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
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)
Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin,
Vol. 5, page 307.