Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘Buddha’

Staring at the Door

Yasodhara: A Novel About the Buddha’s Wife by Vanessa R. Sasson.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51I1VkEDTUL._SY346_The name “Yasodhara” means. “She who is full of splendor.” This novel, about the woman who became known as Buddha’s wife, is as splendid as the person on whom it is based. The story is told in the first person, with Yasodhara telling her own tale. She describes her birth, early childhood, friendship with her cousin (Siddhattha) and other members of the royal family, as her father’s brother is the king (Suddhodana). It takes place in what is now known as Nepal, or northern India.

Ms. Sasson doesn’t pretend that everything in the book is factual and does a wonderful job in the afterward informing readers’ about what is her imagination, and what is based on historical records, or writings, in each chapter. There is actually very little known about Yasodhara, other than some fables, and stories, which were written down in Sanskrit and Pali at least 500 years after she lived. It is believed that she and Siddhattha were born on the same day, married at age sixteen, and were together twelve years before having a son (Rahula). It was the day following their son’s birth, that Siddhartha left Yasodhara, and everything with palace life, to search for the meaning to life.

Here is a touching excerpt from that time in the story.

“I always prided myself on being strong. I might have had a temper, but I managed despite it. I could make my way across any hurdle like a well-trained athlete. I never knew myself in any other way. Until, that is, I found myself alone in my room, nursing a newborn while I stared at the door.

Sidhattha and I had been together for such a long time. Our togetherness had always seemed timeless to me, as though it had been threaded from past lives into this one. We were not just husband and wife. We were everything to each other.

Or at least he was everything to me.

I could not understand why he walked away, so I stared at the door, day after days, wondering if it would ever open again. I lay on my bed, my baby beside me, utterly oblivious to his little cries.”

Yasodhara is an excellent contribution to literature about those that surrounded the man known as Gotama, The Buddha. In recent years, there has been increasing interest in, and historical nonfiction works about, Yasodhara, as well as several fictional accounts. Ms. Sasson has studied and taught Buddhism for a number of years, as well as now written this fictional version, which is well told. The characters come to life and after a short time begin to feel like family.

If you enjoy Yasodhara, you may also be interested in another work of fiction about her life, which is called Buddha’s Wife. Ms. Sasson’s story focuses on the childhood and married life of Yasodhara, whereas, Buddha’s Wife, concerns itself with her life as a nun and the memories she has of her husband (now The Buddha), as well as what she has learned about intimacy, family, and community. It also mixes fact and fiction.

Taking Liberty With the Truth

586613838e010d433bacb209ce65ea56c69e859e-thumbFor my satirical book of koans, stories, and words of wisdom (Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire), I used the same format that was used in the 1961 classic book Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings. Zen Flesh presented the sayings, teachings, and koans of real Japanese teachers, whereas Zen Master Tova takes liberty with a fictional character and the truth, to put it mildly.

From Zen Flesh, Zen Bones

Nan-in a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “You are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty our cup?”

From Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba

“Do cats and dogs have Buddha-nature” Sister Sexton asked Master Toshiba.

“Yes.”

“Can cats and dogs attain enlightenment?”

“Yes.”

“Can all animals reach Samadhi?”

“Yes.”

“Do insects and bugs have Buddha-nature?” Sister Sexton persisted.

“Yes, they do,” The Master, patiently replied.

“Is it possible for vegetables, fruit, and flowers to see their true selves?”

“Yes, they can.”

“What about dirt, grass, trees, rocks, and water?”

“All life can become conscious of its true nature, even if it does not have a consciousness, as we know it.”

“Then surely, all women and men can awake to their Buddha-nature and find peace?”

“Yes, all women can express their Buddha-nature and attain enlightenment.” Master Tarantino paused, “As far as ‘all men’. I’ll have to think about that.”

Perhaps this use of fact and fiction are more intertwined than we like to believe, and history is permeated with realities which have been diluted, reinterpreted, and/or intentionally changed, in order to favor, or present events, or beliefs, in the manner and fashion that the writer in the moment chooses, or “believes” to be true. Read Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba and do your own sniff test to see if any of it rings true, or it is a total farce.

Coming Into Her Own

The Buddha of Lightning Peak: Cycle of the Sky
By Yudron Wangmo
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

A lot of authors, agents and publishers say their story is “unique”, but rarely does the tale turn out to be that different or “special”. The Buddha of Lightning Peak is an exception. The characters in the story are like many people I know, and experiences they have lived, but I’ve never read something that combined them all into one tight, believable and well-crafted novel such as this.

Denise “Dee” is a teenager who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is also black, lesbian and part of a meditation group. She has a variety of friends, including Leslie and her BFF, Shanti, as well as her mentor/teacher, Sandy. She isn’t a strong environmental advocate, until she learns of a mining operation about to start up next to her beloved summer camp and mountain.

The author reveals life through Dee’s eyes and perspective, and reveals the thoughts, emotions and experiences that many teens go through, especially teenage girls. The Buddha of Lightning Peak is an insightful and entertaining story that reveals Dee coming into her own strength, realizations, and sense of connection and community. I rarely read stories twice, even good ones. This will be the exception.

(The author provided me with a free ebook in exchange for an honest review.)

BuddhaLightningPeak600x600

Lost Her Husband

BuddhasWifeExcerpt from the novel Buddha’s Wife. Yasodhara was Siddhartha’s wife before he became known as The Buddha. Pajapati was Siddhartha’s step-mother (Yasodhara’s mother-in-law) and the only mother Siddhartha ever knew. His birth mother died shortly after he was born (as did Yasodhara’s mother).

***

I dreamed of my visit to find Siddhartha in Uruvela after leaving Rajagaha and our meeting with Davidia.

Pajapati was reluctant to go out of our way, not because she didn’t wish to listen to Siddhartha’s teachings and learn more about the freedom he claimed to have discovered, but because of the pain and agony she knew it would cause me. But I insisted, and Pajapati had learned long ago that I am not easily swayed once I’ve made up my mind.

Though the Ordained Followers of the Teacher from Sakya, as they were called by villagers, already numbered in the thousands, it took some time to find them in the vihara (sanctuary) on the outskirts of Uruvela. The vihara had been donated by Siddhartha’s devotees Anathapindika and Jeta. The area was called Jetavana and the followers called themselves the Union of Bhikkhus. They were protected in Jetavana, yet seldom remained there long and often slept out in the open.

I was taken aback to see women at the camp, as I had always been under the impression that they were forbidden. Pajapati asked a woman carrying water to a group of men if she was with the Buddha.

“I am a lay disciple,” she replied. “We follow our husbands and sons who have been called to live a life of renunciation and seek liberation from desire and suffering.” She continued walking and we followed.

“But surely, they have not allowed you to take orders and don robes like the men?” I asked, running to keep up.

“Oh no,” she replied. “Being of service to the followers of Gotama is reward enough.”

We watched the woman pour her jug of water into the cups of the men with robes and shaved heads. There were not many women present, but one or two I recognized. I saw Yasa’s wife and mother, who had left the province, unexpectedly, six months earlier. Rumors that they had gone to follow the Tathagata circulated freely, but I didn’t realize they had not only sought the Buddha, but had literally joined their husband and son as lay disciples. The realization that, unlike most practices of the day, one did not have to leave their family to follow a religious life threw a cold bucket of pain in my face. I stood as frozen as snow on the peak of a Himalayan mountain in winter. Pajapati was hit with the same realization. She saw the shock on my face and realized what I was thinking.

“Yasodhara,” she said. “Let’s get out of here.”

I couldn’t move or reply.

“Come on.” Pajapati pulled at my sleeve. “Let’s go. The carriage is waiting.”

I remained immobile. My hands opened and closed stiffly. My fingers turned white and my face crimson red.

“That idiot!” I exclaimed, so loudly that Pajapati tried to hide inside her sari. “What a liar—a thoughtless, selfish liar!”

“Come on!” Pajapati pulled frantically at my sleeve. “Don’t make a scene.”

“How could he leave us?!” I said loudly, tears sliding down my cheeks. “He didn’t have to leave us!”

Pajapati wrapped her arm around me and lead me away as people watched and listened.

“He’s a demon!” I cried. “He’s destroyed every dream.”

“Come, come,” Pajapati soothed, her eyes wet with sympathy. “I understand.”

“Understand?” I stopped and stared. “How can you understand? He left me; he left Rahula. He discarded us like a sack of rocks. For what?” I motioned towards the followers. “Adoration for a coward—a man who talks about peace, but leaves his family in torment?”

“Stop it!” Pajapati shouted, dragging me into the waiting carriage. “That’s my step-son you’re talking about, and he’s the furthest thing from a demon I’ve ever known.”

Siddhartha had been informed later that day about a disturbance on the outskirts of the gathering. Something about a rich woman yelling obscenities and her mother escorting her out of the area. He wished them peace.

Can I have a word?

From Abbott Toshiba’s 14th Lama Sutras. Some words out of Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

What is Zen?

Zen is another word for meditation.

Meditation is another word for mindfulness.

imagesMindfulness is another word for vipassana.

Vipassana is another word for awareness.

Awareness is another word for satori.

Satori is another word for presence.

Presence is another word for Buddhism.

Buddhism is another word for Buddha.

Buddha is another word for one who is awake.

Being awake is another word for meditation.

Meditation is another word for Zen.

What is Zen? It’s another word.

Many more words at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Stealing the Buddha

Stolen from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

One rainy morning, Mistress Tarantino was sitting quietly in the garden under a banyan tree. She was very still. Suddenly, she heard a noise and opened her eyes. She watched a man climb over their two‑foot tall security fence and creep into the yard. He looked around quickly, but didn’t see her watching. The man plucked some apples off the apple tree, then picked up the large bronze statue of Buddha in the center of the garden, lifted it onto his shoulder, and started walking towards the fence.

“Hey!” Mistress Tarantino shouted. “Stop!”

The man didn’t look to see who was calling out. He began to run towards the wall. The Buddha was heavy, so he couldn’t run very fast, but he was almost at the wall when he was tackled from behind. The statue fell to the ground, the apples flew into the air, and the man lay sprawling.

The poor man looked up and saw Mistress Tarantino standing above him. “I didn’t take track in school for nothing,” she said.

“I’m sorry,” the thief replied. “Really, I’m very sorry. Please, don’t call the police.”

“Police?” Mistress Tarantino smirked, “we don’t need no stinking police.”

“What are you going to do? I’ll do anything to repay you.”

“Anything?” asked the Mistress.

“Yes, anything.”

“Okay, if you insist.” Mistress Tarantino helped the man to his feet. “First off, promise to never steal again.” The man nodded. “Secondly, please put the Buddha back where you got it.” The man nodded again. “You must be strong. That sucker is heavy duty. Last, but not least, come back here every day for the rest of the apple harvest, take what you can carry, and give them away to anyone you see who is hungry.”

The thief was perplexed. “Is that all? Is there no punishment?”

“You’ve already punished yourself with the karma you’ve created. There is no need to add oil to the fire.”

“Thank you Mistress.” The thief bowed, then took the statue and placed it back in the middle of the garden. “I will return tomorrow and take a bag of apples into town. I know several families that need them.” He bowed again and started to leave.

“One more thing,” Mistress Tarantino said. “I strongly urge you to meditate and strengthen your awareness. If you ever decide to steal again in broad daylight, at least you will be more attuned to your surroundings and will see if someone is sitting just ten yards away watching your every move.”

More thieving words at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

That Is A Good Question

images-1An excerpt from the spectacular Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

There is no difference between one life and another. All beings share the same essence and spark of energy. To punish one for looking ugly and award another for its beauty is just plain mean. Worms are essential for the soil. Soil is needed to grow our food. Rain is necessary to nourish the soil. Plants are vital for us to live. Human life completes the circle. You may ask how humans contribute to this circle of life and that is a good question.

The Buddha said, ‘Have compassion for all beings.’ When he was seeking enlightenment the snails shielded him from the sun and provided shade. He didn’t stick them on hooks and feed them to fish or chickens. No, he honored them for who they were and used their assistance in his search for truth and true compassion.

Footnote. Page 19. Speaking of Holiness

More irresistible koans, stories, & tales, at Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

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