Gautama the Buddha, or Siddhartha Gautama as I prefer to call him, has a special place in my mind. He was one of the most remarkable persons whose existence has been proved beyond any dispute. Siddhartha Gautama was an ordinary man who became extraordinary purely because of his dedication for finding the Truth and for loving his fellow being. He found the Truth and he became Buddha —the Enlightened One. Going one step further he did not savor the pleasure of this most peaceful state just by himself but he worked to spread what he had learned. Here “spreading” did not mean to proselytizing —his message never had the tone of preaching or religion. I don’t call myself a Buddhist but I guess I have understood the essence of Buddhism. I do not wish to brand myself with the “ism” of Buddha because I believe that the very moment I would do so —I would lose the reality of Buddha’s words and would enter the realms of an organized religion. In order to understand his life, personality and messages —we must look beyond his godly image that has been etched in the most people’s mind by the means of his portraits and statues.
(Religion is always a sensitive issue for most people. So, please note that I am not in favor or against ANY religion in the world. I go by my personal understanding of nature and life)
I prefer to call Buddha as Siddhartha Gautama because this was his real name. Buddha was just a title that he earned. By thinking of Buddha as Siddhartha Gautama I get the feeling that he was just one of us —a mortal man. But it was his hard work, determination and love for others that made him immortal (despite of his carnal death). If Gautama could become a Buddha so can become anyone! Moreover, Gautama himself said that I am not the only Buddha —there have been innumerable Buddhas before me and there would be countless in the time to come as well. Anyone who will make enough effort can become a Buddha, he had said.
This very feeling of knowing Gautama as an ordinary man is the primary reason of my liking and respecting him. He was a man who became one with Nature (or God, if you like). And not only Gautama, I would in fact put any other person who deeply loves fellow beings and who has the hunger for finding the Truth in the category of Buddha. Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa do qualify for this category. The titles of Mahatma and Mother were endearingly bestowed upon them by people whom they loved. The same thing had happened with Gautama. The title of Buddhahood did not come to him from “heavens”. It was the people around him who loved him and gave him this title because they believed that Gautama had become a perfect human being who knew the Truth —and thus had become a Buddha.
More importantly, I ponder upon the thought as to what being a Buddha actually mean? What is the Truth? I believe I understand the answers of these questions but it so difficult to convey them. My language appears to be hopelessly insufficient to describe what I feel in this regard. I understand that the Truth is be to able to become one with the nature. I also feel that I understand how to be so. Perhaps there are many people on earth who understand it to varying degree. The only catch is to really take substantial actions towards becoming one with the nature. It’s not an easy thing. And, I believe, it’s path does not entail any rituals or prayers. The path goes through living a peaceful and meaningful life. A meaningful life in which we live all the aspects of life. We make relationships and we carry them with their respective dignity. We love everyone and everything. We try to be helpful to all. We feel happiness in other people’s joy. We live life to its fullest and for others.
Gautama taught us all this. But there are a few things which I don’t accept. For example, I don’t seek the ultimate enlightenment because one has to lose a lot in order to achieve it. I do not ever wish to abandon my family, my life-partner (if there would ever be one), my friends and anyone whom I know at large. I want to seek my own, personal and customized enlightenment. My enlightenment is seeking a loving and meaningful life. That is it.
Buddha is not a God. He is not to be worshiped (he himself said so!). Buddha is a person to be understood in her purest meaning. Please notice my using “her” in the previous sentence. I deliberately used “her” in order to break the cliche. The state of Buddhahood sleeps in all of us —women and men alike. And anyone of us can awake it. Anyone can become Buddha. Anyone can live a FULL life if one chooses to.