Buddhism's Sacred Scripture: The Sutra of the Lotus of the Wonderful Dharma, Chapter 4    Part 3
 
Buddhism's Sacred Scripture: The Sutra of the Lotus of the Wonderful Dharma, Chapter 4  Part 3
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Buddha or Buddha Gautama, also known as Shakyamuni Buddha, was a great spiritual Master from ancient India. Born as Prince Siddhārtha Gautama in 5th century BC, he would have naturally inherited the vast wealth of a kingdom. However, the prince one day left the palace life in search of spiritual knowledge. After years of contemplative seeking, the Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. He then shared the merits of his practice by providing a method for other sentient beings to be freed from the cycle of death and rebirth. The rich treasury of Buddha’s spiritual teachings on universal truths are studied and revered to this day for their deep wisdom and compassion. Today we would like to share with you the sage teachings of the Buddha, excerpts of chapter four of The Sutra of the Lotus of the Wonderful Dharma, also known as the Lotus Sutra.

Harmonious viewers, it has been a pleasure to have you with us for today’s episode of Between Master and Disciples here on Supreme Master Television. Join us again next Wednesday for part 2 of “Buddhism’s Sacred Scripture: The Sutra of the Lotus of the Wonderful Dharma, Chapter 4.” Animal World: Our Co-Inhabitants is up next after Noteworthy News. We wish you much love and kindness in the days ahead.

Enlightened viewers, thank you for your gentle presence for today’s episode of Between Master and Disciples. Join us again next Wednesday for part 3 of “Buddhism’s Sacred Scripture: The Sutra of the Lotus of the Wonderful Dharma, Chapter 4.” Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television for Planet Earth: Our Loving Home, coming up next after Noteworthy News.

Joyously, we wish you many blessings from the Divine.

Peace-loving viewers, thank you for joining for today’s episode of Between Master and Disciples. Planet Earth: Our Loving Home, is coming up next, right after Noteworthy News, so please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television. May you and your loved ones be always embraced in the soothing and healing Melodies of Heaven!

Last episode, we learned that after hearing the Buddha made the prophecy that Shariputra would attain anuttara- samyak-sambodhi (the highest perfection), the disciples of the Buddha were grateful to this new revelation: “We have gained what we have never before. Suddenly we have been able to hear a Dharma (true teaching) that is rarely encountered, something we never expected up to now, and we look upon ourselves as profoundly fortunate. We have gained great goodness and benefit, an immeasurably rare jewel, something unsought that came of itself.” And to express their gratefulness and made their point clear, they told the parable of a wealthy father whose long lost and impoverished son had finally returned to him, but the son was unaware of his own status, nor did he recognize his father. So the wealthy father had to employ expedient means to approach the son in order to help him realize his true and elevated station in life.

Last episode, we learned that when the disciples of the Buddha heard of Shariputra’s future attainment of anuttara-samyak- sambodhi (the highest perfection), they become enlightened to their own potential: “Now in this sutra the Buddha expounds only the one vehicle. And in the past, when in the presence of the bodhisattvas he disparaged the voice-hearers as those who delight in a lesser doctrine, the Buddha was in fact employing the Great Vehicle to teach and convert us. Therefore we say that, though originally we had no mind to covet or seek such a thing, now the great treasure of the Dharma King has come to us of its own accord. It is something that the sons of the Buddha have a right to acquire, and now they have acquired all of it.” In this episode, Mahakashyapa poetically retold the parable of the wealthy man’s long lost son who had degraded himself to a lowly position in life, as a way to further demonstrate his understanding of the significance of the Buddha’s teaching.
The Sutra of the Lotus of the Wonderful Dharma (Lotus Sutra)

Chapter Four: Belief and Understanding At that time, when the men of lifelong wisdom Subhuti, Mahakatyayana, Mahakashyapa, and Mahamaudgalyayana heard from the Buddha a Dharma (true teaching) that they had never known before, and heard the World-Honored One prophesy that Shariputra would attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi (the highest perfection), their minds were moved as seldom before and danced for joy. At once they rose from their seats, arranged their robes, bared their right shoulders and bowed their right knees to the ground.

Pressing their palms together with a single mind, they bent their bodies in a gesture of respect and, gazing up in reverence at the face of the Honored One, said to the Buddha: "We stand at the head of the monks and are all of us old and decrepit. We believed that we had already attained nirvana (the highest paradise) and that we were incapable of doing more, and so we never sought to attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi (the highest perfection).

"It has been a long time since the World-Honored One first began to expound the Dharma (true teaching). During that time we have sat in our seats, our bodies weary and inert, meditating solely on the concepts of emptiness, non-form, and non-action. But as to the pleasures and transcendental power of the Dharma (true teaching) of the bodhisattva or the purifying of Buddha lands and the salvation of living beings-these our minds took no joy in. Why is this? Because the World-Honored One had made it possible for us to transcend the threefold world and to attain the enlightenment of nirvana (the highest paradise).

Moreover, we are old and decrepit. When we heard of this anuttara-samyak-sambodhi (the highest perfection), which the Buddha uses to teach and convert the bodhisattvas, our minds were not filled with any thought of joy or approval. But now in the presence of the Buddha we have heard this voice-hearer receive a prophecy that he will attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi (the highest perfection) and our minds are greatly delighted. We have gained what we have never before. Suddenly we have been able to hear a Dharma (true teaching) that is rarely encountered, something we never expected up to now, and we look upon ourselves as profoundly fortunate. We have gained great goodness and benefit, an immeasurably rare jewel, something unsought that came of itself.

World-Honored One, we would be pleased now to employ a parable to make clear our meaning. Suppose there was a man, still young in years, who abandoned his father, ran away, and lived for a long time in another land, for perhaps ten, twenty, or even fifty years. As he drew older, he found himself increasingly poor and in want. He hurried about in every direction, seeking clothing and food, wandering farther and farther afield until by chance he turned his steps in the direction of his homeland.

The father meanwhile had been searching for his son without success and had taken up residence in a certain city. The father's household was very wealthy, with immeasurable riches and treasures. Gold, silver, lapis lazuli, coral, amber, and crystal beads all filled and overflowed from his storehouses. He had many grooms and menservants, clerks and attendants, and elephants, horses, carriages, beyond number. He engaged in profitable ventures at home and in all the lands around, and also had dealings with many merchants and traveling vendors.

At this time the impoverished son wandered from village to village, passing through various lands and towns, till at last he came to the city where his father was residing. The father thought constantly of his son, but though he had been parted from him for over fifty years, he had never told anyone else about the matter. He merely pondered to himself, his heart filled with regret and longing. He thought to himself that he was old and decrepit. He had great wealth and possessions, gold silver and rare treasures that filled and overflowed from his storehouses, but he had no son, so that if one day he should die, the wealth and possessions would be scattered and lost, for there was no one to entrust them to.

This was the reason he constantly thought so earnestly of his son. And he also had this thought: If I could find my son and entrust my wealth and possessions to him, then I could feel contented and easy in mind and would have no more worries.

World-Honored One, at that time the impoverished son drifted from one kind of employment to another until he came by chance to his father's house. He stood by the side of the gate, gazing far off at his father, who was seated on a lion throne, his legs supported by a jeweled footrest, while Brahmans, noblemen, and householders, uniformly deferential, surrounded him. Festoons of gems worth thousands or tens of thousands adorned his body, and clerks, grooms and menservants holding white fly whisks stood in attendance to left and right. A jeweled canopy covered him, with flowered banners hanging from it, perfumed water had been sprinkled over the ground, heaps of rare flowers were scattered about, and precious objects were ranged here and there, brought out, put away, handed over and received. Such were the many different types of adornments, the emblems of prerogative and marks of distinction.

When the impoverished son saw how great was his father's power and authority, he was filled with fear and awe and regretted he had ever come to such a place. Secretly he thought to himself: This must be some king, or one who is equal to a king. This is not the sort of place where I can hire out my labor and gain a living. It would be better to go to some poor village where, if I work hard, I will find a place and can easily earn food and clothing. If I stay here for long, I may be seized and pressed into service! Having thought in this way, he raced from the spot.

At that time the rich old man, seated on his lion throne, spied his son and recognized him immediately. His heart was filled with great joy and at once he thought: Now I have someone to entrust my storehouses of wealth and possessions to! My thoughts have constantly been with this son of mine but I had no way of seeing him. Now suddenly he had appeared of himself, which is exactly what I would have wished. Though I am old and decrepit, I still care what becomes of my belongings.

Thereupon he dispatched a bystander to go after the son as quickly as possible and bring him back. At that time the messenger raced swiftly after the son and laid hold of him. The impoverished son, alarmed and fearful, cried out in an angry voice, 'I have done nothing wrong! Why am I being seized?' But the messenger held on to him more tightly than ever and forcibly dragged him back.

At that time the son thought to himself, I have committed no crime and yet I am taken prisoner. Surely I am going to be put to death! He was more terrified than ever and sank to the ground, fainting with despair.

The father, observing this from a distance, spoke to the messenger, saying, 'I have no need of this man. Don't force him to come here, but sprinkle cold water on his face so he will regain his senses. Then say nothing more to him!'

Why did he do that? Because the father knew that his son was of humble outlook and ambition, and that his own rich and eminent position would be difficult for the son to accept. He knew very well that this was his son, but as a form of expedient means he refrained from saying to anyone, 'this is my son.'

The messenger said to the son, "I am releasing you now. You may go anywhere you wish.' The impoverished son was delighted, having gained what he had not had before, and picked himself up from the ground and went off to the poor village in order to look for food and clothing.

At that time the rich man, hoping to entice his son back again, decided to employ an expedient means and send two men as secret messengers, men who were lean and haggard and had no imposing appearance. 'Go seek out that poor man and approach him casually. Tell him you know a place where he can earn twice the regular wage. If he agrees to the arrangement, then bring him here and put him to work. If he asks what sort of work he will be put to, say that he will be employed to clear away excrement, and that the two of you will be working with him.'

The two messengers then set out at once to find the poor man, and when they had done so, spoke to him as they had been instructed. At that time the impoverished son asked for an advance on his wages and then went with the men to help clear away excrement.

When the father saw his son, he pitied and wondered at him. Another day, when he was gazing out the window, he saw his son in the distance, his body thin and haggard, filthy with excrement, dirt, sweat and defilement. The father immediately took off his necklaces, his soft fine garments and his other adornments and put on clothes that were ragged and soiled. He smeared dirt on his body, took in his right hand a utensil for removing excrement, and assuming a gruff manner, spoke to the laborers, saying, 'Keep at your work! You mustn't be lazy!' By employing this expedient means, he was able to approach his son.
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