Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Lately I have been thinking of Buddha. I don’t know how much my readers know about Buddha, or even myself for that matter, but it’s an inspirational story and, frankly, I could use a little bit of inspiration right now. So, without doing additional research, I will present what I understand of the story of Buddha, as respectfully as possible as I do have great respect for the faith, and maybe we can draw some inspiration even for those of us who are not followers.
First, a little bit about the Buddhist faith. Buddha himself was a follower of the Hindu religion, so Buddha is to Hinduism as Christ is to Judaism. But the beginnings of Buddha weren’t quite as humble. See, it is my understanding that Buddha was born a prince and lived a life of luxury. The palace in which he was raised was protected by a wall, with beautiful gardens and no want within its boundaries. The prince had all that he could possibly want and had no idea of what was beyond the walls, the people and their plight that he was destined to lead.
One day he went on a trip with his entourage. Out among the people, he saw the body of a peasant that had died. The concept of death had not crossed his path previously, and he asked his tutors who that man was. When they explained that it is a man that died, he asked what death was. At this moment, he realized that there was much that he did not understand and understood that it was because of the guarded and privileged life which he led.
Knowing that the king his father would never allow him to venture beyond the walls on his own, he committed to giving up his life of luxury by running away to be with the people. Taking with him only a small satchel of absolute necessities for his survival, he scaled the wall in the deep night and made good on his plan.
In the years that followed, he learned about life and death, struggle and victory, and grew as he did. He felt he was also growing spiritually, and yet, at the same time he felt his life had stagnated. He learned a lot about survival in the streets, he learned about the people, but he had peaked in his spiritual growth. As such, his journey continued.
One day, in his pilgrimage, he was crossing a stream which, as it turns out, was deeper and faster than he had anticipated. As he found himself swimming across it, the current swept away his satchel, the last remnants of his life as a prince, and he found himself, for the very first time, with nothing at all. This was when he reached the summit of his spirituality, when he had absolutely nothing at all.
I find it fascinating to compare the different faiths. Although Christ began with much more humble beginnings, it is at this point in the stories that one would have a difficult time distinguishing the story of Christ from that of Buddha. Both roamed through through the countryside, both served the people, both were teachers, both had followers, both had nothing of their own.
Personally, I find it intriguing that both of these prophets had nothing. Well, not just that; they wanted nothing for themselves, either. They walked among the people, teaching those who would listen, and helping those in need, without asking for anything in return. They didn’t do it for reward, save perhaps the reward of spirituality. Maybe this is why religions preach of the evils of wealth, why church leaders are often expected to live humbly and without wealth.
Even in the synoptic gospels, Christ is credited with saying, “it is easier for a camel to go through they eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” I think about this with the news of current affairs, the vast majority of American wealth and resources being allocated to an extreme few.
I’ve lost so much in recent years, incredible incomes, nearly all of my possessions (I still have my proverbial satchel, however), my wife, and even my health. But I’ve never lost my faith. I’m not saying that it’s been easy. My life has been an incredible struggle, but I believe that God must have a plan for me. I sure would like to know what that plan is, but I have faith in whatever that plan might be. No, I’m not Buddha, and I’m not Christ. All in all, I’m just a man. I just hope that my passage through the eye of this needle will be coming to a conclusion soon.