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Excerpted from If the Buddha Dated by Charlotte Kasl. Copyright © 1999 by Charlotte Kasl. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.
 

"He taught people to become free of their illusions so they could be in touch with their inner radiance, or as some say, the luminous essence at the center of their being."

  Charlotte Kasl, If the Buddha Dated, Part 1

Of course, the Buddha didn't date. No one really dated in his time. In that culture, as in many others, it would have been considered barbarian to have young men and women chase after each other, left completely on their own to find mates.

The Buddha wasn't a Buddhist either. That term came from his followers. It means the enlightened one, or one who is awake. According to Walpola Rahula’s What the Buddha Taught, his name was Siddhartha Gautama, son of Queen Maya and Suddhodana, the ruler of the kingdom of the Sakyas. He was married at age sixteen to a beautiful princess, and while the palace provided every comfort imaginable, he wanted to find a solution to the universal suffering of mankind.

At age twenty-nine, shortly after the birth of his first son, he left the palace to become an ascetic, which meant living with extreme simplicity, poverty, and chastity. For six years he wandered about, meeting famous religious teachers, studying their methods and submitting himself to rigorous spiritual practices. But they did not give him the answers he sought, so he abandoned these traditional approaches and, at age thirty-five, became enlightened after sitting for forty-nine days under the Bodhi or Bo tree -- the Tree of Wisdom. He saw that there is only one reality -- that form is emptiness and emptiness is form -- that we are all made of the same substance, all interconnected. For the next forty-five years he taught anyone who sought his wisdom -- kings and peasants alike. 

Rather than saying, "Worship me," he taught people to become free of their illusions so they could be in touch with their inner radiance, or as some say, the luminous essence at the center of their being -- the natural wellspring of compassion, kindness, and tranquility. He believed that from this place we would see each other clearly, free of expectations and images from the past.

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