The Value of the Individual

in the Lotus Sutra

The individual human being is metaphorically expressed in the sutra’s text as a “Treasure Tower”, emerging from the “Earth of reality”.

The “Treasure Tower” chapter describes a projection from the Buddha’s mind a vision of a huge, beautiful and extraordinarily valuable structure (adorned with precious metals and jewels) - serenely emerging upwards from beneath the surface of the earth.  In order to emphasise the significance of the emerging “Tower of Treasures”, signifying the human being body and mind  - the sutra describes it as having enormous dimensions, bizarre in magnitude by any measure.  The imagery goes to show that the unexplainable structure serenely reaching high above the earth, as if connecting the earth with the sky. 

The Sutra describes further that together with this “Treasure Tower” - a great number of human beings, the Bodhisattvas, also emerged from the Earth.  The Buddha who entered the Treasure Tower, exercises extraordinary powers to lift all people in the assembly upward in the air to become on his level - starting thus a wonderful scenery called: the “Ceremony in the Air”.

Nichiren explained that the Treasure Tower symbolises the entity of the enlightened human being, and the supremely precious value of the individual.  Each person is a “Treasure Tower”, and one’s own body is a an existential ceremony - standing as a “Ceremony in the Air”.  This shows the inherent worth the individual can perceive whenever embracing the teaching of the Lotus Sutra:

        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”. WND1 p 299.

To “embrace the Lotus Sutra” simply means to embrace the spirit of respect to the humanity of the individual and the values expounded in the Sutra, such as that all people without any discrimination among them can manifest their highest state of life, the world of Buddhahood.

In Niciren’s explanation, the reference he used as The figures of the men and women– was in itself a revolutionary statement through which gender discrimination – prevalent at that time – was surpassed.

In his book The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, P. Ikeda comments on the metaphor of the Treasure Tower: ‘[all people are] equally treasure towers worthy of supreme respect. This is the philosophy of the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren’s spirit. It is true humanism”.

The Wisdom of the L.S. vol. 1 p 94.

Ikeda comments further:         

“The Lotus Sutra was clearly expounded for all human beings, to enable them to attain true independence. It does not discriminate in any sense between priests and lay

practitioners, men and women, rich and poor, persons of high and low status, or young and old. It is entirely for all humanity”. (Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, v.1 p. 46-47) 

Respecting diversity:

Together with the equality of all individuals to attain enlightenment, Buddism acknowledges the wonder of diversity of al individuals.  A famous Nichiren writing pictures diversity of people to diversity of flowers nd fruits:

*Buddhism teaches the principle of cherry, plum, peach and damson

The cherry has its distinct beauty, the plum its delicate fragrance.

The peach blossom has its lovely colour, and the damson has its delightful charm.

Every person has a singular mission,

unique individuality and way of living.

It’s important to recognise that truth and respect it.

That is the natural order of things.

That is how it works in the world of flowers.

There, myriad flowers bloom harmoniously in beautiful profusion. …

All people have a right to flower, to reveal their full potential

as human beings, to fulfil their mission in this world.

You have this right, and so does

everyone else. That is the meaning of human rights.

(Ref.-“The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and

Peace” by Daisaku Ikeda)


Author: Safwan Darshams

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Frequently Asked Questions