Siddhartha, Who?


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Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, that's who! Today, many in the Western world are becoming more and more interested in Buddhism. In Montreal, there are eleven Buddhist temples. In fact, a new Buddhist center called Diamond Way Buddhism, founded by Lama Ole Nydahl, exists in Montreal. In spite of this, when I recently asked several Concordia students at random about what they know of Buddha and Buddhism, I got answers infused with great misunderstanding. When I first asked my victims who Siddhartha Gautama was, none of them could answer me. Then I asked who Buddha was and what Buddhism is. A few answered that Buddha is a God. Someone said that Buddhism demands people to be vegetarians and to practice meditation all day. Out of all these answers, one made me chuckle nervously: someone said, "Buddha is a big-bellied guy seen in almost every Asian restaurant."

The Story of Buddha

Siddhartha Gautama wasn't born a God, but he wasn't born an ordinary person either. In 563 BCE, in what is known to be Nepal today, a prince by the name of Siddhartha Gautama was born. Being the son of the great emperor Shuddhodana, who governed the lands of the Shakya clan, Siddhartha lived in the lap of luxury.

When Prince Siddhartha came into the world, a holy man prophesized that the prince would either be a great military conqueror or a great spiritual teacher. In fear that his son would choose the latter path, Shuddhodana shielded Siddhartha from any form of tragedy. He even ordered his ministers to give his son everything he wanted. Thus Siddhartha grew, accustomed to riches and sheltered from the harsh realities of the outside world.

At the age of 29, the prince began asking himself questions about life and grew more curious about the outside world. Finally, he asked his father for permission to step out of the palace to see the world. With the holy man's prophecy in mind, Shuddhodana ordered the city to hide every poor, sick and miserable-looking person from his son's passage.

On the prince's assigned path, Siddhartha encountered a sick individual. His servant, Channa, informed him that the unfortunate man has a disease. The following day, the prince returned into the city and noticed a woman's face covered in wrinkles. Channa told the prince that this is old age. Siddhartha went out of his palace a third time to see a man looking like a log. His servant revealed to him that this is death. The realization of humanity's mortality distressed Siddhartha. The dismay eventually pushed him out of his palace, leaving his family behind. He thus traveled eastward in search for a solution for decay and death.

For several years, Siddhartha wandered through a vast forest. With each passing day, he reduced his food intake, eating a grain of rice a day, until he grew so thin that other travelers began noticing him. Admiring Siddhartha's austerity, the other seekers became his disciples. However, from a lack of energy, the Buddha-to-be failed to meditate. As a consequence, the prince rethought his ways and ate until he was satiated. He proceeded to meditate under a sacred fig tree. He warned his disciples that he would not get up until he finds a solution for decay and death. After much meditation and temptation, that solution came in the form of nirvana--the realm where death and decay do not exist. By achieving nirvana, Siddhartha became "he who is awake," in other words he became the Buddha (The Dhammapada).

People gathered around Buddha and asked him if he were a god or an angel. To both questions he simply replied, "no" (The Dhammapada). He said to these people, "I am awake" (The Dhammapada). After experiencing enlightenment, the awakened one shared with others what he learned. He did so by telling them about the four noble truths which are as followed: suffering exists, there is a cause to it, there is an end to it, it can be stopped by following the Eightfold Path.

For over 40 years, the Buddha taught his ways to people of different backgrounds until his death, until the age of 80. On his death bed, the Buddha said, "remember, all things that come into being must pass away. Strive earnestly!" (The Dhammapada). Those were the Buddha's last words. Like that, the-once-upon-a-time prince learned to accept life's fleeting nature and showed the world how to do the same.

Buddha's teachings and practices need to be adopted in our society more than ever because there is much to improve about the Western culture. The individualistic quality of Western society hinders the development of spirituality and community. It becomes thus difficult to raise people's level of consciousness. Luckily, In 1969, Lama Ole Nydahl and his wife met with the sixteenth spiritual leader of the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism during their honeymoon in the Himalayas. The 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, entrusted the couple with an important mission of spreading Diamond Way Buddhist teachings and practices into the West. Since 1972, Lama Ole Nydahl set up more than 600 centers in the West.

(Image source: Flickr)

Montreal's Diamond Way Buddhist center is located on 1883 Avenue du Mont-Royal Est. The center is a learning and meditation center. Every first Wednesday of each month, the center organizes a thirty-minute introductory talk about the basics of Buddhism by an experienced teacher. Additionally, every Tuesday, except the first Tuesday of the month, the center offers its newcomers and experienced practioners Guru Yoga meditation classes. This type of meditation involves the visualization of the guru, which leads to the union of one's mind with the wisdom mind of the master. This practice is considered to be one of the most efficient ones in Tibetan Buddhism. The center also offers supplementary Buddhist courses and guided meditation classes.

Suggested donations per public lecture are 20$ and 60$ for the entire event which starts Friday and ends Monday noon. The 60$-package includes meals and accomodation. The center's website suggests bringing mala (which is a string of praying beads), meditation texts, a sleeping bag, a towel, a toothbrush, warm clothes to be outside at night, and, of course, your mind.

One of the most experienced teachers of Tibetan Buddhism, Lopön Tsechu Rinpoche, says that Diamond Way Buddhism gives the modern world "effective methods that lead to a direct experience of mind." Living in such an individualistic society, it is difficult to take a moment for ourselves to relax and to enjoy the community and life around us. As a result, Diamond Way Buddism teaches the importance of community and the significance of spirituality. Through the Diamond Way, especially through Guru Yoga meditation, people's eyes open to "develop a deep inner richness" that would ultimately pave the way toward a non-superficial and steady mind where proper enlightenment can occur.

Stress is inevitable, but it doesn't mean that finding peace of mind is impossible. Well, what would Buddha say? Budday would say, "Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom" (The Dhammapada). Let's, then, choose the path that leads us to wisdom because only through wisdom can true peace be achieved.


"About Lame Ole." Lame Ole Nydahl, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2014.

"Buddhism." Diamond Way Montreal, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2014.

Drakpa, Chökyi. "A Torch for the Path to Omnicience: A Word by Word Commentary on the Text of the Longchen Nyingtik Preliminary Practice." Trans. Adam Pearcy. Lotsawa House, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2014.

Easaran, Eknath. "Introduction." The Dhammapada. Tomales: Nilgiri Press, 2007. 13-98. Print.


That shaded box looks mighty fine, Solange! Really nice layout.

Great read. I love how you put emphasis on Buddha's story through the use of that box. The formatting really suits the overall flow of your piece.

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