The Illuminated Lotus Sutra Chapter 3 Extract 3
The Buddha tells Sariputra the parable of the burning house.
Sâriputra addressed the Buddha stating that his doubt had vanished but he was concerned
about his twelve hundred disciples who had thought their Nirvana was the goal and now
upon hearing that it was but a step towards it were perplexed and uneasy. The Buddha
reminded Sâriputra that he preaches according to the disposition of the hearers.
But, Sâriputra, to elucidate this matter more at large, I will tell thee a parable, for men of
good understanding will generally readily enough catch the meaning of what is taught under
the shape of a parable.
Let us suppose the following case, Sâriputra. In a certain village, town, borough, province,
kingdom, or capital, there was a certain housekeeper, old, aged, decrepit, very advanced in
years, rich, wealthy, opulent; he had a great house, high, spacious, built a long time ago and
old, inhabited by some two, three, four, or five hundred living beings. The house had but one
door, and a thatch; its terraces were tottering, the bases of its pillars rotten, the coverings
and plaster of the walls loose. On a sudden the whole house was from every side put in
conflagration by a mass of fire. Let us suppose that the man had many little boys, say five, or
ten, or even twenty, and that he himself had come out of the house.
Now, Sâriputra, that man, on seeing the house from every side wrapt in a blaze by a great
mass of fire, got afraid, frightened, anxious in his mind, and made the following reflection: I
myself am able to come out from the burning house through the door, quickly and safely,
without being touched or scorched by that great mass of fire; but my children, those young
boys, are staying in the burning house, playing, amusing, and diverting themselves with all
sorts of sports. They do not perceive, nor know, nor understand, nor mind that the house is
on fire, and do not get afraid. Though scorched by that great mass of fire, and affected with
such a mass of pain, they do not mind the pain, nor do they conceive the idea of escaping.
Text based on the translation by J H C Kern
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