I was in a grocery store recently, and a mother was pushing a shopping cart with a young girl of maybe two years old in the seat. The baby was sobbing, and the mother tried to console her with “Yes, yes, I know. Life is so hard, it’s so hard” while stroking the little girl’s hair. The baby girl just learned the First Noble Truth from her mother in the frozen food aisle.
Suddenly, there it was: Her Buddha Nature shining through, a natural Bodhisattva on display for all to see in that one perfect moment. I don’t feel the lesson of her teaching suffered because I don’t know her name, or where her family is from, and what socioeconomic status she has. It was just right there, right then, when the truth was revealed. I’m honored to have been able to witness it. Simple, with no personality or personal back story needed; the baby cries, so the mother comforts the baby. It was obvious what needed to be done, and her words and actions saved all beings from suffering right there and right then.
So why do we have this urge to turn the Dharma Teachings, or more accurately the Dharma Teacher into a celebrity? Does the Dharma change any if young Gautama didn’t really come from his mother’s side, or if he didn’t sit under the rose-apple tree? Does it matter whether Sujita gave him a bowl of porridge? Does it even really matter whether Gautama sat under a tree and then stood up the Buddha? Does any of that actually change the Dharma?
The teaching of the Middle Path doesn’t need Gautama to come from a wealthy household any more than it needs him to have gone through the ascetic phase, it’s a convenient expedient that he did. The Dharma is the Dharma; the Middle Path is the Middle Path, with no need for embellishment, justification, or validation.
The Sutras themselves don’t spend much time on “The Buddha,” as a personality and as a spiritual superstar of some sort. It was generall… … … …