Friday 26 April 2013

The Young Siddhartha

Today is Wesak which is the day of the full moon when the sun is in Taurus. At this time the Buddha is supposed to have been born, achieved enlightenment and died, and so I thought I would mark the occasion with a little flight of fancy.

Prince Siddhartha had just celebrated his 15th birthday. He had received many gifts from his father and the courtiers who attended him. A gold bracelet, a necklace of pearls and rubies, new silk robes and a fine bow of wood and horn in the form of a serpent. Best of all was a white elephant calf given him by his father to remind him of the mother who had died in giving him birth.  Siddhartha had never known his mother but often felt he saw her face in dreams, and his aunt, who had brought him up as her own child, told him stories about her. “When we were young” she said,“ the whole court adored her for her beauty and simple grace, and, such was her goodness, I was never jealous. I loved her too.”

The presents had been given after the morning puja. Incense was burned, bells rung and flowers scattered throughout the palace.  At midday a great feast had been held in the main hall at which all the nobles of his father’s kingdom had attended. Great honour had been paid Siddhartha who was deemed shortly to be entering manhood. Indeed, his marriage was expected for the following year, and already the court astrologers were searching for a suitable bride. The rejoicing had been long but now, as the heat of the afternoon sun approached, all the guests sought shade and rest. Quietness descended on the palace with nothing to be heard but the buzzing of insects and the occasional snore from one of the more venerable members of the royal entourage.

But Siddhartha could not sleep. He should have been happy but he felt a discontent that no amount of presents or praise could dispel. “What is wrong with me?” he thought. “Why do I feel like this? I am ashamed of my ingratitude.” He looked about him at his sleeping companions. The friends of his childhood and the servants he treated as brothers were quite unaware of the shadow that fell over him. He loved them all but now he felt a distance from them that troubled him. They were content and satisfied but he, whose birthday it was, felt only a sadness made all the heavier for being unaccountable.

He wandered out into the gardens. The sun was hot and hurt his eyes. A watchful attendant who, even as he dozed, still kept an eye on his master, jumped up with an umbrella to hold over the prince but Siddhartha waved him away. He wanted to be by himself and undistracted so that he could focus entirely on what he was feeling.

He looked into his mind and tried to watch what was passing there. Thoughts came but he ignored them. The sadness rose up again but with a slight effort he dismissed it. He wanted to see what underlay these reactions of his mind to the outer world. "They are not me" he said to himself. "These thoughts and feelings are not me but what then am I?" He sat down beneath the shade of a large tree and gave himself entirely to consideration of this question. "If thoughts are not me then thinking will not show me what I am. If my feelings are external to me, which they must be because I am feeling them, then anything I feel cannot tell me the truth about myself. Thoughts and feelings are always changing but there is something else, something behind all that, which never changes. It is that I must discover and surely I can only do so when all external and internal activity comes to a halt". He sat completely still. He waited. His mind became like a deep pool with not the slightest ripple on its surface.

As if in homage to the intensity of his aspiration the birds in the garden fell silent. There was a quivering in the air that may have been the heat but might also have been occasioned by the solemnity of the moment. It was as if the whole of surrounding nature was watching, trembling with anticipation for the birth of something new.

And then Siddhartha's mind burst open. The entire history of the world up to that point and on into the future flooded into his mind and then out again in a single second. Torrents of light and colour streamed through him until he could no longer tell what was him and what was the light. He was seemingly lifted high above the world and caught up in a golden sea of blazing suns which enveloped his whole being but "This is not the end" he said, and with a tremendous effort he stayed detached from it all. He knew that this exuberant abundance of form was still part of the created world and if he reacted to it in any way, he would go no further. Then images of gods and goddesses appeared before him, some praising him for his wisdom and beauty, unequalled amongst mortals, others cursing him with terrible threats for his temerity in seeking answers beyond even their knowledge, but he remained unmoved, neither flattered by the praise nor fearing the threats.

The gods departed. Siddhartha sat beneath the tree, his mind still fixed on an unmoving point. The sun was now setting and night was drawing in. The silence deepened. Siddhartha was looking into dark space, absolutely pitch black. Within that space, he realised, was the answer to his questioning.The answer to what he was and what the universe was when all covering veils were torn away. And that answer was nothing. Pure, naked emptiness. Siddhartha understood. What else could it be? But then he hesitated. Could he leave his friends and family? Could he renounce the beauties and pleasures of the world? Before him was the void, absolute and infinite. Was he ready yet to enter? From the palace he heard his name being called. "Siddhartha, Siddhartha, where are you? Come back." He sighed and rose from his seat.

Not now perhaps, but one day he would know the truth.


Bestilland said...

A lovely flight of fancy , William. Wesak always feels a special time , ideal for such imaginative fancies.

William Wildblood said...

Or maybe it's not a total fancy! I've always thought it most unlikely that someone of the Buddha's obvious attainment would have had no intimations of the spiritual before the age of 29, which incidentally would have been the time of his 1st Saturn return.

Paul Hillman said...

Certainly not a total fancy, William. I would say that you have intuited a truth here and woven it into a lovely story, but, who knows, it could be even something more than that? Wesak is special.
I must find out more about Saturn Returns and ,indeed, about astrology itself . A work colleague once cast my horoscope when she was learning the art but would not let me have a copy. I have forgotten its every single detail as I was more than a little sceptical then. No longer so!

William Wildblood said...

About 15 years ago I had a proper look at astrology and found that the birth chart described an individual's character with extraordinary accuracy. Of course, the better you know someone the more the chart will tell you but that's because it's a symbol system and symbols have many and different levels of meaning. At the same time I did charts for people I didn't know at all well and they were very surprised at how much I seemed to know about them but I was just describing what was in the chart.

The Saturn return is the end of a cycle and a time when a lot from the past is cleared away and new starts are made. The first is around the time you are 29-30, the second at 58ish. It is supposed to be a significant period in one's life. Both Christ and Buddha started on their life's work at around that age. is a good site to get a chart drawn up. You just have to put in your birth date and time if you know it as well as where you were born. The time is relevant as that will give you the ascendant (the sign rising on the eastern horizon when you were born) which is regarded as almost as important as the sun sign. It describes your personality type and the way you present yourself to the world. Then you have to look for the planet that rules the sign on the ascendant and see what aspects (i.e. angular relationships) it makes to other planets. There's lots of detail to be found in a horoscope. There's what's on the surface and what's below the surface and there can be contradictions too. Just like human character in fact!

Paul Hillman said...

Thank you, William, for your comments and the address of the site which made it possible for me to see my chart and some interpretations of it, which proved very instructive in terms of laying bare the many contradictions in my character and being almost startlingly accurate with regards to general tendencies and developments.
I would not have the capacity nor the inclination to study the subject in any depth but can clearly see its value in providing insight and clarification. I only know my time of birth to approximately the quarter hour but am sure from the accuracy that the horoscope achieved that this is close enough. I will return to it for further insight and clarity.
I can certainly see the characteristics of the two Saturn returns clearly in my life. The earlier one was almost uncannily accurate in its timing. The second one's first stirrings were apparent at the age of 58 but really developed momentum after 60 with a rapid unfolding now taking place. Thank you, again.

William Wildblood said...

I'm coming up to my second Saturn return and rather looking forward to it. The first marked my return from India where I had lived for a few years, and Michael's second was when he first encountered the Masters. It certainly seems to be a significant staging post in one's life.