04 June 2010

Response to recent PBS film, The Buddha

Amazing that David Grubin, who is not a Buddhist, could have presented such an accurate yet inspiring film on the Buddha's teachings, without falling into the usual traps and misunderstandings. Part 2 did an excellent job focusing on the teachings. Much of the first half was animated and seemed more like a children's story, focused as it was on folklore (how the Buddha was born out of his mother's side, etc.)

The only thing in the film that really bothered me was the scene in which the Buddha, leaving the palace, doesn't say goodbye to his wife because it would be too painful, which of course makes him seem not like an important spiritual hero, but rather, like a coward.

Stories of the Buddha's life are mostly fiction. For example, it is unknown whether he even had a wife and child, whether that was added on later to add to give him credibility. Just goes to show that 'credible' in one culture can be 'dead beat dad' in another.

Anyway I prefer this version of the leaving of the palace:
When the prince awoke in the night he was shocked to see these sleeping people. What a sight! All the prettiest, most charming dancing girls, the finest singers, best musicians and cleverest performers in the country, who, hours ago, were trying to make the prince so happy, were now all over the floor of the room in the most ugly, shameful and loathsome positions. Some people were snoring like pigs, with their mouths wide open, some grinding and chewing their teeth like hungry devils. This alteration in their appearance made the prince even more disgusted and unhappy. "How oppressive and stifling this all is," he thought, and his mind turned again towards leaving the palace.


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