Siddhartha wandered for six years. This was not a meandering, rather a search for something that he could not exactly define. I suspect we all have some insight into this type of quest in our life.
This weekend from 6:30 PM Friday to 6:30 AM Saturday, members of the Falmouth Soto Zen Sangha will sit for twelve hours. Why?
The story of Siddhartha Gautama leaving home and hearth at 29 to find the meaning of suffering is a story known by many. Leaving a wife and child he took up the life of a mendicant going into the wilderness in search of...
He spent six years in this pursuit, learning that suffering happens whether you are wealthy or poor, well or sick. Having come from an opulent upbringing, he experienced the suffering of others only when he went outside the gates of his father's kingdom. Then he experienced birth, sickness, old age, and death-noting this seemed to be a constant that he was not aware of while sequestered in his father's kingdom.
He explored many teachings over the six years, including shifting to the opposite end of one's personal and social continuum, from living a life of luxury to becoming an ascetic one who gives up everything believing that by starving, self-denial, and disavowing the body, one can then see the true meaning of life.
After six years of these experiences, the legend has it he was close to death by starvation and fainted next to a small stream. He was found by a goat-herder who gave him goat milk that revived him.
Here having journeyed from one extreme of life to another he found neither extremes offered the insight into life and death he sought. It is at that point he set down beneath a tree on a small hill close to the stream. This begins Shakyamuni's eight days of sitting in stillness and quiet, an event still followed in Buddhist monastic life today.
What happened? Again the legend has it he experienced every conceivable thought and feeling possible. Yet he sat not having the experience or insight into his questions . On the morning of the eighth-day, it is said upon seeing the morning-star, he awakes from ignorance. He becomes fully awake, he sees clearly, he is now Buddha The Fully Awakened One.
What a wonderful thing to celebrate and even more to experience similar sensations felt by Shakyamuni Buddha as our Sangha sits in stillness and quiet over twelve-hours this weekend.
Join me next week and I'll share with you what happened after weeks of considering what to do with this awakening, the decision to teach what he learned, his first sermon or talk, was to a small group entitled: The First Turning of the Dharma Wheel. It is then that Buddha presents the construct of The Middle Way.
Until then, Happy Rohatsu to us all!