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Ikeda Wisdom Academy

Highlights of the October 2023 Study Material

Santa Ana, California. Photo by Toshi Takahashi.

Academy members should:
• be district through national youth leaders.
• have their own copy of The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 2.
• read the assigned material prior to each meeting.


The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 2, pp. 3–43

Part One: “Simile and Parable” Chapter
• Simile and Parable: Compassion and Wisdom Distilled to Their Fragrant Essence
Part Two: “Belief and Understanding” Chapter
• Belief and Understanding: The Dynamic Relationship of Faith and Wisdom

Supplementary Materials:

The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, pp. 82–133


Buddhist Parables

Parables are stories told to teach lessons. However, the seven parables in the Lotus Sutra do more than just teach; they help us understand the Buddha’s mind—the desire to awaken all people to enlightenment. Let’s look at the first two parables, starting with the parable of the three carts and the burning house, relayed in “Simile and Parable,” the sutra’s third chapter.

One day, a fire suddenly breaks out in the house of a rich man with many children. The children, absorbed in playing games, do not know the house is in flames and ignore his warnings. He entices them out of the burning house by telling them that outside are three carts they have long wanted: one pulled by a goat, another by a deer, a third by an ox. The children race outside. Having coaxed them to safety, instead of giving them the kinds of carts he had promised, the rich man gives each of them much finer ones adorned with jewels and drawn by white oxen. (See The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism, p. 494)

The elements in this parable symbolize the following:

• Burning house = the realm of reality
• Rich man = the Buddha
• Children = all living beings
• Games children play = worldly pleasures
• Three carts = the three vehicles (voice-hearers, cause-awakened ones and bodhisattvas)
• Great white ox cart = the supreme vehicle of Buddhahood, the Lotus Sutra

This parable explains how the Buddha expounded the provisional teachings of the three vehicles to guide others to seek a greater path in life. These provisional teachings ultimately function as expedient means to lead all his followers to the one vehicle of Buddhahood.

In “Belief and Understanding,” the Lotus Sutra’s fourth chapter, to convey their understanding of the teaching of replacing the three vehicles with the one vehicle, four of Shakyamuni’s voice-hearer disciples share their parable about the wealthy man and his poor son.

A wealthy man’s son runs away from home, wandering for 50 years in poverty. One day, he chances upon his father’s mansion. The rich man is overjoyed to see his son and wants to bequeath his wealth to him. The son doesn’t recognize him and flees. The wealthy man and his servants disguise themselves in dirty clothes and offer his son menial work. For 20 years, he works at the estate, gradually gaining confidence. The wealthy man then promotes him to oversee all his affairs. Approaching death, the father declares his servant to be his son and bequeaths his estate to him. (See The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism, pp. 495–96)

In this parable, the wealthy man, representing the Buddha, wishes to bequeath his wealth to his son, just as the Buddha wishes to lead all people to enlightenment. Just as the father helps his son gradually gain confidence, the Buddha first employs expedient means, preaching what is appropriate to people’s capacities. The Buddha then expounds the Lotus Sutra, his true teaching that leads to Buddhahood.

Ikeda Sensei explains the purpose of Buddhist parables:

The infinitely profound Law to which the Buddha has awakened is very difficult to put into words. Yet if that enlightenment remained locked in the Buddha’s heart, the road to Buddhahood for all living beings would stay closed. The Buddha uses parables to preach the Law to open the way to enlightenment for all living beings. (The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 2, p. 6)

Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department


Our Faith Experiences Are Contemporary Parables

Ikeda Sensei: Our individual experiences of triumph over our problems give courage and hope to many others. Our personal victories, in other words, become parables expressing the power of the Mystic Law. And those who hear our experiences can share them with still others.

Mr. Makiguchi started the Soka Gakkai’s discussion meeting movement, which centers on members sharing their experiences in faith with others. He taught the Mystic Law not in the form of difficult abstract theories but through easily intelligible personal experiences.

Each individual experience is a parable of the all-pervading Mystic Law. And the discussion meeting, based on sharing such personal experiences, is a contemporary representation of the “Simile and Parable” chapter, a modern version of the seven parables of the Lotus Sutra, an infinite treasury of parables. (WLS-2, 26)


Mitchell Nguyen
Los Angeles

Living Buddhism: What does it mean for you to “elevate your state of life”?

Mitchell: It wasn’t until I started doing Soka Group activities that I understood the importance of my life state. At first, I was just volunteering. But through happily greeting members, I saw how that sets the tone for their meetings. I realized I needed to summon a high life condition to ensure each member’s happiness and safety.

This training applies elsewhere, too. Working as a cashier at a new job, I try to acknowledge each customer as a person, just like when I’m on a Soka Group shift. Some co-workers thought this was pointless, but I told them about Buddhism, explaining that I want to treat everybody with respect. Now, we all get more tips when I’m up front!

How can study help you as a new chapter leader?

Mitchell: I want to take studying into my own hands. The more I study, the more my faith grows, and I can share a deeper understanding of Buddhism with the members or guests I talk to. I also want to study with others—like my district young men’s leaders. I want to support them while learning something new, too!

Looking Forward: November Syllabus

The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 2, pp. 44–89

Part Two: “Belief and Understanding” Chapter
• Belief and Understanding: The Dynamic Relationship of Faith and Wisdom
Part Three: “The Parable of the Medicinal Herbs” Chapter
• The Buddha’s Compassionate Wisdom Fosters Individuality

From the October 2023 Living Buddhism

Nichiren Daishonin—His Lifelong Vow and Great Compassion

District Study Meeting Material