Friday, March 5, 2010

The Spiritual Quest

We're now learning about Buddhism in my world religions course. Founded by Siddhartha Gautama in the 6th century BCE, Buddhism was the result of his spiritual quest.

Siddhartha was born into a wealthy high caste Hindu family. His father, who wanted him to follow in his footsteps, protected Siddhartha from the realities of life. But one day, in a state of restless discontentment, he ventured out of the castle and saw four things: a dead person, a diseased person, a decrepit person and a monk with a shaved head.

After seeing these things, Siddhartha embarked on a six year quest to discover the truth about life. First, he launched into a ascetic life, but didn't find what he was looking for. Next, he studied with the great spiritual teachers of Hinduism, but still was unsatisfied. Then, through intense meditation, he looked deep within himself and found enlightenment.

The word "Buddha" means "enlightened one" and Siddhartha's enlightenment resulted in a religion that offers others a path to enlightenment. What is fascinating to me about this story is that he didn't find what he was looking for in the external world, but found it within himself.

There is a lesson here for those of us who are seeking spiritual truth. We need to look both inside and outside ourselves in our quest. I believe this is a "both/and" issue rather than "either/or." As Thomas Merton once said, "God speaks to us in three ways: in the words of scripture, in the voice of the stranger, and in our deepest selves."

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