parable of the wealthy man and his poor son ［長者窮子の譬］ ( chōja-gūji-no-tatoe): One of the seven parables in the Lotus Sutra. It appears in the “Belief and Understanding” (fourth) chapter. The four great voice-hearers—Subhūti, Kātyāyana, Maudgalyāyana, and Mahākāshyapa—relate this parable to show that they have understood the teaching of replacing the three vehicles with the one vehicle that Shakyamuni recounted in the “Simile and Parable” (third) chapter using the parable of the three carts and the burning house. Briefly, it tells of a wealthy man’s son who runs away from his father in childhood. For some fifty years he wanders from one place to another in abject poverty, hiring himself out as a menial laborer. One day in his wanderings he chances upon his father’s mansion. The rich old man is overjoyed to see his son again, as he wants to bequeath to him all his wealth and possessions. The son, however, does not recognize his father and runs away, overwhelmed by the splendor of the rich man’s estate. The rich man sends a messenger to bring him back, but the son thinks the messenger has come to arrest him and faints in terror. Hearing this, the father tells the messenger to release him and instead sends two of his servants dressed in dirty clothes to offer the son the work of clearing away excrement. The impoverished son happily accepts this employment on his father’s estate. After a while, his father disguises himself in dirty clothes so he can approach his son. He tells him that he can always work there, and that he will treat him like his own son. For twenty years the son works at clearing away excrement and gradually gains self-confidence. The rich man then promotes him, charging him with the administration of his property, and gradually he comes to understand all the rich man’s affairs. Eventually the rich man senses death approaching. He invites his relatives, the king of the country, the high ministers, and others, and declares to them that his servant is actually his true son. He then transfers to his son the whole of his estate. The rich man in this parable represents the Buddha, whose sole desire is to let all people enjoy the same sublime state as his own, just as the rich man wishes to bequeath all his wealth to his son. The poor son represents ordinary people, who “wander about” transmigrating in the threefold world without encountering the one Buddha vehicle. To lead them to enlightenment, the Buddha first employs expedient means and preaches what is appropriate to their capacities, just as the rich man trains his son gradually. Thus the Buddha leads them gradually to higher teachings and ultimately reveals the one Buddha vehicle of the Lotus Sutra.