Shakyamuni Buddha

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Choosing spiritual pursuits

Siddhartha was born a prince. A wandering sage predicted that he would achieve either great worldly or great spiritual power. The physical marks ascribed to buddhas in early sutras are said to be possessed equally by great, virtuous, and powerful world rulers, known in Sanskrit as chakravartins, those turning the wheel of the law. This epithet was also used for buddhas, sovereigns of spiritual law. The destiny predicted by the seer for Siddhartha was either as a buddha or as a wide-ranging monarch. Prince Siddhartha's father, of course hoped for worldly, political dominion for his son.

We may make this choice at some critical juncture in our lives, determining our future paths or careers. But we also face this basic choice again and again every day, in the middle of our ordinary activities. In whatever life we are already leading, just as it is, we can choose to direct our energies toward accumulations of worldly power and material wealth, either with well-meaning or self-serving intentions, or else toward beneficial consideration of all concerned, aimed at the development of spiritual awakening and the liberation from suffering.

In what small ways can you make choices in daily life to either consolidate your power or to benefit all beings? Notice as you go about your day where choice points keep arising.