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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)

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 discussed the son’s “greatest joy” at escaping his inheritance, now it’s time consider the expedient used by the father.

Thereupon the rich man thought of an expedient to persuade his son to come to him. He [wished to] dispatch messengers in secret. He said to two men looking worn-out, powerless and virtueless, ‘Go and gently tell the poor man that he will be employed here for a double day’s pay. If he agrees with you, bring him here and have him work. If he asks you what work he should do, tell him that he should clear dirt and that you two also will work with him.’

“The two messengers looked for the poor son. Having found him, they told him what they had been ordered to tell. The poor son [came back with them,] drew his pay in advance, and cleared dirt with them. Seeing him, the father had compassion towards him, and wondered [why he was so base and mean]. Some days later he saw his son in the distance from the window. The son was weak, thin, worn-out, and defiled with dirt and dust. The father took off his necklace, his garment of thin and soft cloth, and other ornaments. He put on tattered and dirty clothing, smeared himself with dust, and carried a dirt-utensil in his right hand. He looked fearful. He [came to the workers and] said, ‘Work hard! Do not be lazy!’

“With this expedient the father came to his son. He said to him, ‘Man! Stay here and work! Do not go anywhere else! I will pay you more. Do not hesitate to take trays, rice, flour, salt and vinegar as much as you need! You can have an old servant if you want to. Make yourself at home! I feel like your father. Do not worry any more! I am old, and you are young. When you work, you do not deceive [the other workers]. You are not lazy. You do not get angry [with the other workers], or reproach them. You are not like the other workers who do these evil things. From now on I will treat you as my son.’

“The rich man gave him a name and called him son. The poor son was glad to be treated kindly, but still thought that he was a humble employee. Therefore, the rich man had him clear dirt for twenty years. After that the father and son trusted each other. Now the son felt no hesitation in entering the house of his father, but still lodged in his old place.

There was a time when I, too, felt unworthy. How could I be the beneficiary of such treasures? I was “glad to be treated kindly, but still thought that [I] was a humble employee.

This quote from the Lecture on the Lotus Sutra fits well here:

Every day we look around us and we see our worlds our lives as being perhaps small and full of suffering or troubles. Yet the image that is presented to us in the ceremony in the air is an expansive one and one of great beauty. Just as the seating of the two Buddhas side by side presents us with a view of the eternity of time, the image of the joined worlds is one of infinite space. So now we have an expansive time element and an expansive space element all in one moment.

When we place ourselves in front of the Honzon as presented in the Lotus Sutra in these chapters we place ourselves outside of our present time and our present space. Again this allows us the opportunity to view our current condition in this life as really one of great reward. How many people everyday participate in such a grand drama?

It is not easy for us to see this as we live out our lives and experience our day-to-day problems. Yet this is the invitation that the Buddha makes to us – to realize that we are not merely some lonely person chanting Odaimoku and practicing the Lotus Sutra, but that we are actually participants in a drama unlike anything that can be contained by either space or time.Lecture on 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 discussed the poor son’s fear of his father’s power, we consider the son’s “greatest joy” at escaping his inheritance.

“Having thought this, the poor son ran away. The rich man, who was sitting on the lion-like seat, recognized him at first sight as his son. He was delighted. He thought, ‘Now I have found the person to whom I can transfer my treasures and storehouses. I have been thinking of my son all this time, but I have had no way to find him. Now he has come by himself all of a sudden. This is just what I wanted. I am old, but not too old to lose any attachment [to my treasures].’

“He immediately dispatched a man standing beside him to quickly bring back the poor son. The messenger ran up to the poor son and caught him. The poor son was frightened. He cried, ‘You Devil! I have done nothing wrong. Why do you catch me?’

“The messenger pulled him by force. The poor son thought, ‘I am caught though I am not guilty. I shall be killed.’ More and more frightened, the poor son fainted and fell to the ground. Seeing all this in the distance, the father said to the messenger, ‘I do not want him any more. Do not bring him forcibly! Pour cold water on his face and bring him to himself! Do not talk with him any more!’

“The father said this because he had realized that his son was too base and mean to meet a noble man [like his father]. He knew that the man was his son, but expediently refrained from telling to others that that was his son. [The messenger poured water on the son. The son was brought to himself.] The messenger said to him, ‘Now you are released. You can go anywhere you like.’

“The poor son had the greatest joy that he had ever had. He stood up and went to a village of the poor to get food and clothing.

In the Burning House the children are so self-absorbed in playing that they fail to realize they are in danger. Here, the son is equally deluded, thinking he has escaped when what he has done is missed an opportunity to take his place as the heir to his father’s wealth.

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 begun the Parable of the Rich Man and His Poor son, we continue.

“World-Honored One! At that time the poor son, who had worked at various places as a day worker, happened to come to the house of his father. Standing by the gate of the house, he saw his father in the distance. His father was sitting on a lion-like seat, putting his feet on a jeweled footstool. Brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, and householders surrounded him respectfully. He was adorned with a necklace of pearls worth ten million. The secretaries and servants were standing on either side of him, holding insect-sweepers made of white hairs. Above him was a jeweled awning, from which streamers of flowers were hanging down. Perfume was sprayed and beautiful flowers were strewn on the ground. He was exhibiting treasures and engaging in trade. Adorned with these various things, he looked extraordinarily powerful and virtuous.

“Seeing the exceedingly powerful father, the poor son was frightened. He regretted that he had come there. He thought, ‘Is he a king or someone like a king? This is not the place where I can get something by labor. I had better go to a village of the poor, where I can work to get food and clothing easily. If I stay here any longer, I shall be forced to work.’

The image of a man who not only can’t believe wealth is his due but also flees from the opportunity says a great deal about those who, like myself, have at times thought, “I am not qualified.”

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 Chapter 4, Understanding by Faith, we return to the top of Day 8.

“World-Honored One! Allow us to explain our understanding by telling a parable. Suppose there lived a man [in a certain country]. When he was a little boy, he ran away from his father. [The boy] lived in another country for a long time, say, for ten, twenty or fifty years. As time passed by, he became poorer. He wandered about all directions, seeking food and clothing.

“While wandering here and there, he happened to walk towards his home country. At that time his father stayed in a city [of that country]. He had been vainly looking for his son ever since. He was now very rich. He had innumerable treasures. His storehouses were filled with gold, silver, lapis lazuli, coral, amber and crystal. He had many servants, clerks, and secretaries. He also had countless elephants, horses, carts, cows, and sheep. He invested his money in all the other countries, and earned interest. He dealt with many merchants and customers.

“The poor son, having wandered from town to town, from country to country, from village to village, came to the city where his father was living. The father had been thinking of him for more than fifty years since he had lost him, but never told others [that he had a missing son]. He was alone, pining for his son. He thought, ‘I am old and decrepit. I have many treasures. My storehouses are filled with gold, silver, and other treasures. But I have no son [other than the missing one]. When I die, my treasures will be scattered and lost. I have no one to transfer my treasures to. Therefore, I am always yearning for my son.’ The father thought again, ‘If I can find my son and give him my treasures, I shall be happy and peaceful, and have nothing more to worry about.’

At this point I want to take this opportunity to recall something from the Doctrines of Nichiren (1893) that takes this Parable of the Rich Man and His Poor Son and explains it through the lens of the teaching of the Nichiren school.

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)