefecture, published in the April 2007 issue of The Daibyakurange, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.