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Buddha Stories

The Parable of the Wealthy Man and the Poor Son

A poor little boy ran away from his father when he was very young. He lived in another country for many years. He wandered about in all directions, seeking food and clothing. While wandering here and there, he happened to walk towards his home country.

At that time his father stayed in a city of the country. He had been vainly looking for his son and thinking of his son ever since he had lost him. The father was now very rich. The poor son came to the city where his father was living and thinking, "I am old and decrepit. I have many treasures. But I have no son other than the missing one. When I die, yearning for my son, my treasures will be scattered and lost."

At that time the poor son happened to stand by the gate of the wealthy man's house. Seeing the rich man, the poor son was frightened and thought, "Is he a king or like a king?"

The rich man recognized him at first sight as his son. He was delighted. He immediately dispatched a man standing beside him to quickly bring back the poor son. The messenger ran up to the poor son and caught him, but the poor son was frightened and cried, "I have done nothing wrong. Why do you catch me?"

The messenger pulled him by force. The poor son thought, "I am caught though I am not guilty. I shall be killed." More and more frightened, the poor son fainted and fell to the ground.

Seeing all this in the distance, the father said to the messenger, "Drop that; do not bring him forcibly! Pour cold water on his face to awaken him!"

The father said this because he had realized that his son was too sullied to meet a noble man. He knew that the man was his son, but expediently refrained from telling others that this was his son.

Waking up, the poor son stood up and went to a village of the poor to get food and clothing. The wealthy man dispatched messengers in secret. He said to two men who looked worn-out, powerless and virtueless, "Go and gently tell the poor man that he will be employed here for a double day's pay. If he agrees with you, bring him here and have him work to clear dirt and that you two also will work with him."

The poor son drew his pay in advance, and cleared dirt. Seeing him, the father had compassion towards him and took off his necklace, his garment and other ornaments. He put on tattered and dirty clothing. He came to the workers and said, "Work hard! Do not be lazy!" And noting this poor man working hard, the father told him, "Do not hesitate to take trays, rice, flour, salt and vinegar, as much as you need! Make yourself comfortable."
      Years later, the rich man gave him a name and called him son. The son was glad to be treated kindly, but still thought that he was a humble employee. Still more years passed. After that the father and the son trusted each other. Now the son felt no hesitation in entering the house of his father, but still lodged in his old place.

Now the rich man became ill. After a while the father noticed that his son had become more at ease and peaceful, that he wanted to improve himself, and that he felt ashamed of the thought that he was base and mean. The moment of death for the father drew near. The father told his son to call in his relatives, the king, ministers, and members of his household. When they were all assembled, he said to them, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is my son, my real son. I am his real father. He ran away from me when I lived in a certain city, and wandered with hardships for more than fifty years. His name is so-and-so. All my treasures are his now."

The son was very glad to hear this. He had the greatest joy that he had ever had. He thought, "I never dreamed of having this store of treasures myself. It has come to me unexpectedly."

The wealthy man is the Eternal Buddha while the poor son is ourselves who do not realize that we are Buddha's children. We often ask Buddha, "Give me this! Give me that!" It is a stage of being "outlandish", so to speak. However, if we put forth effort without giving up, we will be given precious Buddhahood.

[From the Lotus Sutra, chapter 4]

The Parable of the Elephant

There was a mighty white elephant with a strong trunk and long tusks, trained by a good master, and willing and serviceable. This elephant, led by his trainer, came to the land of the blind. Very soon the rumours went in the land of the blind that an elephant had come to their country. So the wise men and teachers of the blind came up to the elephant and began to investigate him. And when the elephant was gone they met and discussed the animal among themselves.

There were some who said he was like a great thick snake; others said he was like a snake of medium size. The former had felt the trunk, the latter the tail.

Further, there were some who claimed that his figure was like a high column, others declared he was large and bulky like a big barrel, still others maintained he was smooth and hard but tapering. Some of the blind had taken hold of one of the legs, others had reached the main body, and still others had touched the tusks.

In the end they abused and scolded one another over their disagreements, and finally every one of them swore that everyone else was a liar and was cursed on account of his heresies.

Everyone of these blind men was honest in his contentions, sure of having the truth and relying on his own experience. But the elephant trainer knows that every one of them has a parcel of the truth, that every one is right in his way, but wrong in believing his outlook to be the whole truth.

Not one of these sectarians observed that the elephant was white, for all of them were blind who had investigated the truth to the best of their ability.

The master of the elephant is an Enlightened One. He has brought the white elephant of truth into the land of the blind, and he who listens to him well will understand all the claimants who have parcels of the truth. He who takes refuge in His doctrine will cease to bicker and quarrel."

  • The purpose to which life is devoted, also gives worth to that life.

To see the white elephant (it may take time), avoid doing wrongs and let your heart be pure:

  • Avoid wrong doings and let right and justice and loving-kindness prevail.
  • "Let your heart be pure. / All Buddhas teach this; it will always endure." (Dhammapada 183)

The Treasure Tower

There was once a tower hovering in the air, and adorned with seven treasures. Gods of heaven rained down heavenly flowers on it. Then a loud voice came out from the treasure tower:

Shakyamuni [Buddha],
You kept wisdom and a teaching to instruct,
Keep it well guarded
And kept in mind."

Believers saw the great treasure tower up in the air, marvelling at this. At that time there was a Great Joy of Preaching, and Buddha said into that one: " Great Joy of Preaching, the Buddha in the tower was originally carrying out the bodhisattva way."

Great Joy of Preaching then said, "We wish to see the body of this Buddha."

Then Buddha emitted a ray of light of cleanness and purity and opened the door of the tower of seven treasures. A loud sound was heard, and at once all the members of the assembly caught sight of the "Many Treasures Buddha" that said, "Before long the Thus Come One [Buddha] will enter Nirvana.

Coming here for the sake of the Dharma [Law, also Teaching].
You people, why then do you not also
Strive for the sake of the Law
That is like a huge torch burning
In the darkness of the night?

This Buddha
Journeys constantly throughout the ten directions
For the sake of this sutra.
All you good men,
Each of you must consider carefully!

Embracing this sutra
And expounding it to even one person:
That will be difficult!

Listening to and accepting this sutra
And asking about its meaning:
That will be difficult -
Upholding the Buddha's body.

[Retold from The Lotus Sutra, chapter 11; a very free rendition]


Out of Confusion

Don't get confused by what you read in old works by overlooking the liberating stance of Buddha in such matters.

LoIt could happen that deep, deep wisdom does not appear to make sense, or even appears confused

One should seek to embody the Deep Word by clever practice.

One should meddle little to come out clean.

The deeper wisdom of a helpful parable - there are many others - is found by focusing on the message in smart and basically realistic ways.

Stay away from scoundrels who are dishonest and strive to bring you down for not good enough reasons.

This world is a battlefield at times, especially when you get older, but good guys and followers are not to back up "conversion" with the sword.

One should bring good tidings to those who care.

We should keep our inner directions in life to avoid confusion and becoming humiliated. (2)

LoFor appearances to be all right, try stauchness

Solid and all-round management is helped by good ideas put into service and system. (4)

Reap the benefits of appearances to celebrate the good things you own. That should be much all right.

Stay away from fools, for your own benefit, warns Buddha.

LoComparisons halt, though. Allow for that.

Angels can work as fishers, so being a fisherman can't be all bad - apostles were fishers too. (5)

The excellent aims are realistic ones.

There are very fine lessons in both the old and new testaments to share.

Calling a spade a spade is one hallmark of the good guy, and good guys may escape being harvested and burnt all too soon.

It is often said that evil people will end up gnashing their teeth in a hot place. Have you lost your teeth? Don't worry about that - ✪ 

Don't be lost in the likeness. [All comparisons halt].

Both good guys and bad, evil guys are on earth. They should mingle little.

If you are among those who seek easy access to answers - like a child to look at, perhaps - you may or may not be immature, and may or may not be able to hold things inside. Those who manage to hold great ideas inside, may ease their way by them.

Tell solid, good tidings, and spread such tidings.

The highest "work of art" or masterpiece a man is capable of, is redupicating himself - having a child. You can let that too be your business, then - the highest end is not that difficult to attain to.

The house-owner has to be realistic to continue to thrive.

Being a house-owner takes time, as making things solid and keeping them well and organised, demands much.

A teacher of good scriptures may at times be likened to a a house-owner who gives forth both new and old things from his treasury.

It helps in the end to go about in righteous ways.

One should avoid scrupulously to betray dignity, for dignified ways form parts of being a good guy too.

By integrating the wisdom of such as Buddha's parables with our everyday experiences, we may rightfully gain. And in aiming at bringing out things, never forget sound temperance. (8)



  1. The one of deep enough wisdom is able to see through very bad programmes; preferably from the very start.
  2. Go for making all your main efforts and all right appearances first and foremost serve yourself and your next of kin, if you have any.
  3. Get realistic as soon as you can, so that you will not be tamed too easily by rubbish talk called godly or worse.

IN NUCELet deep wisdom steer your main efforts so that you build as realistic an approach to this and that as you can. How to develop it? Take up a good meditation method that does not enslave you.


Parables of Buddha, Buddhist lore, stories of Buddhism, Literature  

Bsa: Lie, Kåre A, tr. Buddhas samtaler: De lange tekstene. Digha Nikaya. Bind 2. Det store bindet: Mahavagga. Oslo: Solum Forlag, 2005.

Pali Canon collections:

AN - Anguttara Nikaya (Collection of Discourses arranged according to numbers)

DN - Digha Nikaya (Collection of Long Discourses)

MN - Majjhima Nikaya (Collection of Middle-Length Discourses)

SN - Samyutta Nikaya (Collection of Kindred Sayings)


Harvesting the hay

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

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