“Parable of the Medicinal Herbs,” Chapter 5 of the Lotus Sutra
Heian period (794–1185)
Handscroll; gold and silver ink on indigo-dyed paper
10 1/16 in. x 34 ft. 8 3/4 in. (25.6 x 1058.6 cm)
Seymour Fund, 1965
Not on view
This sutra once formed part of a much larger set of handscrolls depicting all twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra, one of the most popular Buddhist scriptures. Each handscroll consists of a pictorial frontispiece followed by a section of text, all of which are brushed in gold paint on indigo-dyed paper. The present scroll represents a portion of the Lotus Sutra’s fifth chapter, “Parable of the Medicinal Herbs” (Japanese: Yakusōyu). This chapter describes three kinds of grasses and two kinds of trees that all receive the same amount of rainfall from the clouds, a metaphor for five different beings to whom the Buddha gives identical teachings.