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When Metahors Die

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  • Mr. X
    When Metaphors die At the 14th Biennial COnference of the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies (June 12-14, 2009 Ryukoku University, Kyoto,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 2, 2009
      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
      changing minds."

      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.

      -jim davis-
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