MOOC BUDDHA1x | 1.5 Buddha’s Story – 45 Years Changing Society


(chiming bells) – To speak of legends, we
have the Buddha’s own story. And it’s sorted into what are called the 12 exemplary deeds of a Buddha. In his final life as a human, Buddha to be are what
they call Bodhisattva. Sattva kind of means a hero, or a heroine and Bodhi means, as a form of
Buddha, means enlightenment. So a Bodhisattva means one who is heroic in the quest of
enlightenment, Bodhisattva. So these 12 deeds are: one, his descent from a higher heaven, Ashkanista. Which is a kind of pure form realm heaven, where you don’t have
ordinary body or real estate. To what they call a desire
realm heaven, Tushita, which means the heaven of satisfaction. Where you do have kind of
a land, and you have gods, like an Olympus type of thing. It’s a little higher than Olympus, Indians had their own Olympus on top of an axial mountain, but where there was a city for gods, but
Tushita is in the clouds, but it’s a real estate in the clouds. So he went from a higher,
more less embodied realm to a more humanoid embodied
desire deity realm. The Tushita one, that’s
considered the first deed because Indian imagination
about such things is really very lush, and very complex. More so than we’re used to. Then the second deed is his conception, or his descent from Tushita into the womb of his mother, Queen Maya. Mayadevi, as her name is called, which literally means
the goddess of magic. Maya means illusion, or magic, which is kind of interesting. So he comes down to be born in her womb, and there’s a marvelous
visionary sequence. It always reminds me,
actually, of the Superman movie where Jor-El sends Superman
in a little spaceship floating across the
galaxy, and then he lands in the field in Kansas, or wherever it is, crashes there, and then
the human mother finds him. So it’s a little bit
like that, the conception of the Buddha where he
descends into the womb. His mother is in a dream,
and she’s not a virgin, she’s the primary wife of King Suddhodana, Buddha’s father, but he’s conceived in a sort of non-paternal, normal sexual way. In a sense that she
conceives him in a dream, and it has that heroic
thing that mythologies have of where the hero who’s going to turn society upside down doesn’t involve the father in their conception. It’s a theme in Greek mythology, you can find in comparative mythology. And so it’s not a virgin birth, but it’s a fatherless
conception, let’s say. Then, number 3, he’s born
in the Lumbini Garden, which is said to be similar
to Jesus in a sense, Jesus was born in a manger, and Buddha’s born in a garden, because the mother was traveling to give birth back to her parental palace, in another
different city nearby, because that was the
tradition, that you didn’t give birth in your husband’s house, you went back and gave it
in your father’s house. I don’t know why, but it
was, and she was on the way, so then she stopped to rest in a garden in the middle of nature,
but a cultivated nature because she was a royal family, right? And she leaned on a tree,
and then Buddha just came out of her side, just inside of a magical cesarean, you could say, and then he talked
right away in the story. He held up one finger, and he said “I’m the greatest thing
on two feet,” he said. (laughing) Then he shut up when his father came, not to freak him out, that the kid was already talking, you know? It’s a legend, right? Sort of. Then four, his education,
where he was smart as everybody, he learned seven languages in 15 minutes, he knew all the math, what his teachers did,
he was best at sports, he was a prodigy, let’s say. And so he was very lazy
about educating, in a way. And then the father entertained him, he had a fantastic pleasure
palace, and a harem. Number five is his play, which was sort of his harem time as a lesson, and then he got bored with that, so then they decided he
needed to get married, and then he, there’s a wonderful scene of where he chooses a bride, and then he doesn’t like one, he gives
away all these jewels to all these beautiful
girls from their society, but he doesn’t fall in
love with any of them, and then there’s this last one who comes, she’s late because her father
doesn’t want her to come because Buddha’s known as a wimp, because he lives in a pleasure palace, he’s not out there always macho-ing it up. Then he falls in love with her and takes his own crown off and puts it on her head, and there’s instant love at first sight. Yasodhara is her name, and he marries, but they get ready to
marry, but the father won’t let him marry without a tournament. Because he’s in the warrior class, so then they a great tournament, he beats everybody up, it is
very mythical in that sense. And then the seventh deed is where he has the four visions of the sick man, old man, dead body, and finally the ascetic seeker. Then he decides to
become an ascetic seeker, he disobeys his father
and he goes over the wall and escapes, and he becomes an ascetic. And then he mortifies
himself for six years, he also renounces going
to different Ashrams, and he rejects different
kinds of Brahminical Indian meditations where you sort of leave the universe and go into formless realms in states of quiescence, and he says “That’s not enlightenment.” He obtains them very quickly, supposedly, but he rejects them as enlightenment. Enlightenment would not just be escaping from the world,
enlightenment, because he was supposed to be king, he was
supposed to help people, so enlightenment should be something where you still maintain connection
with people, not just leave. So he rejected those things. And then the eighth deed
is where he then gives up the mortification, and he says “That was too much, I
nearly killed myself,” he has a vision that life can work out, he goes and sits under the tree, and then the ninth deed is
where he meets the devil. This is sort of like Jesus in Gethsemane, and he meets the devil,
who’s not called Satan, there it’s called Mara. And the devil tempts him
with all kinds of things and challenges him, attacks him. And tries to seduce
him with his daughters, and then attacks him with his troops, and none of it works, then finally, the devil has to leave. “Drat, I can’t get rid of Buddha.” And then he attains
enlightenment as the 10th deed. And the 11th deed is his
45 years of teaching. The 12th deed is where he leaves his body and becomes present only
in subtle body form. Although some Buddhists interpret that he leaves permanently,
because they’re still stuck on this idea that
enlightenment is leaving, which we’ll talk about more later. Enlightenment is something else, leaving to a different
Nirvana is a different universe type of thing. So those are the famous
12 deeds of the Buddha, and there are numerous
biographies of the Buddha, including one supposed
autobiography from the Mahayana literature called Lalitavistara, which means the greatest play on earth. Like Cecil B DeMille sort
of, great saga type of thing. And Lalitavistara, that’s
considered to be an autobiography, in that he tells his life
story to his student. Although one thing I don’t like much about any of the biographies is that they don’t really tell the long 45 years struggle of teaching in detail. You have to pick that up
from various teachings themselves which give
settings, and who he’s talking with, and what
the circumstances are. In the biographies, they act like he just teaches for 45 years. Which actually is a
huge part of the story, because he’s tangling with
the society and changing it, and there’s ups and downs in that process that are still very similar
to the ones going on today. And these are not really in
most of the recorded discourses, probably because they sort of think once he’s enlightened,
he’s like a different kind of being, and it’s all happening automatically or something
in the Buddhist tradition, and they don’t talk so
much about his struggle with the society, but we all know from the history of Socrates,
history of Confucius, history of Jesus, history of Zoroaster, history of the Jews, that the people who come up with some new
prophetic or new insight or new wisdom teachings always get in trouble with the authorities in society and how they
swing the people in the societies around
to some better ideas is always a difficult battle, and that’s what he does for 45 years. And it should be in them, but it isn’t. But anyway, we will
look at those struggles. There are numerous
biographies of the Buddha, including one purported autobiography. And many recorded discourses, some of them transmitted systematically by memory for centuries. And some purportedly kept hidden in written scriptures for centuries, and eventually revealed
at appropriate times. There is much controversy
among different kinds of Buddhists about which are genuine and which are forgeries. And actually, this is something that is a very big issue in
academic Buddhist studies, this is kind of a good
things that they do. That they are not taking
into consideration in the study of Buddhism,
the fact that in his time, in the Vedic religious
atmosphere of that society, the sacred word, or words
that were really meant to deal with life and death
were the Vedic mantras, and they were never written down, and people had these
extraordinary memories where they’d memorize
thousands and thousands of lines of verse, and
thousands of verses of things, hundreds of pages when you write it, were all kept carefully in their memory, and when someone would get old, they would have several disciples who would all memorize it from them, and then they would teach them by voice to others later so that the word hearing means learning in those ancient cultures. Because they didn’t write, only the merchants wrote things down. So some of the later books that are revealed later, and are said to have been kept in writing
from Buddha’s time could only have been kept by merchants. And the earliest ones that are called the early ones in the Pali language that they make a big
fuss about in Sri Lanka, they were themselves not written down for at least four of five centuries So the complexity about the sources of different Buddhist texts which are really taught by Buddha, which are made up by someone else, is very complex in the original tradition, and the western academic solution to that of saying that “Well,
we don’t know the text, “so we’ll just translate into Chinese “like 800 years later.” And so we’re gonna say
“This is that, the other.” They’re all, the Buddhists
that are so stupid, they don’t know when they were written, and they’re just
attributing them to Buddha, this is kind of rude,
actually, in the part of western academic society, and is really, doesn’t really hold water if analyzed really strongly. So it’s much better to accept more or less what they have worked out
in all their complicated interpretive strategies
about what the articles, they don’t agree with each other, the different Buddhists. And that also we can take into account.

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