Questions and Answers

with Ngak’chang Rinpoche

Shakyamuni Buddha & Suspicion

Questioner: Could you say something about Shakyamuni Buddha, and how his life relates to those of the Mahasiddhas?

Rinpocher: There are different ways of looking at the life of Shakyamuni Buddha. One can look at it in terms of how he was protected from the outside world; then he sees the outside world—he sees sickness, old age and death—and he thinks, ‘Ah, there must be something else here. This is where all this leads to’. That is one story. There is also another story that comes at it more from the perspective of the Mahasiddha view. Being the son of a king in those days was hard work. It was expected that you could write better poetry, paint better pictures, be a better wrestler, a better archer, a better everything you could think of, than anybody else. For anybody else to be better at anything than the son of a king was embarrassing. That is interesting, isn’t it? From this perspective, if you look at the life of Shakyamuni Buddha, you will see that these were all the things that he did – he was an excellent archer, wrestler, poet, everything. From that perspective, it was, ‘So what? I can do these things; I am the best at everything. That is not terrible; it is just irritating at some level. I can do all these things, and if there were some other sport devised I could probably do that well too, and beat everybody at it. So, why? Why am I doing this? Where does this lead?‘

At some level, it is not actually fulfilling; it seems meaningless, even though there is nothing particularly wrong with it. This is the point at which he begins to question. He begins to look into the principles at work there in terms of the satisfaction that comes from being identified – I am, because I beat everybody else. And what does that say about the others – are they not? Who are they, because they are not as good? That is meaningless at one level, because they are all there, too.

That is what Buddhism does – it speaks of that suspicion. We start to read when we start getting suspicious, because we want to find out what ideas there are that look at our existence and that speak of that; that speak of that suspicion. There are other approaches—theistic, dualist, monist, nihilist and eternalist—that look at things differently – the desire to be happy, the desire to reach some state of perfection, or whatever it is. Buddhism starts by looking at that suspicion and what its ground is.