In a society that emphasizes status, power, wealth and material possessions above all else, Buddhism and Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism in particular, place special importance on the “treasures of the heart.” The Three Kinds of Treasure is a letter written by Nichiren Daishonin to his samurai disciple, Shijo Kingo advising him with some difficulties the samurai had been having with his lord. Nichiren Daishonin advises Shijo Kingo to remember what is most important in life:
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.
In this writing, “treasures in a storehouse” refer to material possessions or wealth (objects we can buy, keep or sell). “Treasures of the body” refer to our physical health and well-being, including our mental health. “Treasures of the body” might also be a talent or skill we have such as writing, singing, acting or playing a musical instrument. For me, “treasures of the heart” refers to my friends and family members, those I cherish and love, and who are an important part of my life. “Treasures of the heart” are also my beloved, happy memories I have of my own childhood and other life experiences. From a Buddhist perspective, “treasures of the heart” are the opportunities and challenges we have to grow and develop our lives through faith and by helping others. “Accumulating treasures of the heart means that we come to understand we are Buddhas.”
I believe in our society [in the U.S.], we have placed these three treasures backwards in order of their correct importance or priority. We place the most value on accumulating material possessions and financial wealth, yet we place the least value on developing our own lives and fostering healthy relationships with others. Doesn’t this seem as if our priorities are upside down?
In a beautiful article titled “The Poor Woman’s Lamp,” (Living Buddhism, March 2006 p. 14), SGI President Ikeda describes a Buddhist parable of the same name. He writes, “What the ‘Poor Woman’s Lamp’ teaches us is, more than anything else, the value of sincerity…A mind which attaches importance to even to the slightest matters, and which loves and treasures even seemingly insignificant things, can profoundly move people even through a small action.” As Nichiren Daishonin states: “It is the heart that is important.”
In a culture of violence, and anger, and hate, when people place more value on a cell phone or a car than a person’s life, we need to learn the tremendous value of our own lives and of each other’s.