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Belief and Understanding

Chapter 4


At that time, Mahakashyapa, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses, saying,

“We, on this day,
Hearing the sound of the Buddha’s teaching,
Jump for joy!
Gaining what we never had.

The Buddha says that Hearers,
Shall become Buddhas in the future.
A cluster of supreme gems,
We have gained, without our seeking.

It is like a youth,
Who, young and ignorant,
Ran away from his father
To another distant land,
Roaming from country to country
For fifty years and more.

His father, worried about him,
Sought him in the four directions
Until, tired of the search,
He stopped in a certain city,
Where he built himself a house
And amused himself with the five desires.

His household was large and wealthy,
With much gold and silver,
Mother-of-pearl, carnelian,
Real pearls, and lapis lazuli,
Elephants, horses, cattle, and sheep,
Hand-drawn carts, palanquins, and chariots,
Husbandmen and servants,
And a multitude of subjects.
The profits from his trade
Extended to the other countries.

Traders and merchants
Were present everywhere.
Multitudes in the hundreds of millions
Surrounded him reverently.

And always, by kings,
He was cherished and remembered.
The ministers and noble clans
All honored him.

For those reasons,
Those who came and went were many.
Such was his nobility, wealth,
And his great authority.

But then, as he grew old and decrepit,
He was filled with worry for his son.
Morning and evening, his only thought was,
“My time of death is drawing near.

My foolish son has left me now,
For over fifty years.
The things in my granaries and store-houses,
Whatever shall I do with them?

Then the poor son,
Seeking clothing and food,
Went from city to city,
From country to country,
Sometimes getting something,
Sometimes getting nothing.

Starving, emaciated,
Covered with scabs,
He went on his way until eventually,
He arrived in the city where his father lived.

Hiring himself out along the way,
He finally reached his father’s house.
At that time, the elder,
Within his gateway,
Was covered by a large canopy,
And seated on a Lion-throne,
Surrounded by his retinue,
And various attendants.

Some of them were counting up
His gold, silver, and other valuables.
His income and expenses were
Recorded there on ledgers.

When the poor son saw his father,
Of such nobility and wealth,
He said, “This must be a king,
Or the equal of a king.”
In fright, he reproved himself,
“Why have I come here?”
And further to himself, he said,
“If I stay here long,
I may be oppressed
And forced to go to work.”
Having had this thought,
He hurriedly ran off
To a poor village, asking
To be hired to work.

Just then, the elder,
Seated on the lion-throne,
Saw his son at a distance,
And silently recognized him.

He then commanded his attendants
To seize him and bring him back.
The poor son cried out in alarm,
And fainted, falling to the ground.

“These people have caught me!
I shall certainly be killed!
Why, for food and clothing’s sake
Did I come to this place?”
The elder knew that his son
Was foolish and lowly.
“He wouldn’t believe me if I told him
He wouldn’t believe that I am his father.

Then he used an expedient,
And sent some other men,
One-eyed, squat, and ugly,
Lacking awesome virtue.

“Speak to him,” he said,
“And tell him, ‘You will work with us
Getting rid of dung and filth
At twice your normal wages.”

When the poor son heard this,
He happily followed them back
And swept out the dung and filth,
Cleaning all the dwellings.

From his window, the elder
Would often watch his son,
Remembering that he was foolish and lowly
And enjoyed menial work.

Then the elder
Put on a worn and dirty robe,
And, holding a dung shovel,
Went to where his son was.

Expediently drawing near to him,
He said, “Work with diligence,
For I have increased your wages,
And shall give you oil for your feet,
And your fill of food and drink,
And thick, warm bedding.”
Thus he spoke sharply saying,
“You must work hard!”
And then in gentler tones, he added,
“You are like my own son.

The elder, in his wisdom,
Eventually allowed him to come and go.
For a period of twenty years,
He was put in charge of household business.

He showed him his gold, silver,
Real pearls and crystal.
The income and expense of all these things,
He was caused to know.

And yet the son still lived outside the gate,
Dwelling in a grass hut
Thinking of his poverty:
“None of these things are mine.

The father knew his son’s mind
Gradually had expanded,
And wishing to give him wealth,
He gathered together his relatives,
The kings, and great ministers,
The Kshatriyas and lay people.

In the midst of this great assembly ,
He said, “This is my son.
He left me and went away
Fifty years ago.

And it has been twenty years
Since I saw him return.
Long ago in a certain city
I lost my son.

Searching for him everywhere,
I came to this place.
Everything that I own,
My houses and servants,
I bequeath it all to him
That he may use it as he pleases

The son, recalling his former poverty
And his lowly intentions.
Who now, in his father’s presence
Had obtained these precious jewels,
And these dwelling places,
And all such wealth,
Greatly rejoiced,
Having gained what he’d never had.

The Buddha in the same way
Knew our fondness for the petty.
And so he never said to us,
“You shall become Buddhas.”

Instead he said that we
Could attain cessation of all outflows,
Realize the lesser vehicle,
And become Hearer Disciples.

The Buddha has instructed us
To speak of the unsurpassed Path,
And spoken of those who practice it
As being able to accomplish Buddhahood.

Receiving the Buddha’s teaching, we
For the sake of the Great Bodhisattvas,
Use causes and conditions,
Various analogies,
And numerous expressions
To speak of the unsurpassed Path.

All the Buddha’s disciples,
Having heard from us this Dharma,
Think upon it day and night,
And diligently practice it.

Thereupon, all the Buddhas,
Then bestow predictions upon them,
Saying, “You, in future age,
Shall become Buddhas.”
This is the secret store of Dharma,
Of all the Buddhas.

Only for the Bodhisattvas
Are such real matters set forth.
And not for our sakes
Have such true essentials been spoken.

Just as the poor son.
Drew near his father, and
Although he knew of all his possessions,
In his heart he held no hope of getting them,
In just the same way,
Even though we have spoken
Of the Buddhadharma’s precious store,
We personally never aspired to it.

Having attained inner-extinction,
We thought this sufficient,
For having completed this,
There was nothing else to be done.

And even if we had heard
Of purifying Buddhalands,
And teaching and transforming living beings,
We’d have taken no delight therein.

And for what reason?
All dharmas are
Completely empty and still,
Neither produced nor destroyed,
Neither great nor small,
Without outflows and unconditioned.

Reflecting in this way,
We did not give rise to joy.
During the long night,
We had no craving or attachment
For the Buddha’s wisdom,
Nor did we aspire to it,
Yet, as to Dharma, we
Claimed we had the ultimate.

All through the long night,
We practiced and cultivated the Dharma of emptiness.
Having won release from the triple world
With its suffering, distress and calamities,
We dwell within our final bodies,
In nirvana with residue.

According to the Buddha’s teaching,
We attained the Way which is not false,
And we assumed that we had
Thereby repaid the Buddha’s kindness.

Although we, for the sake
Of the Buddha’s disciples spoke
Of the Bodhisattvas Dharma,
With which they should seek Buddhahood,
Still in this Dharma,
We never took delight at all.

Our master saw this and let things be,
Because he saw into our hearts,
And so, at first, he did not encourage us
By telling of the real advantage.

Just as the wealthy elder
Used the power of expedients
To bring his mind under control,
And afterwards gave to him
All of his valuables,
The Buddha in the same way
Manifests rare things,
But for those who delight in the small,
He uses the power of expedients
To brings their minds under control,
Only then teaching the greater wisdom

On this day, we
Have gained what we never had!
That for which we lacked hope,
We now have attained.

Just as the poor son
Gained limitless treasure,
O World Honored One, now
We’ve obtained the Path and its fruits.
Within the non-outflow Dharma
We’ve gained the eye, pure and clear.

During the long night, we
Maintained the Buddha’s pure morality
But only on this day,
Have we gained this reward.

In the Dharma Kings’s Dharma,
Long have we cultivated Brahman conduct.
Now we’ve obtained that non-outflow,
The unsurpassed, great fruition.

Now we are all
Truly Hearers.
And taking the sound of the Buddha’s Way,
We cause all to hear it.

Now we are all
Truly Arhats,
And in all the world,
With its gods, people, maras and Brahmas,
Everywhere among them
We are worthy of receiving offerings.

The World Honored One in his great kindness,
Uses this rare thing,
To pity, teach.
And benefit us,
Throughout limitless millions of eons.
Who could repay him?

Giving one’s hands and feet,
Bowing reverently in obeisance,
Whatever offering one makes,
Never repays him.

If one bore him on one’s head,
Or carried him upon one’s shoulders,
For aeons as numerous as the Ganges’ sands,
Exhausting one’s mind in reverence-
Or further, if one used delicacies,
And limitless valuable clothing,
And all types of bedding,
And various medicines,
Ox-head sandalwood,
And various precious gems,
Or stupas and temples
Covering the ground with valuable cloth,
And if with such things as these,
One made offerings
Throughout aeons as numerous as the Ganges’ sands,
One still never repays him.

The Buddhas are rare indeed.
Limitless and boundless,
Yes, inconceivable is the power,
Of their great spiritual penetrations.

Without outflows, unconditioned,
They are kings of all the Dharmas.
For the sake of lesser beings,
They bear up under this work.
To common folks who grasp at mark,
They teach what is appropriate.

The Buddhas have, within the Dharmas,
Attained to the highest comfort.
They understand all living beings’
Various desires and delights,
As well as the strength of their resolve,
According to what they can bear,
Using limitless analogies,
They teach them the Dharma,
In accord with living beings’
Wholesome roots from former lives.

And knowing those who have matured,
And those who have not yet matured,
Through such calculations,
They discriminate and understand,
And in the pathway of One Vehicle,
They appropriately speak of three.

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