The Sunday Spiritual Column : 9th July Remembering the Buddha

Gautama Buddha. One of the greatest spiritual masters to emerge from India. Historians claim that he was the founder of Buddhism, since that seemed most logical to them. The name Buddha, which means ‘The Awakened One’, was bestowed upon him when a barking dog disturbed his slumber one winter night. Taking that as a spiritual cue, he proceeded to leave his home and family in search of the ULTIMATE TRUTH. And also the dog that woke him up. But, let’s start from the beginning.

Buddha was born a prince to King Suddhodhana in the state of Kosala in 500 BC. He was named ‘Siddhartha’ by his parents, which means the ‘One who Lives Forever’, (as long as he didn’t get the bird flu). During the birth celebrations, the court astrologer announced that the baby was destined to become a great king or a great holy man. He would be diabetic either way. His father, wishing for Gautama to be a great king, shielded his son from any knowledge of human suffering. He was not told about the horror of death or even burnt toast,for that matter. He thus grew up merrily with his friends making fun of the Sanskrit language and mocking damsels who kept flowers in their hair for no apparent reason.

At the age of 21, he got married to Yashodhara, who was very beautiful but kept calling him ‘Sid’, which was too hip for those times. She was a good wife and they soon had a son. Rahula grew up to be exactly like his father; in that he too was firmly convinced that Sanskrit grammar was written by someone with a poor sense of humour. (Rahula later became a famous scholar. His deepest desire was to translate Kalidasa’s ‘Meghdootam’ to Pali – something that did not amuse the aged Kalidasa who had written it in Pali to begin with).

As fate would have had it, one day while venturing outside of his palace, Gautama saw an old crippled man (old age), a diseased man (illness), a decaying corpse (death), and an ascetic. He got inspired by the ascetic, who, strangely enough, had a beard so long that he kept tripping himself on it while walking. Siddhartha was firmly convinced that there was no point in living a worldly life anymore, given that his broadband connection was not all that fast either. Without telling anyone, he left the palace in the night with no pocessions. He lived the life of a wandering monk for two years before it struck him that he could have asked someone for directions.

He dedicated his life to learning how to overcome the causes of human suffering. Or a strong headache, at the least. He meditated constantly and although he achieved high levels of meditative consciousness, he felt something was lacking. He got himself a deer-skin mat to meditate on, which seemed a good idea till the deer woke up. That was when he learnt his first big lesson in life. He then began living an ascetic life and practicing vigorous techniques of physical and mental austerity. He once stood upside down for 3 days at a stretch but had to give it up since taking bath was becoming a challenge. Finally, he gave up all efforts and got enlightened while sitting under a Bodhi tree. From that day, he was known as the ‘The Great One’ and the ‘One who Knows Everything’, apart from where Bin Laden is right now.

He gathered a few disciples around him and started giving sermons on Dharma. According to the law of Dharma, one should always live a life of total righteousness and truth, unless you were playing a game of poker with high stakes. He emphasized that he was not a God and there was no God in fact. He soon earned a reputation for being an atheist just because he said there was no God. Once, one of his disciples claimed that he had not only seen God but also had a cup of tea with him. The Buddha said – “Prove it”. The disciple then realised his mistake and left for the forest where he spent the rest of his days sneaking up on tigers and yelling ‘Boo’. The Buddha advised everyone to meditate sincerely and achieve ‘Nirvana’, which was a handy state to be in if you couldn’t afford good clothes. For more than 40 years, he gave discourses to the disciples who bothered to stay awake during these sessions and take down notes. Among his famous discourses are the ones on the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path and the Twelve Noble Players who would win France the Football World Cup.

At the age of 80, the Buddha announced that he would soon be leaving his body and entering a state of deathlessness. Deathlessness, he said, was the same as being eternal, but one could live ten more years in the former condition. The Buddha then had his final meal and laid down on his bed and passed away. His final words were, “All worldly things pass away. Strive for your salvation with diligence. And never accept candy from strangers.”

Thus ended the life of one of India’s greatest spiritual masters who was never charge-sheeted by the CBI in his lifetime. Peace.


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