The Parable of the Priceless Gem in the Topknot


Tales from the Lotus Sutra

The Parable of the Priceless Gem in the Topknot

As we begin this month’s installment of our series of Tales from the
Lotus Sutra, we are fast approaching springtime and hope that all our
readers are energetically devoting themselves to the two practices of
faith and study. This month, we will discuss the Parable of the
Priceless Gem in the Topknot that appears in the fourteenth, or
“Practice for a Happy and Secure Life” (Anrakugyo) chapter of the
Lotus Sutra.
During the Kamakura Period (1185-1333) in Japan that corresponded
to the Middle Ages in Europe, the majority of the world had been
conquered by one nation. This country had even attacked Japan. That
country was the nation of the Mongols. All the people in Mongolia
during this time grew their hair very long and tied it up in a knot on
the top of their head. This type of hairstyle was called a topknot. It
was prevalent throughout Mongolia and China during the Mongol
(Y’an) era. It was also a very popular hair style in ancient India.
Shakyamuni Buddha said to Bodhisattva Monjushiri1 : ”
There was once a very brave monarch who fought in battle with
many different countries over whom he was continuously victorious.
The King awarded many gifts to each of his soldiers who had
rendered distinguished service in battle. The rewards at times
consisted of castles or land. On other occasions the King rewarded his
soldiers money, gold, silver, clothing, horses, elephants and other
varied objects. However, there was one thing the King would never
grant, and that was the priceless gem that he kept in his topknot.
Actually, Bodhisattva Monjushiri, the Buddha is the same as this
monarch. The country that is the powerful enemy that seeks to
destroy the King, represents the workings of the devil king of the
sixth heaven who labors to obstruct the good heart of someone who
is striving to attain enlightenment. The Buddha, using his profound
wisdom, is able to be victorious over the devil king. The Buddha feels
great joy towards the others who have carried out their Buddhist
austerities together with him. The Buddha then rewards them with
his precious jewels of the laws of Buddhism of the Kegon, Agon, Hoto
and Han’nya Sutras. However, the Buddha still does not teach the
most supreme jewel of the Law of the Lotus Sutra. This is because
the Buddha only reveals the greatest of all the Laws of Buddhism,
that is, the Lotus Sutra, to those who are especially outstanding in
their pursuit of the practice of Buddhist austerities.
In this way, this parable unfolds to show us that the jewel hidden
within the topknot is none other than the Lotus Sutra, the highest
teaching in all of Buddhism which the Buddha had secretly kept in
his possession. Because Bodhisattva Monjushiri and the others had
carried out such exceptional faith, they were now able to hear the
teachings of the Lotus Sutra.
Nichiren Daishonin stated in the concluding pages of the “Questions
and Answers on Embracing the Lotus Sutra” (Jimyohoke Monto Sho):
How joyful, though, that I have obtained in this life the priceless gem
concealed in the topknot of the wheel turning king for which
Shakyamuni made his advent into this world! (Shinpen, p.300; M.W.
Vol. 5, p. 37)
Looking at the Daishonin’s words in this passage of the Gosho, “the
jewel concealed in the topknot” is the Object of Worship of Nam-
Myoho-Renge-Kyo. Since we are all seeking to earnestly pursue
sincere faith in Buddhism, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law
has taught us about the Gohonzon, or the Object of Worship, of the
Three Great Secret Laws that he safely kept for a long time, until the
present day.
If we allow ourselves to become lazy in faith or ridicule the
Gohonzon, not only will we not be able to receive the most precious
of jewels of the Buddha, but we will suffer under the devil king of
the sixth heaven. Therefore, let us all firmly strive to do morning and
evening Gongyo, chant Daimoku, study the Gosho, the High Priest’s
teachings and other Buddhist materials so that we may be praised by
the Gohonzon and the “King”, Nichiren Daishonin, as we receive the
many wonderful “jewels” of benefit and happiness within our own
Watch for our next installment of Tales from the Lotus Sutra when
we will present the seventh and final Parable of the Excellent
Physician and his Sick Children.

1 Bodhisattva Monjushiri (Sanskrit: Manjushri): Also referred to as
Monju. This Bodhisattva appears in the sutras and is regarded as a
symbol of the perfection of wisdom. He is revered as the chief of
bodhisattvas. With Bodhisattva Fugen, he is depicted as one of the
two bodhisattvas who attend Shakyamuni Buddha. According to the
Monjushiri Hatsunehan Sutra (“Sutra of the Nirvana of Monjushiri”),
Monjushiri was born to a Brahman family in Shravasti and joined the
Buddhist Order, converting many people. In the Jo (“Introductory”)
or first chapter of the Lotus Sutra, he is shown as recognizing the
omens which foretell that the Buddha is about to preach a scripture
called Myoho-Renge-Kyo. In the Devadatta (twelfth) chapter of the
Lotus Sutra, Monjushiri is the person who converts the Dragon King’s

©1995 Nichiren Shoshu Monthly