Soka Spirit
Part III: 3. The Doctrine of the Three Treasures

Erroneous Doctrine and Behavior

In its 1991 documents, Remonstrance to the Soka Gakkai to Disband and Notification of the Excommunication of the Soka Gakkai from Nichiren Shoshu, Nichiren Shoshu asserted to the Soka Gakkai that criticizing the high priest destroys the three treasures of Buddhism because each successive high priest is correctly understood to be the treasure of the priest. However, this assertion in itself is flawed and has no basis in the principles or doctrine of Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings.

In Buddhism in general, the three treasures are defined as the Buddha, the Dharma (the Law or teachings the Buddha expounds), and the Sangha (the Buddhist Order or community believers, i.e., those who spread the Buddha’s teachings). Traditionally in Nichiren Shoshu, the three treasures of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism have been defined as follows: the treasure of the Buddha is Nichiren Daishonin; the treasure of the Dharma, or the Law, is the Dai-Gohonzon bestowed upon all humanity; and the treasure of Sangha, or community of believers, is Nikko Shonin because he correctly preserved, propagated, and transmitted and the Daishonin’s Buddhism. Without Nikko Shonin’s efforts, we could not enjoy the benefit of the Daishonin’s Buddhism today.

Nichikan, the 26th high priest of Taiseki-ji, referred to this original meaning of The Three Treasures in his work titled On the Observances of this School:

The treasure of the Buddha of time without beginning is none other than the founder, the Daishonin. The treasure of the Law of time without beginning accords with the great object of devotion of the essential teaching, and the treasure of the priest of time without beginning, accords with the founder of this temple, [Nikko Shonin]. (Six Volume Writings of Nichikan, p. 225).

Article 4 of Nichiren Shoshu’s by- laws clearly reads: In this school, the great mandala is the Treasure of the Law, the founder of the school, Nichiren Daishonin, is the Treasure of the Buddha, and the person who inherited the lifeblood or heritage, Nikko Shonin, is the Treasure of the Priest.

The 66th high priest Nittatsu Shonin, said: The three treasures in our school stand as follows, the Gohonzon is the treasure of the Law, the Daishonin as the treasure of the Buddha, and Nikko Shonin as the treasure of the priest. In contrast to this, Nichimoku Shonin is the lord of the chair… and those from Nichimoku Shonin on are all like the current within a tube, the flow within a pipe which does nothing more than pass this on (like a conduit).

The office of high priest, rather than being a focus of veneration as one of the Three Treasures, is supposed to function to protect the three treasures and transmit them to future generations. The original significance of what is called the treasure of the priest, however, is even broader. The Japanese word so, which is narrowly translated as priest, actually means sangha, which can be defined as the harmonious order of believers who correctly transmit and spread the three treasures. If we examine the origins of the word so or Sangha, we find it is correctly interpreted as the gathering of people who, regardless of their position as clergy or laity, practice Buddhism in accord with the Law by transmitting and spreading it to all people.

In this sense, we can clearly see that the SGI is the modern day version of the Sangha, or harmonious body of believers. This is the Treasure of the Priest in the broad sense.

High Priest Nikken is attempting to destroy Buddhism itself and leaves no reason to include him in the broad definition of the treasure of the priest.
Regarding a believer’s reverence for the three treasures, Nittatsu, the 66th high priest of Nichiren Shoshu, also stated: In short, the correct way of our school is to regard the Gohonzon of the oneness of the Person and the Law as the basis of all. In the Gohonzon are contained all of the three treasures. When you enshrine the Gohonzon in a Buddhist altar and exert yourself in faith morning and evening, you are already paying sufficient respect toward the three treasures (from a sermon delivered on July 27, 1977). In other words, to revere the three treasures of the Daishonin’s Buddhism means to regard the Gohonzon as the basis of faith and practice.

The current priesthood’s interpretation of the three treasures is not only doctrinally and theoretically incorrect, it is entirely self-serving. It is intended to do nothing other than elevate themselves to the status of a religious object of veneration, and to exclude believers who are not professional clergy from this sanctified status.