From the perspective of the unified Three Treasures, the Sangha Treasure is virtue and merit of harmony. What we call harmony is really the fusion of the Buddha Treasure and the Dharma Treasure. Buddha, or fundamental nature, is empty of all characteristics, yet there is an arising of karma, cause and effect, which is dharma nature. There is this arising of causation, or dharma, yet fundamental nature is empty. This vital matter is the life of each one of us.
Another way of looking at the Three Treasures is as the manifested Three Treasures. Direct realization of bodhi is called the Buddha Treasure. Buddha was the first person to realize bodhi. Each generation thereafter has rekindled that realization as personal experience. Enlightened masters opened their eyes and transmitted it from generation to generation, from country to country. That is the manifested Buddha Treasure.
The Dharma of the manifested Three Treasures is the Buddha’s realization. That realization of the Buddha is at once the realization of all sentient beings, past, present, and future; your life and my life.
The Sangha of the manifested Three Treasures is the practice of the Buddha’s dharma. The moment two people get together and practice—not just to go through the gestures, take the form, use the vernacular, or dress in the clothing—but to practice with the heart, mind, and body; with commitment, vow, and dedication; with great faith, great doubt, and great determination—then you have the manifested Sangha Treasure. Everything else is a cheap imitation. It just looks like the real thing.
Finally we come to the abiding Three Treasures. “Converting devas and liberating people, appearing in vast space or in a speck of dust, is the Buddha Treasure of the abiding Three Treasures.” To abide means to preserve and protect. We need to appreciate that our practice is not only about our own realization, about relieving our own pain and suffering; it is also about relieving the pain and suffering of all beings. We should never lose sight of that. We remind ourselves every night of that fact at the monastery by reciting the bodhisattva vows.
We are the vessel of the dharma at this time and this place. What we do each sitting, each moment, with our work, with our zazen and services, with our vows, not only affirms and verifies the enlightenment of the Buddha and all the past buddhas but also preserves and protects the dharma so it will be available for future generations.