Ashley Lynn's Reviews > Buddha: A Story of Enlightenment

Buddha by Deepak Chopra
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Jun 06, 12

Read in May, 2012

** spoiler alert ** I have just recently read this remarkable book for my world religions class. It’s officially in my top favorites, about “far off places, daring swordfights, magic spells, a prince in disguise!” to quote Belle from Beauty and the Beast. The book is entitled Buddha: A Story of Enlightenment written by Dr. Deepak Chopra, who is an author of over fifty-five books, fourteen of which are on the bestsellers list. I choose to read the book because I wanted to know more about Siddhartha Gautama and how he came to be known as Buddha. Yes, the book is classified as a fictional novel, however I do feel that it gives an eye opening inside look on the story of an individual who changed the way people see and live.

Buddha: A Story of Enlightenment is broken down into three sections; Siddhartha the Prince (chapters 1-10), Gautama the Monk (chapters 11-15), and Buddha (chapters 16-19). It also includes a very informative epilogue that touches on the Four Noble Truths, The Eightfold Path and the three Dharma seals. The book ends with a wonderful Q&A section called The Art of Non-Doing: A Practical Guide to Buddhism.

While reading the book I learned of the hardships that befall Siddhartha on his path to enlightenment; his life as a price, husband, and father that he gave up in order to travel alone in the mountainous woods where he survives an encounter with a killer by simply walking away; his unbiased thinking that helped him live without judgment; his curiosity and love for all things that filled him as a child; his near death experience that helped show him the Buddha way of living; and by the end of it, how he could step out onto the battlefield and stop a war between his father and his cousin with just a few words. I found the book to be inspiring and at times it even left me speechless.

In the first section I was pulled into the life of Siddhartha as a price from the birth up until his decision to leave his luxurious life behind for a path towards freedom and conquering of fears and desires. Life as a price was mostly lived in ignorant bliss, his father King Suddhodana, who is described as a “warrior king” who “mistook himself for a god”, was at war when his son was born. Queen Maya was said to be ten months pregnant while being carried to her mother’s home to give birth. She ended up giving birth in the forest during a full moon, which was said to be a good omen. The full moon lasted for seven nights, however on the seventh night, Queen Maya passed away. The King had nothing to do with his son at first, when brought to his attention by one of the Queens maids he took Siddhartha to the cremation ceremony of his wife, held him up and told him to look at what the “filthy world” is truly like. Afterwards King Suddhodana retreated to his chambers and refused all audiences until the day of his son’s naming ceremony.

Due to a prophecy read by the court astrologers and a visit to Canki, who is said to have lived in the Brahmin village of Opasada, on a royal fief granted him by Pasenadi; the King did not wish his son to grow up knowing of sickness, disease, and death so he cast those who were sick, weak and old out of the kingdom where the ultimately formed a small town like area to live out their days in suffering and agony. This caused the beginning life of Siddhartha’s life to be very sheltered. It was said that during the age of seven Siddhartha began to hear a voice in his head, always telling him to “look closer”. He saw things like dried dung dust in the sun rays that shone through the stables, the struggles between ants and termites and came to conclusions that not many others did when seeing the world. Also at a young age, the Prince saw his first glimpse of death and sickness through a crack in the stable walls; his friend Channa and Channa’s father had to put a sick horse out of her misery and then wait till night fall to bury her.

Siddhartha’s cousin, Devadetta plays a very important role in the story. Devadetta moved in with the King and Prince with the Prince was still young. King Suddhodana felt that his son needed someone closer to his own age that was more “cruel and petty”; in the end providing his son with an enemy. But even when Devadetta threw a rock at Siddhartha’s head, he still did not fight back.

Years later after the boys were grown, the King provided “games of war” on the morning of Siddhartha’s eighteenth birthday for all of the guests. The soldiers were ordered to give and take genuine wounds and gold was offered to the bloodiest of battles. During a game Siddhartha had killed a man and almost killed his cousin until something had stopped him. The guilt of both incidents weighed on the Prince’s shoulders; that was when Channa made the decision to tell Siddhartha the truth about “The Forgotten City” also known as “The King’s City” by the inhabitants. It is where he found the sick, deceased and dying that were cast out by the King.

The second section describes his life journey as a monk. However, before reading about his travels, I learned that he left everything behind about eleven years after the discovery of the city, when married and with a new born. The Prince decided to journey out to the mountains to seek the answers to questions that had been haunting him. He shaved his head and began to go by the name Gautama. Eventually he met a man called Ganaka who followed no Dharma and seemed not to believe in being enlightened. He also met another individual who told him of Mara’s interest in him and taught him that he needed to go beyond teachings and leave the Dharma behind.

Awhile later he joined a group of monks who felt his presence like a cool breeze. People began to claim they saw light surrounding Gautama and started calling him lord, asking him for words of wisdom. While away Devadatta beheaded an elder wearing the royal robes of Siddhartha and brought back the body claiming that it was the Prince.

Years later, after many hardships were lived through, journeys taken by foot and by mediation, Gautama finally found enlightenment. While nearing death from starvation, sitting under a tree in the forest, he fought his inner demons and the three daughters of Mara; Tanha, Raga, and Arati, these three where actually desire, lust, and aversion…three poisons. He fought his way through a hell and back, eventually reaching inner peace and total enlightenment. It is said that the cosmos themselves whispered one last word to him before he chose to return to earth, Buddha. His decision to return to Earth was made because he wanted to teach others the path of enlightenment, the path to freedom.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the book; it was filled with adventure, love, lore, demons, war, sorrow, murder, loss, struggle, surrender and a taste of enlightenment. I would recommend it to anyone wishing to delve into the life of a Price turned Monk turned Buddha. It is a page turner and quite the fascinating story.
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