Renunciation

20 Jul

There had to be complete emotional and physical detachment. Both were difficult. The emotional came first when Siddhartha told his father his plan to leave the palace and his family. His father did not understand this and was angered. He absolutely forbade Siddhartha to leave. Guards were even stationed at the palace gates that night. Siddhartha did not argue with his father and did not attempt to explain what it was that he was after. This was a quest and one that Siddhartha himself did not yet fully comprehend. He knew only that he had to get on the wandering path. Next was his wife and child. How could he explain his leaving to them? When he entered their room his child was asleep in his wife’s arms and so he let them lay. He wanted to pick up his son and hold him one last time. But, he feared waking him so he did nothing but observe. He took in every detail. His wife may have him felt Siddhartha’s presence and the beating of his heart standing above her. She was still though. It was as if she knew nothing could change his mind and so she slept. Then Siddhartha walked towards the gates and there – wondrously – his father’s guards slumbered! He could not believe his luck. As he readied himself to cross beyond the walls that had nested him for so many years, he saw his faithful driver. The same one that had taken him out on that first day. Siddhartha told him to tell his father and family that perhaps one day he would return after he had discovered a way out of suffering. Then they could truly be happy. There would no longer be the horrible invetability of decay and death hanging over them. His driver nodded and kissed him. Siddhartha disappeared into that dark night and walked deep until his legs tired. Now came the physical detachment. As he sat in a forested area, he began to shear off his hair. His hair was long and luxuriant. He cut off big locks at a time that soon covered the area around him like the remains of a kill. He continued until he could cut no more. He then stripped off his royal silk garb and put on the simple cloth wrap like the wandering man he had seen. He removed his footwear and sank his bare feet into the earth. He would know this world through only his senses from now on. It would start with the touch of his feet and continue to his hands, nose, ears, and eyes. He was not embarking on a life of self-denial as it would appear. Rather he intuited that to position himself to find the answers he sought, he had to start with no obstacles or hang-ups. This was his renunciation and was truly a blissful moment. It took such great courage to detach in this profound way and something that if done in the same manner today would certainly cause the same anger as that of his father. Compare this with what the Gospels tell about Mary. The Annunciation. “And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.” The ring of truth in this is her reaction to when the angel Gabriel tells Mary she will have the son of God. And what is her first reaction? She is troubled. Many Italian frescoes that still survive from the 13th century depict this moment and what is telling is that in nearly all of them Mary is shown in a very accepting and accommodating manner. She actual bows to Gabriel in many of them. Yet, there is one painting that is true to how the above describes Mary’s reaction. Mary is shown recoiling in horror and has her dress held above her as if to shield her eyes from Gabriel. So, now even the Annunciation appears to be, at least initially, an act of denial by Mary. But, 2000 years hence we do not remember this. It was the most joyous of occasions with no fear or doubt. Siddhartha had no otherworldly encounter that brought him to his moment. He had earthly visitations that had done so. So, when he made the decision to cast off his attachments -all his worldly possessions and emotional ties- it was only so that he would be free from those things that had to be responsible for bringing suffering. Without them, he would be free in his journey. But, how would he survive? Surely he would have to eat and take shelter. He worried about these things like any other man would. He closed his eyes and tried to concentrate. But, he had monkey mind. He needed technique and training to master this. He had no idea where he would go or how long it would take.

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