"Belief and Understanding" chapter
信解品 ( Jpn Shinge-hon )
The fourth chapter of the Lotus Sutra.
In this chapter, the four great voice-hearers, having heard the parable of the three carts and the burning house that Shakyamuni related in the "Simile and Parable" (third) chapter, now rejoice in their understanding of its meaning.
They understand that Shakyamuni's true intention is to reveal the one Buddha vehicle that leads all people to Buddhahood.
The four great voice-hearers are Mahakashyapa, Katyayana, Maudgalyayana, and Subhuti.
To display their understanding of the meaning of the parable, they relate a parable of their own creation, the parable of the wealthy man and his poor son.
In relating it, the four voice-hearers identify the wealthy man in the parable with the Buddha, and the poor son with themselves.
Just as the poor son did not recognize his wealthy father and was content with lowly employment, so they did not realize that they were children of the Buddha entitled to attain the same state of Buddhahood; thus they were satisfied with inferior teachings.
The Buddha, perceiving their limited aspirations, led them gradually through provisional teachings to the one Buddha vehicle.
He was just like the wealthy man who allowed his son to engage in lowly employment, gradually helping him develop confidence and ability, and finally declared him to be his heir, transferring all his wealth to him.
After relating the parable, the four voice-hearers state that they have received the greatest treasure of Buddhahood without earnestly seeking it. See also parable of the wealthy man and his poor son.