The Enlightenment, is a reinforcing tale taken from the the so called Gospel of Buddha, but this tale is really a description of how the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama came into the world.
Like in the Christian Bible, I think we have here some justification of the Myth of the Buddha, and when someone has to work hard to convince you of something, you can be sure there is an ulterior motive! This sounds a lot like the beginning of the Religification of Buddhism, if you’ll allow me to make up a word! A word that is all the more important in our seemingly more troubled times.
Like Jesus Christ, Siddhartha Gautama was a real geezer, a person who walked the earth. Just so happens that the part of the earth he walked upon was a heavily religious and spiritual part. Hinduism would be ubiquitous and much would be made of the powers and preferences of various gods. Mind you, believing that there is a god that makes the Sun come up every morning and another that makes the crops grow and yet another that is responsible for fertility etc, is actually not that wide of the mark, if you don’t take it too literally. Certainly trumps the one geezer made it all in 6 days then went fishing, even though you’re not allowed to go fishing on a Sunday apparently!
It’s inevitable then that in times when people, especially poor people, were looking for answers and signs of hope that they would expect that hope to come from the upper classes, a King if you like.
Siddhartha Gautama was born into a privileged position in society and it is that very privilege and his insulation from the real world outside the castle walls that made him what he became…the Buddha. When you first encounter something radically different from what you’re used to, it’s inevitable that it will make a big impression on you.
But, we humans, will never just take something at face value will we? There’s always a need to dig deeper and always ample room for superstition in otherwise dull, drama free, drudgery filled days at the hamster wheel of doom.
If I just happened to be wearing red socks the day my tax refund comes through, then maybe red socks is where it’s at?
Of course, as soon as one peasant is known to be swayed by superstition you can be pretty sure that there will be a rich guy along in a minute to take advantage of the situation. This is where religion comes from.
Siddhartha Gautama’s message was that one could attain Nirvana as soon as striving, clinging and selfing were extinguished. His message was that by finding inner peace as early as possible in life, one would be in a much better place to help others with their daily suffering.
Jesus Christ asked us to treat others as we’d like to be treated by others and he spent a long time in prayer. If you walk into any Christian church you will see people in prayer; meditation.
And all of the mono and poly theistic religions have at their heart a message of peace and hope. These messages come directly from the original idea that inspired the religion, usually a hippy of some sort who had time on his hands, unhindered by drudgery (an idler?) to go around telling folk in bars and markets how to look after each other.
The Religification bit comes later, after the originator hippy is dead and his copyright has expired. This is when the 1% at the top of the tree in terms of worldly wealth and power (usually backed up with violence) turn something simple into a Religion (meaning Obligation) in order to subdue the many and make more money for themselves.
Each of these Religions need a back story and Siddhartha Gautama’s birth and childhood make a good lead-in for anyone wishing to Religify his simple and beautiful message. If the effect wears off after a while you can easily inject a bit of drama by employing the Divide and Conquer Principle. All you need to decide now is whether you want to be a Catholic Buddhist or a Protestant Buddhist 🙂
Siddhartha Gautama had something worth hearing to say. It needs no further embellishment and in fact can be practised by anyone without training or books of any kind. The next time you jump in your car to go somewhere, turn off the radio and just drive, concentrating on nothing but the driving…that’s meditation.
“and I shall not be concerned at all with other religions such as Buddhism and Confucianism. Indeed, there is something to be said for treating these not as religions at all but as ethical systems or philosophies of life”
“There was in Kapilavatthu a Sakya king, strong of purpose and reverenced by all men, a descendant of the Okkakas, who call themselves Gotama, and his name was Suddhodana or Pure-Rice. His wife Mayadevi was beautiful as the water-lily and pure in mind as the lotus. As the Queen of Heaven, she lived on earth, untainted by desire, and immaculate.
The king, her husband, honored her in her holiness, and the spirit of truth, glorious and strong in his wisdom like unto a white elephant, descended upon her. When she knew that the hour of motherhood was near, she asked the king to send her home to her parents; and Suddhodana, anxious about his wife and the child she would bear him, willingly granted her request.
At Lumbini there is a beautiful grove, and when Mayadevi passed through it the trees were one mass of fragrant flowers and many birds were warbling in their branches. The Queen, wishing to stroll through the shady walks, left her golden palanquin, and, when she reached the giant sala tree in the midst of the grove, felt that her hour had come. She took hold of a branch. Her attendants hung a curtain about her and retired. When the pain of travail came upon her, four pure-minded angels of the great Brahma held out a golden net to receive the babe, who came forth from her right side like the rising sun bright and perfect.
The Brahma-angels took the child and placing him before the mother said: “Rejoice, O queen, a mighty son has been born unto thee.”
At her couch stood an aged woman imploring the heavens to bless the child. All the worlds were flooded with light. The blind received their sight by longing to see the coming glory of the Lord; the deaf and dumb spoke with one another of the good omens indicating the birth of the Buddha to be. The crooked became straight; the lame walked. All prisoners were freed from their chains and the fires of all the hells were extinguished.
No clouds gathered in the skies and the polluted streams became clear, whilst celestial music rang through the air and the angels rejoiced with gladness. With no selfish or partial joy but for the sake of the law they rejoiced, for creation engulfed in the ocean of pain was now to obtain release. The cries of beasts were hushed; all malevolent beings received a loving heart, and peace reigned on earth. Mara, the evil one, alone was grieved and rejoiced not.
The Naga kings, earnestly desiring to show their reverence for most excellent law, as they had paid honor to former Buddhas, now went to greet the Bodhisattva. They scattered before him mandara flowers, rejoicing with heartfelt joy to pay their religious homage.
The royal father, pondering the meaning of these signs, was now full of joy and now sore distressed. The queen mother, beholding her child and the commotion which his birth created, felt in her timorous heart the pangs of doubt.
Now there was at that time in a grove near Lumbini Asita, a rishi, leading the life of a hermit. He was a Brahman of dignified mien, famed not only for wisdom and scholarship, but also for his skill in the interpretation of signs. And the king invited him to see the royal babe.
The seer, beholding the prince, wept and sighed deeply. And when the king saw the tears of Asita he became alarmed and asked: “Why has the sight of my son caused thee grief and pain?”
But Asita’s heart rejoiced, and, knowing the king’s mind to be perplexed, he addressed him, saying: “The king, like the moon when full, should feel great joy, for he has begotten a wondrously noble son. I do not worship Brahma, but I worship this child; and the gods in the temples will descend from their places of honor to adore him. Banish all anxiety and doubt. The spiritual omens manifested indicate that the child now born will bring deliverance to the whole world.
“Recollecting that I myself am old, on that account I could not hold my tears; for now my end is coming on and I shall not see the glory of this babe. For this son of thine will rule the world. The wheel of empire will come to him. He will either be a king of kings to govern all the lands of the earth, or verily will become a Buddha. He is born for the sake of everything that lives. His pure teaching will be like the shore that receives the shipwrecked. His power of meditation will be like a cool lake; and all creatures parched with the drought of lust may freely drink thereof. On the fire of covetousness he will cause the cloud of his mercy to rise, so that the rain of the law may extinguish it. The heavy gates of despondency will he open, and give deliverance to all creatures ensnared in the self-entwined meshes of folly and ignorance. The king of the law has come forth to rescue from bondage all the poor, the miserable, the helpless.”
When the royal parents heard Asita’s words they rejoiced in their hearts and named their new-born infant Siddhattha, that is he who has accomplished his purpose.”
And the queen said to her sister, Pajapati: “A mother who has borne a future Buddha will never give birth to another child. I shall soon leave this world, my husband, the king, and Siddhattha, my child. When I am gone, be thou a mother to him.” And Pajapati wept and promised.
When the queen had departed from the living, Pajapati took the boy Siddhattha and reared him. And as the light of the moon increases little by little, so the royal child grew from day to day in mind and in body; and truthfulness and love resided in his heart. When a year had passed Suddhodana the king made Pajapati his queen and there was never a better stepmother than she.”