Tag Archives: LS06

Day 6

Day 6 continues Chapter 3, A Parable

Having last month heard in gāthās the house was so dangerous, so dreadful, we learn of the denizens of the house.

This old and rotten house
Was owned by a man.
Shortly after he went out
To a place in the neighborhood,
Fires broke out suddenly
In the house.

Raging flames came out
Of all sides at the same time.
The ridges, rafters,
Beams and pillars
Burst, quaked, split, broke and fell.
The fences and walls also fell.

All the demons yelled.
The eagles, crested eagles,
And other birds, and kumbhandas
Were frightened and perplexed.
They did not know
How to get out of the house.
The wild beasts and poisonous vermin
Hid themselves in holes.

In that house also lived
Demons called pisacakas.
Because they had few merits and virtues,
They suffered from the fire.
They killed each other,
Drank blood, and ate flesh.

The small foxes were
Already dead.
Large wild beasts
Rushed at them and ate them.
Ill-smelling smoke rose
And filled the house.

The centipedes, millipedes,
And poisonous snakes
Were driven out of their holes
By the fire,
And eaten
By the kumbhanda demons.

The hair of the hungry spirits caught fire.
With hunger, thirst and burning,
The spirits ran about
In agony and dismay.

The house was so dreadful.
[In that house] there were
Poisonings, killings and burnings.
There were many dangers, not just one.

See An Image of the Buddha’s Personality

An Image of the Buddha’s Personality

[The Parable of the Burning House] presents the Buddha as a concerned parent, and so brings an intimacy into the relationship between the Buddha and us ordinary people. On our part, the Buddha appears like a father to be loved and trusted in faith. On the Buddha’s part, living beings like us are his children to be saved with compassion. In all of Buddhist literature, there is no other example quite as vivid as this one in the Lotus Sutra, which presents the Buddha as the Savior of suffering humanity. Here in the Lotus Sutra the Buddha touches our hearts with a clear-cut image of his personality.

Introduction to the Lotus Sutra

Day 6

Day 6 continues Chapter 3, A Parable

Having last month heard why the rich man gave each child the large cart, we repeat in gāthās.

Thereupon the Buddha, wishing to repeat what he had said, sang in gāthās:

I will tell you a parable.
A rich man had a manor house.
It was old, rotten,
Broken and ruined.
The house was about to collapse.
The lower parts of the pillars were rotten;
The beams and ridge-poles, tilting and slanted;
The foundation and steps, broken;
The fences and walls, corrupt;
The plaster of the walls, peeling;
The rush thatched on the roof, falling;
The rafters and eaves, slipping out of each other;
The hedges around the house, bent;
And refuse and debris, scattered all over.

In this house lived
Five hundred people.
Kites, owls, crested eagles,
Eagles, crows,
Magpies, doves, pigeons,
Lizards, snakes, vipers, scorpions,
Millipedes, wall lizards, centipedes,
Weasels, badgers, mice, rats,
And poisonous vermin
Were moving about.

Maggots and other vermin
Assembled on the excretions
Scattered all over
In the house.

Foxes, wolves, and small foxes
Were crawling on corpses,
Biting them, chewing them,
And dismembering them.

Many dogs were scrambling for their prey.
Weak and nervous from hunger,
They were seeking food here and there.
They were fighting with each other,
Snapping at each other,
And barking at each other.
The house was
So dreadful, so extraordinary.

Mountain spirits, water spirits,
Yakṣas and other demons
Lived here and there.
They fed on people and poisonous vermin.

Wild birds and beasts
Hatched their eggs,
Suckled or bred.
They protected their offspring.
Yakṣas scrambled for their young,
Took them, and ate them.
Having eaten to their hearts’ content,
They became more violent.
They fought with each other.
Their shrieks were dreadful.

The demons called kumbhandas
Crouched on the ground
Or jumped a foot or two above the ground.
They walked to and fro
And played at their will.
They seized dogs by the legs,
Or hit them
Until they lost their voices,
And held their feet against their necks.
They enjoyed seeing them frightened.

Some demons,
Tall, large,
Naked, black, and thin,
Lived in the house.
They were crying for food
With loud and evil voices.

The necks of some demons
Were as slender as needles.
The heads of some demons
Were like that of a cow.
They ate people or dogs.
Their hair was disheveled
Like mugworts.
They were cruel and dangerous.
Always hungry and thirsty,
They were running about, shrieking.

Yakṣas, hungry spirits,
And wild birds and beasts
Were unbearably hungry.
They were looking out of the windows
In all directions for food.
The house was so dangerous, so dreadful.

See The Remedy

The Remedy

Sakyamuni indicates the path to true happiness by first pointing out that suffering in this world surely exists. Then in the last verses of this chapter he gives the remedy.

I am the father of this world, the best of the sages. All living beings are my children. They are deeply attached to the pleasures of the world. They lack wisdom. The triple world is not peaceful. It is like the burning house. It is full of sufferings. It is dreadful. There are always the sufferings of birth, old age, disease, and death. They are like flames raging endlessly. I have already left the burning house of the triple world. I am tranquil and peaceful in a bower in the forest. This triple world is my property. All living beings in it are my children. There are many sufferings in this world. Only I can save all living beings.

It is based on this passage that Nichiren formulated his doctrine of the three virtues of the Buddha: he is our master, our teacher, and our parent.

Introduction to the Lotus Sutra

Day 6

Day 6 continues Chapter 3, A Parable

Having last month heard Śākyamuni explain the Śrāvaka, Pratyekabuddha and Bodhisattva carts, we hear why the rich man gave each child the large cart.

“Śāriputra! Seeing that all his children had come out of the burning house safely and reached a carefree place, the rich man remembered that he had immeasurable wealth. So without partiality, he gave them each a large cart. I am also a father, the father of all living beings. Seeing that many hundreds of thousands of millions of living beings have come out of the painful, fearful and rough road of the triple world through the gate of the teachings of the Buddha, and obtained the pleasure of Nirvāṇa, I thought, ‘I have the store of the Dharma in which the immeasurable wisdom, powers and fearlessness of the Buddhas are housed. These living beings are all my children. I will give them the Great Vehicle. I will not cause them to attain extinction by their own ways. I will cause them to attain the extinction of the Tathāgata.’

“To those who have left the triple world, I will give the dhyāna concentrations and emancipations of the Buddhas for their pleasure. These things are of the same nature and of the same species. These things are extolled by the saints• because these things bring the purest and most wonderful pleasure.

“Śāriputra! The rich man persuaded his children to come out at first by promising them the gifts of the three kinds of carts. But the carts which he gave them later were the largest and most comfortable carts adorned with treasures. In spite of this, the rich man was not accused of falsehood. Neither am I. I led all living beings at first with the teaching of the Three Vehicles. Now I will save them by the Great Vehicle only. Why is that? It is because, if I had given them the teaching of the Great Vehicle at first directly from my store of the Dharma in which my immeasurable wisdom, powers and fearlessness are housed, they would not have received all of the Dharma. Śāriputra! Therefore, know this! The Buddhas divide the One Buddha-Vehicle into three by their power to employ expedients.”

See The Universal Saviour

The Universal Saviour

In [The Parable of the Burning House], the rich father symbolizes the Buddha, while the children represent all of us living beings. In other words, the relationship between the Buddha and living beings is compared to the relationship of a father and his children. That the father saves his children out of compassion for them implies that the Buddha does the same thing. In short, the parable proclaims the Buddha to be nothing less than the universal Savior.

Introduction to the Lotus Sutra

Day 6

Day 6 continues Chapter 3, A Parable

Having last month adjusted the split between Day 6 and Day 7 occurs in Chapter 3, A Parable, we return to where Śākyamuni is explaining the Śrāvaka, Pratyekabuddha and Bodhisattva carts.

“Śāriputra! Those who have intelligence, who receive the Dharma by faith after hearing it from the Buddha, from the World Honored One, and who seek Nirvāṇa with strenuous efforts in order to get out of the triple world, are called Śrāvakas. They may be likened to the children who left the burning house in order to get the sheep-carts. Those who receive the Dharma by faith after hearing it from the Buddha, from the World-Honored One, who seek the self-originating wisdom with strenuous efforts, who wish to have good tranquility in seclusion, and who perfectly understand the causes of all things, are called Pratyekabuddhas. They may be likened to the children who left the burning house in order to get the deer-carts. Those who receive the Dharma by faith after hearing it from the Buddha, from the World-Honored One, who strenuously seek the knowledge of all things, the wisdom of the Buddha, the self-originating wisdom, the wisdom to be obtained without teachers, and the insight and powers and fearlessness of the Tathāgata, who give peace to innumerable living beings out of their compassion towards them, and who benefit gods and men, that is to say, who save all living beings, are called men of the Great Vehicle. Bodhisattvas are called Mahasattvas because they seek this vehicle. They may be likened to the children who left the burning house in order to get the bullock-carts.

See Three Carts

Three Carts

From the theoretical standpoint, [The Parable of the Burning House] explains the relationship between the Three Vehicles and the One Vehicle. The three toy carts – the sheep-cart, deer-cart, and bullock-cart – respectively represent the Sravaka-Vehicle of the “hearers,” the Pratyekabuddha-Vehicle of the “private Buddhas,” and the Bodhisattva-Vehicle of those who serve and enlighten others. The large white bullock cart which is given to each of the children symbolizes the One Buddha Vehicle. The rich man first offered his children three kinds of carts as expedients, but in the end he gave each of them an identical large white bullock-cart. Obviously the Buddha told this parable to illustrate that the One Vehicle is true and the three are mere expedients. The differences between the One Vehicle and the Three Vehicles, which were discussed theoretically in Chapter Two, are now explained in a graphic story that anyone can understand and remember.

Introduction to the Lotus Sutra

Day 6

Day 6 continues Chapter 3, A Parable

Last month considered the reason Śākyamuni felt the expedient was needed. Before moving on I need to adjust where the split between Day 6 and Day 7 occurs in Chapter 3, A Parable. The following gāthās shift from Day 7 back to Day 6.

(The Buddha said to Śāriputra:)
I am like the father.
I am the Saint of Saints.
I am the father of the world.

All living beings are my children.
They are deeply attached
To the pleasures of the world.
They have no wisdom.

The triple world is not peaceful.
It is like the burning house.
It is full of sufferings.
It is dreadful.

There are always the sufferings
Of birth, old age, disease and death.
They are like flames
Raging endlessly.

I have already left
The burning house of the triple world.
I am tranquil and peaceful
In a bower in a forest.

Underscore All living beings are my children. They are deeply attached To the pleasures of the world. They have no wisdom.

Day 6

Day 6 continues Chapter 3, A Parable

Having last month considered whether the expedient used to get children to leave the burning house constituted a falsehood, we consider the reason Śākyamuni felt the expedient was needed.

“Śāriputra! Seeing all this, I [also] thought, ‘I am the father of all living beings. I will eliminate their sufferings, give them the pleasure of the immeasurable wisdom of the Buddha, and cause them to enjoy it.’

“Śāriputra! I also thought, ‘If I extol my insight, powers, and fearlessness in the presence of those living beings only by my supernatural powers and by the power of my wisdom, that is to say, without any expedient, they will not be saved because they have not yet been saved from birth, old age, disease, death, grief, sorrow, suffering and lamentation, but are burning up in the burning house of the triple world. How can they understand the wisdom of the Buddha?’

“Śāriputra! The rich man did not save his children by his muscular power although he was strong enough. He saved them from the burning house with a skillful expedient and later gave them each a large cart of treasures.

“In the same manner, I save all living beings from the burning house of the triple world, not by my powers or fearlessness, but with a skillful expedient. I expounded the teaching of the Three Vehicles: the Śrāvaka-Vehicle, Pratyekabuddha-Vehicle, and Buddha-Vehicle, as an expedient. I said, ‘Do not wish to live in the burning house of the triple world! Do not crave for inferior forms, sounds, smells, tastes or things tangible! If you cling to them and crave for them, you will be burned by them. Get out of the triple world quickly and obtain the teaching of the Three Vehicles: the Śrāvaka-Vehicle, Pratyekabuddha-Vehicle, and Buddha-Vehicle! I now assure you that you will never fail [to obtain those vehicles]. Exert yourselves, make efforts!’

“With this expedient, I caused them to advance. I said to them again, ‘Know this! This teaching of the Three Vehicles is extolled by the saints. This teaching saves you from any attachment or bond or desire. Ride in these Three Vehicles, eliminate āsravas, obtain the [five] faculties, the [five] powers, the [seven] ways to enlightenment, and the [eight right] ways, and practice dhyāna concentrations, emancipations, and samadhis so that you may be able to enjoy immeasurable peace and pleasure!’

For me one of the most important aspects of Buddhism in general and the Lotus Sutra in particular is this idea that “The rich man did not save his children by his muscular power although he was strong enough.” We are encouraged to advance but we are not carried out of the suffering world by anyone’s strength but our own.