The Parable of the Three Kinds of Medicinal Herbs and Two Types of Trees


Tales from the Lotus Sutra:

The Parable of the Three Kinds of Medicinal Herbs and Two Types of

This is our third installment of the series Parables from the Lotus
Sutra. This installment is a story that deals with the three kinds of
herbs and two types of trees. This parable appears in the Yakusoyu-
hon, or “Parable of the Herbs,” (fifth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra
Shakyamuni Buddha said the following to Kashyapa who was said to
have been foremost in the twelve-fold dhuta practices,
Kashyapa, in this wide world, for example, there are mountains,
rivers and valleys. In each land, if there are small trees, there are
also large trees growing thick in the woods and forests. If there are
beautiful flowers, then there are also herbs whose colors would not
be called pretty, but if left to grow, could be used for medicinal
purposes. When rain pours down from the clouds, the same amount
of rain falls equally upon the trees and plants. Even though all the
trees and plants throughout the earth receive the same amount of
rain, big trees grow larger. Even though small trees also receive the
same amount of rain, they do not grow larger and remain the same
size. Herein lies the relationship between the Buddha and people’s
Expressing this concept in an easier to understand manner, in Japan
there is a jingle in a television commercial that is actually a play on
words in Japanese that says, “What kind of tree is this, a tree which
makes me wonder. Since it is a type of tree which I have never
before seen, it must also have a fruit that I have never seen.”
The tree that is broadcasted in this commercial when they sing
“What kind of tree is this, a tree which makes me wonder” is an
extremely large tree. However, growing underneath this very large
tree are small blades of grass. I think that there must also be other
trees half the size of that special “tree that makes me wonder.” At
this point in the commercial, gigantic clouds suddenly appear and
rain bursts from them in an abrupt downpour. The rain probably
falls evenly on the “tree that makes me wonder,” on all the trees that
are not even half that size and on the surrounding grass. The same
rain falls on a variety of types of trees and plants in the same
manner. No matter how tall the “tree that makes me wonder” grows,
the grass growing directly underneath doesn’t grow any higher. I
wonder why that could be?
In Japan, there are mountains covered with cedar trees and often the
adjacent mountains will be covered with pine trees. Even though the
rains fall evenly upon all of these trees and mountains, the cedars
continue to grow straight and tall while the pines grow as they
stretch outwards.
There are many varied types of trees and plants of different sizes
and shapes that grow from the very same earth and receive the very
same amount of rain. Isn’t this a wondrous thing?
This story reveals that the rain that falls from the sky is the power
of the Buddha working to save all human beings and lead them to
enlightenment. The compassion of the Buddha and his sermons on
the Law of Buddhism are just like the rain that falls from the sky,
poured equally upon all people throughout the world.
However, according to the person who is listening to the teaching of
the Buddha, there will be ones who agree and embrace those
teachings, ones who constantly strive harder to do better in his or
her faith, ones who feel that they would like to become like the
Buddha, ones who attempt to save other people from suffering and
ones who carry out their practice of Buddhist austerities so that this
world will become a splendid society that knows no war.
Even though it is the same sermon on the Law of the Buddha,
according to the way in which each person perceives or understands
that teaching, and since the manner in which each person carries out
his or her Buddhist austerities varies, the benefit received will also
vary through this difference in practice.
The same holds true for studies at school. When there are forty
people in a classroom, the teacher may say the same thing to his or
her students, whether it be for English or even for mathematics. The
actual classroom remains the same. However, when the students take
an examination, there will be ones who receive 100% or even 50%
correct answers on their test resulting in marks of A, B, C or D. There
may even be someone who receives 0% correct answers resulting in a
F. There will be people who intently listen to the teacher, or people
who talk with their friends or who even fall asleep and snore during
class even though the teacher is giving a lecture. As a result of the
efforts of each student, class marks of A, B, C, D, or F will be
When there are forty students in the classroom, the test results for
all of these forty students will probably be different. We must
understand that just as when the teacher speaks and gives the same
lecture to all the students in the classroom, the sermon of the Buddha
on the Law of Buddhism is equal for all people.
The phrase within the sutra that reads, “the rain from one cloud”
signifies the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin and the resulting
benefit. The “three kinds of medicinal herbs and two types of trees”
are all of us who believe in the Dai-Gohonzon that has been passed
down by Taisekiji, the Head Temple of Nichiren Shoshu. That means
that the “three kinds of medicinal herbs and two types of trees” are
every person who is now reading this article in this magazine.
There are many types of people – tall people, short people,
elementary school students, college students, teachers, doctors, etc…
There are people who embraced faith in the Daishonin’s Buddhism
one year ago and people who started practicing five years ago. There
are Americans, Latin Americans, Europeans, Thai people, Japanese
and people from Japan’s neighboring countries of Korea and the
Republic of China. Just because a person is of a different age group,
because that person is poor, or because a person came from a foreign
country and doesn’t understand English or can’t read the Gosho in
classical Japanese, does not mean that the benefit from the Gohonzon
will be different. No matter what kind of person someone is or is not,
the benefits that are showered from the Dai-Gohonzon are equal for
all those who embrace the law of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.
This is where the greatness of the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin
This applies to young children as well. When a mother or father is
intently chanting Daimoku, it does not mean that they receive
benefits just because they are adults. Nor does it mean that the
benefit of a child who sincerely chants to the Gohonzon will be any
different from an adult. The immense powers of the Buddha and of
the Law of the Daishonin are just like the rain that falls down from
the great sky. They shower themselves equally upon all people.
Isn’t this wonderful! A mother is often compared to the great
mother earth. However, just as young trees and plants grow as they
stretch from the great mother earth towards the skies, earnestly do
Gongyo and sincerely chant Daimoku to the best of your ability while
striving to become fine capable people for Kosen-rufu.
Watch for our next issue that will feature The Parable of the
Phantom and the Treasure Land.

©1995 Nichiren Shoshu Monthly