Long before the Buddha attained his enlightenment and became the Buddha, he was a man called Gautama Siddharata.
Gautama Siddharata was born into royalty. He was the prince of an Indian province, and the leader of tens of thousands of people. Soon after he was born, a sage prophesied that Gautama would either become a great king or a great spiritual inspiration. Gautama’s father, of course, wanted him to reach greatness as a king and this is where he committed a mistake.
The king locked his young prince within the boundaries of the palace, hoping that the pomp and glamour of belonging to royalty would keep him contented. The young Gautama, who was being groomed to become a great king, never got a chance to understand the ways of the world he was supposed to lead.
When he did get a chance, the boy who was used to a life of luxury, was shocked to witness the natural sufferings of the aged and the infirm. Gautama was never taught the cycle of life, and became depressed over something that he could not comprehend. When he went in search of answers, he was accosted by peace in the form of sainthood, and Gautama yielded to temptation.
So, Gautama Abandoned…
Before Gautama left his kingdom and his people, in search of his enlightenment, he had fathered a child. Gautama was also husband to his young wife, Yashoda, who herself had only recently left her own home to find security and hope in another.
Gautama was a son too. As was, and still is, the practice among many Indians, the parents continue to live with their children even after they become adults. The concept behind this is that at first, the adult cares for the child, and later, the child for the adult, thus giving a continuity to the cycle of life. So, Gautama’s old parents lived with him, in the palace, and in the hope that their son would care for them in their invalid stage.
Gautama, though, was very dis-satisfied and wanted something else that he could not name. So, he abandoned his palace, his infant son, his young wife, his old parents, and his entire nation to find his “awakening.” Gautama shook off his duties and responsibilities because, he, wanted to do some soul-searching.
While a part of world will always dislike Gautama for abandoning his duties, some of us would have realized that what Gautama became was the result of “bad parenting.”
And when Gautama transformed into the Buddha…
Among the many concepts that spiritual awakening brings forward, is the concept of dharma. But what is this dharma? Dharma is doing the right thing, all the time and at any point of time.
We all have a duty towards everyone we are connected with. Our connections do not restrict themselves to our family and work. Our connection also takes us way beyond and deeper inside. We have an in-built connection with our own “selves.” Our duty towards ourselves, our duty towards our family, our duty towards our work, and our duty towards our community – everything becomes our dharma.
Buddhism talks about adherence to dharma probably because Gautama himself had, unfortunately, abandoned his dharma. I have always wondered why Buddhist monks are not allowed to have a family. It is probably because they are not allowed to walk away from one.
Another important concept that the Buddha taught was taking the middle path – one that stabilizes the conscious self with the subconscious self. It means that we need to balance our subconscious wants and desires with our conscious decisions to act or not act upon them. This also means that while you can buy a favourite dress, you cannot always reach out for that dress you want, or eat that food you crave, or speak out that retort that is forming in your tongue. You can stop to smell the roses, but not all the time, because someone or something is waiting for you on your way, in your home, or at your work place.
Finding that Elusive Inner Peace…
How do we find inner peace if we are not always allowed to do things that please us? Life, is like the spokes of a wheel. It is something that moves continuously in-between birth and death. Everything that we experience in life, right from to happiness and sadness to birth and death of a loved one, is always something that is lost and found. Peace is just like that. It is something that we lose and find every day.
The path that is laid out by dharma is the only path that will take us towards inner peace. Follow our choice of career, take care of our health, make time for our family and friends, enhance our intelligence, and occasionally, do our bit for the community. When we do this, we don’t have to go in search of peace, peace will come in search of us.
Kanika Kumar is a poet-writer who is trying to make sense of and organise the great chaos that exists around her.
If you want to lead a full-life and need some help with it, you will get it from Abirambika Ravivarman. She is a life coach who has made it her life’s mission to help people lead full lives. Register for her workshops here.