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Gautama, Who Became The Buddha
By David Sunfellow

From NHNE Update 57
Tuesday, June 22, 1999

Quaker Meetings & Apple Carts

NHNE is a genuinely odd organization. Worldwide, we number a little over 2,200 people, a mere speck of humanity compared to the five billion human beings that presently call planet Earth home. We have members in 33 countries around the world, but most are based in the United States, Australia, England, Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand, in that order. While other organizations have relatively clear-cut missions, with relatively clear-cut objectives -- to stamp out hunger, create world peace, protect the environment, save the Earth's plants and animals -- NHNE's mission is somewhat fuzzy and ethereal. We are in search of something that has eluded our race since the beginning of time: we want to know, once and for all, who we are, why we are here, and where we came from. For us, these are not pie-in-the-sky questions. Rather, they have a direct bearing on the day-to-day happenings of our everyday lives.

Many years ago, I lived in a small intentional community in North Carolina that had a very active Quaker community. On Sundays, I attended their Sunday "Meeting", which consisted of people sitting in silence together waiting for Spirit to inspire someone to speak, or for nothing to be said at all. At the end of the quiet time, there was a time for announcements. Since Quakers are often very active in a wide variety of social causes, there was always a long list of gatherings, events, and projects for people to get involved with. Many of these, like feeding the poor in some drought-stricken nation or helping mediate peace in a war torn part of the globe, were quite stirring.

After each meeting, I listened to these announcements and paid close attention to how passionately each person felt about the project that had captured their heart. I found myself being interested in all of them. I also felt something fishy was going on: the projects never ended. There was always a new war, a new famine, a new social, political, environmental, religious injustice to tackle. It donned on me then, as it has donned on me a thousand times since, that we needed to understand ourselves, and the deeper mysteries of life, before we will be able to master the forces that continuously upset our individual and collective apple carts.

Gautama, Who Became The Buddha

Everyone on this mailing list is probably familiar with the story of Gautama, who became the Buddha. The son of a king, when Gautama was born, a seer predicted that he would either become a great king or a great religious reformer. Since Gautama's father wanted him to follow in his footsteps, he ordered that his son not be allowed to witness any of traumas that afflict humanity. But one day, after the king's guards had cleared Gautama's path of all the things that would make him suspect that something was wrong with the world, three angels intervened. The first appeared as an old man. The second as a sick man. And the third as a dead man. Gautama, sheltered all his life from such things, was astonished. A fourth vision then came of a wandering holy man, which inspired Gautama to leave his wife and newborn child so he could find a way to end all human suffering.

That was 2,500 years ago.

I don't know how accurate the legends are about Buddha. I also don't know how solid the spiritual path is he taught. What I do know is that another all-out search for the truth is long overdue. I also know that such a search has never been attempted by humanity as a whole. What would happen if it was? What would happen if even a small percentage of the human beings now living on planet Earth joined together to unravel the great mysteries?

Until recently (within the last decade), such a search was not possible. But with the advent of the Internet, which gives human beings, from all over the world, the ability to pool our collective wisdom and resources, we now have the capacity to solve mysteries that have eluded us since the beginning of time.

Follow The Yellow Brick Road

When Buddha began his search, he didn't know where it would lead. Perhaps it would support the beliefs and practices of his day, and perhaps it wouldn't; perhaps his search would lead him where others had already been, or perhaps it would lead him to places no human being had ever gone before.

The legends indicate that Buddha followed his dreams, visions, and intuitions. These, in turn, led him to befriend the wisest sages of his day, and rigorously practice the harsh spiritual path they advocated. In the end, while Buddha ended up rejecting the spiritual path of his contemporaries, he was ultimately successful in his quest: he achieved enlightenment and then returned to help others (including the sages who had once been his teachers) break the chains of earthly suffering by teaching them what he had learned.

The point here is that Buddha did not know where he was going when he began his journey, nor did he know how he was going to get there. He set his sites on solving life's fundamental mysteries and then went where he was led.

And that's what we've been doing. On a global scale...


If these purposes speak to you, we invite you to join us!


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