THIS CHAPTER SEEMS TO RELATE a fantastic story from a remote world and time, but actually it teaches a lesson that applies to our daily lives. First, it concerns religion in the family, which here is presented as the problem of a father and his sons who believe in different faiths. The problem of a father who believes in a mistaken faith and his sons who have faith in a right religion, and the attitude of the mother, who must deal with both father and sons, is one common in today's society.
The story also concerns the problem of the faith that those who are in a position of leadership should hold. In today's society, freedom of religion is guaranteed to every individual, and no authority can deprive him of such freedom. The religious beliefs of those who are in positions of authority inevitably exert an influence upon many other people, even though it is a private matter of personal faith. The actions of King Resplendent suggest this problem to us. King Resplendent and his two sons renounced the world. In our time, religion and daily life are not considered to be in opposition but are regarded as compatible. If we take literally the royal sons' renunciation of the world and the king's abdication of his throne, we are liable to misinterpret this story. The renunciation of the world by the two princes, who were in easy circumstances, indicates the idea that mental peace through one's spiritual life is far more important than satisfaction in material life. The story of King Resplendent's abdicating the throne in favor of his younger brother and entering religious life expresses the idea that the spiritual kingdom established in man's mind is far more worthy than the worldly power of a king. We should not interpret the words "renunciation of the world" literally but should take them as meaning the conversion of man's spiritual life.
Proceeding to the substance of this chapter, let us first trace the story of King Resplendent and then discuss the important words and terms.
At that time the Buddha addressed the great assembly: "Of yore, in a former eon, infinite, boundless, and inconceivable asamkhyeya kalpas ago, there was a buddha named Thunder Voice Constellation King of Wisdom, Tathagata, Arhat, Samyaksambodhi, whose domain was named Adorned with Radiance, and whose kalpa was named Joyful Sight. Under the spiritual rule of that buddha there was a king named Resplendent. The wife of that king was called Pure Virtue, who had two sons, one named Pure Treasury, the other named Pure-Eyed. Those two sons possessed great supernatural power, blessedness, and wisdom, and had for long devoted themselves to the ways in which bodhisattvas walk, that is to say, donation paramita, keeping the precepts paramita, perseverance paramita, assiduity paramita, meditation paramita, wisdom paramita, tactfulness paramita, benevolence, compassion, joy, indifference, and the thirty-seven kinds of aids to the Way--all these they thoroughly understood. They had also attained the bodhisattva contemplation--the pure contemplation, the sun constellation contemplation, the pure light contemplation, the pure color contemplation, the pure illumination contemplation, the ever resplendent contemplation, and the contemplation of the treasury of great dignity, in which contemplations they were thoroughly accomplished.
"Then that buddha, desiring to lead King Resplendent and having compassion for the living, preached this Law Flower Sutra. Meanwhile the two sons, Pure Treasury and Pure-Eyed, went to their mother and, joining their palms together, spoke to her, saying: 'We beg you, mother, to go and visit the Buddha Thunder Voice Constellation King of Wisdom. We also would wait on, approach, serve, and worship him. Wherefore? Because that buddha among the host of gods and humans is preaching the Law Flower Sutra, and we ought to hear it.' The mother replied to her sons: 'Your father believes in the heretics and is deeply attached to the Brahman law. Do you go and speak to your father that he may go with us.' Pure Treasury and Pure-Eyed, joining their palms together, said to their mother: 'We are sons of the Law king, though born in this home of heretical views.' The mother spoke to her sons, saying: 'You should have sympathy for your father, and show him some supernatural deed so that seeing it his mind will become clear and he will perhaps permit us to go to that buddha.'
"Thereupon the two sons, with a mind for their father, sprang up into the sky, seven tala trees high, and displayed many kinds of supernatural deeds, walking, standing, sitting, and lying in the sky; the upper part of their bodies emitting water, the lower emitting fire, or the lower emitting water and the upper emitting fire; or enlarging themselves till they filled the sky, and again appearing small, or small and again appearing large; then vanishing from the sky and suddenly appearing on the earth, or entering into the earth as into water, or walking on water as on the earth; displaying such various supernatural deeds, they led their father, the king, to cleanse his mind to faith and discernment.
"When their father saw his sons possessed of such supernatural powers he was greatly delighted at so unprecedented an experience and with his palms joining together saluted his sons, saying: 'Who is your master? Whose pupils are you?' The two sons replied: 'Great king! That Buddha Thunder Voice Constellation King of Wisdom, who is now under the seven-jeweled Bodhi tree, seated on the throne of the Law, preaching abroad the Law Flower Sutra in the midst of the world-host of gods and men - he is our master, we are his pupils.' The father then said to his sons: 'I also would now like to see your master; let us go together.'
"On this the two sons descended from the sky, went to their mother, and with their palms joining together said to her: 'Our father the king has now believed and understood, and been able to set his mind on Perfect Enlightenment. We have done a buddha deed for our father. Be pleased, mother, to permit us to leave home and under that buddha pursue the Way.' "Then the two sons, desiring again to announce their wish, said to their mother in verse:
'Be pleased, mother, to release us
To leave home and become sramanas.
Hard it is to meet the buddhas,
And we would be followers of a buddha.
As the blossom of the udumbara,
Even harder is it to meet a buddha,
And hard it is to escape from hardships.
Be pleased to permit us to leave home.'
"Then the mother spoke, saying: 'I grant you permission to leave home; and why? Because a buddha is hard to meet.'
"On this the two sons said to their parents: 'Good, father and mother! We beg that you will now go to the Buddha Thunder Voice Constellation King of Wisdom, approach him, and pay him homage. Wherefore? Because a buddha is as hard to meet as an udumbara flower, or as the one-eyed turtle that meets the hole in the floating log.1 But we, richly blessed through a former lot, have met the Buddha Law in this life. Therefore, father and mother, listen to us and let us go forth from home. Wherefore? Because buddhas are hard to meet and the occasion is also hard to encounter.'
"At that juncture all the eighty-four thousand court ladies of King Resplendent became capable of receiving and keeping this Law Flower Sutra. The Bodhisattva Pure-Eyed had for long been thorough in the Law Flower contemplation. The Bodhisattva Pure Treasury had for infinite hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of kalpas been thorough in the contemplation of free from evil paths, which sought to lead all the living away from all evil states of existence. The queen of that king had attained the contemplation of assemblage of buddhas and was able to know the secret resources of buddhas. Thus did the two sons with tact wisely convert their father, bringing his mind to believe, discern, and delight in the Buddha Law.
"Thereupon King Resplendent accompanied by his ministers and retinue, Queen Pure Virtue accompanied by her fine court ladies and retinue, and the two sons of that king, accompanied by forty-two thousand people, at once set out together to visit the buddha. Arriving and prostrating themselves at his feet, they made procession around the buddha three times and then withdrew to one side.
"Then that buddha preached to the king, showing, teaching, profiting, and rejoicing him, so that the king was greatly delighted. Then King Resplendent and his queen unloosed the necklaces of pearls worth hundreds and thousands from their necks and threw them upon the buddha, which in the sky were transformed into a four-columned jeweled tower; on the tower was a large jeweled couch spread with hundreds of thousands of myriads of celestial coverings, on which was the buddha sitting cross-legged, emitting a great ray of light. Whereupon King Resplendent reflected thus: 'Rare, dignified, extraordinary is the buddha's body, perfect in its supreme, refined coloring!'
"Then the Buddha Thunder Voice Constellation King of Wisdom addressed the four groups, saying: 'You see this King Resplendent standing before me with his palms joining together? This king, having become a bhiksu within my rule, and being zealous in observing the laws which aid the Buddha Way, shall become a buddha entitled Salendra Tree King, whose domain will be named Great Luster, and his kalpa named Great High King. This Buddha Salendra Tree King will have countless bodhisattvas and countless sravakas, and his domain will be level and straight. Such will be his merits.'
"The king at once made over his domain to his younger brother; the king together with his queen, two sons, and retinue forsook his home and followed the Way under the rule of that buddha. Having forsaken his home, for eighty-four thousand years the king was ever diligent and zealous in observing the Wonderful Law Flower Sutra, and after these years passed attained the contemplation of adorned with all pure merits.
"Whereupon he arose in the sky to a height of seven tala trees and said to that buddha: 'World-honored One! These my two sons have already done a buddha deed by their supernatural transformations, turning my heretical mind, establishing me in the Buddha Law, and causing me to see the World-honored One. These two sons are my good friends, for out of a desire to develop the roots of goodness planted in my former lives and to benefit me, they came and were born in my home.'
"Thereupon the Buddha Thunder Voice Constellation King of Wisdom addressed King Resplendent, saying: 'So it is, so it is, it is as you say. Any good son or good daughter, by planting roots of goodness, will in every generation obtain good friends, which good friends will be able to do buddha deeds, showing, teaching, profiting, and rejoicing him, and causing him to enter into Perfect Enlightenment. Know, great king! A good friend is the great cause whereby men are converted and led to see the buddha and aroused to Perfect Enlightenment. Great king! Do you see these two sons? These two sons have already paid homage to buddhas sixty-five times the hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of the sands of the Ganges, waiting upon and revering them; and among those buddhas received and kept the Law Flower Sutra, having compassion for the living with their false views, and establishing them in right views.'
"King Resplendent thereupon descended from the sky and said to the buddha: 'World-honored One! Rare indeed is the sight of the tathagata; by his merits and wisdom the protuberance on his head shines brilliantly; his eyes are wide open and deep blue; the tuft between his eyebrows is white as the pearly moon; his teeth are white, even, close, and ever shining; his lips are red and beautiful as bimba fruit.' Then, when King Resplendent had extolled that buddha's so many merits, countless hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of them, with all his mind he joined his palms together before the tathagata and again addressed that buddha, saying: 'Unprecedented is the World-honored One. The Tathagata's teaching is perfect in its inconceivable and wonderful merits. The moral precepts which he promulgates are comforting and quickening. From this day onward I will not again follow my own mind, nor beget false views, nor a haughty, angry, or any other sinful mind.' Having uttered these words, he did reverence to the buddha and went forth."
Finishing this story, the Buddha said to the great assembly: "What is your opinion? This King Resplendent - could he be any other person? He is indeed the present Bodhisattva Flower Virtue. That Queen Pure Virtue is the Bodhisattva Shining Splendor now in the presence of the Buddha, who out of compassion for King Resplendent and his people was born among them. These two sons are the present Medicine King Bodhisattva and Medicine Lord Bodhisattva. Those Bodhisattvas Medicine King and Medicine Lord, having perfected such great merits, under countless hundred thousand myriad kotis of buddhas, planted virtuous roots and perfectly attained qualities of goodness beyond conception. If there be anyone who is acquainted with the names of these two bodhisattvas, gods and men in all the world will pay him homage."
The chapter closes with these words: "While the Buddha preached this chapter, 'The Story of King Resplendent,' the eighty-four thousand people departed from impurity and separated themselves from uncleanliness, and acquired pure spiritual eyes in regard to spiritual things.
Let us now consider the important points of this story. First, we must think of the true meaning of the two sons' showing their father many kinds of supernatural deeds. This does not mean that they became able to display supernatural deeds by means of the Buddha's teachings, nor that they stimulated their father's curiosity by showing him such deeds. Their performing various supernatural deeds means that they completely changed their character and their daily lives by studying and believing the Buddha's teachings. Their showing their father supernatural deeds thus means nothing but the fact that before their father they proved the true value of the Buddha's teachings by their deeds and led him to be aroused to the aspiration for Perfect Enlightenment.
When we lead others to the teachings of the Buddha, none will follow us only through hearing us praise the teachings. We must clearly show them the reason that the Buddha's teachings are worshipful. It is important for us to explain the content of the teachings. We must elucidate the teachings to others' satisfaction according to their level of understanding, sometimes simply, sometimes theoretically, sometimes by using parables, and sometimes in the light of modern science.
LIVING EVIDENCE IS NECESSARY TO LEAD OTHERS. The quickest and simplest way to lead others to the Buddha's teachings is to justify the teachings by our own practice of them. Our first consideration is to show others living evidence--"I have changed in this way since believing in the Buddha's teachings and practicing them." There is no more powerful and direct a way of leading others. However, we cannot show such living evidence to those whom we seldom see during the limited time we have together unless we have decisive evidence, such as recovery from disease or a favorable change in our circumstances. On the other hand, members of a family living together can sense clearly even little changes in one's everyday actions and attitudes. If sons or daughters change through believing in the Buddha's teachings, their parents will notice a great change in their speech, their attitude toward their parents, brothers, and sisters, and their attitude to those outside the family. Such evidence will certainly influence each member of the family.
Conversely, in leading members of one's family to the teachings, however repeatedly we explain to them their content and however much our explanation may satisfy them intellectually, it will not lead to any practical result unless we change our attitudes in our daily lives. We can spout fine words to outsiders, but we betray our true selves in the family. When a member of our family sees us acting contrary to what we say, he stops listening to our words and criticizes us: "The teaching may be good, but I can't possibly believe it so long as you as a believer act like that."
It would seem to be easy for us to lead the members of our families to the Buddha's teachings, but in reality it is most difficult. We find it especially difficult in cases where a son leads his father to the teachings or a wife her husband. Both father and husband hold authority in the family. Unlike a young son, who has little experience in worldly affairs and is single-minded, older men have gained experience in the ways of the world and stubbornly hold to their opinions. They separate themselves from their juniors by relating their wide experience to their selfish ideas. Therefore, even if they feel the teachings to be basically good, they cannot bring themselves to believe in them, much less act on them. Although nothing of King Resplendent's character was described, he may be considered a model of the typical father.
The two royal sons regretted that their father believed in the heretics and was deeply attached to his deluded ideas. But their wise mother never told her sons to urge their father openly to visit the Buddha Thunder Voice Constellation King of Wisdom because she foresaw that such attempts would produce the opposite result. Nor did she say she would intercede between her husband and sons. This is because she did not think it permissible for her, with her lukewarm attitude, to act as an intermediary in the serious problem of faith. The wise mother suggested instead that her sons show their father concrete evidence of the results of their practice of their faith.
King Resplendent was a good father. When he saw the evidence of faith shown by his sons, he recognized it with good grace. He had a flexible mind. Most fathers, shown such impressive evidence, will criticize it on one pretext or another, will try to catch the speaker out in some trivial mistake, and will not abandon their stubborn ideas and mistaken beliefs. Although they may be inwardly impressed by striking evidence of the results of faith, they will hesitate to admit it, feeling that to do so would diminish their prestige. The attitude of King Resplendent is admirable indeed. It is only right for one to follow the truth obediently when he meets with it; that is the natural reaction, but a person who is in the position of the father of a family or the king of a country does not usually act as firmly and frankly as King Resplendent. He had no scruples about saving face as king and was not attached to the throne but respected the truth and its transmitter. This is revealed by the king's calling his two sons his good friends.
The words "good friends" include the meaning not only of friendship but also of leadership. King Resplendent, who as a king exercised power over his country and as a father had absolute authority in the family, had such a frank and open mind as to be able to call his sons good friends. We cannot help admiring his attitude of venerating only the truth. Thus the problem of faith was solved in a satisfactory way in the family of King Resplendent. All the members of the king's family joined the faith of Buddhism and entered into religious lives with joy and exaltation. His was an ideal family.
THE IDEAL STATE OF FAITH FOR LEADERS. Another important point is that the faith of King Resplendent influenced his ministers and retinue, and the people of his country. We must seriously consider to what a great extent the faith of a leader effects the people serving under him. Faith is basically an individual matter and is apt to become impure when it interferes in secular power, such as politics. Faith should be maintained through one's mental attitude, which comes from the depth of one's mind, and then power should be exercised on this foundation. This is the ideal relationship of faith and temporal power.
We must not jump to the conclusion that the great influence that the faith of a leader has on the people under him is sure to be manifested by some kind of power. Some may think that people in such a subordinate position would follow the faith of their leader in order to flatter or from obsequiousness. But this is a disingenuous way of thinking. It is quite natural that if a man is a leader who is really respected and trusted by others, his actions will exert a great influence upon many people.
All people are equal before the teachings of the Buddha. As the Buddha's disciple, a commoner is equal to a great king. In terms of potential influence, however, a commoner's resolution to attain Perfect Enlightenment cannot be compared to a king's. Therefore the Buddha Thunder Voice Constellation King of Wisdom was delighted with King Resplendent's resolution to seek Perfect Enlightenment and immediately predicted his Perfect Enlightenment.
A leader who has a large following should believe in a right faith. But he should not force it on those under him. If he can handle them with virtue and dignity based on his faith, his fine personality will surely have a good effect on them, just as perfume smells good to everyone in its vicinity.
This chapter thus touches upon many important problems of actual life. We should take the various characters in the story as models, appreciating their attitudes according to their positions. The attitude of King Resplendent is an example of that which a person engaged in politics or national leadership should take toward the truth; the deeds of the two royal sons, Pure Treasury and Pure-Eyed, show how children may open their parents' eyes to faith (this also applies to a wife's opening her husband's eyes to it); Queen Pure Virtue is a model of the attitude a mother ought to take in mediating between progressive sons and a conservative father in order to promote the truth.
- According to Indian legend, in the ocean there lives a blind turtle infinite kalpas old, which rises to the surface once every hundred years. In the ocean there is also a floating log with only one hole. What are the chances of their meeting?
Copyright © 2009 by Rissho Kosei-kai. All rights reserved.