Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters


How Did the Buddha Use Metaphor?

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

The Buddha used metaphors as upaya, which translate to skillful means. One Buddhist scholar said, “The Buddha’s skill in teaching the Dharma, demonstrated in his ability to adapt his message to the context in which it was delivered. Parables, metaphors, and similes formed an important part of his teaching repertoire, skillfully tailored to suit the level of his audience.” Of course Buddha itself is a metaphor, a buddha is one who has become buddho – awake. In this case awakened to the nature of reality. This reality includes what he called dukkha. This is a tough concept to translate from the original Pali, and is often translated as “suffering” Suffering but literally translates as “bad-wheel”. Suffering captures some of the concept, but not all of it. Dissatisfaction captures another portion or a sense of something being off with all our experiences. The Buddha explained dukkha through the metaphor of the bad wheel an oxcart whose axle was out of one of the wheels creating a wobbly, uneven ride down the road. That image captures the sense of dukkha that can’t be captured in words themselves. It pervades everything and biases how we think and feel.

BS07006.jpg

The Buddha used metaphors relevant to the material of his time: fire, water, earth, wind, war, and so forth. The suttas are rife with metaphor. For instance, the self was likened to a fire; it has some kind of existence but changes moment by moment. It’s a process not a solid thing. When I wrote my first book, Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness, I used a lot of the the Buddha’s metaphors, but at the time I didn’t realize how pervasively he relied upon them. I also knew that to understand the mind we must turn to metaphors and the self too. What I didn’t realize until later when I was teaching workshops based on the book that not can we only understand the self through metaphors, the self, itself, IS a metaphor. Our understanding of ourselves in this moment is understood and experienced through reference to previous moments of self (remembering) or anticipated moments of self (imagination). This is what the Buddha meant when he said the self was empty — anatta (no self). 



Previous Posts

Buddhist Icon--Thich Nhat Hanh Recovering in Hospital
Beloved Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh (TNH) has experienced a severe cerebral hemorrhage and remains in critical condition. He recently had his 88th Birthday. I surmise that he is, along with the Dalai, Lama, one of the two most readily recognized Buddhist figures in the world today. Af

posted 6:27:39am Nov. 18, 2014 | read full post »

Mindfulness with a Capital "M"
A recent Telegraph column asked if mindfulness lives up to its hype. The author, Polly Vernon, predicts that "mindfulness" will be the OED's (Oxford English Dictionary) word of the year. That would not surprise me. She goes on to give a favorable if at first skeptical review of the practice. Having

posted 12:19:27pm Nov. 04, 2014 | read full post »

Time to Wake Up: Reading Your Way to Awakening
We have been asleep, collectively and individually and there is a growing call to wake up. The Buddha was the first to suggest this change in consciousness 2500 years ago (and as you know the term buddha means one who has awakened). And now there are three books that have come to my attention with w

posted 11:05:45am Oct. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Citizen of the Cosmos
I recently heard Ann Druyan interviewed on Radio Lab. She spoke of falling in love with Carl Sagan when they were working together on the Voyager mission in the late 70s, where she was in charge of developing the content that would be sent out into space for alien cultures to discover. It was a touc

posted 9:59:05am Oct. 14, 2014 | read full post »

The Present Heart: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Discovery
Polly Young-Eisendrath has a new book out, her fourteenth. This is a book like no other that I've ever read. It is a memoir and it recounts events that I lived through as dharma friends of Polly and the love of her life, Ed Epstein. The Present Heart is a statement on the nature of love. It defin

posted 8:41:37am Oct. 09, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.