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Excerpted from Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be by Lama Surya Das. Copyright 2004 by Lama Surya Das. Excerpted by permission of Random House, 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.

"Who couldn't empathize with these doting parents who wanted to spare their toddler the pain associated with loss?"

  Lama Surya Das
Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be
, Part 3

The couple had hastily arranged for a neighbor to stay with the child, and they were now frantically retracing their footsteps in an attempt to recover the cherished toy. They were hoping against hope that someone had turned it in to the restaurant cashier.

"He's going to be so upset when he wakes up and finds that it's gone!" the father said.

"He loves that cow! He never goes anywhere without it. I knew I should have tried to find another one to buy just in case this happened," the mother said.

"I should have been paying more attention," the father blames himself. "How could I have let this happen?"

The cashier queried various employees. Everyone was very sympathetic. Who hasn't lost something precious and beloved? Who doesn't identify with the pain of childhood losses? Who couldn't empathize with these doting parents who wanted to spare their toddler the pain associated with loss?

More than 2,500 years ago in ancient India, on the border of what is now Nepal, there was another parent who wanted his child to live a pain-free life. His name was King Suddhodana, and he was the father of the man, born as Siddhartha, who we now know as Gautama, the Buddha. Suddhodana was a powerful leader, wealthy enough to build a walled castle filled with flower gardens, elegant food, gracious furnishings, beautiful music, and great luxury.

Legend has it that before Siddhartha, the child who was to become the Buddha, was born, his mother had a dream: She saw her son as a great spiritual warrior, a radiant Bodhisattva who was transformed into a white elephant. The elephant climbed a golden mountain, then a silver mountain, and finally, carrying a white lotus in his trunk, touched the mother on her side. The white elephant then dissolved like vapor into her pregnant womb.

The seers summoned to interpret the dream told the king that the child who was to be born would either be a universal ruler or an enlightened sage, a Buddha. Like many parents, the king wanted his son to follow in his footsteps; he didn't relish the notion of raising a child who would renounce the world in favor of monasticism and a homeless mendicant's begging bowl. With that in mind, the wise men issued a warning: If the king wanted his son to embrace a royal vocation, he must make certain that the young prince never left home, for if he went forth into the world, he would see suffering. Then he would most certainly be moved to become a spiritual seeker.

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