Nov 14, 2009

Treasures of the Heart

From a presentation by SGI-USA Vice General Director, Mr. Greg Martin:

  • 1. Today I'm excited to talk about my new discoveries concerning Treasures of the Heart.
  • 2. Today I will speak about one point only. There are others in the material, and you may choose one of them, but I want to speak only about Treasures of the Heart.
  • 3. We teach people how to become happy based on the correct practice of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism as taught by the SGI, especially President Ikeda. As a presenter I have a responsibility to be accurate. I will strive to do so today.
  • 4. Nichiren Buddhism is not rocket science-if it were it would not be for everyone and thus, not the great vehicle for attaining Buddhahood. Ultimately Buddhism is for all people and thus cannot require a great intellect.
  • 5. When we study Buddhism we are actually studying the true nature of our own lives. This is what Josei Toda realized in prison that became the source for the rebirth of Buddhism in this age. Whatever we are studying we are studying how our life works.
  • 6. Finally, my goal is that each and every member who hears what I say will have a changed prayer that is stronger, clearer and correct-and as a result each person will experience a breakthrough. As a result then study has power.
  • With this as a preamble let's begin.

Treasures of the Heart-what are they?

I began by reading the material thoroughly. I've studied and presented on the three treasures many times. As I read I asked myself what can I learn new? I was struck by question #2 of For Dialogue and Reflection: "What are the ‘treasures of the heart'? Although it may seem a simple question when I referred back to the text I learned that they are important and can be developed through Buddhist practice but could only find them specifically described as ‘the spiritual richness we cultivate within." But what does that mean?

I conducted an Informal Survey of Buddhist friends to determine if perhaps it was clearer to others than if was to me with the following Responses:
  • Human relationships-genuine and natural communication with others; genuine friendships; happiness for others.
  • Enjoying the moment with people, nature and yourself
  • Wonderful memories, victory over weaknesses, joy, appreciation; feeling free to create and explore
  • Living as a disciple
  • A heart of faith
  • Lucky in love.

While everyone was clear that treasures of the heart are important they were less clear about exactly what treasures of the heart are. As a result, one wonders, how can one strive to accumulate something if you don't know what you're looking for?

Like happiness. A core principle of our country is the right to freely pursue one's happiness. However, failing to understand the true nature of happiness, that pursuit will lead only to dissatisfaction and disappointment. Therefore, to have any reasonable expectation of achieving happiness one must understand what it is, what it is not and how to achieve it.

The same is true to treasures of the heart. I, of course, had my own ideas about what they were, but was I correct? Thus, I focused on trying to clarify for myself more precisely what they are, what they are not and how to accumulate treasures of the heart.

Shijo Kingo was faced with threats to his life, family and property. Shijo Kingo was a man of justice, but with a temper as well. This letter is the Daishonin's guidance to him.
  • p. 848: "when the Buddha nature manifests itself from within, it will receive protection from without." SHIJO KINGO, MANIFEST YOUR BUDDHA NATURE IF YOU WANT TO BE PROTECTED.
  • P. 852: "The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behavior as a human being. The wise may be called human, but the thoughtless are no more than animals." IF YOU BEHAVE WISELY-CONTROL YOUR ANGER, SHIJO KINGO-BASED ON THESE VIRTUES YOU WILL SURVIVE AND THRIVE.

Treasures of the Heart then has to do with behavior based on inner qualities or virtues. These qualities or virtues manifest from within and guide one's thoughts, words and behavior. As a result one receives protection, good fortune and benefit. Good relationships, a fulfilling life-such things are side-effects of manifesting treasures of the heart not treasures of the heart themselves. Everything is determined by how one lives, not by what one has.

Another perspective is that the Daishonin equates treasures of the heart with the virtues of the life state of Buddhahood and, as we know, these can also be seen as the qualities of absolute happiness. The Buddha's three virtues of parent, teacher and sovereign are the qualities we should strive to accumulate.

How do we accumulate these treasures or virtues?

The Gosho says: "Live with honor. Be diligent in the service to your lord, in the service of Buddhism, and in one's concern for other people."

p. 56-7: Noteworthy in this passage is Nichiren's encouragement to Kingo to become outstanding ‘in the service of his lord, in the service of Buddhism, and in his concern for other people.' We can take this as Nichiren also urging us to fully develop our personalities.... The true meaning of actual proof in Nichiren Buddhism lies in developing our character as we develop our faith...The practice of leading people to the correct Buddhist teaching by refuting their erroneous views is the well-known practice of Bodhisattvas of the Earth as expounded by Nichiren"

To be a Bodhisattva of the Earth is to have the same mind as Nichiren-to walk the path of mentor and disciple. Carrying out the practice based on the way of mentor and disciple is the source from which the treasures of the heart flow. Further, since the treasures of the heart constitute the virtues of absolute happiness and Buddhahood, sharing them with others-allowing those treasures and virtues to flow out from us to others-makes room for more treasures to gush forth within. In that sense, treasures of the heart flow through us to others in an unceasing flow.

SGI President Ikeda explains: "The Daishonin's statement, ‘More valuable than treasures in a storehouse are the treasures of the body, and the treasures of the heart are the most valuable of all' sums up a vital philosophy. In the twenty-first century, this will doubtless come to be recognized as a preeminent theory of value. For us, ‘treasures of the heart' means cherishing a vow to work for kosen-rufu (world peace). There is no greater treasure of the heart. " (LB, 11/03, 36)

Why? Because the vow to carry out the Buddha's work activates the state of Buddhahood within-after all, only a Buddha can do the Buddha's work-manifesting the Buddha's virtues within. This triggers the protection of the protective functions and the actualization of good fortune. Thus, the most fundamental treasure from which the other treasures of the heart arise is the vow of kosen-rufu.

In Lectures on the Expedient Means and Life Span Chapters of the Lotus Sutra (pp. 29-32) you will find more about the path of mentor and disciple and the development of one's character. I urge you to read it. Time does not permit much comment here except to say that President Ikeda explains the purpose of the mentor and disciple relationship-of two people sharing the same vow-is the development of people's character. To neither become arrogant and independent nor lacking in self-respect and dependent. Another way then to define treasures of the heart is the ability to sustain self-respect and respect for others at the same time. As President Ikeda writes: "The great mission of Buddhism lies in this-cultivating and developing character."

By accumulating treasures of the heart that arise through our efforts to widely share the Daishonin's teachings with others, we can lead an unsurpassed life of infinite value. Countless millions of tens of millions of people have walked this path and solidified it for those who follow. We have entered an age when the great actual proof we have shown through the power of our faith will be applauded by people throughout the world" (LB, 11/03, 36).

Treasures of the heart according to Buddhist Concepts for Today's Living

The human heart, left to its own devices, tends to lean toward the exclusive pursuit of wants and desires. When, spurred on by this ‘hungry heart,' people focus their energies on obtaining treasures of the storehouse and treasures of the body, they are never satisfied.... Psychological research is finding more and more that people whose primary focus in life is the attainment of ‘extrinsic goals'-externals such a wealth, property, fame and status-tend to be less happy. In general, they are said to experience higher levels of anxiety, suffer more from illness, and have less of a sense of fulfillment....

In this light, it is easy to see why the ability to win over ourselves-over our weakness that makes us vulnerable to defeat by our own desires-is the most important treasure we can possess. This is the treasure of the heart. We can define ‘treasures of the heart' as the mental and spiritual capacities to achieve mastery over oneself and to have genuine fulfillment, a brightness of spirit, a warm and attractive personality, self-control, conviction, a sense of justice, courage, empathy and compassion. Or, it may be viewed as an indestructible spiritual state-the state of absolute happiness-that allows a person to surmount even life's most fundamental sufferings. A winner in life is a person who amasses treasures of the heart" (LB, 07/99, 5).

Image Sources: deviantart

1 comment:

David Teh said...

Thanks for a well written article on Treasures of the Heart. I am currently doing some research on this subject for my own presentation. You have been a great help. Thanks again.