Sunday, July 01, 2012

Book: Old Path White Clouds

After my vipassana meditation, an old gentleman (Retired Civil Servant, Ex-Christian, Meditator) who converted to Buddhism in recent years recommended me to read this book “Old Path White Clouds” – by Thich Nhat Hanh

I thank him for recommending this book, which is one of the best books I ever read in my life. I am not exaggerating. If there is only one Buddhist related book that I should read, this would be the one. 

This book is about the Life of Buddha. The author made an effort to retell the story of Buddha in a very “human” way. There is no supernatural or magical feat mentioned in the book. Buddha faced many challenges along the path just like everyone of us, but he dealt with the challenges with wisdom and compassion. There are just too many wonderful things to learn from him. 

Buddha is a revolutionist in his time. He abandoned his life as a prince in search for Truth. He disregarded the Indian Caste system and societal pressure to ordain the “untouchables” and women to be part of his spiritual community. (Note that: Both untouchables and women had no status in India back then, even now at some parts of India.) He is guided by principles and values, not by tradition and dogma beliefs. In 2500 years ago, Buddha saw that everybody as equal. That itself is revolutionary. 

Buddha discouraged his disciples to idol worship, and told his disciples to accept his teachings only if it makes sense to them. There is no eternal condemnation. 

There are too many wonderful stories to share, below is one of my favorites: 

Context: Buddha had attained the supreme enlightenment and went back to his father kingdom to share his teachings. 


The King (Buddha’s father) said “I thought surely you would come to the palace to see your family first. Who could have guessed you would instead go begging in the city? Why didn’t you come to eat at the palace?” 

The Buddha smiled at his father. “Father, I am not alone. I have travelled with a large community, the community of bhikkhus (monks). I, too, am a bhikkhu, and like all other bhikkhus, beg for my food.” 

“But must you beg for food at such poor dwellings as there around here? No one in the history of Sakya clan has ever done such a thing.” 

Again the Buddha smiled. “Perhaps no Sakya has ever done so before, but all bhikkhus have. Father, begging is a spiritual practice which helps a bhikkhu develop humility and see that all persons are equal. When I receive a small potato from a poor family, it is no different than when I receive an elegant dish served by a king. A bhikkhu can transcend barriers that discriminate between rich and poor. On my path, all are considered equal. Everyone, no matter, how poor he is, can attain liberation and enlightenment. Begging does not demean my own dignity. It recognizes the inherent dignity of all persons.” 


May all beings be free from sufferings. _/\_

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