In the past, there was a foolish person roasting black rock candy, when there was a rich person coming, arriving at his house. Then, this foolish person then had this thought, ‘I will now take the black rock candy to give it to this rich person.’
Then adding a little water, with it placed within the fire. Then at the fire above, with a fan fanning it, hoping to get it cooled. A bystander spoke, saying, ‘With the below having unending fire, even if fanning it endlessly, how can you get it cooled?‘ At that time, many people all sneered at him.
This is like those of external paths, not eliminating the fires of afflictions fiercely burning, slightly doing extreme ascetic practices, walking and lying above shrubs with thorns, and with five fires scorching their bodies, yet hoping to attain the path of coolness and tranquillity. In the end, without this possibility, they are only by those wise sneered at, receiving suffering in the present, and with misfortunes flowing into future kalpas.
[Note 1: With five fires scorching bodies (五热炙身) refers to (i) exposing of the body to the scorching sun above, and (ii)–(iv) the body to burning fires in the four cardinal directions (of East, South, West and North).]
[Note 2: While ascetic practices of living simply and fugally along the Middle Path (中道) are reasonable, extreme ascetic practices, which are those subjecting oneself to needless great pain and suffering are not reasonable.
Extreme asceticism arose from the misconception that putting the body through suffering will eliminate all impending evil karmic suffering, with only bliss remaining eventually. However, if the goal is to attain the end of suffering, there should not be continually creating of new causes of suffering, which is self-defeating, while not creating the causes of bliss, which makes it doubly self-defeating.
The ‘fires’ of the three poisons (三毒) fuel the ‘fires’ of the five desires (五欲), which give rise to the ‘fires’ of afflictions when they are unfulfilled. Thus, the three poisons are the primary ‘fires’ to extinguish.]
All Hundred Parables: