The treasures of the heart can never be destroyed.
Daisaku Ikeda wrote a message to fellow Buddhists and other Tohoku residents whose surroundings were decimated in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. His message included these words, which were meant as both solace and inspiration.
I’m attending a Buddhist lecture this weekend, and the members of Tohoku were used as an example of maintaining faith – the spirit to remain hopeful and cheerful – in the most dire circumstances. Ikeda wrote to encourage them to remain undefeated, even in face of devastation. Now, over a year later, many people have temporary housing and still don’t have jobs, yet they maintain high spirits.
Ikeda’s encouragement was based on this well-known passage from the gosho:
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. From the time you read this letter on, strive to accumulate the treasures of the heart!
Nichiren, Three Kinds of Treasure
As noted above, there are three kinds of treasure elucidated in Buddhism:
“Treasures of the storehouse” are material treasures. They include such things as property and financial wealth.
“Treasures of the body” are attributes that endow our person, such as skills, knowledge, educational background, etc. They also include perceptions that are attached to or associated with us, such as social standing, reputation, position and fame.
We can define “treasures of the heart” as the mental and spiritual capacities to achieve mastery over oneself and to have genuine concern for others. This equates to such attributes as a solid sense of fulfillment, a brightness of spirit, a warm and attractive personality, self-control, conviction, a sense of justice, courage, empathy and compassion.
In the course of daily life, tragedies and mishaps occur, each with the power to demolish material treasures. With financial crises, natural disasters, and the like, houses, cars, clothes can disappear, almost without warning.
When it comes to the treasures of the body, these are more stable, but still susceptible to outside influences. A careless word or action by another can ruin our reputation. An accident, illness, or other obstacles can diminish the functioning of our bodies.
But the most durable, and according to Nichiren, the most crucial treasures, are those of the heart. In other words, your determination to continue in adversity. Your capacity to care for others in need. Your ability to nurture hope even when situations seem hopeless.
Each of us has the capacity to develop a strong state of life – one that can withstand difficulties with composure and good cheer. I pray that we all strive to amass treasures of the heart. They are the most valuable and indestructible of all.