The Wealthy Man Sudatta
I have received your offering of one
kan of coins. Because you have demonstrated such sincerity, I am telling you the following. You must not think I am a greedy
There is a way to become a Buddha easily,
and I will teach it to you. To teach another something is like oiling the wheels of a heavy cart so that they will turn, or
like floating a boat upon the water so that it may move ahead without difficulty. The way to become a Buddha easily is nothing
extraordinary. It is, for example, to give water to a thirsty person in time of drought or to provide fire for someone freezing
in the cold. Or again, it is to give another something irreplaceable: when one's own life is about to be extinguished from
want of it, one gives it as alms to another person.
There was once a ruler called King Konjiki.
His country was for twelve years besieged by a great drought, and countless numbers of people died of starvation. In the rivers,
corpses piled up like bridges, and on land, skeletons accumulated like burial mounds. At that time, King Konjiki conceived
a great aspiration for enlightenment [in order to save the people] and distributed a great quantity of alms. He gave away
everything he could, until a mere five measures of rice remained in his storehouse. When his ministers informed him that this
would feed him for a single day, the great king took the five measures of rice and to each of his starving subjects he gave
one grain, two grains, three grains, or four grains, distributing them in this manner to all. Then he faced the heavens and
cried out that he would die of starvation in the people's place, taking the pain of their hunger and thirst upon himself.
Heaven heard him and instantly sent down the sweet rain of immortality. When this rain touched the bodies or fell upon the
faces of the people, their hunger was satisfied, and in the space of a moment, all the inhabitants of the country were revived.
In India there was a person called Sudatta.
Seven times he was reduced to poverty, and seven times he became a wealthy man. During his last period of destitution, the
people [of the city] had all fled or perished until only he and his wife remained. They had just five measures of rice, enough
to last them for five days. At that time, five people - Mahakashyapa, Shariputra, Ananda, Rahula and Shakyamuni Buddha - came
by turns to beg for alms and were given the five measures of rice. From that day on, Sudatta became the wealthiest man in
all of India and built the Jetavana Monastery. You should understand all similar situations from these examples.
You already resemble the votary of the
Lotus Sutra, just as a monkey resembles a man or as a rice cake resembles the moon. Because you so earnestly protected the
people of Atsuhara, the people of this country consider you to be traitor, like Masakado of the Shohei era (931-938) or Sadato
of the Tengi era (1053-1058). This is solely because you have committed your life to the Lotus Sutra. Heaven in no way regards
you as a man who has betrayed his lord. Moreover, your small village has been heavily taxed and its people have repeatedly
been put to forced labor, until you yourself have no horse to ride, and your wife and children lack for clothing. Yet despite
your own poverty, you felt sympathy for the votary of the Lotus Sutra, thinking that he must be beleaguered by snow in the
depths of the mountains and in want of food. So you have sent me one kan of coins. Your offering is like that of the poor
woman who gave to a beggar the single cloak that she and her husband shared, or like that of Rida who gave the millet in his
jar to a pratyekabuddha. How admirable! I will tell you more later in detail.
With my deep respect,
The twenty-seventh day of the twelfth
month in the third year of Koan (1280)