Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 10:
Joy in Both Life and Death [10.12]

10.12 Transforming the Sufferings of Birth and Death

Buddhist practice to accumulate the treasures of the heart in this lifetime is crucial to overcoming the sufferings of birth and death and attaining a state of eternal happiness.

According to a Buddhist story, seven elder Brahmans once traveled from afar to visit Shakyamuni. Though they had made the long trip to learn about the Buddhist teachings from him, they spent their days in the lodging where they were staying, engaged in idle conversation, laughing and amusing themselves.

Shakyamuni came to see them and said: “All beings rely on five things. What are the five? One, they rely on their youth. Two, they rely on their upright appearance. Three, they rely on their great strength. Four, they rely on their wealth. Five, they rely on their noble family. While you, seven sirs, are speaking in a low tone or loudly laughing, what do you rely on?”1

Shakyamuni then went on to tell them that life is uncertain and fleeting, characterized by the four sufferings of birth, aging, sickness, and death. Hearing Shakyamuni, the seven Brahmans realized for the first time what they should be doing and began to strive seriously in their practice.

“What do you rely on?” Shakyamuni asked. In other words, what sustains you in this life?

Nichiren Daishonin teaches three treasures in life: the treasures of the storehouse, the treasures of the body, and the treasures of the heart (cf. WND-1, 851).

The five things that all beings rely on in the story all correspond to the treasures of the storehouse or the treasures of the body. Wealth, of course, corresponds to the treasures of the storehouse. Youth, beauty, health, and ability, along with social status, correspond to the treasures of the body. All of these things have value in life, and it may be natural, in that respect, for us to pursue them. But the question is whether they are really genuine treasures in life that can offer eternal sustenance.

Let me give some concrete examples. Some people are harmed or killed for their wealth. Those who are physically attractive may be envied or exploited by others. Fame and power can lead people to become arrogant and ruin their lives, and there are many of high social position who allow themselves to be seduced by the devilish nature of power, to their own undoing. None of these so-called treasures continue forever.

As such, the treasures of the storehouse and the treasures of the body are not genuine sustenance that can provide true happiness. On their own, they cannot enable us to lead a life of real fulfillment.

What do we need to live such a life? The Daishonin tells us: “The treasures of the heart are the most valuable of all” (WND-1, 851).

The treasures of the heart refer to faith in the Mystic Law. Faith is the eternal treasure and sustenance of human life. It encompasses immeasurable benefit and boundless good fortune. Its power is as vast as the universe and can transform our entire environment or world. It is the source of inexhaustible joy and immense wisdom and compassion, enabling us to employ the treasures of the storehouse and the treasures of the body to attain eternal happiness.

Each of you already possesses this supreme sustenance of life. All you have to do is tap its limitless power.

Life is brief. Youth passes by in a flash, easily wasted in indecision, complaining, criticizing others, or being defeated by one’s own laziness. Every day is precious.

I hope you will spend your youth in a fulfilling manner, leading strong lives in the real world and at the same time contemplating the vast universe, pondering eternity, and making each day worth a thousand years, a thousand eons.

From a speech at an Okinawa Prefecture youth division representatives training course, Okinawa, February 19, 1988.

The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works under key themes.

  • *1The Scriptural Text: Verses of the Doctrine, with Parables, translated from the Chinese of Fa-li and Fa-chü (Taisho Volume 4, Number 211) by Charles Willemen (Berkeley, California: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 1999), p. 116.