Joseph Goldstein explores the Buddha’s life and journey, reflecting on the four stages of this mythological unfolding of awakening and how we can all achieve the enlightenment that is the end of craving.
This dharma talk from May 5, 2004, at the Insight Meditation Society – Forest Refuge, was originally published on Dharma Seed.
The Buddha’s Life and Journey
Joseph begins by exploring how the Buddha’s life and journey offer an archetype of humanity; we can look at the Buddha’s life as the full embodiment of the awakened mind. Using Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces as a way to frame the Buddha’s journey, he examines the Buddha’s call to destiny. Joseph reflects on his own call to destiny and talks about the value of reconnecting with that source of inspiration.
“On this archetypal level, the Buddha’s life is not simply the strivings and realizations of a particular individual, we can also understand his life as the unfolding of a great mythological journey. Now, mythological here does not mean unreal, it doesn’t mean imaginary. The great power of myth in our lives is that it connects our individual experiences with more universal principles.” – Joseph Goldstein
Spring Washam reminds us that we can all walk as Buddhas through this world in BHNN Guest Podcast Ep. 42
The Great Renunciation and Great Struggle (14:05)
Joseph digs into the next stages of the mythological unfolding of awakening. The second stage of this journey is called the great renunciation, and it involves weakening our attachments to our habitual way of viewing things and relating to experience. For the Buddha, this meant giving up his worldly life. Eventually, the Buddha came to the next stage of the journey, which is the great struggle. Joseph talks about needing courageous effort during this period of great struggle.
“So the great renunciation is not only letting go of our fixed notions of things being a certain way, it’s also a renunciation of ‘having’ as our deepest value, as our basic concept for relating to the world. And we see very deeply for ourselves that the wholesome qualities of mind are a much greater source of happiness than anything we could have or get or possess.” – Joseph Goldstein
Jack Kornfield talks about the surprising delights of renunciation in Heart Wisdom Ep. 57
The Great Awakening (36:50)
The final stage of this sacred journey is called the great awakening. For the Buddha, this took place during the night he sat down under that famous Bodhi tree. First, the Buddha looked back at his past lives. Then, he penetrated into the law of karma. Finally, he opened to the understanding of the Four Noble Truths. Joseph talks about how enlightenment is achieving the end of craving and asks us to remember we are not only practicing for ourselves, we’re practicing for the happiness, welfare, and awakening of all beings.
“So, the Buddha pointed out that the key to understanding this great karmic unfolding lies in the power of motivation. That’s the determining karmic force. Everything rests on the tip of motivation.” – Joseph Goldstein