Religion

Gautam Buddha: Should the ‘Enlightened One’ have abandoned his son and wife?

I am going to tread on dangerous grounds here, but I have God on my side. Even He says it’s okay to question. In fact, in Geeta, Bible and Koran, He says one doesn’t have to accept everything that history has recorded over the ages. We don’t have to accept the views of our parents and priests if we have doubts over their philosophy in life. He says you can even question the existence of God himself. He knows how to make his presence felt.

Questioning is a sign of a thinking, probing mind. It’s healthy and welcome by God himself.

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Gautam Buddha was a very sorted person, calm and enlightened. As a sage on whose teachings Buddhism was founded, he went a long way to propagate about it. Scriptures imply that Gautam Buddha was unfamiliar with the prevalent religions and its teachings until he renounced the world and started on a religious quest. This quest is said to have been inspired by the existential concern for the human condition.

Without going too deep into his awakening, Buddha taught a middle way between bodily indulgence and the strict abstinence. He professed balance in life. A balanced life, even in his time, would have meant equal attention to self, family, health and a little bit of fun. Maybe do something for the society…

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By forsaking his wife, young child and his ageing parents, Gautam Buddha contradicted his own philosophy in life. He abandoned his family in order to attain Godliness and enlightenment. To start with, when he made the decision to leave his family alone, he was being self-centered. He was so depressed by the living conditions of his subjects, he decided to not just give up royalty, but the entire family as well. If I was depressed by the plight of manual labourers in my city, I wouldn’t go join them. I would help eradicate their plight by providing jobs and opportunities because I am financially empowered.

In his desperation to achieve enlightenment, he relinquished all worldly goods, including food. He even practised self-mortification, a dark form of voluntary self-punishment. He nearly starved to death. While bathing in a river one day, he collapsed out of weakness and almost drowned. He was punishing himself for the sins of the world? Like Jesus Christ? Or was Buddha of the mentality that living like them, begging, would lessen his guilt because he led a life of luxury?

For salvation, he drew away from multiple responsibilities. Siddhartha, his original name, produced a son but left him to crave for a father figure. He left his wife like a discard and set out for the unknown. It must have been very exciting for him to wander about, looking for answers to satisfy his personal thirst, but at what cost? A child was orphaned and a wife was widowed. He wasn’t going to come back and they knew it.

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In Buddhism, only upper class people could follow Buddha’s teachings and the religion. This was way back in his days. Unfortunately, Buddha failed to address the bias. He should have ensured, as leader, that there was no unfairness. Everybody should have been allowed to inculcate the teachings that promised clean life.

According to Buddhist texts, the Buddha was unwilling to ordain women. Buddha said women were incapable of experiencing awakening, they didn’t have the constitution for it. It was reflective of Buddha’s philosophy on women as unequals.

He remained quiet on life’s most significant subjects: afterlife, god etc. He remained silent on 14 metaphysical questions, too. It was recorded in defence of his silence that he didn’t want to preach because at most times, he was unsure of what he would say. These are shocking tid bits about Buddha. But then he was only a man, a mortal equipped with a beautiful soul. He was compassionate and he cared, but based on his teachings alone, I find it difficult to accept him as anything but an extremely powerful entity, which enjoyed the blessings of God.

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In fact, Ashoka’s adoption of Buddhism, after renouncing his kingdom, turned out to be a blessing for a large number of underprivileged people who were deprived of being part of Buddhist teachings. Ashoka ensured that anyone who wanted to embrace Buddhism and be a part of its teachings, was provided with the access.

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