Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Deepak Chopra's "Buddha"

A couple of days ago I finished reading the only book I've read so far by Deepak Chopra. I realize that in the realm of wellness and mind/matter relationships, he is pretty high up there. So I should have read him, right? Nope. I think I gave up on wellness books back during my search for a "cure" for my fibromyalgia. I began to mistrust all of the authors and so-called "wellness experts." But I digress...

Chopra's book, "Buddha," is subtitled, "A Story of Enlightenment" and is meant to show us the human side of the man we've come to know as "Buddha," though any enlightened person could also be called Buddha. Though the world of buddhism is full of legends, myths, and inspirational stories, like any religion or philosophy, we haven't been told many stories that sounded all that plausible. Too many miracles, too few realities. A big problem most women have with Buddhism is that it appears to be very patriarchical if you consider that Siddhartha (as the young prince was known then) left his wife and son to take up the life of a monk. Great figures in buddhism are typically male, such as the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the nation of Tibet in exile. However, that seems to be changing. The fourteenth Dalai Lama himself said that his successor might be a woman. Oh, how that would shake things up.

Chopra imagines the young Prince Siddhartha from his birth through his teachings to his first disciples (including his cataclysmic run-in with the bloodthirsty cousin Devadatta on the battlefield). The protection with which his father, King Suddhodhana , surrounds him includes sending the old and the sick away to basically starve to death in exile. He tells of the way in which Siddhartha grew to be a gentle man, despite his father's ambitions for him to be conquerer of all lands, as foretold by the astrologers and high Brahmins of the temple. An old ascetic foretells a different ending, though, and this is the ending with which we're all familiar.

Chopra has a knack for storytelling. I found that I couldn't put this book down. It held onto me as we rode through battles and intrigue, extreme asceticism and days of meditation. I did not want this book to end. Many ideas stay with me even now.

- Pg. 240: "I am every life I ever lived, and yet I am none of them."

- Pg. 246: "Once I admitted to myself that I would never become completely good or free from sin, something changed inside. I was no longer distracted by the war [between good and evil inside]; my attention could go somewhere else." ... Suffering is a fixed part of life. Fleeing from pain and running toward pleasure would never change that fact. [It is} a war [you] could never win.

It is an amazing concept of buddhism. We do not have to be caught in the cycle of fighting the battle of good vs. evil. We simply have to recognize that no one is all good or all bad. We will never be free from sin, and trying to become "holy" is not the answer. There is no such thing as fate or a pre-destined life.

I have many lessons to learn before I can "wake up" as Buddha did. It's like The Matrix. Once Neo realized that everything around him was the program, he could do anything. He could see the code behind everything that was happening, thus he could conquer it. We just need to look around us and see the code.

Chopra's book is one I will keep and cherish, to reread many times again. It is one of the best explanations of buddhism that I've read to date, and yet it is but a novel, an imagining of a life. I hope you will read it and enjoy it as much as I did. What an amazing accomplishment Chopra has made in his own spiritual journey.

Peace - D

1 comment:

Patrick said...

Thanks for the push, I would have avoided it simply because Chopra wrote it. I cringe at the vult that has grown up around him, and likely that's not even his doing, but the rantings of mystified sedantary american housewives.

I will read the book.