Spearheaded by the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist order, “Siddhartha The Musical” was staged at The Theatre at Solaire in Pasay City from Oct. 27 to 28.
Founded by the Venerable Master Hsing Yun in 1967, the order is based on four principles: To propagate Buddhist teachings through cultural activities; to foster talent through education; to benefit society through charitable programs; and to purify human hearts and minds through Buddhist practice.
The message from the founder says that: “From ancient time to present, devotees have been singing Buddhist hymns in the temple. I have often said, “If people chant inside the temple to praise Buddha, why can’t we do it together for everyone to enjoy, since ‘Everyone has the Buddha nature’?” Because I firmly believe the function of music to propagate and conduct Dharma service, I advocate the use of music in chanting of the prayers.” This statement gave birth to the “Fo Gaung Shan Buddhist Monastic Choir” who composed the monastics of the order.
Following this tradition, the order has extended to their work to the world, making “Siddhartha The Musical” the avenue for sharing the belief that self-discovery is an internal journey.
The musical is based on the book “The Biography of the Sakayamuni Buddha” by Venerable Master Hsing Yun.
The information on the book and the musical released to the audience reads:
“The musical tells the story of a prince who was born 2,600 years ago in ancient India, in the land known as Kapilavastu. At birth, a seer prophesied that Siddhartha would either be a skilled leader like his father or a great spiritual teacher. Upon hearing this, King Suddhadona did everything in his power to ensure the kingship of his son.”
Siddhartha grew to be a young man within the confines of the palace walls oblivious to the reality of pain and suffering in the real world. But one day, as Siddhartha was exploring the kingdom, he witnesses old age, sickness, and death, and meets a practitioner. Seeing these made him renounce his royal status and seeks to end human suffering.
“For six years he practiced austerities and meditation in the forest until he realized the extreme practices will not provide him all the answers to all his questions. He decided to sit and meditate under a tree where he stayed until he achieved enlightenment and became known as the Buddha. The insight the Buddha gained became the basis of the Buddhists teachings that is still kept alive by millions of people today.”
The musical was not merely intended to entertain and inform the audience about the life of Siddhartha. Beyond the construct of spreading dharma outside the temples where Buddha is praised, it is an open invitation for everyone to re-evaluate their lives.
Facing the reality of day-to-day living, human beings are constantly searching for meaning. People are creative beings. They have been able to find alternative ways to escape, or at least take a break, from reality. Though some find emancipation as their way, Siddhartha has shown that their lives as humans should not end, but the bondage dictated upon and internalized by them—including false realities—should end.
Let me posit this question: What is reality?
Hermann Hesse wrote in his novel “Siddhartha” that “[t]he reason why I do not know anything about myself, the reason why Siddhartha remained alien and unknown to myself is due to one thing, to one single thing – I was afraid of myself, I was fleeing from myself.”
As long as people try to escape from themselves, self-realization is an impossibility. Siddhartha exemplified the necessity to experience life to discover oneself. Though not presented, nor directly implied in the musical, this experience is beyond the screen of your computer and mobile phone.
It is all about living with people and empathizing with them. This is the wheel of dharma that will keep turning forever and the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist order has lived on this belief. Through the Fo Guang Shan Education Program in the Guang Ming College in Manila, the order is able to touch lives.
The teachings of the college “focuses on the students as individual human beings, who can be fully developed via a healthy environment that nurtures their critical thinking and artistic talents. Ultimately, the college envisions a community of socially responsible individuals who are productive and actively engaged in creating a pure land here on earth.
Housed at the FGS Mabuhay Temple in Manila, Guang Ming College initially offers three major programs: Dance, Theater, and Buddhist Studies. Students of the Guang Ming College are selected based on demonstrated potential and financial need. They are also provided with full scholarships that include board and lodging.
As the Venerable Master emphasized: “Only through education may we uplift ourselves from poverty, re-direct our future, and create a prosperous and strong nation.”
The musical itself is composed of volunteer performers and it is for the benefit of the Fo Guang Shan Foundation Inc. scholars. If everyone has the nature of Buddha, and the eight-fold path has stood open ever since, then is this the path you are willing to take?