Classic Buddhist Texts

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Classic Buddhist Texts

Asvaghosa’s Transcendent Message
Why do some forms of media stay relevant for decades and even centuries, while others fade as quickly as they were created? We keep watching It’s a Wonderful Life every Christmas, still listen to The Beatles on our IPods and still go and see Picasso’s paintings in museums. The process by which these pieces of art were created has been outdated for years now, but the messages they relay transcend generations and give them staying power. This holds true for Asvaghosa’s Life of the Buddha, a story that has made a transition across many different time periods and language barriers. This story had the power to do this because it is ripe with these lessons that can be utilized by any person in any time period. One specific section with an abundance of these lessons is Canto 4. The premise of this Canto is a classic relatable theme of a parent thinking they know what is best for their kid, and wanting to steer their child’s life, while the child wishes to pursue a life of their own. This child is Siddhartha, who has no desire for any pleasures in the world, after he realizes the nature of old age, sickness and death in life. His father is a king who wishes for his son to lead the wonderful life he is given. In order to steer his son back to the path of his wishing, the king has Udayin, a chaplain’s son bring Siddhartha out to a city park, where women gather to try and seduce the prince. The king hoped that his son would cave in to the pleasures these women offer. Siddhartha ultimately stuck to his path, and did not give in to pleasure. This brings about a disagreement between Udayin and Siddhartha, about whether it is right for the prince to deny the wishes of the women. In writing this scene, Asvaghosa gives us both sides of this argument in the opinions of both characters. In the way Asvaghosa relays these opinions, I believe he wants his audience to agree with...
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