I think all teachings are best not taken altogether literally. Learning needs space for new understandings to flower. I dont think real knowledge can come from taking a bunch of concepts we already think we understand and mixing them up in various ways to form new meanings. If we listen to the words of the Buddha with a strictly defined idea of what each word means then we will only get a different way of looking at what we already know. It seems to me that the Buddha knew this was the case. I think he taught in a way that would bring a greater degree of happiness and prosperity for those who take him literally as well as in a way that would lead some to transcendence. This is where I think we must tread very lightly. We must do our best to allow for literal understandings which foster well being. This is not easy and that is why I defer to the Buddha. I actually think Karma and Rebirth is the closest and most compassionate way reality can be described when we expect to be taken literally.
Edited for more clarity
Last edited by Prasadachitta
on Wed Jan 14, 2009 5:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332