A son abandoned his father and ran away. He wandered around working as a day laborer. One day he passed where his father lives. He did not recognize his father who became very rich. It was different for the father. He recognized his son immediately even after 50 years. He never forgot about his son. He was so delighted and sent people to bring his son back. However, the son resisted it thinking they were trying to kidnap him and passed out. Once he regained consciousness, he went somewhere else to do odd jobs.
The father asked his servants to offer twice the wage to the son so they could bring his son back. He was heartbroken looking at his skinny son putting away manure. The father changed into stained clothes and helped the son. The father approached and told the son that he would treat the son as his own and that the son could stay and work here. The father was that generous.
However, the son, despite enjoying the affection and love he was getting from the father, focused on putting away manure thinking about his low and poor status. Even though he was asked to manage storage full of treasure, it was the same. The father wanted his son to be in charge of the family’s finances. The son began to understand his father gradually. With his imminent death, the father confessed the son that he was indeed the father’s birth son and left all his fortune to the son.
In this story, the father refers to Buddha and the son refers to his disciples. While Buddha is usually the one who tells a metaphoric story, it is his four disciples in this case. They say that they were the son who failed to recognize the deep and broad intention of their father. They confess to their teacher that they were too focused on reaching nirvana and finding personal salvation and became negligent with a broad work of saving people even though they are supposed to be the leaders of people. It is a letter of apology written by old disciples. The disciples’ story of confession featured in the Lotus Sutra delivers brilliant teaching of Buddha that having compassion for people and saving them is the best law of all.