Saturday, June 05, 2010


It takes years for some of us to build trust in ourselves, to learn the value of skillful means and to be there for someone in a way that works for them. There isn't a lot of instant gratification in these things of the heart.

The Lotus Sutra, translated by Burton Watson, chapter 4, page 81, speaks about belief and understanding. The following is a parable from the Lotus Sutra. The parable is about the destitute son. He has run off as a young man, and went far from home. During the years, the father becomes very successful, and wealthy. The father has many riches and realizes that there is no one to inherit his belongings, and they will become scattered. He would much prefer that his beloved son inherit, and take care of his wealth.
His son, one day, comes upon the unrecognized father’s kingdom. The son is very impressed and even intimidated by what he sees, and begins to travel on. He has only known extreme poverty since leaving his home many years ago.
The father recognizes his son immediately as he catches a glimpse of him in the distance. He sends his men to retrieve him. When the son sees them coming after him, he can only fear that they will accuse him of something, and faints. The father sees this, and understands the dilemma. The son is not ready to be able to fathom that he is the heir to all of this majesty. He sends a message to his men to let his son go. The son then experiences great joy, since freedom is something that everyone prizes.
The father realizes that that he will have to use expedient means to win his son back. He has his men follow the son and offer him a job cleaning up excrement, the lowliest job the father can think of. Because the son is comfortable with this, and it meets his expectation of a job that he can accomplish, he readily accepts it. The father also dresses as a lowly worker, and begins to speak to him. For twenty years the son cleans up excrement, and the father develops a relationship with him. Slowly the son learns to trust him, and at the same time accepts greater responsibility. Finally the father brings together relatives, the king of the country, the high ministers, noblemen, householders, and the son. He tells the truth that this is his real son, and all of his wealth and possessions will belong to him. The son is filled with great joy.
After so many years, and many conversations with his father, and slowly taking more responsibility, the son can now hear this truth, absorb it, and experience happiness. Through expedient means the father has been able to transform his son, from expecting nothing, to being able to understand, accept, and experience happiness of what he was able to obtain from the beginning, but could not understand much less accept.


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