Mary Irvine’s blog: Buddha

buddha china

buddha china

I recently visited the Helensburgh Writers’ Workshop and regaled them with the following! It led to a lively debate…

There has been much theological discussion/dispute over the prophet Christ’s ‘lost years’. Where was he from the age of twelve or so and the age of around 30? Was he really stuck up in Nazareth, living with his extended family and working as a chippie in Joseph’s shop? If so he would have surely been married by the age of 30. From my early studies of faith/belief I was always intrigued by the similarities between the teaching of Christ and that of the Buddha. Bearing in mind that Christ lived some 500 years after Buddha was it at all possible the former had somehow come in contact with the latter’s teaching? Further research has convinced me that this is a strong possibility. Christ was a Jew and the god of the Jews, the god of the Old Testament, was a vengeful god, one who was not averse to ordering massacres of men, women, children and animals, not to mention vegetation or of striking down any individual who disobeyed him. In short, a nasty bit of work, as most gods were at that time.

Christ’s teachings were certainly at odds with this god, having more humanity, much more in keeping with the teaching of Buddha. The following is fiction but very much based on what I, and many others, believe is credible. The legends of a man from the West called Esa proliferate throughout Northern India and Tibet. Brahmin scrolls are said to record the actual visit.

A Story of Belief

My name? What does it matter, now? To the people here I am Esa. This is where I chose to come to die. To die a second time. Not the pain and agony of that first death, a more peaceful death this time.    
    It was so long ago but I can still remember. Oh god, the pain, the pain. Not only the physical pain, the rejection. I can still hear the jeers of the crowd, the same people who had lauded me less than a week earlier. The physical scars have faded but are still a visible sign of that suffering. The mental scars have long gone, thanks to this place of sanctuary.
I am old and I ramble. My memories cloud over. I see things in pictures – not moving but stilled. A capture of a moment in time.
My Uncle Joseph, my mother’s brother, was a merchant. As a child I had listened to tales of his trading journeys to a country rich in colour, culture and spices – a lucrative commodity. A country and life that sounded so much more vibrant, more exciting than my own life in a drab carpenter’s shop. My father had been older than my mother, dying and leaving behind a young brood. I was the oldest but always felt apart from my younger brothers and sisters. I believe they were not a little jealous of what they perceived as the special treatment our mother afforded me as her first-born.
Uncle Joseph spoke to my mother.
‘I will take the boy with me on my next journey for goods. He will learn my trade.
  I have no sons. Maybe one day… ‘
And so it was agreed. I bid my family farewell, unaware it would be nearly twenty years before I saw them again.
The journey was long and slow. For my uncle and his men it may have been nothing out of the ordinary. But for me it was as though my life was really meant to be something special. I drank in everything, noises, smells, landscapes. Most of all I enjoyed listening, asking questions, meeting people of different cultures, beliefs and experience.
Finally we reached our destination. My uncle was welcomed as an old friend. I shadowed him as he went about his business. Colours, sights, sounds, smells never before encountered and luxuries only heard about, now reality. I thought of my family and my village, the simple, hard life. I loved them but I felt a pull towards this place – an affinity I didn’t as yet understand. When the time came for the return journey I stayed.  
My uncle’s farewell I can still clearly hear.
‘Find your destiny, my son. If it lies here then so be it.’
 So I started a new journey – not only a physical one but a spiritual one I met people, kind people, good people, peaceful people. They followed the teachings of a prophet of more than 500 years ago. A prophet they called ‘The Buddha’. They did not worship him as a god but revered him. I met men dressed in orange robes. Men who had no possessions, who lived what they called the middle way, following the words of this prophet. I sought more knowledge of The Buddha and journeyed on, ever northwards. I crossed high snow mountains. I encountered great building of intricate designs, inhabited by these orange-robed men. They welcomed me and taught me many things. Things I came to believe could fulfil my own people’s faith. It was meant. I was now sure that I was special, that this was the whole reason for my existence. I was ready to return on my long journey south to wait for my uncle to return.
An old man with white hair and beard leaned heavily on his stick as he slowly approached me.
‘Have you found your destiny, my son’?
‘I did, uncle And I need to return to my homeland to fulfil that destiny.’
I did return. People began to listen to me. Many thought my teaching made sense, that it enriched, not replaced the faith of their ancestors. Others opposed me, seeing this foreign teaching as a threat to their power. Their power prevailed but I didn’t die as they had hoped. Friends revived me, hid me, smuggled me out of my homeland. I made my way here, to return to The Buddha’s teaching, to be at peace, here in this building, to wear the orange robes as do my brothers They are with me now, softly chanting, the light grows dim, the mist grows thicker…………..


9 May, 016.

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This section: Mary Irvine: Writer and Philhellene

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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