Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Siddhartha

A subject that I never thought I would be commenting on, Siddhartha Gautama, Buddha. A few nights ago I could not sleep and I watched “The Buddha”, a PBS program, online.  It is very well made. The program through simple voices tells the story of Buddha.

It is the story of a prince, Siddhartha, who in his world of pleasures was oblivious to the concept of suffering. On a few occasions that he left his world of fulfilled desires he got rattled coming into contact with the sufferings of the ordinary people. On another occasion he met a sage who was in pursuit of an answer to the problem of sufferings. This pursuit became his new desire which he followed to the extremes. He rejected deities that appeared on his path calling him back. Instead he persisted, focusing on self depravation as the way to the ultimate answer. He was not an agent of any deity; he was not a prophet. He was a seeker, on a quest, for an answer to a question that had confounded him. He went through multiple sages preponderant at that age and he put their practices to his test with zeal.

His experiments brought him to the edge of annihilation. At the final moments, in his mind, he reviewed what went before. At some point it dawned on him that he really had not chosen a different path from his past. He had merely substituted a different longing for his rejection of princely desires; and he is suffering for it. He recognized that he is part of a whole, a changing world, that he could not extract himself from and the root of all his sufferings were in his desires. His conclusion was that less desire would reduce sufferings. Through the process of subduing all desires, by some interpretations the elimination of harmful desires, one could reach the state of Nirvana. This recognition was his awakening, becoming a Buddha. Teaching of what he had learned became his lifelong pursuit and subsequently the root of Buddhism.

It is a simple story that touches many of our lives; whereby pursuits turned into struggle against oneself, always mixed with sufferings and anguish. And this recognition opened up new pursuits and new longings. I can only be thankful that there is no Nirvana.

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