bringingupbuddhas

suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

Category: quotes

my first time with his holiness the dalai lama

I’m going to start off by asking you to not only read this article, but share it.  Facebook, Twitter, email, text, anything.  A bold way to start, I know, but these words have very little to do with my ambitions as a writer and everything to do with us…  you, me, them.  Us.  Oh, and there’s a lot of punctuation ahead, but just push your way through it, annoying as those little dots and curved lines can be.

I’ll start by setting the scene.  My friend LB tipped me off that His Holiness the Dalai Lama would be speaking in Boston this fall, promoting The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics & Transformative Values at MIT, a non-partisan think tank organized in honor of HHDL’s vision to enact holistic education focusing on human and global ethics.

I eagerly bought two tickets for my husband and me and yesterday we were blessed to sit just 20 feet from His Holiness while he shared thoughts on religion, ethics, values and wellbeing.   I snuck the pic above with my iPhone, hence the crappy quality.  Anyway, here’s the story, peppered with my own interpretations and common sense applications of the day’s events:

JAMES TAYLOR:  An emotional opening act

We begin with Boston’s beloved James Taylor warming up the crowd for His Holiness, inspiring a thousand lips to curl up at the corners with his beautiful folk music, as he’s accompanied by BSO’s Owen Young on cello.  The playlist includes You’ve Got a Friend, a cover of I’m a Roadrunner, a folk version of Bach.  Fat tears roll down my cheeks as he sings Sweet Baby James.  I feel as if he sings this sweet lullaby just for me, as I had sung it for my own sweet babies each night as they fell asleep in my arms.

He nears the end of his set, “Shower the people you love with love…  show them the way you feel…”, a heavy door left of the stage opens and the audience breathes a collective gasp.  People rise to their feet, hands to heart center as the one and only Dalai Lama steps into the room, surrounded by crimson-robed monks and dark-suited bodyguards.  His presence alone inspires awe, love and hopefulness.  After a surge of clapping, the group sits down and JT invites his wife and daughter to the stage to join him in one last song before His Holiness takes over.  It is a lovely moment.

HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA:  Quotes, insights and paradigm shifts

His Holiness mounts the stage with his trusted interpreter, greeting fellow panelists:  Father Thomas Keating, a Cistercian monk and priest of St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, founder of The Centering Prayer Movement of Contemplative Outreach, and author of several books including Open Mind Open Heart; and Brother David Steindl-Rast, co-founder of The Center for Spiritual Studies, a center incorporating thoughts from Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Sufi religions, founder of gratefulness.org, and author many books including Words of Common Sense for Mind, Body and Soul.  The panel is moderated by Liz Walker, former anchor at WBZ News in Boston, now a reverend at Roxbury Presbytarian Church and founder of My Sister’s Keeper, a grassroots human rights initiative for women in Sudan.

Bows and friendly gestures are exchanged amongst the spiritual brothers and then His Holiness turns to us, his adoring fan club, bowing and smiling.  He begins our first lesson of the day:  The Biological Factor, linking science and Buddhism with our every day actions.  Always the gentleman, he delivers a message to ladies first…

He tells us that the most important thing one can do in life is mother affectionately.  Though we aren’t all mothers, we all have mothers, so everyone can understand.  As new human beings, the first thing we look for is nurturing love from our mothers.   HHDL says, “Right away, the newborn knows how to find the…  the…  the…  [Interpreter:  ‘teats’]  the…  [‘teats’]  no, the…  [‘teats’]  PIMPLE!  [‘NIPPLE!’]”  Laughter ensues.

Comedy aside, his point is perfection.  A good life begins with a loving foundation.  Love is the natural tendency, the biological tendency.  “Females have more sensitivity about others’ suffering,” he says in thickly accented staccato, “Not religious belief.  Biological factor.  Female should take more active role in this field.”  (Thunderous applause.)

I get it.  I understand it.  It registers.  BIOLOGY IS LOVE.  Same, same.  ((MC, I swear I actually hear HHDL say that and I’m snickering!))  He says that we need to teach children love, kindness and compassion the same way we teach children science.  The two are braided together to form the whole tightly-woven truth.  Without an intimate understanding of love, how can we understand our own biology?    His Holiness urges us to educate mankind about the science of loving kindness and about the science of happiness rather than leaving that responsibility to religion or by filtering love through the lens of any one religion.  Love is for everyone, believers and non-believers.  Science has caught up to what spiritually rich people have known for centuries.  Love is real, love is ethics, love is responsibility, love is mainstream.  And just to prove the point, one of the best universities in the world, MIT, is backing up that theory by opening The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics & Transformative Values.

HHDL continues, “Religion gives us practice of hypocrisy, because in reality [people] don’t care about the philosophy of teachings.  They have no firm connection about these basic values…  [We must] educate them through scientific finding and common sense for happy life, happy family,  happy community.”

His Holiness is telling us that he understands – religion teaches strict dogma and demands standards that are so hard to meet that most people give up.  We disconnect.  We stop caring.  We float through life without any solid foundation in spirituality or love.  We live our lives on the foundation of selfishness, of arrogance.  We do this.  You, me, us, them.  We.  We take things because we want them.  We buy things because we need them.  We waste things because we can.  We hurt people because we don’t think.  WE DON’T THINK ABOUT THE EFFECT WE HAVE ON EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE ONE AROUND US.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

His Holiness reminds us, “Each person can make a difference. [We] should not think of ourselves as helpless.  A worldwide movement first starts from individual.  First one.  Then your neighbor.  Then ten families.  Then a thousand families.  Share with more people…  more people.  Think more and keep enthusiasm to do something.”  (English is obviously not his first language but, trust me, no love lost in this room.)

“A lot of our problems are of our own creation,” he presses on.  Yes, yes, yes I’m thinking.  We’ve created an ocean of garbage.  We’ve destroyed forests.  We’ve hunted and killed animals for sport.  We’ve bought handbags made my 5 year olds in Vietnam.  We’ve eaten food full of chemicals wrapped up in slippery plastic bags.  We’ve done all of this without thinking.

“Ignorance is the opposite of understanding.  Investigate with a calm mind.  Know reality.  Think.  Then decide,” His Holiness gently impresses.  Think.  That’s all we have to start doing.  Think.  And this is something that each person can do on his or her own.  Just think twice before buying that case of plastic water bottles.  Think twice before leaving the house with the lights on.  Think twice before walking past a person on the street without acknowledging their presence with a smile.  JUST THINK.

These days, we adults are like toddlers in a toy store.  We pull everything out, cause chaos and disorder, push each other around, break everything then leave behind a mess for someone else to clean.  And like small children, we don’t think twice because we don’t realize we have impact.  We don’t realize we matter.  It’s just a plastic bottle.  It’s just a new car.  It’s just a rude comment.  It’s just a middle finger.

As a parent, I understand the frustration of having to sweep up after mischievous kids.  So I should have more understanding.  I should be thinking twice, no three times, before I make a mess.  Where was this dress made?  Do I really need to redecorate my living room?  What’s in a Swedish Fish anyway?  Could I be kinder to people who challenge me?  Could I stop engaging in gossip?  Because here in the grown-up land of planet Earth, my parents won’t be cleaning it up.  My children will.  And depending on the behavior we model, they can continue the cycle or they can start a new one.  There is no politician, no judge or teacher who has more power over the direction of this planet than a mother.  Each mother has an enormous responsibility to offer her children opportunities to THINK about their impact on this planet.  But in the end, it’s up to all of us to be better, to do better.

THIS WORLD REVOLVES AROUND YOU.  THEREFORE YOU MATTER.  EVERYTHING YOU DO… EVERY THOUGHT YOU THINK…  IT ALL MATTERS.

So now that you know you matter, what do you do?  Ignore the call?  Pretend it never happened?  Or do you join the wave of goodness?  Do you start playing the role of responsible human being?  After all, in a hundred years we’ll all be dead.  But our grandchildren will be here.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to train our children to make responsible choices and practice loving kindness by modeling that behavior ourselves?  How else will they learn?  Loving kindness is taught at home, not in school.  At least not yet. 😉

FATHER THOMAS KEATING:  Not your mother’s Father

Now, most of my friends are Christians, and regardless of your level of Christian devotion, I think you’ll be very interested in learning more about Father Thomas Keating.   If you love your faith and believe in God but are sometimes frustrated by the church’s narrow interpretation of the Bible, boy, have I got a monk for you.  If you are searching for a modern take on Christianity, Father Thomas is the just the 80 year old priest that will inspire you to connect fully and passionately to your faith.

I am not your mother’s Father, are the words he does not say, but then again, doesn’t have to.

Father Thomas begins by talking about evolution, setting the tone right away.  The earth is fully populated and this, he considers as proof that the human species is fully evolved.  He challenges, “It’s time to look at the development of consciousness that is beyond biological.”  He goes on, saying that as spiritual seekers, we are constantly searching for union with God, as if God is the “Other”.

“There is no ‘Other’,” he says emphatically, “Everything is a manifestation of the source.”  In other words, we are already in union with God, we just need to awaken to it.  Our problem is that we, “want to become God on our own terms.”  (Yes, yes, I am with you, Father Thomas.)  He tells us we need to reduce our selfishness by serving others.  “We think satisfaction of our emotional needs is happiness, even if it’s brief,” but God is not brief, God is everlasting, so in order to become God, we must invest our efforts in activity that provides us with longterm clarity and peace.

My interpretation:  Stop behaving badly, stop treating our bodies like garbage disposals, stop being assholes to each other and stop disrespecting this planet.  The human race evolved so we could stop acting like animals.  And that’s just what we’re doing!  We are a temporary embodiment of holy spirit.  When we die and shed our skin, all of the bullshit drags our souls down.  Our souls want to rise!  We can elevate by honoring the beautiful energy within us by investing in the intangibles, discovering happiness, serving mankind.

BROTHER DAVID STINDL-RAST:  With gratitude for saying the words we need to hear

Brother David Steindl-Rast (WHOM I ABSOLUTELY LOVE!!!!!!!!) completes Father Thomas’ point by sharing a quote from Father Thomas Merton:  “GOD ISN’T SOMEONE ELSE.”  Wait, wait, wait.  Did you hear that?

GOD ISN’T SOMEONE ELSE.

The audience is awake.  We are all taken by Brother David.  He speaks, we applaud.  He speaks, we applaud.  He is wonderful.  He tells us that God is a mystery that doesn’t fit into the limited institutions that we’ve created to contain it.  He urges, “A non-violent revolution against power structure must be started in small communities.”

By revolution, he is telling us that NOW is the time that we can create a better future for the human race.  It has to be now.  (If not now, when?)  We have building momentum, maybe just a loving trickle at this point.  But by adding more mindful energy to the revolution, we can create a steady stream.  And then a flood.  Until we discover we are swimming in our new normal.  Welcome the Christians.  Welcome the Buddhists.  Welcome the Mulims, the Hindus, the Jews, the Sufis, the Non-believers.  Because regardless of our religious beliefs, science has proven something that we can all agree on.  LOVE MAKES EVERYTHING BETTER.

Liz Walker asks Brother David, “Are we guilty of failing God?”

He responds by bringing the conversation full circle, conjuring up an image of a mother at home with her baby, splattering food on the floor and misbehaving.  The mother doesn’t accuse the baby of being a failure.  She loves him and encourages him to do better.  Brother David tells us to do the same, “Look at the world with eyes of a mother and say, ‘You can do better.'”

“Write that one down!  Write that one down!”  My husband whispers as I scribble frantically into my notebook.

POST-GURU FEAST

Like any spiritual junkie, after the conference broke up, my husband and I find ourselves with a glorious high and a serious case of the munchies.  We walk over to Legal Seafoods and order a feast of salad and fish.   We pour over my messy notes and chatter excitedly about our own interpretations and moments of awakening.  We are wrapped in enthusiasm all the way home, where we joyfully embrace our children who have missed us all day.  And then, we pass out.  Because like any spiritual junkie, we cannot escape the crash.

So this morning, I write and think and meditate my way through my first spiritual hangover.  Hair of the dog.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

the manure of experience

a pic of the author, chogyam trungpa.  i love this shot b/c of his expression.  he was a tibetan buddhist but he was also a little naughty and crazy and flamboyant.  some called him the rock star guru.  he lived a *real* life and i think that’s why his teachings connect with modern buddhists so deeply.

i earmarked this excerpt from MEDITATION IN ACTION by chogyam trungpa.  it’s a little sliver of a book.  shambala publications (here in boston) published a 40th anniversary edition in 1991 and i found a copy buried in a discount box at borders on boylston street.  the translation is a little funky but it has so many pearls of wisdom.  this is a portion of one of my favorite chapters entitled “the manure of experience and the field of bodhi”.  i read it over and over and it can apply to almost any situation in life.  enjoy…

It is said, I think in the Lankavatara Sutra, that unskilled farmers throw away their rubbish and buy manure from other farmers, but those who are skilled go on collecting their own rubbish, in spite of the bad smell and the unclean work, and when it is ready to be used they spread it on their land, and out of this they grow their crops.  That is the skilled way.  In exactly the same way, the Buddha says, those who are unskilled will divide clean from unclean and will try to throw away samsara and search for nirvana, but those who are skilled bodhisattvas will not throw away desire and the passions and so on, but will first gather them together.  That is to say, one should first recognize and acknowledge them, and study them and bring them to realization.  So the skilled bodhisattva will acknowledge and accept all these negative things.  And this time he really knows that he has all these terrible things in him, and although it is very difficult and unhygienic, as it were, to work on, that is the only way to start.  And then he will scatter them on the field of bodhi.  Having stuided all these concepts and negative things, when the time is right he does not keep them anymore, but scatters them and uses them as manure.  So out of these unclean things comes the birth of the seed which is realization.  This is how one has to give birth.  And the very idea that concepts are bad, or such-and-such a thing is bad, divides the whole thing, with the result that you are not left with anything at all to deal with.  And in that case you either have to be completely perfect, or else battle through all these things and try and knock them all out.  But when you have this hostile attitude and try to suppress things, then each time you knock one things out another springs up in its place, somewhere else.  there is this continual trick of the ego, so that when you try to disentangle one part of the knot, you pull on the string and only make it tighter somewhere else, so you are continually trapped in it.  Therefore the thing is not to battle anymore, not to try and sort out the bad things and only achieve good, but respect them and acknowledge them.  So theory and concepts are very good, like wonderful manure.  Through thousands and thousands of lives we have been collecting so much rubbish that now we have a wonderful wealth of this manure.  It has everything in it, so it would be just the right thing to use, and it would be such a shame to throw it away.  Because if you do throw it away, then all your previous life until today, maybe twenty, thirty or forty years, will have been wasted.  Not only that, but lives and lives and lives will have been wasted, so one would have a feeling of failure.  All that struggle and all that collecting would have been wasted, and you would have to start all over again from the beginning.  Therefore, there would be a great feeling of disappointment, and it would be more a defeat than anything having been gained.  So one has to respect the continual pattern.  One may have broken away from the origin and all sorts of things may have happened.  These may not be particularly good things.  They are rather undesirable and negative.  At this stage there are good tings and bad things, but this collection contains good things disguised as bad and bad disguised as good.

One must respect the flowing pattern of all one’s past lives and the early part of one’s present life right up to today.  And there is a wonderful pattern in it.  There is already a very strong current where many streams meet in a valley.  And this river is very good and contains this powerful current running through it, so instead of trying to block it one should join this current and use it.  This does not mean that one should go on collecting these things over and over again.  Whoever does that would be lacking in awareness and wisdom, he would not have understood the idea of collecting manure.  He could collect it together and acknowledge it, and by acknowledging it he would have reached a certain point and would understand that this manure is ready to be used. 

…and i thought i liked run-on sentences!  great, though, huh?  apply these words to your own life and revisit as you wish…  and in the meantime, know your shit.

peace, love, gratitude,
v

November 13, 2011 entry from my blog Everything Old is New Age Again

wake up, sleepyhead

enlightenment is ultimately something i seek on my own, but sangha is an important part of practice.  fortunately, every day more bu-curious americans join the conversation, looking to learn and share, even if that means committing to two religions at once.  some christian critics call this religious fusion “trendy“.  (go ahead, click on the word trendy, you know you want to.)

in my neighborhood, there aren’t many  buddhists; so i’m thinking “trendy” isn’t the right word for it.  “shifty” is more like it.  this shift, as i see it, is not only a widespread shift in people’s spiritual affiliation, but also a shift in an individual’s view of his/her own human potential.  we are rubbing the sleep out of our eyes, awakening by recognizing the pure consciousness that exists in our hearts.

my step-dad reminded me of a lesson last weekend.  he said, “christ is not someone’s last name, you know.”  yep.  that’s right.  christ is not a surname, christ is consciousness.  each of us has the potential to awaken the christ consciousness within us.  in buddhism we call it buddhahood.  but it’s really the same thing.  we shed the ego, and we allow our spirit to shine.  it’s a very simple idea, but certainly no easy task.

knowing that you are responsible for your soul’s salvation, knowing that enlightenment is within your reach, knowing that your body is here for a limited time only, how does the game change?  can you see beyond the obstacles?  can you focus clearly on the goal, regardless of your circumstances?  can you break away from the pack and give this life your best effort?   just for the day, can you be the best version of yourself?

from mine to yours,

vanessa

suffering: oh, how we love a good train wreck

Last week I shared a traumatic experience with readers.  I was rewarded, in a weird way, with well over 300 hits on that post over 2 days.  Now, I’ve gotta say…  I have logged 200 plus posts in my 2 years of blogging: uplifting, funny, emotional, quirky, informational posts that I write with loving intent.  Never once have I received that many hits on a post in such a short amount of time.

What this tells me, is that people love a good train wreck.

We’re all just a bunch of rubberneckers.  None of us can resist the temptation of watching someone suffer.  We love to watch each other burn, don’t we?  Public hangings, courtroom dramas, war footage, animal attacks, car accidents, couples arguing on the sidewalk, school kids fighting after class, anything on Jerry Springer…  We gather around with curiosity to watch as others suffer.  Sick and twisty, right?  But we’ve all done it.

And this is nothing new.  When I read books or watch movies about King Henry’s England (one of my fave topics) I’m always amazed to see mothers and fathers bringing their kids to watch public executions.  There is one scene in the movie Elizabeth I, in which QEI is tricked into thinking her beloved Jewish doctor, Dr. Lopez, is poisoning her.  She feels she has no choice but to have him executed.  We are flashed forward to a grizzly torture scene where Dr. Lopez watches as his very own intestines are cut out of his body and burned.  Did I mention he is still alive watching this???  Oh, and there are families standing around cheering?  Horrid.  But we watch anyway.

We are voyeurs.

We are curious.

We are glad it’s not us.

We might even feel happy it’s them.

Suffering doesn’t always mean blood and guts.  Suffering can be much more benign.  And I’d bet that we can all relate to certain joys and reliefs found in observing others’ pain.  Watching that woman who always wins first place as she falls down during a race.  (Good, she won’t win this time.)  Finding out your son didn’t make the varsity soccer team, but your neighbor’s son didn’t make it either.  (Phew, he’s not the only one who was cut.)  Learning your co-worker has to cancel his vacation to Barbados b/c a storm damaged his hotel.  (Ha!  Now he’s stuck here like the rest of us.)

There’s nothing to feel bad about.  These are things we think b/c we are wired to think this way.  But.  (There’s always a But.)  We don’t have to think this way.  These thoughts are not creating a better world.  These thoughts are holding us back from standing in the spotlight that is meant to shine on us.  Instead of focusing attention on our own identities, our own stories, our own intentions, we are busy applauding someone else’s failures or feeling jealous of other people’s successful journeys.

Each of us has a path designed specifically for ourselves.  Once we set our intentions straight and start working towards our goals, there won’t be any time to watch others burn.  In fact, when we do come across others’ moments of suffering, we will discover a heightened sense of compassion.  Successful people help others succeed.  Michelle Obama said this beautifully at the DNC last month:

When we succeed in our own stories, we will no longer have the desire to poo poo other people’s efforts to live their best lives.  We can succeed by living mindfully, compassionately, purposefully…  and with intention.

One important addition to today’s story:  I know that spike wasn’t all about rubbernecking.  The high traffic last week tells me something else, something that especially warms my heart.  There are a lot of mommies, friends and readers who appreciated the peek inside a really horrible day in my house.  Through my embarrassing admission, others could see their own households reflected.  And through this reflection might spark the desire to actively heal.  I know that’s what it did for me.  And for that, I’m totally in love with you.  🙂  Well, then again, I was pretty much in love with you already anyway.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

bu-curious word of the day: mahayana ‘n more!

Taking some more baby steps today.  Here are a few more basic terms that I’ve come across often in my first months of Buddhism.

MAHAYANA:  Pronounced “mah-huh-yah-nah”.  This is the branch of Buddhism that originated in India and is believed to be the closest to the Buddha’s teachings.  Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Tibetan traditions are derived from Mahayana.  Through this vein of Buddhism, practitioners evolve for the benefit of all sentient beings.  Mahayanists treasure the contributions made by Bodhisattvas throughout history, whose compassionate and wise contributions are told in classic Buddhist stories and scripture.

BODHISATTVA:  Pronounced “boh-dee-saht-vah”.  The Bodhisattva is inspired through compassion to awaken through a committed Buddhist practice that benefits all sentient beings.

SENTIENT BEING:  This term can represent all conscious life, but it also refers to those who are not enlightened and are therefore trapped in Samsara.

SAMSARA:  Pronounced “sham-sah-rah”, this is the unending cycle of birth, suffering, death and rebirth.  Enlightenment releases sentient beings from Samsara.

BODHICITTA, “boh-dee-chee-tah”, this is the compassionate state of mind of the Bodhisattva that serves as primary motivation for all actions.

The Bodhisattva’s vow from the Avatamsaka Sutra:

Just as all the previous Sugatas, the Buddhas
Generated the mind of enlightenment
And accomplished all the stages
Of the Bodhisattva training,
So will I too, for the sake of all beings,
Generate the mind of enlightenment
And accomplish all the stages
Of the Bodhisattva training.

AVATAMSAKA SUTRA:  Loosely translated in English as the Flower Garland Scripture, this is 40 chapters of scripture about interbeing and the path to enlightenment as taught by the Buddha not long after he became enlightened around 500 BC.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

p.s.

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bu review: deepak chopra’s buddha

I wrote a detailed book review of Deepak Chopra’s fictional novel Buddha about a year ago on Everything Old which, while it is embellished by Chopra’s imagination, is rooted in truth and a wonderfully colorful and soulful version of the life of Prince Siddhartha, the original Buddha.  I’m reposting the crib notes I recorded last year…

September 6, 2011

Do you know the story of Buddha?  Though over the years I’ve learned a bit of Buddhist philosophy, I never took the time to learn about Buddha himself.  Honestly, I didn’t even know if he really existed, which is funny b/c after reading the book Buddha by Deepak Chopra, I found out he did really exist, but then he didn’t really exist either.  This everything-is-nothing philosophy is complicatedly simple.

Here are some spirity crib notes on Chopra’s version of Buddha’s life…

It all starts with a warrior king, Suddhodana, viciously defending his kingdom called Sakya, India, 563 BC.  Though he’s a merciless soldier, he’s a loving husband and worships his wife Maya.  She was unable to conceive a child but Suddhodanna never turned to other women.  One night, Maya had a premonition she’d bear a son.  She rushed to the king’s rooms and 9 months later Prince Siddhartha was born.  Tragically, Maya died shortly after giving birth.

An old ascetic hermit named Asita predicted that this baby would be the Buddha, the One who returns light to the world of suffering.  He visited Mara, a nasty demon who lorded over pain and death, and told him his prediction.  Mara was pissed.  He tried to curse the baby but it didn’t really work.

Meanwhile, a group of high-caste holy men, Brahmins, presented Suddhodana with his son’s astrological charts.  All signs pointed to greatness.  The king was thrilled but there was more.  Siddhartha would rule the four corners of the earth but it was predicted that Suddhondana would disown him as a son in the process, as the boy had a very strong spiritual calling.  Asita confirmed the reports.

Suddhodana wanted his son to be a warrior king like him, so he and the kingdom’s high Brahmin, Canki, composed a plan to keep Siddhartha’s spiritual tendencies smothered by disallowing him to encounter any type of suffering until the age of 32.  Suddhodana banished every single old, sick, disfigured or ugly person in the the kingdom.  He sent them to a place just beyond the kingdom walls called “The Forgotten City”.

Siddhartha lived happily for many years but his pull toward heaven was strong.  He asked big questions and felt deep compassion.  His temperament was mild, not one of a warrior, which disappointed the king.  When his older cousin Devadatta was imported from a neighboring kingdom to teach the prince toughness, Siddhartha was in for a shocker.  This kid was an asshole.  He threw rocks at Siddhartha, teased him, threatened him, disrespected his best friend, a low-caste stable boy named Channa.  The demon Mara tapped into Devadatta easily and planned to use him to rub out the future Buddha, but Mara did not leave it all up to Devadatta.

Mara continued to shadow Siddhartha over the years, too, and crept into the prince’s thoughts formally, encouraging him to become his student.  But so did Asita, who appeared to teach him how to meditate like a yogi and find stillness.

On Siddhartha’s 18th birthday, Suddhodanna threw him a coming out party for the neighboring (enemy) kingdoms, complete with mock battles.  Siddhartha reluctantly participated.  He was an excellent athlete and well-trained warrior so he easily bested his opponents in all matches, and did so without armor.  In his last show of competition, he accidentally pierced his opponents neck with an arrow and the man died.  Devadatta publicly chided him and Channa stepped in to defend.  Siddhartha came between the two and forced the challenge back to himself.  He and Devadatta duked it out.  The prince won, sparing D’s life, and had a godlike moment when he envisioned himself jumping off a cliff in complete peace and heard the words Surrender and be Free.  Channa lived, too, but not without punishment.  Low-castes can be killed for even breathing on a high-caste.  The king whipped him brutally and spared his life.

So in revenge for complete humiliation, Devadatta, the total SOB that he was, found out that Siddhartha had a crush on this girl named Sujata.  Devadatta went to her room at night, raped and killed her, then secretly tossed her body in the river.  Thinking there was a chance she could still be alive, Siddhartha and Channa escaped the kingdom walls to search for her.  What they found instead was The Forgotten City.  Siddhartha couldn’t believe what the king had done to control him.

For the next decade, he spent his time helping the poor.  During this time he also got hitched to a woman named Yashodhara and had a son named Rahula.  He would not stay to watch his family grow, though.  His spiritual calling overwhelmed him and he gave up his worldly status, changed his name to Gautama and retreated to the jungles, forests and mountains of India.

He sought Dharma, gurus, wisdom.  He studied under an ancient hermit and learned to meditate for days on end.  He became frustrated by a monk named Ganaka who challenged his desire to serve others, he met gurus Alara and Udaka who taught him the wisdom of ancient scripture, but Gautama was still not enlightened.  Nobody seemed to be.

So he retreated to cave on the edge of the Himalayas with five ascetic monks who believed he knew the path to enlightenment.  They were in and around that cave for five years.  Gautama basically spent the entire time in samadhi, a deep meditative trance, and the fab five had to wash him, feed him, and keep him propped up.  The monks knew Gautama was someone special and were devoted to his teachings and promise of enlightenment, but the brutal elements and starvation wore them down.  One by one they left Gautama, who would’ve perished if not for a young girl named, get this, Sujata, who climbed the mountain looking for the god who lived there and could bless her upcoming marriage.

When she found him, she nursed him back to health in her dead grandmother’s old shack.  Once he recovered fully, he spent some more QT in samadhi under a pipal tree outside the shack.  There he met Mara and they battled through spirit.  At last, Mara tried to coax Gautama into his trap with an offer of marriage to his three beautiful demon daughters.  Gautama smartly accepted the girls on conditions that they never be desired by or lusted after by him, and that they must learn to love.  The girls turned into demons and disappeared.

Gautama emerged as the Buddha, a living god.

As Buddha, he could bring back the dead and right the wrong.  His powers were miraculous.  He found his fab five and returned to Sakya where a battle was raging beyond the kingdom walls.  He entered the gates and reconnected briefly with his wife and child, enlightening them with one embrace, then headed back outside to take care of the battle, which was in full swing.  The fab five were scared entering the battle scene but Buddha assured them that they could end war with words.  He beamed radiant light and awed the soldiers.  He told the people that they write their own futures, they just have to decide to live it.  The men put down their swords.  Miraculous.

He did, however, allow Devadatta and Channa to violently settle their long-standing personal battle.  The warriors nearly killed each other but because of Buddha’s grace and wisdom, both survived.  Suddhodana, though old and a little nuts, was still king.

Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching his Dharma.  He had a large following that included people from high and low castes, monks and royals.  Even Devadatta and Channa joined him.  He brought yoga to the world and released it to all levels in the social hierarchy of India.  His love knew no boundaries.  His story actually reminds me a lot of Jesus’ story.  The biggest difference being Buddha was able to live a long life and spread his teachings.  He died at 80 from eating bad pork.  (Huh?)

***********

Chopra brought Buddha to life beautifully.  What amazes me about this storyteller is that he presents dialogue and history and spirituality confidently and convincingly and without judgment; in order to do this he’s got to have complete understanding of his subjects and his spirit.  And he does.  He is an extraordinary man.  Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“This world is nothing more than desire, and every desire makes me run after it.  Why?  Because I believe that it’s real.”

“The dust holds its shape for a fleeting moment when I throw it into the air, as the body holds its shape for this brief lifetime.  When the wind makes it disappear, where does the dust go?  It returns to its source, the earth.  In the future that same dust allows grass to grow, and it enters a deer who eats the grass.  The animal dies and turns into dust.  Now imagine that the dust comes to you and asks, ‘Who am I?’  What will you tell it?  Dust is alive in a plant but dead as it lies in the road under our feet.  It moves in an animal but is still when buried in the depths of the earth.  Dust encompasses life and death at the same time.  So if you answer ‘Who am I’ with anything but a complete answer you will have made a mistake.”

“The fire of passion burns out eventually.  Then you dig through the ashes and discover a gem.  You pick it up; you look at it with disbelief.  The gem was inside you all the time.  It is yours to keep forever.  It is buddha.

My ultimate fave and the one I tell my kids every day:  “Winning and losing are the same thing.  Both are nothing.”

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

noble eightfold path: act now and first 25 readers will receive FREE thoughts on suffering!

Mr. Modern Invention, that tricky bastard, makes us believe that suffering is an easy fix.  Countless gadgets have been delivered to us so that we will never be hungry, never be bored, never be lonely, lost, dirty or without a pre-recorded fart sound (yes, there’s an app for that).  We employ all of these material and virtual inventions, wondering how we ever survived without them; and still, we suffer.

Why is that?  I mean, with all of these gadgets, shouldn’t life be perfect?  Or at least be close to it?  Life should at least be sort of easy, right?

But it’s not.

It’s not.

Life is not easy.

And no matter what the next latest-greatest promises, life will not become easier once we invest in it.  The end of suffering is not available in stores.  The end of suffering is available only deep inside ourselves.  And once we think we find the end to suffering, we must continue to practice through dedication and self discovery.  We don’t stop practicing once we find a shiny happy moment of peace.  The moment will pass and another opportunity for growth through suffering will present itself.  Because life changes at such a pace that the ways we suffer change constantly, too.

Buddhism offers a practical Eightfold Path to the end of suffering.  It doesn’t contaminate the earth, stress you out, make you fat or cause break-outs of any kind.  Oh, and it’s free.  Yah, baby.  Remember those Four Noble Truths we learned about?  Well, this is that path eluded to in the fourth truth, which is broken down into three parts:  Wisdom, Ethical Conduct and Mental Development.  Here are the eight pieces…

  1. Right View, understanding that in 300 years we’ll be dust so keep things in perspective
  2. Right Intention, controlling the way we think about ourselves and others through mindfulness
  3. Right Speech, thinking before we speak and refraining from gossip or harsh language (ouch), being truthful, kind and helpful with the words we choose
  4. Right Action, doing the right thing and living wholesomely
  5. Right Livelihood, earning an ethical living that doesn’t conflict with our values or harm the planet
  6. Right Effort, consciously directing our lives toward transformation by finding a balance between life’s activities and a disciplined meditative practice
  7. Right Mindfulness, living in the here and now through experiencing physical sensations, emotions, thoughts and attitudes
  8. Right Concentration, being absorbed by one thought, also called one-pointedness; it’s a doozy

The Buddhas dying words are these:  “Look not for refuge to anyone beside yourself.”

The machines, the services, the computers, the gurus…  they are convenient or they are distracting.  But they are not the end to suffering.  You are.  It just takes practice.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

p.s.  Don’t forget to share with your Bu-curious friends!  Read more by Vanessa at Everything Old is New Age Again.