Parable of the Wealthy Man and His Poor Son

In Buddhism, individuals who seek enlightenment and carry out altruistic practices are known as bodhisattvas, characterized by the key virtues of compassion and commitment to the attainment of wisdom. The Lotus Sutra reveals that all people possess the potential to attain enlightenment, expressing this revolutionary teaching in the form of parables recounted by leading bodhisattvas to help awaken people to the great potential of their Buddha nature.

One such parable tells of a wealthy man's son who runs away from his father and lives in poverty. Fifty years later, he encounters his wealthy father but fails to recognize him and flees. However, the father sends a servant to offer the son a humble job, which he accepts and carries out for many years. Eventually the son is given greater responsibilities until finally the father reveals his true identity and the son inherits all his father's riches.

The poor son represents ordinary people who "wander about" in the threefold world, and the rich man represents the Buddha, whose only desire is to enable all people to enjoy the same enlightened state as his own.