W HEN a tree has been transplanted, though fierce winds may blow, it will not topple if it has a firm stake to hold it up. But even a tree that has grown up in place may fall over if its roots are weak. Even a feeble person will not stumble if those supporting him are strong, but a person of considerable strength, when alone, may fall down on an uneven path.
Moreover, had the Buddha not appeared in the world, then, with the exception of the Venerable Shariputra and the Venerable Mahakashyapa, every single person in all the major world system would have sunk into the three evil paths. But through the strong bonds formed by relying upon the Buddha, large numbers of people have attained Buddhahood. Even wicked people such as King Ajatashatru or Angulimala, who one would expect could never reach enlightenment but would invariably fall into the Avichi hell, by encountering a great person, the Buddha Shakyamuni, were able to attain Buddhahood.
Therefore, the best way to attain Buddhahood is to encounter a good friend. How far can our own wisdom take us? If we have even enough wisdom to distinguish hot from cold, we should seek out a good friend.
But encountering a good friend is the hardest possible thing to do. For
this reason, the Buddha likened it to the rarity of a one-eyed turtle finding a floating log with a hollow in it the right size to hold him, or to the difficulty of trying to lower a thread from the Brahma heaven and pass it through the eye of a needle on the earth. Moreover, in this evil latter age, evil companions are more numerous than the dust particles that comprise the land, while good friends are fewer than the specks of dirt one can pile on a fingernail.
Bodhisattva Perceiver of the Worlds Sounds of Mount Potalaka acted as a good friend to the boy Good Treasures, but though the bodhisattva taught him the two doctrines of the specific and perfect teachings, he did not reveal to him the pure and perfect teaching [of the Lotus Sutra]. Bodhisattva Ever Wailing sold himself as an offering in his quest for a good teacher, whereupon he encountered Bodhisattva Dharmodgata. But from the latter he learned only the three doctrines of the connecting, specific, and perfect teachings, and did not receive instruction in the Lotus Sutra. Shariputra acted as a good friend to a blacksmith and gave him instruction for a period of ninety days, but succeeded only in making him into an icchantika, or a person of incorrigible disbelief.1 Purna discoursed on the Buddhist doctrine