At breakfast one day, my client asked the waitress why there was a statue of the Buddha in the restaurant when Bali is mostly Hindu. She explained we were sitting in a Thai restaurant and Thailand is mostly Buddhist. I asked her if she knew the name of the Buddha (I was drawing a blank) and she said, “Name? The Buddha lived as a man?” Boy, I got excited! Storytime!
I quickly googled his name and then told her about the prince who, as a baby, was blessed and a prophecy came from the lips of the man blessing him, “I have seen that young Siddhartha Gautama will grow to be one of two great things. He will either be the world’s greatest military leader or he will become the world’s greatest spiritual teacher. But not both.”
Siddharta’s father wanted the kingdom he ruled over to be superior to all others. So, he got the best military training for the prince. And the best education. And he trained him to be a great king. He also kept his son away from anything that would encourage him toward spiritual things. He kept him away from the poor, the sick, the lame and only let him see power, wealth and health.
After Siddharta was married and had a child, he was riding through the city in an enclosed charriot, as he always did. But, the curtains parted and he saw, along the roadside, a man with one leg - begging. When he got home, it bothered him that there was suffering outside his palace. He began sneaking out and visiting the poor.
One day, after saying goodbye to his wife and son, the prince left his wealth behind. Dressed as a commoner, he began walking from place to place on a pilgramage of suffering in an attempt to understand it. He decided all of life was suffering. He starved himself for awhile thinking perhaps food was the problem. But, skinny and nearly dead, he decided he was wrong. So, he began eating everything, enjoying every flavour and texture. Perhaps indulging was the remedy for suffering. But, after a time, feeling fat and unwell, he decided indulgence, also, was not the answer. Then he discovered ballance. All things in moderation but none to the point of selfishness.
Years later, while sitting under a tree, Siddharta became fully enlightened. He realised that all of life IS suffering but all who truly live can end the suffering they see - or at least try. And this is the way of the Buddha.
The waitress, a young lady of maybe 25 listened to the entire story caught up in it. She said she had never heard this story but liked it very much. She thanked me for sharing it.
One thing I really love about Bali is the unrushed nature of everyone - especially hospitality staff. They od or squat next to our table and we have long chats. It is a beautful place with truly beautiful people.
Later in the day, as we were walking through Ubud, my client said, “Dave I am so glad you are my worker. I have so many spiritual questions and I love that you can just answer off the top of your head because you have studied these things and know all the stories. You’re perfect for me!” He’s a catholic man and really loves to talk about Bible stories and theology. Right now we are part way through a discussion about various Christian theories of atonement.
But I digress. Buddha! Cool story. Bali. Great place!