From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Judith Viorst: Alexander and the Buddhist Day

(Photo by Michel wal)
Although Judith Viorst’s Alexander had a “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” he was also learning (sooner than the sheltered Siddhartha Gotama allegedly did) that suffering is a part of life (even in Australia).

Siddhartha’s father is said to have shielded him from the painful sides of life throughout all of his childhood years.  Efforts were particularly made for Siddhartha to avoid encountering sickness, old age and death. Nevertheless, Siddhartha inevitably (although some biographies claim not until age 29) met up with an elderly person.  When he was furthermore told that all people are subject to growing old, Siddhartha wanted to learn more.  In the true spirit of “watch what you ask for,” he was then shown that sickness and death were also a part of “the plan.” 

After further discovering that neither asceticism nor sensuality could negate this “plan,” Siddhartha was ready to accept what Alexander the Not-So-Great would also come to terms with.  In Siddhartha’s case, this realization translated into a set of Four
Noble Truths – the first of which is that life entails suffering. tells us the following:  During our lifetime, we inevitably have to endure physical suffering such as pain, sickness, injury, tiredness, old age, and eventually death; and we have to endure psychological suffering like sadness, fear, frustration, disappointment, and depression.

Why, then, would Alexander (or the rest of us) want to put up with these “No Good, Very Bad Days” for years to come?  The Buddhist answer lies in the other three Noble Truths:  The origin of suffering is attachment; the cessation of suffering is attainable; following an Eightfold Path of gradual and balanced self-improvement can lead one beyond attachment and into liberation.

What might that look like?  Viorst has explained:  Strength is the capacity to break a Hershey bar into
four pieces with your bare hands – and then eat just one of the pieces.


Copyright July 26, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved 

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