Emotions, Travel

The Prince As I knew Him

The Lahore Museum where the Fasting Buddha lies today.

As a child growing up in the Indian subcontinent you see him everywhere, in the museums, along the ancient silk road to Swat from Lahore, in the huge rock boulders of Diamer and Basha area, in the ancient temples of Takht-e-Bahi. He was everywhere.

As an 8 year old child travelling with my family to Taxila, one of the main ancient cities of the Indus Valley Civilization that thrived and flourished well 3000 years ago, little did I know what was about to ensue. The journey was remarkable and had an astounding effect on my personality development. It was the first main historical trip I vividly remember as a child (apart from the few castles and palaces I had seen in Edinburgh and other parts across the British Isles, which I barely recall). It was one of those defining moments of my life which would make me a history lover forever. It was a hot summer day and we roamed all through the Buddhist stupas and vast excavated area and into the museum where there were plenty of antiquities to explore.

We read history and just remember the facts and figures but forget the lesson

robert kiyosaki

When I was 11 years old and an ugly duckling (https://empathycorner.org/2019/04/24/the-ugly-duckling-in-modern-times-why-hans-christian-anderson-was-the-greatest-storyteller/) seventh grade textbook had a the most adventurous and intensely detailed history of our region. From the proclamation of Ashoka, to Chandragupta Maurya building as a crescendo towards the historic battle of Alexander the Great and Poros at the river Jhelum, and finally towards the detailed life and story of the prince.

Yes he was a prince, of our land. My mother tongue and the best language I know (I speak 5 languages) is Punjabi which was developed from Prakrit, the ancient language of the prince. This detail made me feel even more close to him and made that strangely spiritual connection which transcends time and space.

He was a prince, his name was Siddharta. Siddharta Gautam lived perhaps somewhere in the region of Gujarat, or Nepal as they say but wherever he actually lived in his palace is not of importance but of his story. I’m here to relate the lesson of his life as I saw it, not the accurate facts. He had all the luxuries and comforts of the world which as you know in daily life become mundane after a certain period of time. Is this all that life has to offer? Is there anything more purpose and meaning apart from palace luxuries and comfort?

The Fasting Buddha, one of my biggest source of spiritual inspiration. This depiction is in stark comparison to how he is seen in other Buddhist temples in Thailand as the golden Buddha.

He left his home, he left his kingdom and therefore rejected the disillusionment of material comfort to find real meaning of life. Siddharta Gautam was now on a spiritual journey. Tradition has it that he spent forty years in the jungles seeking the meaning of life. Amongst his most notable ascetic quality was that of fasting. The lunar month of fasting Ramadan set about just recently, and I have been questioned several time as to what purpose fasting has, why do it in the first place. Apart from the Islamic doctrine reasoning and logic I always mention something from my culture. Siddharta also fasted and became Buddha, the wise one. This was an ancient sacred method of denying onself provisions and annihilating ones desires to attain pure concentration towards the universal energy around us and transcend into that energy to harness its truth. His forty years of fasting made him the Enlightened One.

He attained a state which cannot be achieved when one is fully immersed in material abundance. It is a state which is attained only in surrendering all desires. Nirvana or enlightenment as they call it actually means the act of blowing yourself out, completely: self annihilation, surrender, giving in, erasing your ego, all your egos. He was the Wise One, who saw everything with the vision of his soul.

The enlightenment and peace on his face you won’t see elsewhere in Buddhist art. This was the true Nirvana being preserved in this form for time immemorial as his most valuable lesson for us: relinquish of all desires.

When you erase yourself, you renounce and let go of all desires related to the self including nourishment. The nourishment of the soul requires an empty stomach. You cannot understand the hunger and sufferings of war torn children, or a poverty stricken family living in the harsh deserts with a satiated appetite, you need to be in that state of deprivation to empathize with the calamities others face. Fasting increases the concentration of the spirit, it is food for the soul, the forbearance, perseverance and purpose which can be attained by starvation cannot be achieved otherwise. This is the lesson which I had learnt from the Buddha, and this is the way I knew him.

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