When Metahors Die
- When Metaphors die
At the 14th Biennial COnference of the International Association of
Shin Buddhist Studies (June 12-14, 2009 Ryukoku University, Kyoto,
Japan) Eiken Kobai the spiritual leader of western shin buddhist
fundimentalists gave a talk entitled "About the Potential of True and
Real Shinjin in the world of the 21st Century." He quoted aprrovingly
the following statement from Josho Adrian (a Romanian shin priest):
"Who are we to modify the teachings left to us by our Masters? Do we
think we are like them? The teaching is a medicine made by Buddhas, Bodhisattvas
and Masters and is given to sick people like us to take it exactly as it was
prescribed. How can a sick person, an unenlightened person, be better than a
doctor or an Enlightened One, and modify the medicine?
Are all these false modern teachers and people who support such false views as
Amida being a fictional character, already Enlightened? Are they
Buddhas,Bodhisattvas or the same with Shinran and Rennyo? On what authority can
they modify the sacred teaching, the medicine given to us by the
Buddhas,Bodhisattvas and our Masters? My opinion is that we should be more
concentrated on learning the sacred words of our teaching, humbly letting
ourselves be guided by them, and stop changing them to accommodate with our
I feel the metaphor of a doctor giving medicine to a patient in which
the patient has no right to challenge the doctor is in this modern
age an insufficient and broken metaphor.
Why Do I say this? Because doctors in the modern world are not the
same as when the Buddha used them in a metaphoric sense.
Medicine is an ever changing field. Often what once worked can now be
considered poison. We laugh at medical treatments given 40 years ago
and will in the future laugh at the treatments given today (I am sure
leeches were the cutting age of Medieval medicine but you would not
want to use them today). Some doctors experiment with paitents. Some
are swayed by drug companies to prescribe one drug when another one
could do the job better and cheaper.
As for not challegening a doctors advice, this is dangerous in the
modern context. Present the same set of symptoms to two different
doctors and you can get two different diagnosises. The patient has to
be knowledgable; has to be able to make a wise choice. One has to be
able to stop using medication when it does not work. One has the duty
and right to go against medical advice at times.
So I feel the doctor and medicine metaphor is broken and not a much
value (tho I admit in the context of 6th Century India it had more
Note: Adrain says were cannot change the dharma and refers to Rennyo
and Shinran, both of whom introduced new ideas into Buddhism and in
Shinrans case made some very unliteral translations of sutras to make
his case. Thus Shinran offers us an example of changing the dharma to
suit the needs of his time and place.