The Parable of the Burning House
“There was an old man, who was wealthy and owned a ramshackle dilapidated house with but one door. When he was outside the house one day, he saw that it was on fire. He had five, ten or twenty children, who were playing in the house. He did not know what to do. If he had entered the house and tried to take hold of the boys in order to save them, the foolish children would have run away from him in all directions. He called to the boys and cried: ‘Come, my children. The house is on fire.’ But the boys did not heed his words, and they did not even understand what he meant by ‘fire’, so ignorant were they. He then showed his upaya-kaucalya
by calling out: ‘Boys, I have put bullock-cars, goat-carts, deer-carts and other beautiful toys for you outside the door. Come out and take them.’ When the children heard this, they straightaway ran out of the house and were saved from the jaws of death. The father gave them splendid and costly carriages.
“In this parable, the father is Buddha; the children is life in this world; the three carts are the three Ways of the Buddhist Church, which lead to different degrees and kinds of sanctity; the costly carriage is the highest Way, the Mahayana.”
—From the Saddharma-pundarika, quoted in The Bodhisattva Doctrine in Buddhist Sanskrit Literature by Har Dayal