Jan 8, 2021

The Illuminated Lotus Sutra Chapter 3 Extract 3

The Buddha tells Sariputra the parable of the burning house.


Roberta Mansell

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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