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Vain Parables and Parables of Buddha
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The Blessed One [Buddha] thought:
"I have taught the truth . . .
But simple as it is, the people cannot understand it . . .
I must adapt my thoughts to their thoughts . . .
Therefore, I will tell them stories." [In Carus]

Parables are stories. There are good stories, great stories, and all the others.

Parables are teaching devices. A parable is a short fictitious story [narrative] that illustrates a moral attitude, a doctrine, a standard of conduct, or a religious principle, or it could help you to compare and contrast. Parables appear to tell simple stories, and yet some can be enigmatic.

The difference between a fable and a parable is that the fable tends to personify animal characters, while the typical parable uses human agents.

A parable illustrates by use of similarity. The parable may tell some fictitious story that is nevertheless thought to be true-to-life somehow, one way or another. Parables are usually brief and used as preaching devices. They have a considerable role also in Islamic mysticism, Hasidism (Jewish pietism) and rabbinic literature, and in original Christianity.

Many parables deal with inside changes of a person when he hears great words. Such words have vortexes that may penetrate the surface of habits and communal adjustments.

So you thought parables of Jesus were for you? There are distinct differences between liberating and helpful parables of Buddha and futile parables in the gospels if Matthew 13:13 has got it right. More important still, Jesus says that his teachings are for Jews only. How overlooked! It suggests his teachings are not for non-Jews or Christians at large, since they are non-Jews. (cf. Matthew 15:24; 10:3-8). The formidable Bible scholar Geza Vermes ascertains the same thing (2010:37,41; 2012). So don't worry if you don't understand any of the parables you were not to be taught in the first place, for they are not aimed at you, tells Jesus in a gospel (Matthew 15:24; 10:3-8). It could be a very good suggestion to be set free by seeing what is in the gospel.

It boils down to:

Gospel parables that were for Jews only, and that cannot be understood and should not be learnt by Jewish followers, can they be compared to helpful parables by Buddha? If that insight is attained, well and good. I just tell you what is in the Bible.

Parables of Buddha

Parables and Stories of Buddha

A Repeat

The New Testament is the cause of lots of problems, but some things could ease up if we have in mind that (1) the parables of Jesus are in vain, he says, and (2) they are for Jews only, he also says. They are for Jews only, and in vain, he says in the gospel of Matthew. So what does it matter if you miss them. It means nothing.

Consider how the first Christians did not have any gospels that we know of either; the four gospels in the Bible came decades later, and they contain later additions and forgeries too, and no verbatim quotations of Jesus, good bible scholars agree on. That should be clear.

Ask and find or not

Further observe:

  • "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened [Matthew 7:7-8]."

  • Still, in the Jesus parable about virgins, his message to the unattentive half of them is: "It shall NOT be opened to you." [see it in context: Matthew 25:1-13].

The second sayings halfway kills the first saying. And what is more, most Christian answers go unanswered, seemingly. The reason could be they are ineffective and non-Jewish . . . Well, the promises are for Jews only, for they are included in the gospels that say Jesus taught only Jews: "Jesus for Jews only". There were a few exceptions, too.

Another example of double talk

  • "I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus replied. "I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret [John 18:20]." - Jesus said in Sanhedrin he had not taught in secret, which he really had done:

  • "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them," he told his disciples [Matthew 13:11].

Scary double talk once again.

Buddha says on the other hand:

I have set forth the Dhamma without making any distinction of esoteric and exoteric doctrine; there is nothing, Ananda, with regard to the teachings that the Tathagata holds to the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back. [Mahaparinibbana sutta ("Last days of the Buddha"), part 2, sutra 32]

In another translation some terms are explained along the way:

I have explained Truth without dividing it into an open and closed part. Who has arrived wholly into Truth (a Tathagatha) does not operate with any secret teaching. [From Lie 2005:92, my back-translation and emphasis]

And when Buddha tells parables, they come with explanations of keys used. It is a good thing.

Buddhism is a vast field to study and can be rewarding to explore, but it would depend on how we are ourselves, our environments, and what forms of Buddhism we feel for and seek to develop by. Some are good and others very good. In Tibetan Buddhism's Vajrayana, the highest and potentially most helpful teachings and methods are masked for outsiders - by figures of speech, metaphors and code symbols, besides keeping the best methods away from folks that could misuse them and harm themselves or others by them, for example.

There is much to be aware of.

Understand in advance and be spared of lots of troubles

As distinct from biblical parables, the parables of Buddha are not aimed at hopeless cases. (Matthew 13:13). Buddha teaches by parables (stories) to offer uplifting and offer seminal ideas. That is different from Jesus, who is recorded to have said (for Jews only):

This is why I speak to them in parables: "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand." In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: "You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving." [Matthew 13:13-14]."

It suggests time and effort wasted.

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened. [Winston Churchill]

Innocents get flayed by Jehovah and get victims of blind beliefs that take them nowhere

Buddha seeks not to be confusing, and does what he teaches, he says in one place. Opposed to that you have inconsistent and very confusing Jesus matter:

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them," said Jesus. [See Matthew 5:17-29]. But he skipped the much enforced Sabbath rest of the Law of Moses anyway. True excellence is altogether different.

Jesus of the gospel (Matthew 5:19-22) said he supported the Mosaic Law completely. Did he? Guess or find out. If he did, he supported slavery, which is brutal - sacrifice of innocents, and scapegoating, which is barbaric. So beware of a brutal, flogging Jesus. Divergent words are used to support now this view, now that. It is a sad story of inconsistency too.

Jesus also enjoined on his Jewish followers (Gentiles were as usual excluded) a lot of self-molesting, self-maiming commands that create wincers and very bad overall conditions (Matthew 5, passim). It has a hostile tone. It is a sad thing not to realise how he was before it is too late to get a better life than among Christians. You never know when that "Sacrifice innocent victims!" comes up. And yet, the New Testament tells of how a certain sacrifice-minded, flogging Jewish preacher of self-molestations and false prophesies that the end of the world was near, was executed in his day. (Matthew 13:13 again). This is mentioned to say, "Take care."

At any rate, Buddha does not advocate blind belief [Kalama Sutta]. But to be duly informed is fit.

Helpful tellings are of many kinds.


Parables of Buddha open, Literature  

Carus, Paul. The Parables of Buddha. London: The Open Court Publishing Company, 1915.

Lie, Kåre A, tr. Buddhas samtaler: De lange tekstene. Digha Nikaya. Bind 2. Det store bindet: Mahavagga. Oslo: Solum Forlag, 2005.

Mahaswamigal, Abhinava Vidyatheertha. Edyfying Parables. 1st ed., digital version. Guindy, Chennai: Sri Vidyatheertha Foundation, 2014.

Vermes, Geza. The Authentic Gospel of Jesus. London: Penguin, 2005.

Vermes, Geza. "From Jewish to Gentile: How the Jesus Movement Became Christianity." Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) 38:06, Nov/Dec 2012.

Vermes, Geza. The Real Jesus: Then and Now. Minneapolis, MI: Fortress Press, 2010.

Vermes, Geza. The Story of the Scrolls: The Miraculous Discovery and True Significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls. London: Penguin, 2010b.

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