In your letter you ask, “What is signified by the Thus Come One Many Treasures and his treasure tower, which appeared from beneath the earth?” The teaching on the treasure tower is of great importance. In the eighth volume of his Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra, the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai explains the appearance of the treasure tower. He states that it has two distinct functions: to lend credence to the preceding chapters and to pave the way for the revelation to come. Thus the treasure tower appeared in order to verify the theoretical teaching and to introduce the essential teaching. To put it another way, the closed tower symbolizes the theoretical teaching, and the open tower, the essential teaching. The open tower reveals the two elements of reality and wisdom.1 This is extremely complex, however, so I will not go into further detail now.
In essence, the appearance of the treasure tower indicates that on hearing the Lotus Sutra the three groups of voice-hearers perceived for the first time the treasure tower within their own lives. Now Nichiren’s disciples and lay supporters are also doing this. In the Latter Day of the Law, no treasure tower exists other than the figures of the men and women who embrace the Lotus Sutra. It follows, therefore, that whether eminent or humble, high or low, those who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo are themselves the treasure tower, and, likewise, are themselves theThus Come One Many Treasures. No treasure tower exists other than Myoho-renge-kyo. The daimoku of the Lotus Sutra is the treasure tower, and the treasure tower is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
At present the entire body of the Honorable Abutsu is composed of the five elements of earth, water, fire, wind, and space. These five elements are also the five characters of the daimoku. Abutsu-bō is therefore the treasure tower itself, and the treasure tower is Abutsu-bō himself. No other knowledge is purposeful. It is the treasure toweradorned with the seven kinds of treasures—hearing the correct teaching, believing it, keeping the precepts, engaging in meditation, practicing assiduously, renouncing one’s attachments, and reflecting on oneself. You may think you offered gifts to the treasure tower of the Thus Come One Many Treasures, but that is not so. You offered them to yourself. You, yourself, are a Thus Come One who is originally enlightened and endowed with the three bodies. You should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with this conviction. Then the place where you chant daimoku will become the dwelling place of the treasure tower. The sutra reads, “If there is any place where the Lotus Sutra is preached, then my treasure tower will come forth and appear in that spot.”2 Faith like yours is so extremely rare that I will inscribe the treasure tower especially for you. You must never transfer it to anyone but your son. You must never show it to others unless they have steadfast faith. This is the reason for my advent in this world.
Abutsu-bō, you deserve to be called a leader of this northern province. Could it be that Bodhisattva Pure Practices has been reborn into this world as Abutsu-bō and visited me? How wonderful! How marvelous! I do not understand how it is that you have such faith. I will leave it to Bodhisattva Superior Practices when he appears, as he has the power to know these things. I am not saying all this without good reason. You and your wife should worship this treasure tower privately.
Nichiren Daishonin sent this letter in the third month of 1272 to his disciple Abutsu-bō Nittoku. He and his wife became loyal supporters of the Daishonin and brought him food and other necessities for much of the time he was on the island.
The treasure tower described in the Lotus Sutra is of awesome proportions, and its meaning puzzled Abutsu-bō. In this letter the Daishonin gives his aged disciple a striking glimpse into the reality of life. The ceremony depicted in the Lotus Sutra is not a historical event during which a colossal jewel-encrusted stupa actually emerged from the ground. Rather, the appearance of the treasure tower symbolizes a ceremony of life; it is a metaphor for the emergence from deep within the human being of the highest state of life.
The Daishonin refers to the Treasure Tower in various letters to his disciples. The Lotus Sutra, which is regarded in Nichiren Buddhism as the teaching in which the Buddha reveals the full truth of his enlightenment, is a largely allegorical description of Shakyamuni Buddha interacting with a great gathering of disciples. At a key point, a magnificent “treasure tower” suddenly appears from out of the earth. Its vast dimensions stagger the imagination, and it is adorned with seven kinds of treasures. “Tower” here is a translation of stupa–a dome-like structure built to house the relics of the Buddha.
As the astonished assembly looks on, a voice speaks from inside the tower praising Shakyamuni and attesting to the truth of his teaching. Shakyamuni opens the tower to reveal seated inside a Buddha named Many Treasures who, we learn, lived and died in the incalculably distant past.
Shakyamuni explains that this treasure tower appears anywhere in the universe that the Lotus Sutra is being preached. He enters into the tower and takes a seat beside Many Treasures. The tower and the entire assembly are raised up into space, where, in “the Ceremony in the Air,” further amazing events unfold.
Nichiren interprets the treasure tower as symbolizing the ultimate reality, which he identified as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The Buddha Many Treasures represents the eternally enduring world of Buddhahood. This sublime reality has always existed but manifests only under certain conditions. Shakyamuni Buddha represents here a mortal Buddha, or Buddhahood manifest and active in this transient, actual world. Shakyamuni’s act of seating himself beside Many Treasures represents the fact that these two aspects of the Buddha–the eternal and the transient–are the same. He writes, “No treasure tower exists other than the figures of the men and women who embrace the Lotus Sutra.”
The attributes and qualities of the Buddha are already within the life of each individual. The purpose of the Lotus Sutra, and the mission of those who practice it, is to activate the qualities of the Buddha inherent in the depths of life and bring them into the world. The Lotus Sutra is what connects these two realities. Nichiren formulated the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as the means of practicing the Lotus Sutra–of enabling the treasure tower to emerge within our lives. As a tool for this practice he inscribed a mandala–the Gohonzon–which depicts, in Chinese calligraphy, the Ceremony in the Air, and is a representation of the Buddha nature present in all things.
Nichiren describes the seven treasures adorning the treasure tower as representing the virtues of “hearing the correct teaching, believing it, keeping the precepts, engaging in meditation, practicing assiduously, renouncing one’s attachments, and reflecting on oneself.” Significantly, these qualities are not those of an august Buddha-like figure so much as those of one who is striving to attain Buddhahood. It is through effort and striving that the qualities of the Buddha nature inherent in our lives become manifest.
To see the treasure tower is to recognize our inherent Buddha nature. It is to be cognizant of and to uphold the great dignity of life–our own and others.’ Faith in the inherent Buddha nature is essentially what distinguishes a “Buddha” from a “common mortal.”
As SGI President Daisaku Ikeda writes, “The ‘tower adorned with the seven treasures’ is the grand and dignified original form of our lives.”