The Buddha: The Story of Siddhartha
“Who are you, George Costanza?”
George: “I’m the opposite of every guy you’ve ever met.”
Buddha is the George Costanza of religious figures.
Other religions were founded by men from humble backgrounds who achieved big things.
Mohammed was just a dude in the desert until he assembled a powerful army and began to conquer the entire Middle East. And as if that wasn’t impressive enough, Allah dictated the Koran to him along the way.
Jesus was just a moderately popular rabbi until he conquered death and personally absolved all of our sins. And as if that wasn’t impressive enough, it turns out that he was God incarnate.
The Buddha’s story is not nearly as dramatic or supernatural.
Buddha’s name was Siddhartha Gautama, and he was a wealthy Indian prince who was born approximately 2500 years ago in what is now southern Nepal.
As a young man, Prince Siddhartha indulged in every luxury, blissfully unaware of the world outside the palace walls.
When he finally ventured out into the real world, the harsh truths of reality hit him like a ton of bricks. Siddhartha saw an old man, a sick man, and a dead body.
Suddenly he realized that everything he cherished was going to be taken from him. Suddenly he understood that suffering is the unavoidable aspect of the human condition. And it is the fundamental problem that he must learn to overcome.
“The Buddha: The Story of Siddhartha” is a dry but educational documentary (narrated by Richard Gere, naturally) that teaches the viewer about the spiritual journey that Siddhartha took. It shows how Siddhartha became the Buddha – ‘The Enlightened One.’
At age 29, Siddhartha abandoned his family and his crown. In a futile attempt to atone for his extravagant childhood, Siddhartha became an extreme aesthetic – sitting out in the rain with no shelter and living on one small meal of rice per day. But this self-sacrifice didn’t bring him any closer to Nirvana.
While meditating under a tree one day, Siddhartha suddenly experienced an epiphany. He realized that extreme depravation was no more wholesome than extreme opulence. Instead, one should find a happy medium and live a life of moderation. He called this The Middle Way.
More importantly, Siddhartha finally learned how to stop being tormented by the suffering caused by sickness, aging, loss, and death. Before his epiphany, Siddhartha felt like the natural universe was working against him. Suddenly he realized that HE is the natural universe. Everyone is part of the natural universe.
At that point, Siddhartha became The Buddha – The Enlightened One. He spent the rest of his life teaching people the way to share his inner peace, by feeling love and compassion for others instead of wallowing in your own sadness.
Years later, one of his followers confronted the Buddha and demanded to know when he was going to prove that he is a god and tell them the secrets of the afterlife. As the story goes, the Buddha said something to the effect of: “Sorry, bro, I never claimed to be a god or to know for sure what will happen after you die. I’m just a regular man who became the Enlightened One. And you can, too.”
And that’s why the Buddha is like George Costanza. He’s the opposite of every religious figure you’ve ever met.