Two Acolytes

As Retold By
Reverend Raido Hirota
O
NCE UPON A TIME there was a young acolyte who was in a
great deal of  trouble, so he longed to meet Shakyamuni
Buddha. He met up with another young acolyte who also
yearned to see the Buddha. Together they set off on a
pilgrimage.

They traveled over mountains and across seas, through
forests and deserts. Along the way they ran out of food
and water, yet they continued on thirsty and hungry. In
time they became so feeble from thirst and hunger, they
fainted. When they came to they saw a very small bowl of
water just ahead in the middle of the road. Overjoyed,
they rushed to the bowl prepared to drink their fill, but
upon reaching the bowl they discovered a fish swimming
in it. This caused the boys to argue: should they drink the
water or should they not. The first acolyte didn't care
about the fish and said, "I will drink this water in order to
sustain my life so that I can meet the Buddha."

The second acolyte, remembering that Shakyamuni had
taught that we should respect all life no matter how
small, said to his friend, "I'm not going to drink this water
because the fish will die if I do. The Buddha said no
matter how small the life-form we must respect it and
take care of it. The most important thing is to follow the
Buddha's teachings even if it leads to my own death." So
saying , the second young man suddenly dropped dead
from dehydration.
The first acolyte drank the water and survived. After a long journey he finally reached the
grove of sal trees where Shakyamuni was staying. Much to his amazement his friend, the
second acolyte, was already there standing behind Shakyamuni smiling at him.

Shakyamuni asked the newly arrived acolyte, "Why have you come here?"

The acolyte replied, "I want to receive your teachings."

Shakyamuni scolded him, "You don't need my teachings, you don't follow them. Moreover,
you've broken and ignored them. You don't understand the fundamental mercy of the
Buddha. Your friend arrived here before you because he understood the importance of
following the Buddha's teaching."


LESSON:   We are unable to see Nichiren Daishonin now because he passed away over 700
years ago, but we must still strive to follow his teachings. Daishonin's teachings focus on the
process, stages and means of attaining enlightenment rather than on the end result.
Destination is not our goal; the process of reaching the destination is the focus of Nichiren
Daishonin's Buddhism.


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