Every morning and evening we recite the Sutra either at the Temple or in front of the altar at our home. This is the Buddhist practice of Gongyo. The sutra we are referring to is the Lotus Sutra. Here is one of the parables that appears in the fourteenth, or “Practice for a Happy and Secure Life” (Anrakugyo) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. This is excerpted from Tales from the Lotus Sutra.
Parable of the Priceless Gem in the Topknot
During the Kamakura Period (1185-1333) in Japan that corresponded to the Middle Ages in Europe, the majority of the world had been conquered by one nation. This country had even attacked Japan. That country was the nation of the Mongols. All the people in Mongolia during this time grew their hair very long and tied it up in a knot on the top of their head. This type of hairstyle was called a topknot. It was prevalent throughout Mongolia and China during the Mongol (Y’an) era. It was also a very popular hair style in ancient India.
Shakyamuni Buddha said to Bodhisattva Monjushiri:
“There was once a very brave monarch who fought in battle with many different countries over whom he was continuously victorious. The King awarded many gifts to each of his soldiers who had rendered distinguished service in battle. The rewards at times consisted of castles or land. On other occasions the King rewarded his soldiers money, gold, silver, clothing, horses, elephants and other varied objects. However, there was one thing the King would never grant, and that was the priceless gem that he kept in his topknot. Actually, Bodhisattva Monjushiri, the Buddha is the same as this monarch. The country that is the powerful enemy that seeks to destroy the King, represents the workings of the devil king of the sixth heaven who labors to obstruct the good heart of someone who is striving to attain enlightenment. The Buddha, using his profound wisdom, is able to be victorious over the devil king. The Buddha feels great joy towards the others who have carried out their Buddhist austerities together with him. The Buddha then rewards them with his precious jewels of the laws of Buddhism of the Kegon, Agon, Hoto and Han’nya Sutras. However, the Buddha still does not teach the most supreme jewel of the Law of the Lotus Sutra. This is because the Buddha only reveals the greatest of all the Laws of Buddhism, that is, the Lotus Sutra, to those who are especially outstanding in their pursuit of the practice of Buddhist austerities.
In this way, this parable unfolds to show us that the jewel hidden within the topknot is none other than the Lotus Sutra, the highest teaching in all of Buddhism which the Buddha had secretly kept in his possession. Because Bodhisattva Monjushiri and the others had carried out such exceptional faith, they were now able to hear the teachings of the Lotus Sutra.