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Shakyamuni's Life

Following Your Own Question

Siddhartha soon left the court life he knew to examine the issue of suffering. Why is there suffering? Where does it come from?

His first step was to turn to the religious teachers of the day. He quickly learned everything they had to teach: their philosophies, meditation techniques, and codes of conduct. He practiced what he was taught, and he gained abilities equal to those of his teachers. Yet his questions remained unanswered.

The mystery of being often makes itself felt in our lives in the form of questions. We turn to institutions, traditions, and respected teachers, hoping to find answers to our questions. We study and practice, learning much that is helpful. When we really listen to our own questions, however, we know that we can never receive answers to them from an institution, tradition, or another person. The answer can come only through our own experience. At some point, we take what we have learned and apply it to our own questions. We have to make the practice our own.

Austerity


 
Along with five companions, Siddhartha began a life of extreme asceticism in order to understand the source of human suffering. Tradition records that for six years he ingested only one sesame seed, one grain of rice, and one drop of water per day.

When they discover that their approach to life is based on an illusion, many people react by pursuing wealth and power. In pursuing asceticism, Siddhartha was taking an approach to life that was the opposite of the one that most people adopt. He had learned that wealth and power were meaningless. Perhaps the answers to his questions could be found in poverty and austerity.

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