I watched a terrific PBS Emmy-nominated documentary called The Buddha(2010).
The show described the life of Prince Siddhartha from India about 2500 years ago and his “quest for serenity and eternal enlightenment.”
There were two highlights that I feel are really worth noting:
1) The Story of the Glass:
Prince Siddhartha saw a glass and marveled how it held the water, how it made a distinct ringing sound when tapped, and how it so beautifully reflected the light off of it.
After this, he imagined what would happen to the glass if the wind or shaking knocked it down and it shattered.
Then he realized the reality of this world is that the glass was (as if) already broken, and that we should appreciate the goodness of the glass all the more while it is still whole.
I loved this story, because it so encompasses Buddhist thinking in terms of its seeking to overcome human loss and suffering.
Like the glass, the reality of this world is impermanence and therefore, it is as if we have already lost all the people and things we love–therefore, we should appreciate them all the more while they are here.
Further, we can learn to cope with these feelings of (eventual) loss and suffering by ending material cravings and instead seeking out inner tranquility and spiritual enlightenment.
2) The Story of the Four Meetings:
The Prince who had been pampered his whole life (up until about the age 29) and had only known pleasure–the finest food, clothing, and women–until one day he went out and meet four people.
– The first was an old man and so, he came to know how people change.
– The second was a sick person, and so, he came to know how people suffer.
– The third was a corpse, and so, he came to know impermanence and death.
– The fourth was a spiritual seeker, and so he came to know escape.
I thought this story was profound in understanding the cycle of life–from birth to maturity and ultimately to decline and death.
And in order to escape from the loss and suffering (that occurs again and again through the continual cycle of birth and death and rebirth), we must seek to liberate ourselves from materialist desire, greed, envy, and jealousy.
These things ultimately causes us to sin and suffer and if we can break the cycle by meditation, asceticism, and spiritual wisdom, then we can find true inner peace and achieve nirvana.
Some personal takeaways:
While I am no expert nor a practitioner of Buddhism, I do appreciate the Buddhist teachings and try to integrate it where possible with my Judaism, so that I can find meaning in the path toward spirituality and faith in G-d.
One of my personal goals is to overcome the senseless drive for chasing endless materialism for it’s own–and ultimately–meaningless sake, and instead be able to really focus and achieve something meaningful.
I believe that meaning is different for each individual, and is part of our path of finding ourselves and our in place in this universe.
(Source Photo: herewith attribution to Christos Tsoumplekas)