Let me tell you a story. Siddhartha Gautama was an Indian prince of some kind by most accounts I’ve read. He lived an easy life surrounded by all variations of worldly pleasures, had a wife, at least one child (some say more), and plenty of servants. But that didn’t make a bit of difference to him when he saw suffering for the first time and made the decision to go become a holy man. He ditched his family and friends and any responsibility he might have had and became what we might call a beggar monk. While begging, he made a promise to the king of the city he was staying in that his city would be the first visit after he achieved enlightenment – but that wasn’t the case. Siddhartha went to one yogi and mastered what he taught, then was chosen to be the yogi’s successor; he refused and left. The same thing happened again with a different yogi.
Well, at some point Siddhartha sat under a tree in meditation and became enlightened and now we know him as the Buddha, or Gautama Buddha. His movement has spread all over the world. The temple we have here has been influenced by Buddha, and there are many Buddhist Jedi out there both in and outside of our temple. Yet to my knowledge none of them, or at least very few of them, will point out the Buddha jumping from tradition to tradition, abandoning his family, breaking promises and the like. We who are interested in Buddhism know the stories, we’ve read the speeches, but most of the time these parts of the Buddha’s life are glanced over, as if those events had nothing to do with him growing as a person and possibly even contributing to his enlightenment.
Our theme as of right now is Fickleness Yet Discipline. To be fickle is to jump from one allegiance to another, and this is what we see Buddha doing before reaching enlightenment. But aren’t these events of his life necessary for him to have reached his enlightenment? Sure, maybe he one day would have been enlightened if he took on the responsibility of being the successor to his first yogic teacher. Maybe not; perhaps it was the second teacher who gave him the training that he needed, or a combination of both, or maybe he learned something by chance while walking down the road after leaving the second teacher which he never referenced but had helped him immensely. These things may be true, but what we do know is that Buddha was a fickle man for a time in his life.
That is not to say that Buddha was undisciplined. No, it would be easy for a man to say “this isn’t working!” after begging and return home, or to abandon the teachings of his first teacher entirely once he took on a second teacher, or to forget about them entirely, leaving them out of history. None of that would require discipline at all. But at each step, Buddha gained something. When he first witnessed suffering, he gained knowledge such as the knowledge of health and disease, life and death, happiness and suffering. For a time, he begged, and he survived; surely he learned of human kindness during that time. I could go on and point out lessons to be learned from Buddha before enlightenment, but it’s besides the point. What is important is that Siddhartha learned from these experiences and took them to heart. He didn’t simply abandon post and leave everything behind; he used it as a learning experience, and though he left a few teachers and his family, he didn’t lose sight of his goals or lose what he learned from them along the way. That is discipline existing alongside fickleness.
We should strive to be like Buddha in this way. I am not saying to abandon your faith, your family, your friends, your goals or anything else. Far from it! But each of us comes to a point where we move on from one experience to the next. When we move from our parents’ home, when we end a relationship, when we leave one religion and adopt another, we should take those lessons we learned with us. We shouldn’t abandon all that we have learned, how we have grown, or anything else. That is how we move on gracefully and become better from our experiences, no matter what they are.
No matter where you choose to go in life, may the Force be with you.