The Four Debts of Gratitude

In my morning studies, I came upon the Four Debts of Gratitude that Nichiren Daishonin maintains that all Buddhists should uphold. I’m sharing them here now for your benefit!

The Four Debts of Gratitude:
1. Debt owed to all living beings – it explains why many Buddhists choose to be vegan or vegetarian. In order to honor the life of all living animals, they opt to avoid eating flesh because they feel that it is a violation against those living beings.
2. Debt owed to one’s father and mother – This shouldn’t be a surprise and hopefully it is a debt that everyone feels because these are the folks who have given you life. It’s not that simple always, but at a minimum one’s parents have given all living beings this gift — the gift of life.
3. Debt owed to one’s sovereign – In today’s world, one’s sovereign could be The President (if you live in the US). Or, it could be one’s local elected officials. This debt might be hard to accept during times of crisis or war (as we find ourselves today in the US), but they our leaders do serve an important role in maintaining and supporting order. The quality of their leadership might be up for debate, but nonetheless, they do serve an important role and one that should engender a certain amount of gratitude from the people that they lead (at least this is what I feel).
4. Debt owed to the three treasures – The three treasures could be considered to be the Daishonin, his teaching and his immediate disciple and successor Nikko Shonin. However, I think the meaning of the three treasures is open to interpretation.

Further, the Daishonin teaches that us that we can repay our debts and show our gratitude by taking faith in the law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and share it with others. He states: “to repay these great debts of gratitude, one can hope to do so only if one learns and masters Buddhism, becoming a person of wisdom” (WND-1, 690). I can only assume that being a person of wisdom includes the understanding that these debts exist and that they are real. Plus, these debts are not burdens to be upheld, but are debts that one wishes to repay.

By Michelle Flowers (c) 2011, All rights reserved

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Wayne
    Jan 24, 2011 @ 01:48:45

    The Three Treasures are the Buddha, the Law and The Priesthood of Nichiren Shoshu


    • Michelle Flowers
      Jan 24, 2011 @ 19:03:32

      Thank you for your comment, Wayne. I hear where you are coming from. I appreciate your perspective. Regarding the priesthood, I think that is different from the perspective held by people who practice Soka Gakkai Buddhism. Thank you again.


  2. Michelle Flowers
    Jan 30, 2011 @ 14:52:35

    This morning I reread Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings, and on page 47, I find a clarification on the three treasures. They are “the Buddha, the Law, and the Buddhist Order.”


  3. David Barile
    Feb 08, 2011 @ 08:57:24

    I feel that by embracing the four debts of gratitude, we inherently bring about an attitude of humility in ourselves. Personally, I know that it is easy to take many things for granted and lose sight of the sacrifices that many people have made so that I may enjoy the lifestyle that I do – from the years of upbringing from my parents, to the dedication of our elected officials, to the animals die to nourish my body, to the hardships that Nichiren Daishonin underwent so that I could could be practicing this wonderful form of Buddhism today. Hopefully, keeping the awareness of such debts of gratitude will cause me to be generous and appreciative of everyone I interact with daily.

    Thank you Michelle for posting this.


  4. joyce
    Apr 14, 2011 @ 05:26:28

    i m new to SGI,i hope to learn more of Nichiren Daishonin teachings,thank you


  5. joyce
    Apr 14, 2011 @ 05:28:22

    i hope to learn more of Nichiren Daishonin,i very new to SGI..thank you


  6. Trackback: Happy Father’s Day 2011 « SGI Women's Chronicles
  7. Morag
    May 15, 2012 @ 02:49:07

    I too thought the three treasures were the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha which to me would mean Nichiren, Myoho renge kyo and Soka Gakkai. But I too make a special effort to think about them at the end of Gongyo.


    • Michelle Flowers
      May 19, 2012 @ 14:11:00

      Thanks for sharing your comment. One of the things that I like the best about this practice is its emphasis on study, and the fact that SGI/BSG practitioners study the meaning behind Buddhist sutras.


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