The Buddha’s Father

THE Buddha’s name became famous over all India and Suddhodana, his father, sent word to him saying: “I am growing old and wish to see my son before I die. Others have had the benefit of his doctrine, but not his father nor his relatives.” And the messenger said: “O world-honored Tathagata, thy father looks for thy coming as the lily longs for the rising of the sun.”

The Blessed One consented to the request of his father and set out on his journey to Kapilavatthu. Soon the tidings spread in the native country of the Buddha: “Prince Siddhattha, who wandered forth from home into homelessness to obtain enlightenment, having attained his purpose, is coming back.”

Suddhodana went out with his relatives and ministers to meet the prince. When the king saw Siddhattha, his son, from afar, he was struck with his beauty and dignity, and he rejoiced in his heart, but his mouth found no words to utter. This, indeed, was his son; these were the features of Siddhattha. How near was the great samana to his heart, and yet what a distance lay between them! That noble muni was no longer Siddhattha, his son; he was the Buddha, the Blessed One, the Holy One, Lord of truth, and teacher of mankind. Suddhodana the king, considering the religious dignity of his son, descended from his chariot and after saluting his son said: “It is now seven years since I have seen thee. How I have longed for this moment!”

Then the Sakyamuni took a seat opposite his father, and the king gazed eagerly at his son. He longed to call him by his name, but he dared not. “Siddhattha,” he exclaimed silently in his heart, “Siddhattha, come back to thine aged father and be his son again!” But seeing the determination of his son, he suppressed his sentiments, and, desolation overcame him. Thus the king sat face to face with his son, rejoicing in his sadness and sad in his rejoicing. Well might he be proud of his son, but his pride broke down at the idea that his great son would never be his heir.

“I would offer thee my kingdom,” said, the king, “but if I did, thou wouldst account it but as ashes.”

And the Buddha said: “I know that the king’s heart is full of love and that for his son’s sake he feels deep grief. But let the ties of love that bind him to the son whom he lost embrace with equal kindness all his fellow-beings, and he will receive in his place a greater one than Siddhattha; he will receive the Buddha, the teacher of truth, the preacher of righteousness, and the peace of Nirvana will enter into his heart.”

Suddhodana trembled with joy when he heard the melodious words of his son, the Buddha, and clasping his hands, exclaimed with tears in his eyes: “Wonderful is this change! The overwhelming sorrow has passed away. At first my sorrowing heart was heavy, but now I reap the fruit of thy great renunciation. It was right that, moved by thy mighty sympathy, thou shouldst reject the pleasures of royal power and achieve thy noble purpose in religious devotion. Now that thou hast found the path, thou canst preach the law of immortality to all the world that yearns for deliverance.” The king returned to the palace, while the Buddha remained in the grove before the city.

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Buddha, The Gospel

By Paul Carus

Chicago, The Open Court Publishing Company,

[1894]

Social Acceptability

This is a conditioned thing and thereby impermanent, nevertheless it puts constraints on what one may do in the world. It is easy to see that social acceptability is both time varying and context dependent. For example, buggery used to be illegal in the UK, now it isn’t and within Islam, as I understand it, a certain amount of polygamy is allowed according to the ability to support. Yet this social acceptability is an arbiter of how a society works, rather what it allows. It is “concrete” yet it changes, people forget this. Now I am not suggesting that being a bomb wielding punk rock anarchist is a road to freedom, nihilism is nihilism after all. Destruction just because one has the hump and feels disempowered, isn’t such a great idea. Social acceptability is a means whereby society is conditioned, it has the positive side of limiting chaos and the negative side of suppression. In a conurbation there must be at least a few rules for it to function, these need not be social “rules” however. Stray too far from what is deemed acceptable and you may become outcast. This social exclusion is a thing of dread for some and a relief for a few others.

If everyone did only that which was socially acceptable, society would never change or if it did change, it would only do so very slowly. If Siddhārtha had done what was socially acceptable, he would have stayed in the palace and become king. There would be no Buddhism and the world would be poorer as a result. Luckily, he didn’t. How then do we balance this force, this requirement, for social acceptability with the need for change and evolution? There is no easy answer. History suggests that those who are socially unacceptable always have conflict with this “force” and the “requirements” of wider society. It is impossible to move within these requirements and be true to themselves, so instead of being closeted they step outside, they may even form subcultures. The gay scene is one such subculture and it has its own vibrancy.  A part of societal change stems from the formation of subcultures and when they are sufficiently large, the mainstream, finally and dragging its feet, starts to accept them as socially acceptable. It is very often a slow and painful process. Social acceptability is beset with a tremendous inertia. Yet most have tut-tutted at least once in their lives. It is a flag, a standard, which is often more than a little judgemental, with pursed lips and pointy fingers to boot.

Provided that I stick to certain rules, I can don a mantle of social acceptability. If I put my teacher hat on and do tutorials whilst speaking only on that subject, that is OK. I am allowed to get away with that. Should I start talking about heavy duty yoga in such a context, that don’t go down so well. If I am in an entrepreneur like set up and I talk about start-ups that is dandy. If I mention shamanism, not so. I can just about get away with Aikido, that is socially acceptable. In California it is OK to be a bit more whacky, in Surrey it is taboo. Social acceptability almost inevitably leads to closeted behaviour of one kind or another, it can cause people to, lie and to live a lie. But we all forget social acceptability is a conditioned thing, especially when we require it. It is something we inflict upon each other. If something is not socially acceptable it is tarnished and lest we be tarnished to, we disassociate ourselves from the tarnished being. Please note I am not advocating heinous or harmful behaviours, I am talking about things which although different are not all that “bad” at all, in that they harm nobody.

On the way to freedom, the perceived wall of social acceptability and social compliance needs climbed, if only mentally and not outwardly. One has to stop buying in to a conditioned thing as if it were the ultimate truth or reality.

My own social acceptability is conditioned towards how I behave, what I talk about and do. It demarcates my ability to interact according to some unwritten yet commonly held parameters.

Provided that I am a good boy, and do as I am told, I am socially acceptable. If I am as I ought to be, all is fine. Because my life trajectory does not fit with how the narrative of should goes, I more of less have to live “parallel” to the world at large. My intersection with it is minimal. My trajectory is not orthogonal, yet the overlap is minimal. The coupling matrix elements are tiny. It looks likely to remain that way.

There is no reason why the world at large need concern itself with this state, unless I have something it wants or needs. Aside from A level science I have not really found anything for which there is a ready market, given my current nature. What I can also do is blather on here.

Having used myself an example, it is very easy to say that the reason I am here is entirely down to me, it is my fault, I am to blame. If I had been more amenable to being socialised, I could be in a very different place now, maybe South Kensington for example. But I am not. Looking backwards to the land of if only, does nothing. In saying that it is my fault we are neglecting the duality of tango. One of the tools used to enforce social acceptability is blame, another is shame. It is a funny old thing this social acceptability and one which many crave. Without it, it can be difficult to do “business” of any kind. We rely on the approval of others to get things done. Approval being withheld, less is possible. Giving approval is the carrot used to instil social acceptability, withholding the carrot is the stick used to enforce. Sounds like a conditioned or conditional thing, doesn’t it?

I’ll hypothesise that rarely is social acceptability a medium for evolution or change. More often than not, it is the brake. Very rarely it can be the accelerator. It is never the ignition.

Mostly in the Mundane

Now if ever there was a title to a blog post that is unlikely to be click-bait, this is it. Which speaks volumes. For that love of glamour, juicy gossip, shock, wow factor and titillation can lead people away from where the real business of learning and evolution lies; mostly in the mundane. It is a difficult sale, a hard pitch, this mundane thing. Yet here is where it is all at, in the day to day, not in some ceremony atop a mountain or in a secret cave, a hidden grotto or at the end of some long and tortuous encrypted code, deciphered at a cost to sanity. What you need to learn and the means to do this is already with you, all around and just under your nose. It is so simple, that it is hard to believe.

The signs are there, if you get impatient and frustrated in a traffic jam, what does that point at? If someone says something and you get all offended, what does that suggest? If you find yourself drooling at something an advertiser tempts you with, how real are you?

There it is, all around you, the classroom proffered by the universe and your fellow men. Anything which causes you to lose your centre, to go all drama queen and justified, shows work to be done. It is socially acceptable to moan about traffic jams, they simply should not be there. But the experimental evidence is that they are and frequently so. They are a day to day thing. There is simply no point, no purpose, in getting all het up about it. Quite why one gets het up may vary from person to person. And this is where the richness is. Hunting or stalking your perception and behaviours can lead to a greater understanding. Not-doing all the same old, can be difficult. But in not-doing and the feelings and emotions it evokes, much can be learned.

There is a story, I don’t know if it is true, it goes something like this. When asked about past lives and the karma therefrom, Siddhārtha said that all one needed to do was look at the present life. {Everything one needs is already here, no need for speculation on how it came about, simple work with what you have got.}

This is where it is at, mostly in the mundane.