The Buddha’s teaching are full of such similes and metaphors.
The Buddha narrated thousands of stories and anecdotes to make the disciples appreciate a point. All the stories in the five hundred and fifty Jataka Tales (Birth stories ) were narrated to the disciples on various occasions in relation to various incidents.
The Buddha performed his educational service by questioning by responding to questions from students by delivering discourse on some specific topics by discussions and introducing techniques that would enable the disciples to understand matters for themselves.
In the monasteries he dwelt in there were auditoriums. The pulpit in the centre of such auditoriums was always reserved for the Buddha. when the disciples were visit the place and would occupy the pulpit reserved for him. Then he would participate in the discussion that had been going on. He would ask the monks.
“ What were you discussing before I came in here ? “
One monk out of the whole totally silent congregation will stand up and say,
“ O sir, we did not indulge in those thirty – two forms of talks like talking about kings, thieves etc. we were discussing such and such an incident relating to such and such a monk”.
At that point the Budddha will reveal an aspect of the incident that no one knew until then. Those monks who listen to him begin to admire the Buddha more and more.
The Buddha unlike most other teachers didi not use only his monastery or his auditorium for teaching. The Buddha taught him disciples mostly in the open air. The Buddha’s class room were sandy stretches, shade of trees, fields, pasture-land, poor hovels, the public roads and the forest. These were places Buddha quoted examples and instances from what was
found then and there right before their eyes.
The Buddha would teach in such a pragmatic way that when a disciple brings a vessel filled with water to wash his feet. He would use that itself as the topic to teach the disciple leading to his attainment of Arahantship (Sainthood).
The Buddha instructed Ven. Chulla Panthaka to rub a piece of pure white cloth with both his hands looking at the sun repeating ‘Rajo haranam – rajo haranam’.(Removing blemishes). That young monk who was dejected that he could not memorize just one stanza though he tried hard for four months become an Arahant as result of the Buddha’s psychologically structured instruction.
When the Buddha visits a field where cultivators are at work he teaches making use of the plough the ploughing the farmer the grains and the cattle as metaphors. When he visits a river where people bathe to cleanse themselves of sin the Buddha teaches them putting forward valid reasons that sins cannot be got rid of by washing them away in a holy river.
When he goes to a forest he compares what he has taught and what he has not taught to leaves that are fallen dried leaves that still remain in the trees respectively. When he goes to a cemetery he instructs the disciples taking a dead body as the example.
The Buddha heard that Sirimaa the beautiful courtesan had died suddenly. The Buddha instructed King Kosala not to cremate the body of that courtesan who had conquerd the whole city with her bewitching beauty. He instructed the king to keep her body at the cemetery for four days protecting it so that animals could not get near it. The people of that city there on the fourth day. The king acted as instructed.
On the appointed day the cemetery was totally crowded with the peoples who had assembled there on the king’s orders. The Buddha arrived at the cemetery with his disciples at the appointed time. The Buddha requested the king to auction Sirima’s body which had been valued at thousands of gold coins per hour when she was alive.
King Kosala started the auction indicating an initial value of a thousand gold coins. He asked the people to make bids. There ware no bidders. He lowered price to five hundred gold coins. And at the end he brought it down to one gold coin. Still there were no bidders. Then the king asked the people to take it free. No one was willing to take away that body
which at that point was bloated and was oozing at all orifices.
The Buddha gave those teeming crowds assembled there a discourse on the impermanence of beauty the illusion of beauty and that it was folly to be overwhelmed by beauty. This way the Buddha taught the people a practical lesson about the futility of being deceived by beauty.