Claus Mikosch

The Little Buddha

Finding Happiness

Herder

Imprint

The original German edition is published by Verlag Herder GmbH, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, entitled „Der kleine Buddha“. © Verlag Herder GmbH, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany 2013.

English Translation © 2014, Verlag Herder GmbH, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany

All rights reserved.

www.herder.de

Jacket design: Christina Krutz Design

Production: le-tex publishing services GmbH, Leipzig

ISBN (e-book): 978-3-451-80200-3

To friendship

Table of content

The Little Buddha

The courageous widow

The smart professor

The unsuccessful merchant

The man without time

The blind witch

The patient gardener

The happy baker

The doubting warrior

The old fishermen

The rich peasant woman

A mighty king

The sad clown

The Little Buddha

Once upon a time, there was a little Buddha who lived in a far away land. His home was a flat stone under a big old Bodhi tree and, as you might imagine, the little Buddha did what all little Buddhas do: he meditated all day long.

Whilst in meditation he breathed deeply; in and out, without thinking about anything in particular. His heart beat peacefully and his whole body was still. Sometimes he would watch the clouds during his meditations; the way they would slowly roll by, but most of the time he had his eyes closed and only listened to the sounds of the invisible wind. Even the nights he spent like this.

The little Buddha enjoyed meditating and he also loved the peaceful spot under the big old Bodhi tree. Yet, at the same time, he also felt that something was missing in his life. Something very important; something that neither the clouds in the sky nor the trees on the ground were able to give him. Something that couldn’t be replaced by anything, something that everybody needed in order to live happily. For quite a while he had been trying desperately to live without this something, but all his attempts had failed miserably. Even his calm breathing, which was usually the answer to every problem, wasn’t able to help him. What the little Buddha was missing was contact with other people. Most of the time he was completely alone.

He only had one friend, a farmer who lived about an hour’s walk away. But the farmer was a very busy man; from dawn to dusk he had to work on his fields. And apart from the farmer, there was no-one else who came to visit him under his tree.

Of course there were also many moments when the little Buddha enjoyed being alone. But all the time? Every day, every night, always alone? No, even for him that was too much solitude. After all, the little Buddha was a human being like everybody else, and there was nobody in the whole wide world who enjoyed being alone all the time.

One day, when the farmer was paying him one of his rare and brief visits, the little Buddha lost his patience.

“I am absolutely fed up with being alone!” he said with a lot of frustration.

“How come?” the farmer asked in surprise. “I thought that you enjoyed the solitude.”

“Yes, sometimes that’s true. But not always.” The little Buddha seemed desperate and sad.

His friend, the farmer, wanted to help him but he didn’t know how. He himself had to work almost all the time and therefore wasn’t able to visit him more often. But suddenly he had an idea.

“Why don’t you go on holiday?”

The little Buddha was puzzled.

“You want me to go on holiday?”

“Yes, why not? Go and travel for a while. Have a look at what else is happening in the world. You know, when you travel you always get to meet lots of different people, and from other people you can learn a lot about life. And you will also have a lot of company. You won’t be alone so much, and this is exactly what you want, isn’t it?”

The deep desperation the little Buddha had been feeling only moments before was slowly being replaced by some confidence.

‘Going on a journey …,’ he thought to himself.

‘Getting to know other people …’

A smile returned to his face.

“You know, this is an excellent idea. I will leave right away tomorrow morning.”

The farmer was happy because the little Buddha was feeling better. After all there is hardly anything worse than not being able to help a friend who is really sad.

“Just make sure that you find the way back to your Bodhi tree one day.”

“Of course I will come back,” the little Buddha said. “But first I will get to know the world a little bit. I’m already excited about who I’m going to meet on my journey. Thank you so much for your help my friend. You are right, sometimes a little Buddha should go on holiday too.”

As he led such a simple life, he didn’t have to make many travel preparations. The farmer had given him a useful shoulder bag as a gift, and into this bag he put a blanket for cold nights, a few apples for the first part of the journey, and a small white stone to remind him of his home.

The following morning he said goodbye to the big old Bodhi tree and then he set off. He started walking straight ahead in the direction of where the sun had just risen.

Admittedly he was a little bit nervous because he didn’t know what was awaiting him, far away from home. But more than anything else he was happy that the farmer had come up with the holiday idea. Even though he was convinced that his home under the big, old Bodhi tree was the most beautiful and most peaceful spot in the world, he also felt that a Buddha wasn’t made to spend his whole life sitting under a tree.

His journey had begun.

The courageous widow

After travelling for half a day, the little Buddha decided to have his first break. His feet were aching terribly because he wasn’t used to walking long distances anymore. For the last few years he had been sitting under his Bodhi tree without really moving very much.

Just after a crossroads, he left the path, and walked a few steps down a slope to a small stream. It carried beautifully pure water from the nearby mountains. A cold refreshing drink was exactly what he needed. He quenched his thirst, and then he sat down on the soft grass next to the stream. He meditated for a while, enjoying the beautiful scenery and also regaining some strength.

Once he had recovered he climbed up the slope again. He was just about to continue his journey when he noticed a young woman coming towards him from the crossroads. Being curious by nature, he waited.

The woman was carrying a big bag in one hand, and with the other hand she was supporting a round basket, which she was balancing on her head.

“Hello,” the little Buddha said.

“Hello,” the young woman replied as she was passing him.

The little Buddha started to walk next to her.

“Wow, you have a lot of luggage. Do you want me to help you carry it?”

Now the woman stopped. She smiled and took the big round basket from her head.

“That would be very kind of you.”

She held one handle of the basket with her left hand, the little Buddha held the other handle with his right hand, and like this they continued together on their way.

“Where are you going?” the little Buddha wanted to know.

“To the big town,” the young woman said. “And you?”

“I just walk straight ahead,” he answered cheerfully, “wherever destiny takes me.”

“You don’t know where you are going?”

“No. You see, I’m on holiday, and so it’s not really important for me to know where I am going. The main thing, is that I do something different than sitting alone, all day long under my tree.”

The afternoon had just started and a long journey was ahead of them. The little Buddha didn’t know anything about the big town, but he decided nevertheless to go along. Why not? After all he hadn’t made any plans for his journey. He was happy to finally have some company. Besides, he was able to continue to help the woman carry her baggage.

It was a nice feeling to help somebody, to share the load.

“Where is your home?” he asked her.

“I come from a small village by the sea. I have lived there all my life, up until now.”

For a moment, the young woman was lost in thought. She seemed sad.

“Don’t you like the sea any more?” the little Buddha asked carefully.

“Oh no, I still love the sea. It’s absolutely beautiful! But the last few months I haven’t felt contented in my village. It didn’t feel like home any more, and because of that I am going to the big town now. It’s time for a change.”

“Why didn’t you feel content in your village any more?” the little Buddha asked, curious as he was.

“That’s a long story. But as we have enough time I’ll tell it to you.”

So while they continued walking towards the big town, the young woman told her story to the little Buddha.

“When I was twenty years old I married my husband. We had a wonderful wedding in our village, a big celebration with all our friends and the whole family. We were both very happy and wanted to have children. However, two years ago, my husband died suddenly. It was an accident, he sailed into a bad storm with his fishing boat and drowned. After a marriage of only one year, I became a widow overnight. My whole life was shattered that day, and for many weeks, the only thing I could do was cry my eyes out.

After a few months of mourning I slowly recovered. I began to feel better again and I wanted to make a new start. After all, I was still alive. Yet, very soon I realized that it was impossible to make a new start in my village. The people believed that a widow was supposed to spend the rest of her life in sorrow. This is what tradition said. I wasn’t allowed to have another husband, I wasn’t supposed to laugh or to be happy. I felt as if I had drowned too.

For some time I complied with this tradition because I had been too weak to object to everyone’s opinion. But soon I realised that I had to make a decision: either to stay in my native village, alone and forever sad, or to start a new life in a different place, with the possibility of becoming happy again.

You know, I love my village, the sea, and of course my friends and my family, but all this seems totally worthless to me if I am forced to live in sorrow. I often think about my late husband; I loved him very much, but I think I have mourned long enough, I want to look ahead now, and because I can’t do this in my village, I have decided on a new beginning somewhere else. I have decided to open a completely new chapter in my book of life.”

The little Buddha had listened carefully. It was a sad story, but he admired the courage of the young woman. What he didn’t understand though, was the behaviour of the people who were closest to her.

“Why didn’t your friends and your family help you? Do they also want you to be sad for the rest of your life?”

The young woman hesitated for a moment before she answered.

“No, I don’t think that they want me to be sad, but you are right, they didn’t support me either. I think both my family and also my friends are too caught up with tradition. They are scared of making a mistake, scared of being suddenly alone with their opinion, without having the security of the whole village on their side. Because of this fear, they prefer to do everything the way they have always done it.”

The woman kept silent for a moment.

“It’s possible that all of the people in my village are happy living their lives like this. I don’t know. But I do know that it’s not the life that I want for myself.”

The little Buddha knew that he wouldn’t have been happy either if he had been in her situation. Thinking about it, he just hoped that he, too would have had the courage needed to move on and make a new beginning despite all of the difficulties.