Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 7: Happiness for Both Ourselves and Others [7.7]
7.7 Accumulating Treasures of the Heart
The bodhisattva way constitutes what is most important in life and the supreme memory that we engrave in our lives.
By helping others become happy, we, too, become happy. This is also a tenet of psychology. How can those who have lost the will to live under the weight of inconsolable suffering or deep emotional wounds get back on their feet? All too often, the more they dwell on their problem, the more depressed and discouraged they become. But, by going to support and help someone else who is also suffering, they can regain the will to live. Taking action out of concern for others enables them to heal themselves.
There are many people in the world who feel that working for others’ welfare is not worth the effort. Some even view the merest mention of charity and compassion with derision. Such arrogant disregard for others causes untold suffering in society.
An American missionary supposedly once asked Mahatma Gandhi: “What religion do you practice and what form do you think religion will take in India in the future?” Two sick people happened to be resting in the room. Pointing in their direction, Gandhi replied simply: “My religion is serving and working for the people. I am not preoccupied with the future.”1 For Gandhi, politics and government were also a matter of service and, as Rabindranath Tagore said, of helping “the most destitute.”2
It’s all about action. In essence, altruistic bodhisattva practice is the very heart of religion, of Buddhism, and also of humane government and education.
We have a tremendous mission. The Daishonin writes: “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” (WND-1, 851). To focus only on the “treasures of the storehouse”—finances or the economy—will not improve the economic situation. Things may improve for a while, but this will ultimately not contribute to the welfare of society. It is people, it is the heart, that matters most. The heart determines everything. When we possess the “treasures of the heart,” when our lives overflow with good fortune and wisdom, we will naturally be endowed with abundant “treasures of the body” and “treasures of the storehouse.”
What is left at the end of our lives? It is our memories, the memories that we have engraved in our hearts and minds.
I met the Russian novelist Mikhail Sholokhov when I visited Moscow in 1974. He told me: “When one lives to an old age, the most painful experiences in life become difficult to recall. The older one grows, the colors of the events in one’s life fade and everything from the happiest times to the saddest starts to pass away.” After pausing for a moment, he continued with a smile: “When you turn 70, Mr. Ikeda, you will know that what I am saying is the truth.” His words are profound, indeed.
Everything passes. Both the soaring joys and crushing sorrows fade away and seem but like a dream. However, the memory of having lived one’s life to the fullest never disappears. The memories of having worked wholeheartedly for kosen-rufu, in particular, are eternal.
Surely all that remains and adorns our lives in the end is what we have done or contributed to the world in our lifetime in terms of how many people we have helped become happy, how many people appreciate us for having helped them change their lives for the better.
The Daishonin writes: “Single-mindedly chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and urge others to do the same; that will remain as the only memory of your present life in this human world” (WND-1, 64).
From The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 5, published in Japanese in September 1999.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works under key themes.