The Buddhist Prodigal Son

Today I was reading the Lotus Sutra, which is part of the Buddhist scriptures, and found a story very similar to that of the Prodigal Son in the Gospels, but with interesting differences. Both are copied below, so take some time to brush up on your Jesus and get to know the Buddha.

from Luke 15:11-32

There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.” So he got up and went to his father.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.

from the Lotus Sutra, 4

There was a man who was rich beyond measure, with a great estate and many workers. He had a son who ran away from home. The son took various menial jobs and was reduced to poverty. The father searched everywhere for his son but could not find him.

After many years the son had forgotten where his father lived, and without realizing what he was doing, returned to his father’s house and asked for work. The father recognized his son at once, but the father knew that if he revealed himself immediately, the son would be frightened and humiliated and run away. So the father instructed his steward to give his son the task of cleaning the latrines.

When the son had been cleaning the latrines for a few days, the father smeared himself with dirt, put on rough clothes, and joined the son in this task. The son did not recognize his father, but gradually he learned to trust his father as a friend. Eventually, when they had been working together for many months, the father told his son who he was. The son burst into tears and embraced his father. Through his tears, he apologized for having run away.


One thought on “The Buddhist Prodigal Son

  1. Thanks, for letting us all know how you are doing and putting everything in perspective. And you are right about the media (it’s how they make money) even NPR is going sensationalistic.
    John and I lived in SanFran in 1989 when they had the 7.1 there. Every aftershock you keep thinking is this another big one? And yes the media had us all injured.

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