THE PARABLE OF THE BURNING HOUSE.
There was a great elder in a certain kingdom. Old and worn as he was, he possessed boundless wealth, many fields, houses, and servants. His house was spacious, having only one gate, and with many people dwelling in it. Its halls and chambers were old and decayed, its walls crumbling, the bases of its pillars rotten, the beams and rooftree leaning dangerously.
Fires suddenly started on all sides at the same moment, and the house was enveloped in flames. His many sons, to whom the elder was very much attached, were all in this dwelling. When the elder, who was outside the house, realized that fire had broken out and returned to the house, he was greatly startled to see his children absorbed in play. They had no apprehension, knowledge, surprise, or fear. Though the fire was spreading toward them and pain and suffering were imminent, they had no care nor fear and felt no urge to escape from the house.
The elder pondered: "My body and arms are strong. Shall I get them out of the house by means of a flower vessel, or a bench, or a table?" Again he pondered: "This house has only one gate, and it is narrow; my children are too young to know yet that they must go out the gate. Perhaps they will be burned in the fire because they are attached to their place of play. I must speak to them about this dreadful matter, warning them that the house is burning and that they must come out instantly lest they be burned."
Though the elder tried to lure and admonish the children with kind words, still the children, joyfully attached to their play, were unwilling to believe him and felt neither surprise nor fear, nor any need to escape; moreover, they did not know what was the fire, nor what the house, nor what he meant by being lost, but only ran hither and thither in play. Though sometimes glancing at their father, they only thought, "Our father is saying something," and they did not listen to him in earnest.
Then the elder reflected: "This house is burning in a great conflagration. If I cannot get them to leave at once, they will certainly be burned. I have no choice but to cause them to escape this disaster by some tactful means because they will not leave the house in spite of my warnings. I know! My children like toys. They are always attracted by such things when they are told about them."
The father shouted to the children: "Your favorite playthings--goat carts, deer carts, and bullock carts--are now outside the gate for you to play with. I will give you whatever you want, but all of you must come quickly out of the burning house. These things, which you are fond of playing with, are very rare and precious. If you do not come and get them now, you will be sorry later. Come quickly out of the burning house and play with these attractive toys." Thereupon the children, hearing their favorite playthings mentioned by their father, and because it suited their wishes, eagerly began pushing and racing against each other and came scrambling out of the burning house.
Then the elder, seeing his children had safely escaped and were all in the square, sat down in the open, no longer troubled, but with a mind at ease and filled with joy. Then the children said to their father: "Father! Please give us now those lovely things you promised us to play with, goat carts, deer carts, and bullock carts." The elder then gave each of his children equally a great white-bullock cart, larger and more wonderful than any of the three kinds of carts he had mentioned before.