T o the lay nun Myoichi:
IF the sun and moon were not in the heavens, how could plants and trees grow? Human beings have both a father and a mother. It is hard for children to grow up when even one parent is missing. Your husband had to leave behind a daughter, a son who is ill, and you, their mother, who suffer from a poor constitution. To whom could he have entrusted his family before leaving this world?
At the time of his extinction, the World-Honored One of Great Enlightenment lamented, Now I am about to enter nirvana. The only thing that worries me is King Ajatashatru. Bodhisattva Kashyapa then asked him, Since the Buddhas mercy is impartial, your regret in dying should stem from compassion for all living beings. Why do you single out only King Ajatashatru? The Buddha replied, Suppose that a couple has seven children, one of whom falls ill. Though the parents love all their children equally, they worry most about the sick child.1 Tien-tai, commenting on this sutra passage in his Great Concentration and Insight, said, Even if the parents of seven children are never partial, they are still particularly concerned about the sick one. In essence, the sutra is saying that, even if there are many children, the parents hearts are with the
child who is ill. To the Buddha, all living beings are his children. Among them, the sinful man who slays his own parents and becomes an enemy of the Buddha and the sutras is like the sick child.
King Ajatashatru was the ruler of Magadha. He murdered his father, King Bimbisara, a powerful patron of Shakyamuni Buddha, and became an enemy of the Buddha. In consequence, the heavenly gods forsook him, the sun and moon rose out of rhythm, and the earth shook violently to cast him off. All his subjects defied the Buddhas teachings, and other kingdoms began to attack Magadha. All this happened because King Ajatashatru took the wicked Devadatta for his teacher. As a result, one day virulent sores broke out all over his body, and it was foretold that on the seventh day of the third month he would die and fall into the hell of incessant suffering. Saddened by this, the Buddha was reluctant to enter nirvana. He lamented, If I can save King Ajatashatru, I can save all offenders in the same way.
Your late husband had an ailing son and a daughter. I cannot help thinking that he may have grieved that, if he were to abandon them and leave this world, his aged wife, as feeble as a withered tree, would be left alone, and would probably feel very sorry for these chil