Tag Archives: LS08

Day 8

Day 8 concludes Chapter 4, Understanding by Faith, and closes the second volume of the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

Having last month witnessed the Rich Man putting on rags and visiting his son at his work, we consider the purpose of this expedient.

By his wisdom the rich man succeeded
In leading his son into his household.
Twenty years after that
He had his son manage his house.

The son was entrusted
With the keeping of the accounts
Of gold and silver,
And of pearl, crystal, and so on.
But he still lodged
In the hut outside the gate, thinking:
“I am poor.
None of these treasures are mine.”

Seeing the mind of his son
Becoming less mean and more noble,
The father called in
His relatives, the king, ministers,
Kṣatriyas, and householders,
In order to give his treasures to his son.

He said to the great multitude:
“This is my son.
He was gone
For fifty years.
I found him Twenty years ago.
I missed him
When I was in a certain city.
I wandered, looking for him,
And came here.
Now I will give him
All my houses and men.
He can use them
As he likes.”

The son thought:
“I was poor, base and mean.
Now I have obtained
The treasures, houses,
And all the other things From my father.
Never before
Have I been so happy.”

See To Believe, Accept, and Understand

To Believe, Accept, and Understand

In Chapters One and Two, Sakyamuni firmly declared that the true teaching of the Buddha is the One Vehicle of the Lotus Sutra. He urged us to believe and accept it from the bottom of our hearts. In Chapter 4, he unveils how we can believe, accept, and understand it properly. In the previous chapters, Sariputra had been the principal direct listener to Sakyamuni’s preaching. Here his place is taken by four other important “hearers.” They are Subhuti, Maha-Katyayana, Maha-Kasyapa, and Maha-Maudgalyayana. [Maha means “great” in Sanskrit.]

Introduction to the Lotus Sutra

Day 8

Day 8 concludes Chapter 4, Understanding by Faith, and closes the second volume of the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

Having last month heard the Rich Man’s expedient, we now see him put on rags and visit his son at his work.

The rich man saw him from the window.
He thought:
“He is ignorant.
He willingly does mean work.”
Thereupon the rich man
Put on old and dirty clothes,
Picked up a dirt-utensil,
And walked towards his son.
With this expedient he came to his son,
And told him to work on, saying:
“I will pay you more.
You can use twice as much oil for your feet.
You can take food and drink as you like.
You can use more matting to warm yourself with.”

Sometimes he chided him, saying:
“Work hard!”
At other times he coaxed him, saying:
“I will treat you as my son.”

See Understanding By Faith

Understanding By Faith

[W]hy is Chapter Four called “Understanding by Faith?” This refers to the mental attitude of accepting faith. Faith appears in an honest heart. Neither logic nor reason can awaken faith in us. Faith grows beyond reason when we encounter someone beyond our capacities, or when we unexpectedly touch something absolute in our lives or in the cosmos. In Chapter Three, the sutra maintains, “They will be able to follow this sutra only because they believe my words, not because of their own wisdom” (p. 80).

Introduction to the Lotus Sutra

Day 8

Day 8 concludes Chapter 4, Understanding by Faith, and closes the second volume of the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

Having last month heard the first half of the Parable of Rich Man and His Poor Son in gāthās, we continue with the Rich Man’s expedient.

From his lion-like seat,
The rich man saw the poor son in the distance,
And recognized him as his son.
But he did not tell this to the others.

He immediately dispatched a messenger
To chase, catch, and bring him back.
The poor son cried out with fright,
And fell to the ground in agony, thinking:
“He caught me. I shall be killed.
What use was it coming here
For food and clothing?”

The rich man thought:
“He is ignorant, narrow-minded, and mean.
If I tell him that I am his father,
He will not believe me.”

He thought of an expedient.
He called
Some squint-eyed, short, ugly, powerless and virtueless men,
And said to them:
“Go and tell him:
‘You will be employed
To clear away dirt and dust.
You can get a double day’s pay.”‘

Hearing this from them,
The poor son came joyfully with them.
He cleared away dirt and dust,
And cleaned the buildings.

See Presenting the Truth in Stages

Presenting the Truth in Stages

[T]he son improved his mental attitude by stages. As Great Master Chih-i put it, the parable illustrates how Sakyamuni presented the truth in stages, giving us (1) the Garland Sutra [Avatamsaka-sutra, wherein the Buddha’s enlightenment is seen as too dazzling for most people to understand], (2) the Agama sutras of the Lesser Vehicle, wherein we enter the path of labor and discipline, (3) expanded sutras according to people’s capacities [Vaipulya], (4) the Wisdom sutras [Prajna-paramita], and finally (5) the Lotus Sutra, which makes us all children and heirs of the Buddha. Buddhism as a whole consists of these five stages of teachings. It could be said that the son’s fainting dead away upon first seeing his wealthy father suggests the ignorance of the “hearers,” who, according to the Garland Sutra, were unable to appreciate this highest and most difficult teaching among the five.

Introduction to the Lotus Sutra

Day 8

Day 8 concludes Chapter 4, Understanding by Faith, and closes the second volume of the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

Having last month concluded the prose section, we continue in gāthās.

Thereupon Mahā-Kāśyapa, wishing to repeat what they had said, sang in gāthās:

Hearing your teaching of today,
We are dancing with joy.
We have never had
Such joy before.

You say:
“The Śrāvakas will be able to become Buddhas.”
We have obtained unsurpassed treasures
Although we did not seek them.

Suppose there lived a boy.
He was young and ignorant.
He ran away from his father
And went to a remote country.
He wandered from country to country
For more than fifty years.

The father anxiously sought him
In all directions.
Finally tiring of looking for him,
He settled in a certain city.

He built a house,
And enjoyed satisfaction
Of the five desires.
He was very rich.
He had a great deal of gold, silver,
Shell, agate, pearl and lapis lazuli;
And many elephants, horses,
Cows, sheep,
Palanquins, carts,
Farmers and attendants.
He invested his money in all the other countries,
And earned interest.
Merchants and customers
Were seen everywhere [around him].

Thousands of billions of people
Surrounded him respectfully.
He was favored by the king,
And respected
By the ministers,
And by the powerful families.

Many people came to see him
For various purposes. Because he was rich,
He was very powerful.
As he became older,
He thought more of his son.
He thought from morning till night:
“I shall die before long.
It is more than fifty years
Since my ignorant son left me
What shall I do
With the things in the store-houses?”

At that time the poor son
Wandered from village to village,
From country to country,
Seeking food and clothing.
Sometimes he got what he wanted,
At other times he could not.
Getting thinner from hunger,
He had scabs and itches on his skin.
Wandering from one place to another,
He came to the city of his father.
Employed at places from day to day,
He came to the house of his father.

At that time the rich man was sitting
On the lion-like seat
Under the great awning of treasures
Inside the gate of the house.
Many attendants were surrounding him.
Many people were on his guard.

Some of his attendants were counting
Gold, silver, and other treasures.
Some were keeping accounts;
Others, writing notes and bills.

Seeing his father noble and honorable,
The poor son thought:
“Is he a king,
Or someone like a king?”

Frightened and scared,
He wondered:
“Why did I come here?”
He thought:
“If I stay here any longer,
I shall be forced to work.”

Having thought this, he ran away.
He asked someone
For the way to a village of the poor
In order to get a job.

See Under the Guidance of Our Father

Under the Guidance of Our Father

Mental attitudes can be right or wrong; they can be noble or base. Faith that is formed through wrong mental attitudes is nothing more than superstition. Of course, there cannot be any errors in Sakyamuni’s teachings. But he expounded the law expediently in different ways according to our needs and abilities to understand. In this parable, the son, who believes himself to be base and humble, is a representation of all living beings. The father (the Buddha) educated his son with expedients in an effort to raise his base mind and make it into a noble one. This superior, noble mind is what we call the heart of the Buddha. Under the guidance of our father (the Buddha), we are all enabled to develop the heart of the Buddha, which every one of us already possesses by nature.

Introduction to the Lotus Sutra

Day 8

Day 8 concludes Chapter 4, Understanding by Faith, and closes the second volume of the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

Having last month considered the transfer of wealth to the son, we conclude the prose section with the explanation that the Buddha is the rich man, the Śrāvakas the poor sons.

“World-Honored One! The great rich man is you. We are like [his son, that is,] your sons because you always tell us that we are your sons. World-Honored One! We once had many troubles in the world of birth and death because of the three kinds of sufferings.’ We were so distracted and so ignorant that we clung to the teachings of the Lesser Vehicle. At that time you caused us to think over all things and to clear away the dirt of fruitless discussions about them. We made strenuous efforts according to the teachings [of the Lesser Vehicle] and attained Nirvāṇa as a day’s pay. Having attained it, we had great joy, and felt satisfied [with the attainment of it]. We said, ‘We have obtained much because we made efforts according to the teachings of the Buddha.’ But when you saw that we clung to mean desires and wished to hear only the teachings of the Lesser Vehicle, you left us alone. You did not tell us that we had the treasure-store, that is, the insight of the Tathāgata. You expounded the wisdom of the Buddha[, that is, the Great Vehicle] with expedients, but we did not aspire for that vehicle because, when we had obtained the day’s pay of Nirvāṇa from the Buddha, we thought that we had already obtained enough. We did not wish to have what you had showed and expounded to the Bodhisattvas by your wisdom. You expounded the Dharma to us with expedients according to our capacities because you knew that we wished to hear the teachings of the Lesser Vehicle. We did not know that we were your sons. Now we know that you do not grudge your wisdom to anyone. Although we were your sons then as we are now, we wished to hear only the teachings of the Lesser Vehicle. If we had aspired for the teaching of the Great Vehicle, you would have already expounded it to us. Now you expound only the One Vehicle in this sūtra. You once reproached us Śrāvakas in the presence of the Bodhisattvas because we wished to hear the teachings of the Lesser Vehicle. [At that time we thought that you had taught us only the Lesser Vehicle,] but now we know that you have been teaching us the Great Vehicle from the outset. Therefore, we say that the great treasures of the King of the Dharma have come to us although we did not seek them, and that we have already obtained all that the sons of the Buddha should obtain.”

How often do I settle for a “day’s pay,” self-satisfied with that attainment, and fail to appreciate the great treasure that is my inheritance.

Day 8

Day 8 concludes Chapter 4, Understanding by Faith, and closes the second volume of the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

Having last month considered the expedient used by the father to get his son to come work for him, we come to the transfer of wealth to the son.

“World-Honored One! Now the rich man became ill. He knew that he would die soon. He said to the poor son, ‘I have a great deal of gold, silver, and other treasures. My storehouses are filled with them. You know the amounts of them. You know what to take, and what to give. This is what I have in mind. Know this! You are not different from me in all this. Be careful lest the treasures be lost!’

“Thereupon the poor son obeyed his order. He took custody of the storehouses of gold, silver, and other treasures, but did not wish to take anything worth even a meal from them. He still stayed in his old lodging. He could not yet give up the thought that he was base and mean.

“After a while the father noticed that his son had become more at ease and peaceful, that he wanted to improve himself, and that he felt ashamed of the thought that he was base and mean. The time of the death of the father drew near. The father told his son to call in his relatives, the king, ministers, kṣatriyas, and householders. When they all assembled, he said to them, ‘Gentlemen, know this! This is my son, my real son. He ran away from me when I lived in a certain city, and wandered with hardships for more than fifty years. His name is so-and-so; mine, so-and-so. When I was in that city, I anxiously looked for him. I happened to find him [years ago]. This is my son. I am his father. All my treasures are his. He knows what has been taken in and what has been paid out.’

“World-Honored One! At that time the poor son was very glad to hear these words of his father. He had the greatest joy that he had ever had. He thought, ‘I never dreamed of having this store of treasures myself. It has come to me unexpectedly.’

I want to insert here Doctrines of Nichiren from 1893 version of this story:

Man is said by Chinese moralists to be the chief of all living beings in this world. But when a man is engrossed in pursuing his own interests, and cannot live in peace with his neighbours, how can he deserve so high a title? Let us take an illustration. There is one, say, who is entirely ignorant of the Truth. He does not know that in his real nature he is identical with the Buddha of Original Enlightenment, but regards himself as a debased and common person incapable of instruction. In short, he is such a one as Buddha would call a mendicant. But he was not always thus. He began life as the son of a rich man to whom he was very dear. Yet he left his good father, and wandered to and fro upon the earth till forty years had elapsed; during which period his father went to live in a foreign land, so that the prodigal could not rejoin him even when he wanted to, but sank into the direst poverty. But was this poverty, this beggary, his true and original condition? Was it the state proper to a rich man’s heir? No! The beggar is but the image of the real man. He is like the Chinese philosopher Chuang-tzu when he dreamt he was a butterfly. The butterfly had only a temporary and subjective existence in the consciousness of the dreamer; it was not Chuang-tzu himself, but vanished when he awoke. Our wanderer, however, is still asleep; alas he is still dreaming that he is a beggar. Under this delusion he is taken captive by the five appetites of colour, sound, smell, taste, and touch, and humbled by the seven passions of cheerfulness, anger, sorrow, pleasure, love, hate, and avarice; he becomes unjust and partial, and aims only at self-interest; he sinks into the gulfs of sadness, melancholy, pains, and troubles; he assumes that his soul is doomed to pass through a series of painful transformations in the six forms of living beings – such as hungry devils, brutes, and so forth. To enable such a one to awake from his dream, and recover from the confusion that besets him, our Sect appoints the Great Mandala as the Chief Object of Worship, which manifests the identity existing between the Buddha and the multitude, and helps people to form a determination to become enlightened. If the beggar we have been speaking of looks steadfastly at this Mandala and sees his own person reflected there, so as to free himself from the base idea of self-renunciation, he will soon become a Buddha of Original Enlightenment in spite of his outward ordinary appearance, just as, on Chuang-tzu awaking from his dream, the butterfly disappeared and the dreamer became himself again. Thus restored, the beggar will be once more the rich man’s son. Sariputra, one of Sakyamuni’s disciples, is said to have become Keko Buddha without undergoing any change in his appearance. Therefore Sakyamuni says, “The Mandala is the mysterious ground on which any man can acquire enlightenment and become a Buddha.”Doctrines of Nichiren (1893)