I missed the deadline for this so it’s now extra credit. 😖
It’s in this section that Siddhartha really starts his journey toward enlightenment. He forsakes all desire for material/sensual things and walks the earth as a hermit.
It’s interesting that the Gods are watching him all the time but aren’t omniscient. They wonder whether or not he’s dead when he passes out.
The image in the public conscious of the Buddha is that he is fat, but all these tellings of Siddhartha depict him as emaciated and starving because he hardly eats.
Mara is finally introduced, an antagonist.
His five dreams are very interesting. Seeing himself as a giant enmeshed with the world, seeing the reed grow from his navel (a reference to Vishnu with the Brahma seated on a lotus growing from his navel), his legs being covered with worms, birds flying all around him, and then ascending a mountain of excrement without being defiled by it. These are all very powerful images and turn out to be portents of his enlightenment.
Wondrous behavior from ordinary things single the arrival of Siddhartha. This also ties in with themes from Roald Dahl, finding surreal behaviors in everyday happenings.
I wonder, was he scared at all to receive supreme knowledge? Did he ever wonder if he could handle all that enlightenment?
Joseph Campbell says everything you do is evil to someone. In this story, Siddhartha’s enlightenment is evil to the demon Mara, who stands to lose everything. His whole family will suffer pain and despair if Siddhartha reaches enlightenment. How is that fair?
However, the demons described in Mara’s fleet are terrifying: mouths spewing blood, odd shaped bodies, animal features, tons of arms, pieces of human bones.
Wow, literally the Earth itself vouches for Siddhartha. That’s pretty intense.
In the last chapter, what happens within Siddhartha’s meditation is revealed:
- He saw what happened in all of his previous existences
- He learned the present state of all beings
- He understood the chain of causes and effects
- He saw all creatures being continually reborn and thought about how miserable that is
- He walks through why everything is the way it is:
- “Existence is due to ties.” What does that mean?
Eventually he traces it all back to ignorance and desire. By repressing ignorance and desire, one prevents birth, therefore prevents death. It doesn’t quite make sense to me that birth can be prevented, but okay.
Bibliography. The Life of Buddha by Andre Ferdinand Herold (1922).
Featured image source.