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 priest.
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)