Part 7 - Seven
7.1 Parable of House on Fire
7.1.1 Original Text in the Sutra
7.1.2 Precis of the Parable
7.1.5 The Three Carts
7.1.6 How to Extinguish the Fire?
7.2 Parable of the Poor Son
7.2.1 Original Text in the Sutra
7.2.2 Precis of the Parable
7.2.4 Buddha's Wisdom and Virtues
7.2.5 Buddha's Nature
Lotus Sutra is one of the most popular sutras in China. There are 17
names for Lotus Sutra, out of which the Wondrous Dharma Lotus Flower
Sutra is the most commonly used. Though it is well-known to many people,
it is difficult to understand its meaning. It takes fairly long time
to interpret the Sutra word by word and phrase by phrase. Even by doing
so, the theme and thought of the Sutra is not easy to grasp. In Lotus
Sutra, there are 28 chapters in 7 fasiciles. Generally, it can be interpreted
by its verses and main phrases, by its main themes, by Four Happily-dwelled
Conducts, by Seven Parables, by Three Equalities, by Six Predictions,
by Twelve Unsurpassed, etc.
of the characteristics of the Lotus Sutra is that parables are often
used to illustrate the Buddhist teachings. There are mainly seven parables.
Each parable is intended for one particular group of sentient beings
so as to lead them to the Buddhist Way.
- The Parable of the House on Fire
Spoke for ordinary human beings, who have not studied any Buddhist
teachings at all. They even don't know what Buddhism is. They pursue
human and heavenly merits and blessings.
- The Parable of the Poor Son
Spoke for people who cultivate themselves with wholesome deeds.
However, they are not confident to take the Great Vehicle as they
think they lack good roots. Thus, they confine themselves to pursue
the rewards of Small Vehicle.
- The Parable of the Rain over Medicinal Herb
Spoke for people who practice Bodhisattva only, but look down upon
those in Small Vehicle.
- The Parable of the Transformed City
Spoke for people who practice Dhanya i.e. meditation. They enjoy
the state of quiescence and regard it to be the ultimate state in
pursuing the Buddhist Way.
- The Parable of Sewing Pearl
Spoke for people who have the good roots of the Great Vehicle,
but do not know how to practice meditation and cultivate wholesome
- Parable of Offering Pearl
Spoke for those who practice meditation and cultivate wholesome
merits, but pursue the fruition and rewards of the Small Vehicle,
not of the Buddha.
- Parable of Medical Doctor
Spoke for those who do not know how to cultivate virtues and merits,
and are encouraged to cultivate in future.
PARABLE OF THE HOUSE ON FIRE
7.1.1 Original Text in the
Please click to read
the extract in Chapter 3.
7.1.2 Precis of the Parable
rich elder lived in a big house with his children. One day, he found
the house was on fire. Unfortunately, there was only one single exit
in the house. He cried and urged his children to leave the burning
house immediately. However, the children did not listen to him as
they were happily attached to their amusements. The father got an
idea. He told them that there were rare ox carts, deer carts and sheep
carts outside the door for the children to play with. Believing what
their father said, the children stopped playing and followed their
father leaving the house. When the children ran out of the burning
house, they could not see the three carts. By that time the elders
gave to all of his sons equally a great cart.
- The elder being the father of the children - the Buddha
- The children in the house - all sentient beings in the Three Realms.
- The burning house - the Three Realms, where many sensuous desires,
anger and hatred are like fire burning us.
- Only one exit - only one way for salvation and liberation, i.e.
the Buddhist Way.
- Attached to the amusement - sentient beings attached to the worldly
- Ox-cart, deer cart and sheep cart - representing the Three Vehicles,
i.e. Buddha Vehicle, Pratyeka Buddha Vehicle and the Sound Hearer
Vehicle. The carts were expedient means.
- A great cart equally given to the children - representing the
Great Vehicle. The Buddhas discriminate and speak of three in One
What is the fire burning us?
- The Fire of Desires
- Greed on money - leading us to steal, to cheat, to fight,
to rob, etc.
- Greed on sex - leading us to have poor relationship with our
families, and to reincarnate in the Six Paths.
- Greed on fame - leading us to be hypocrite, and pursue for
- Greed on food - leading us to eat meat, to kill and to be
harmful to our lives.
- Greed on sleeping - leading us to do nothing, probably to
drink liquor, and to be depressed.
The Fire of Anger
People always lose their temper. In most cases anger arises from
our imagination, which is not rational at all. Violence sweeps
off our friendship and love, sometimes the lives of others. After
all, we may have the feeling of failure, and commit ourselves
- The Fire of Jealousy
Sometimes when we cannot get it, and we don't want others to get
it either. We are sometimes not happy if others can do better. The
fire of jealousy is an obstacle to our compassion.
- The Flame of Arrogance
If we are arrogant, we do not care about others. People never get
close to us, then our human relationship is bound to be poor.
- Hotness due to the Fire of
- Anxiety - when we wait, during traffic jam, etc.
- Nervousness - during examination, during competition, etc.
- Worry - our fate, our health, our financial situation, etc.
- Fear - on war, on natural disaster, earthquake, etc.
7.1.5 The Three Carts
There are three kinds of teachings in Buddhism, represented by three
- Sheep cart for Human/Heavenly Realm
- to be kind, do good things and stop doing evil things.
- Deer cart for Small Vehicle
- to cut off afflictions and to transcend the cycle of birth and
- Ox cart for the Bodhisattva
- to benefit themselves by benefiting others.
In this parable, the Buddha spoke for the sake of the sentient beings
in the Human/Heavenly Realm.
7.1.6 How to extinguish
For the sentient beings in the Human/Heavenly realm, the Buddha teaches
us how to extinguish the fire as follows:
- Extinguishing the Fire of Greedy Desires
Whether the matter is good or not is merely our own impression,
not the reality of the matter itself. As our impression varies from
time to time, we like something at one time, but do not like it
after some time. Thus, if greedy thought arises in our mind, it
happens like a flash. We should not attach to it, and let it go
and extinguish! We should not be deceived and manipulated by false
thoughts. We are truly satisfied and relaxed if we have wisdom.
- Extinguishing the Fire of Anger
Regarding the gain and loss of materials, people should keep an
open mind to accept it. Sometimes we are angry because we do not
allow others to win, and do not forgive others. Forgiveness will
bring us the peace of mind. It is contradictory to pursue for comfort
and happiness on one hand, and not to liberate ourselves from the
meaningless attachments. Think more of other's advantages, then
- Extinguishing the Fire of Jealousy
If we are compassionate, we must be happy when other people are
happy. Conversely, we will never be happy if we are jealous. We
should encourage and motivate ourselves with the success of others.
In most cases, we may have some limitations and deficiencies to
achieve what other people can achieve.
- Extinguishing the Fire of Arrogance
Every person has his/her own good qualities. If we are proud of
our strong points, and look down upon other's weakness, we are lack
of wisdom and conduct. If we wish others to respect us, we have
to respect and treat others in good manner.
Lastly, the Buddha brought in the great cart only and introduced
to his children. He also suggested them to take the great cart, which
meant the One Buddha Vehicle. The parable does not ask us to escape
from the worldly matters, but remind us of cultivating our mind. If
we are mastered by our mind, we will not be liberated.
7.2 PARABLE OF THE POOR
The parable is spoken for people who cultivate themselves with wholesome
deeds in Small Vehicle. However, they are not confident to take the
Great Vehicle as they think they are lack of good roots. Thus, they
confine themselves to pursue the rewards of Small Vehicle, or they satisfy
themselves in the state of Arhatship. This parable wishes to encourage
them to become Buddhas.
7.2.1 Original Text in the
Please click to read
the extract in Chapter 4.
7.2.2 Precis of the Parable
person had left his rich father to another country for many years.
He was very poor and worked as a labourer. His father tried to find
his son, and wished to make him heir to his wealth. The poor son unexpectedly
arrived at his father's house. He was frightened by his father's power
and wealth. He regretted and ran away. However, his father recognized
his poor son, and sent servants to help him and requested him to join
them in sweeping the dung, but with fairly high pay. Although his
father felt pity, he encouraged his poor son to stay at his home and
work for him with no more worries. However, the poor son still referred
to himself as a lowly worker, and kept on sweeping the dung for twenty
years. Building trust to each other, the father then asked his son
to take charge of managing treasures. However, his son was unable
to let go of his lowly thoughts. Later, the father knew that his son
had grown more relaxed. He announced to everybody that there was my
son, who would succeed all his treasures after his death. His son
was rejoiced greatly.
- The elder loved his son - everybody loves his son, and wishes
his son to succeed his career after his death. The Buddha loves
the sentient beings too. The Buddha is also rich as they have complete
accomplishment in both wisdom and virtues.
- The son left rich home, wandered and became poor - We sentient
beings are wise and rich originally, but perplexed seeking for false
thoughts externally. With different kinds of attachments, we suffer
from afflictions, i.e. poverty.
- Afraid of nobility - Originally, we have a noble family, i.e.
the self-nature. However, we cannot make use of it and develop our
good roots and qualities. Conversely, we let our affliction, greed,
hatred, etc to grow in our mind. Some people may dare not become
- Working the lowly job, and reluctant to take up higher managerial
job - At first, the Buddha asked his followers to learn and cultivate
the Small Vehicle, then later asked them to be compassionate to
others and to give up the attachment to the self ego, then take
up the Great Vehicle. However, some people were reluctant to do
- Succeeding his father's wealth - We have to cut off our greed,
hatred and delusion in order to mitigate sufferings, then we know
how to mitigate other's suffering one after the other. To practice
Bodhisattva's works is not just talking, but committing ourselves
to do in daily lives.
7.2.4 Buddha's Wisdom and
Buddha is complete in the accomplishment of wisdom and blessing.
To attain wisdom, we have to practice mediation. Our self-nature
is always hidden by our false thoughts so that it cannot be clearly
exposed and visualized. If we have to understand the Law, our mind
must be clear and not defiled.
Virtues are not money, or love, but one's feeling without afflictions
and suffering. If our mind clings to wealth, health, power, success,
fame etc., we must suffer. However, if we have good relationship with
other people through cultivation, we have all wholesome matters around
us. Then, we have true blessings and virtues. We have to cultivate
our mind in accord with the conditions without any attachment and
affliction by understanding and following the Principle of Causality
and Effect. Only the Karma can be carried forward to our future lives,
7.2.5 Buddha's Nature
Shakyamuni demonstrated to our human beings how he became the Buddha
from a human body in this world 2500 years ago. All human beings have
their own Buddha's nature. For they have both good seeds and evil
seeds, they can be human beings. However, we have to develop our good
seeds, which will help us to open our mind and attain wisdom. Our
mind is just like a mirror, which reflects if clear. If our mind is
defiled with false thoughts and attachments, we are afflicted and
When we begin to learn Buddhism, we generally wish to relieve ourselves
from suffering. As the first step in learning, we start to tame our
mind and cultivate our virtues. If we cannot master our mind and control
our temper, we will be influenced and misled by others. We may not
forget what our roles as a human being are.
We should not be satisfied with the state of Arhatship. We should
be responsible to the people in our community, our family and other
associations. We have to practice how to get along with others, help
others, and live in harmony. We have to learn to forgive and be patient.
People have their own characters and personalities. How do we get
along with each others? In short, we have to appreciate other's strength,
and to pardon other's weakness. We have to contribute our strength
to benefit the public, and to improve our weakness. This is the basic
principle of living in the community.
We have to break off the barriers amongst people, so that we can
care for others and serve the public. We should not be self-benefiting
without caring for others. A wise man loves others as he loves himself,
which is the fundamental of our compassionate heart, and the pre-requisite
of a Bodhisattva.
Sometimes, we make an offence to others because we are confused without
caring for others' feeling.
When we start to study Buddhism, we always ask whether we are qualified,
what roots we have, in what ways we should practice, etc. Though it
is a long way to attain Buddhahood, we must keep our good faith and
full confidence. We can practice Arhatship to start with, and continue
to be a Bodhisattva further.