The Three Kinds of Treasure - The Essence of Buddhist Practice is to Respect All People

The heart of the Buddha’s lifetime of teachings is the Lotus Sutra, and the heart of the practice of the Lotus Sutra is found in the “Never Disparaging” chapter. What does Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s profound respect for people signify? The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behaviour as human being. The wise may be called human, but the thoughtless are more than animals.

(Passage from “The Three Kinds of Treasure”, The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p851-2)

This letter was written on the eleventh day of the ninth month of the year 1277 to Shijo Kingo.

In the sixth month of the same year, Kingo happened to be an observer at a debate during which the Tendau priest Ryuzo-bo (who had the patronage of Ryokan, the chief priest of Gokuraku-ji temple) was bested by the Daishonin’s disciple Sammi-bo (Kuwagayatsu Debate). After the debate, Ryuzo-bo’s group filed a report to Kingo’s lord, Ema, falsely accusing Kingo of fomenting trouble at the debate by using his weapon to threaten Ryuzo-bo.

Upon receiving this report, Ema threathened to banish Kingo from the Ema residence unless he abandon faith in the Lotus Sutra. However, not long later, Ema fell critically ill and it was Kingo, a skilled physician, who helped to cure him. Through this, Ema’s trust in Kingo was restored. However, because of this, Kingo incurred further jealousy from his fellow colleagues and his life was in grave danger. In this letter, Nichiren Daishonin cautioned Shijo Kingo and instructed him on the most appropriate behaviour in his trying circumstances.

When he received this letter from Nichiren Daishonin in 1277, Shijo Kingo was in grave danger of being killed by his jealous colleagues. The Daishonin urged Kingo to be careful of his words and to conduct himself wisely to overcome the crisis.

In this passage, the Daishonin taught that “the heart of the Buddha’s lifetime of teachings is the Lotus Sutra and the heart of the practice of the Lotus Sutra is found in the ‘Never Disparaging’ chapter”. This chapter described how Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, who is Shakyamuni Buddha in a previous life, spread the Lotus Sutra despite encountering “curses and abuses” from people, some of whom “would take sticks of wood or tiles and stones and beat and pelt him”. (The Lotus Sutra, p267)

The practice of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging was to “bow in obeisance” to all people whom he encountered, and to preach that all of them could attain Buddhahood. (cf, The Lotus Sutra, p266) His actions signified that because all people possess the Buddha nature, the utmost respect should be accorded to them. The significance of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s practice of revering all living beings is, as the Daishonin explained, synonymous with the revelation that the purpose of Shakyamuni Buddha’s appearance in this world lies in his behaviour as a human being.

The Buddha’s essential purpose in this world is to lead all people to awaken their innate Buddhahood. This universality of Buddhahood is the teaching of the Lotus Sutra. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s actions were an expression of the Buddha’s intent. To act humanely in the midst of reality is the reason we practice Buddhism, and the essence of Buddhist practice is to respect all people.

The Daishonin wrote, “The wise may be called human, but the thoughtless are no more than animals.” Here he stressed the importance of conducting oneself wisely. Self-control through reason and value creation through wisdom – these are proofs of humanity. It is foolish to be at the mercy of immediate interests or transient emotions, and such a tendency is akin to the stage of Animality.

SGI President Ikeda said in his guidance, “However we choose to live, we have one life. If we are to live, therefore, why not leave behind a history of our lives? Animals are not capable of creating a history of their moral existences… People who are creating a history of their virtuous lives are truly living as humans; they are genuine sages and victors.”

Let us continue to win the trust of others in our community by conducting ourselves wisely and achieve victory with our exemplary behaviour.