Thoughts on Chapter 21 of the Lotus Sutra by Ryuei Michael McCormick
St. Nichiren once wrote to his disciple, Abutsu-bo, "You, yourself,
are a true Buddha who possesses the three enlightened properties. You should
chant Namu Myoho Renge Kyo with this conviction. Then, the place wherein you
dwell and chant daimoku is the place of the Treasure Tower." This passage
indicates that the Treasure Tower is a symbol of the infinite virtues of the
Buddha emerging from within us when we take faith in and practice the Lotus
The life of the ordinary person is often characterized by anxiety and
insecurity. One might call it a poverty mentality which strives to retain
what little happiness and security it has already gained, while constantly
searching for ways to grab just a little bit more. Anxiety, frustration and
hostility begin to characterize the lives of those who have such a siege
mentality towards life. Thoreau called this the life of "quiet desperation."
The Lotus Sutra, however, shows us that the poverty mentality is a
delusion. Chapter 21 states that, "all the teachings of the Tathagata, all
the unhindered, supernatural powers of the Tathagata, all the treasury of the
hidden core of the Tathagata, and all the profound achievements of the
Tathagata are revealed and expounded explicitly in this sutra." This is
vitally important for us, because these virtues or powers are the shared
reality of all beings, not the private hoard of a single Tathagata. The true
treasure is not worldly security but the life of the Tathagata itself which
is the life of the universe wherein all beings and objects are interrelated.
This is the Treasure Tower of peace and generosity within each of us and when
we discover it we can then touch the lives of everyone around us, such as our
family, friends, co-workers and even the many strangers that we meet in the
course of the day, just as we have been touched by the caring and sacrifices
of others. By opening our lives to all of these people through a smile, a
kind word, or selfless giving it makes it easier for them to find the
Treasure Tower within themselves. In this way the wisdom and compassion of
the Tathagata reaches throughout all time and all space as the sutra says,
"At that time the worlds of the ten quarters became passable through each
other without hindrance as if they had been a single Buddha-world."
Chapter 21 also says, "In any world where anyone keeps, reads,
recites, expounds or copies this sutra, or acts according to its teachings,
or in any place where a copy of this sutra is put, be it in a garden in a
forest, under a tree, in a monastery, in the house of a person in white
robes, in a hall, in a mountain, in a valley, or in the wilderness, there
should a stupa be erected and offerings be made to it because, know this,
that place is the place of enlightenment." This passage shows that
enlightenment is a possibility for us at all times and in all places.
Whenever we are able to let go of the mind of self-interest and reveal the
mind of the Tathagata revealed in the Lotus Sutra with its infinite powers
and virtues, then we have consecrated new ground for the Treasure Tower.
Henry Miller once asked, "Why then do we not give ourselves --
recklessly, abundantly, completely? If we realized we were part of an endless
process, that we had neither to lose nor to gain, but only to live it out,
would we behave as we do?" A votary of the Lotus Sutra should take this to
heart and pull down the walls of the poverty mentality and allow a Treasure
Tower for all beings to spring up in its place.