21 The Woman Who Wished For A Second Child
In the past, there was a woman who had a son. She wanted another child, and asked other women, “Who could bring me another child?”
An old woman told her, “I can help you get another child; but you must make a sacrifice to heaven.”
The woman asked the old woman, “What kind of sacrifice should I offer?”
The old woman told her, “Kill your son and make a sacrifice of his blood to heaven. Then you will certainly be blessed with many more children.”
The woman followed the old woman’s advice and was about to kill her own son when an intelligent bystander laughed and chastised her, saying, “How could you be so stupid and ignorant?” You’re not sure whether you will get another child; yet you intend to kill the one you already have.”
Stupid people act in the same way. Desiring the bliss of a future, they leap into a fiery pit, exposing themselves to all sorts of harm, thinking that this is the way to attain rebirth in the heavens.
22 Getting Sink-In-Water Incense From The Sea
Once, an elder’s son went to search for sink-in-water incense from under the sea. After searching for many years, he finally managed to bring home a cartload of it. When he went to market to sell his wares, he could not find any buyer because of the high price that he asked for the incense. After several days he grew tired and was afflicted. He saw that the charcoal merchants were able to sell their wares very quickly and thought to himself, “Why don’t I burn the incense into charcoal and then I’ll be able to dispose of it quickly!”
Thereupon he burned the incense until it became charcoal and went to sell his wares at the market. But the price he got for the burned incense did not even come up to that of half a cartload of charcoal!
So are the stupid people of the world. With countless expedients they diligently cultivate, aspiring towards Buddhahood. But upon encountering difficulty, they retreat. They think, “I might as well seek the fruition of Sound Hearers, quickly cast off birth and death, and become an Arhat.”
23 The Thief Who Stole Embroidered Satin To Wrap His Rags In
Once, a thief entered the house of a rich family and stole a piece of embroidered satin. Then he used it to wrap up his old rags and sundry effects. He was scoffed at by the wise.
Stupid people of the world are like this, too. Although they bring forth faith in Buddhism and cultivate wholesome dharmas and meritorious acts; nonetheless, due to their greed for profit, they break the pure precepts and lose their merit. They will also be laughed at by those of the world.
24 Planting Cooked Sesame Seeds
Once there was a fool who ate raw sesame. He found that it was not as tasty as cooked sesame. Then he came to the following conclusion, “I should plant cooked sesame seeds. Then I will reap a tasty harvest.” Thereupon he cooked the sesame and planted them in the ground. Of course, the sesame never sprouted.
People of the world act in the same way. Because they are discouraged by the idea that Bodhisattvas have to throughout many aeons engage in ascetic discipline that is hard to practice, they arrive at this notion, “I should become an Arhat and swiftly put an end to birth and death. To practice this path is quite easy.” But, afterwards, when they try to pursue the Bodhisattvas’ fruition, they never attain it, just as cooked sesame seeds could never grow. Stupid people commonly act this way.
25 Water and Fire
There was a man who needed fire and cold water to carry out his household chores. He built a fire in his room, filled a kettle with water, and put it on top of the fire. Afterwards the fire burned out, and the water was hot. He ended up getting neither the fire nor the cold water.
Many people make a similar mistake. They enter the Buddhadharma and leave the home-life, they still pine for their wives, children, and relatives, as well as the pleasures of the five desires. From this they lost the fire of meritorious virtues, also the pure water from holding the precepts. This is what happens to those mindful of desires.
26 Imitating the King’s Blinking Habit
There used to be a man who wanted to please the king. He asked someone how he could go about it. That person told him, “If you want to please the king, you should imitate him.”
The man immediately went to where the king was, and seeing that the king had a habit of blinking his eye, started to imitate his blinking habit.
The king asked him, “Do you have an eye problem? Or is it on account of the wind that you are blinking?” The man replied, “No. It’s not that I have an eye problem, nor is it on account of the wind. Wishing to please your Majesty, I’ve taken to imitating your Majesty’s blinking habit.”
When the king heard this, he was outraged. The king oppressed him cruelly in various ways and then had him banished.
People in general have the same problem. They wish to draw near to the Buddha, the Dharma King, so as to pursue the wholesome Dharma and grow. Upon being able to draw near him, they fail to understand that the Thus Come One, the Dharma King, exhibits various shortcomings as a skill-in-means to cross over living beings. Perhaps they hear the Buddha using certain incorrect phrasings in his teachings at which point they start to ridicule and slander him, imitating his mistakes. Because of this, they had obtained from the Buddhadharma, and fall into the three evil paths. This is just like the man who imitated the king’s blinking habit.
27 Sending Pure Spring Water
Once there was a village five yojanas away from the capital city that produced pure spring water. The king ordered the villagers to send him some of this water every day. The villagers, feeling exhausted by this ordeal, wished to move to another village. But the chief of the village said to them, “Don’t go away. I will go and ask the king to change the distance from five yojanas to three, so you won’t have to exhaust yourselves by walking such a long distance.”
He went and submitted his case to the king, and the king declared that the distance was changed to three yojanas. When the people heard this, they were delighted. Someone said, “You are still walking the five yojanas you have always walked. There hasn’t really been any change in the mileage.” Although the villagers heard this, they had faith in the king, and they never gave up.
Common people are like this, too. They cultivate the Proper Dharma to get across the five paths of rebirth and to head for Nirvana City. As time goes on they grow weary and wish to give up their pursuit. No longer wishing to go forward, they revert back to birth and death. The Thus Come One, the Dharma King, establishes a great skill-in-means, and within the Once Vehicle, he speaks of three. Those of the Small Vehicle are delighted when they hear this. Thinking the path is easy to walk, they cultivate good and virtuous acts and aspire to cross beyond birth and death. Later, they hear others tell them that there were no three vehicles to begin with, that originally there was only a single path. But because they cling to what the Buddha first proclaimed, they are just like the villagers in this story.
28 The Mirror in the Treasure Chest
There was once a poor and destitute man who always had debts and had no means to repay them. In order to avoid his creditors, he fled to the open wilderness. There he discovered a treasure chest filled to the brim with rare jewels. On top of all the jewels was a bright mirror. When the poor man saw all this, he was beside himself with joy and started to look through it. Then he saw an image reflected in the mirror and became frightened. Putting his palms together, he said, “I thought this was just an abandoned chest. I didn’t know that you were here. Please do not be offended!”
Ordinary people behave in the same way. They are driven to destitution by innumerable afflictions and hounded by the demon king, creditor of birth and death. Wishing to flee from birth and death, they enter the Buddhadharma, cultivate wholesome dharmas, and perform meritorious acts. This is like encountering a treasure chest. Deluded by their own image as reflected in the mirror of the view of a body, they falsely perceive there to be a “self.” Thereupon they close the treasure chest, thinking the “self” to be true and real. Consequently, they fall and lose all their merit and virtue, as well as their Dhyana samadhis, their shares of the Way, and their wholesome non-outflow acts. They lose the fruit of the Way of all the Three Vehicles. Just as that foolish man relinquished the treasure chest, those who cling to a view of self give up the Buddhadharma.
29 Blinding the Immortal Who Had Gained the Five Penetrations
Once a man went to the mountains to study the Way and became an immortal replete with the five spiritual penetrations. With his heavenly eye, he could clearly discern all the treasures hidden in the earth. When the king heard about him, he was elated. He said to his ministers, “In what way can we make this person remain in our country forever and not move to another place? Then our treasury will always be filled with rare jewels.”
A certain foolish minister went on his own to the immortal, plucked out his eyes, and presented them to the king, saying, “I have plucked out the immortal’s eyes so that he won’t be able to leave but will always remain in our country.” The king told the minister, “The reason I wanted the immortal to stay here was so that he could see all the treasures hidden in the earth. But now that you have plucked out his eyes, what use could they be?”
Worldly people behave in the same way. They see someone practicing dhutanga (bitter) practices in the mountain groves, the wilderness, the graveyards, or underneath trees, cultivating the four ceasings of the mind and the contemplation of impurity These people then force the cultivator to go to their homes where they ply him with many kinds of offerings. Thus they ruin his wholesome dharmas, so that he is no longer able to achieve the fruition of the Way. By plucking out the cultivator’s eyes of the Way, all benefits are lost, and they end up with absolutely nothing. They are just like that foolish minister who for no reason destroyed the immortal’s eyes.
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