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. You do not have to look it up, for Jesus says that his teachings were for Jews only (Matthew 15:24; 10:5-8). Show some respect; abstain from teachings that Jesus explicitly says are reserved for Jews only, like his kingdom - that is, unless you are a Christian Jew. The renowned Bible scholar Geza Vermes ascertains these teachings of Jesus (2010:37,41; 2012).
Most Christians are non-Jews, and consequently do not have to guess what any of the parables of Jesus might mean, for they are not aimed at non-Jews, says Jesus in a gospel (Matthew 15:24; 10:3-8). These are really good tidings for a lot of people, since Jesus also said he came only for ill (depraved) Jews, and led them to self-mutilations, poverty, non-planning for the morrow, and the resulting, often marring lives. There is reason to be thankful to the Spirit and all the apostles. They decided on just requirements for non-Jews, and by that they might have showed the just respect for sayings of Jesus. After all, they were only for ill Jews, not healthy ones, who do not need him, je says. I just tell you what is in the Bible. [Look up!]
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?
The New Testament is the cause of lots of problems, but note that (1) the parables of Jesus are largely in vain, he emphasises, quoting the prophet Isaiah (Matthew 13:14-15), and (2) they are for Jews only (read: ill Jews, not healthy ones), he also says. Well, they are in vain, he says in the gospel of Matthew. So what does it matter if you miss them?
Consider how the first Christians did not have any gospels that we know of either; the four gospels in the Bible were written tens of years later, and parts were inserted a hundred years later or so too. They are in part forgeries. Thus, there are verbatim sayings written by Jesus. Bible scholars essentially agree on that.
Ask and find or not
Note the confusion about what happens to those who ask and known in Matthew 7:7-8 versus Matthew 25:1-13. In one saying all who ask and know are let in; in the other only half of them. What is more, most Christian answersfor world peace go unanswered too. The reason could be shaggy - or let us say the promises were for Jews only - with a few exceptions.
Secret and not secret
In John 18:20 he says he always taught openly and not in secret, while in Matthew 13:11 he told his disciples that he had given them knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but not to others.
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. That could all be good.
Buddhism is a vast field to study, and there is much to be aware of.
Understand in advance and be spared of lots of troubles
As distinct from gospel parables, the parables of Buddha are not aimed at hopeless cases for most part. They are made to be helpful and fruitful. Buddha teaches by parables (stories) to offer uplifting, seminal ideas. That is different from the schemes of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 13:13-14. Beware of 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 just blind belief [Kalama Sutta]. But to be duly informed is fit.
◎ Helpful tellings are of many kinds.
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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