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Home > Parables of the Buddha

Parables of the Buddha

Parables of the Buddha and the Path to Enlightenment

A parable is a short fictional story that serves to illustrate a purpose be that moral, principle or to gain the listeners immediate and understanding attention.
A parable does this through the use of similarity. The parable may tell some fictitious story that is nevertheless thought to be true-to-life somehow, one way or another. Parables are usually brief and used as instruments of preaching. They are common in all the world's major religions.
Many parables illustrate the profound effect they can have on the listener when the moment of understanding dawns. In the two following ones you may see some of the similarities between the parables that the Buddha told and those of Jesus.
The Buddha’s Parable of the Burning House

"Now I will tell you a story," Buddha said. "Once there was a man of great wealth whose mansion was burning down. The man was absent from this place and when he returned, he found that his children were so distracted by their own thoughts and actions , that they had not realised the house was burning down and were thus still inside the house. The father screamed, 'Get out, my dear children! Come out of the house! Quickly!' But the children did not take any notice.

"Their anxious parent shouted again. 'My beloved children, I have some marvellous things here for you to play with; please come out of the house and get them!' This time they listened to his cries and realising the danger they were in quickly children ran out of the burning house."

Our world is a burning house and many of  people of the earth, totally unaware that the their house is on fire, are in danger of being burned to death and so Buddha in his wisdom and loving kindness seeks ways of saving them.

The Buddha’s Parable of the Prodigal Son

Buddha said: "I will tell you another parable. Once upon a time the only son of a wealthy man left his home and fell into utter destitution and poverty. When the father travelled far from home in search of his son, he lost all contact with him. He did everything he could to find his son, but in vain. "Decades later, his son, now reduced to destitution, found himself to be near where his father was living.

"The father quickly recognized his son and sent his servants to bring him home; when he returned who was overcome by the luxury and opulence of his father's house. He feared that they were deceiving him and would not go with them. He did not realize it was his own father.

"The father again sent his servants to offer him some money to become a servant in their rich master's household. The son accepted the offer and returned with them to his father's house and became a servant.

"His father slowly promoted him until eventually he found himself with responsibility for all the property and treasures, but still the son did not recognize that his master was actually his own father. "The father was delighted with his son's attitude and behaviour towards him, and as he approached the end of his life , he gathered around him his relatives and friends and said : 'My dear friends, see this is my only son, the son I had looked for for many years. From now on, all my property and treasures will belong to him.'

"The son was surprised at his father's confession and said: 'Not only have I found my father but all this property and treasure is now mine.'

The wealthy man in this parable represents Buddha, and the wandering son, all people. Buddha's compassion embraces all people with the love of a father for his only son. In that love he conceives the wisest methods to lead, teach and enrich them with the treasure of Enlightenment.


Just as rain falls on all vegetation, so Buddha's eternal message of compassion extends equally to all people. Just as different plants receive particular benefits from the same rain, so people of different natures and circumstances are blessed in different ways.

Parents of course have love to all their children, but their love is expressed with special compassion when it is a sick child. The Buddha's message of compassion is thus the same toward all people, but is given with special care toward those who, because of their ignorance, find themselves with burdens of wrong-doing and suffering to bear.

The sun rises in the east and lights the darkness of the world without prejudice toward any particular country or continent. Thus the  Buddha's compassion encompasses all people, encouraging them to do what is right and leads them away from evil. Thus, He clears away the darkness of ignorance and leads people to Enlightenment.

However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?

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