"Former Affairs of King Wonderful Adornment," the twenty-seventh chapter of the Lotus Sutra, relates the story of a king named Wonderful Adornment, his wife, Pure Virtue, and his two sons, Pure Storehouse and Pure Eye.
The brothers, after receiving instruction from a Buddha named Cloud Thunder Sound Constellation King Flower Wisdom, devoted themselves to a bodhisattva practice, that is, practice based on a vow to save living beings from suffering. Consequently, the brothers acquired many supernatural powers.
The brothers cherished the wish that their parents would embrace Buddhism, and they invited their mother to go with them to listen to the Buddha preach. She agreed, and suggested that they devise a way to interest their father—a believer in Brahmanism—in joining them. She encouraged them to demonstrate for their father some of the mysterious and wonderful "supernatural" abilities they had obtained through their bodhisattva practice. They did so, and their father, impressed, asked who had taught them to perfect such abilities.
Pure Storehouse and Pure Eye told their father that they were disciples of a Buddha named Cloud Thunder Sound Constellation King Flower Wisdom, and the king developed a desire to see this Buddha. With his wife and children and a retinue of ministers and aides, the king went to visit the Buddha, heard him preach, and became his disciple. In the sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha prophesizes that the king would become a Buddha named Sal Tree King.
As Nichiren Daishonin says: "The Law cannot be propagated by itself. Since a person propagates the Law, the person and the Law are worthy of respect" (Gosho Zenshu, p. 856). Buddhism, although powerful, cannot propagate itself.
The brothers Pure Storehouse and Pure Eye converted their father to Buddhism by showing him the wonderful powers that they acquired through their practice. While the Sutra describes these abilities as "supernatural," depicting amazing feats, these can be thought of as symbolizing astounding improvement in terms of character., temperament or behavior. People come to understand the greatness of Buddhism and the Buddha by witnessing the conduct of Buddhist practitioners. In other words, the greatness of a teacher and a teaching is only truly understood through the greatness or integrity of the students. This is one aspect of the principle of oneness of mentor and disciple.
In this regard, SGI President Ikeda said of King Wonderful Adornment: "Family members in particular need to see actual proof, for they know us best of all. No matter how great we may present ourselves outside the home, our family can clearly see the reality of our situation. Of course, there are most likely also sides of us that our family is the last to know.
"At any rate, parents can see the growth of their children, and a wife can tell when her husband has changed for the better. This human revolution amounts to 'supernatural abilities.'
"The fact that the Ikegami brothers of the Daishonin's time were able to guide their father, who had been adamantly opposed to their practice, to the Daishonin's teaching is surely a demonstration of their noble humanity to remain undaunted even in the face of their father's attacks" (August 2000 Living Buddhism, p. 36).
While the sutra refers to supernatural or transcendental powers, Nichiren Daishonin says, "Outside of the attainment of Buddhahood, there is no 'secret' and no 'transcendental' power" (GZ, 753).
In other words, the amazing powers displayed by Buddhas and bodhisattvas as described in the sutra can be seen as symbolizing the admirable qualities of those who have developed their inner state of life, or Buddhahood.
A parent witnessing a child who had been habitually lazy suddenly gain enthusiasm for his or her studies, or a wife who sees her demanding and unappreciative husband become consistently considerate, may feel like they have witnessed a supernatural transformation. Such changes can convince people of the power of Buddhist practice. "Actual proof" in Buddhism refers in a sense to changing what had been perceived impossible to change about ourselves, or accomplishing something we had thought beyond our ability. When we improve the things about ourselves that are most difficult to change, we are accomplishing human revolution, which is in itself extraordinary.
In Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra, T'ien-t'ai describes an episode from a previous life of King Wonderful Adornment and his family described in another sutra: "There were once four people who practiced Buddhism together. One among them cooked the meals and attended to the daily affairs of the other three so that they could devote all their time and energy to the practice of Buddhism. The three who engaged themselves completely in Buddhist practice attained enlightenment, but the one who managed the affairs of the household did not. Through supporting the others, however, he accumulated good fortune and as a result was reborn a king in lifetime after lifetime. This was King Wonderful Adornment. The other three were born as his wife and children who led him to practice Buddhism."
Nichiren Daishonin states: "It is no doubt because of karmic forces that they became my parents, and I, their child. If Nichiren is the envoy of the Lotus Sutra and the Thus Come One Shakyamuni, then his parents must also share this relationship. They are like King Wonderful Adornment and Lady Pure Virtue with their sons, Pure Storehouse and Pure Eye" ("Letter to Jakunichibo," The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 993). In other words, Nichiren Daishonin compares himself and his disciples to Lady Pure Virtue and the brothers Pure Storehouse and Pure Eye, and the people and rulers of japan to King Wonderful Adornment.
According to the law of causality, the circumstances into which we are born in this life are a reflection of our actions in past lives. Life is in essence eternal, and nothing happens to us at random, outside the web of cause and effect that permeates past, present and future. Some are born to wealthy families and some to poor, some are born healthy and some sick, all effects of causes formed in the past. Buddhism asks us to accept responsibility for our situations, or lot in life, but not to be resigned to them. Instead, Buddhist practice is a source of confidence and hope that we can and will absolutely improve ourselves and our circumstances through the causes we make today. Because of the karmic connection we share, our relationships with our parents and family members are especially profound, and praying for family harmony and happiness is to pray and open the way to our personal happiness and fortune.
By Jeff Kriger, SGI-USA Study Department Vice Leader, based in part on Yasashii Kyogaku (Easy Buddhist Study) published by Seikyo Press in 1994.
Living Buddhism, October 2002 p.5