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  • Notes on the life of Shakyamuni Buddha

    written by Vova, a layman and yogi

    Translated from Russian by Sasha Suvorkov, illustrated by Vova Pyatsky, and edited by Dorey Glenn

  • 1

    A note from the editor:

    I met Vova in the fall of 2004, while pursuing my medical studies

    in Haifa, Israel. Working on the text with him was an important

    part of my meditation practice for many months. The following

    work is not a complete telling of the life of the Buddha; many such

    books already exist. 1 Nor does it reveal any unknown information

    or expound on any undiscovered insight. Rather, its purpose is to

    warm the reader’s heart and inspires the reader’s mind with

    glimpses from the Buddha’s extra-ordinary life.

    It was my intention when editing this text that this translation not

    only convey accurate portraits from the life of the Buddha, but that

    it also remain true to the simplicity and humility of its author. It is

    my wish that this short work, and its accompanying illustrations,

    finds itself at the feet of those interested in the Buddha’s life and

    those ready to tread his path. I offer my sincere thanks to Sasha

    Suvorkov who diligently translated the text from Russian.

    Dorey Glenn

    May 2008

    Massachusetts, USA

    About the author

    Vova Pyatsky, originally from Odessa, Ukraine, immigrated to

    Israel in 1991 with his wife Olga. They currently live with his

    parents and their two children in Yavne, Israel. Vova teaches the

    Dharma in Hebrew, Russian, and English to a small group of


    The reader interested to view larger versions of the illustrations is

    directed to

    For further inquires please contact Dorey Glenn at

    1 Mitchell, R.A. The Buddha: His Life Retold, Paragon 1989

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    1. A very long time ago dense forests covered the earth several times over. There were fewer towns and villages than today, and to their inhabitants they seemed more distant than the stars that filled the night sky. Human beings in different parts of the world put so much trust in their own beliefs and customs that even their neighbor -nations and tribes seemed half human to them. And people who lived faraway appeared to be completely different creatures altogether. In India at that time, the rich and powerful rode chariots and were waited on by servants and slaves. Enormous elephants fought battles over kingdoms which were relatively small. While the nobility and priests knew how to read and write, the tribe-folk relied on traditions and legends inherited from their clan. They either settled land together or lived in close proximity to one another; seeking protection in each other’s company. The sacred fire burned in their homes, and at their alters -oils, sweetmeats and ghee were offered to the Gods. Other types of sacrifice were presented to the Gods as well - oxen, horses, goats and sheep. Such offerings took place in specially designated places. The bigger and more frequent the offering from the worshiper, the longer and more prosperous would be their life, boon, and success. If a king fortified the walls of his township, other rulers perceived his actions as a threat. To render justice, kings relied on their own fairness and good judgment, bequeathed upon them by their noble birth. At night, while flowers and herbs filled the silent earth with aroma, expert astrologers observed the movement of celestial bodies and cast predictions about the future

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    of the universe and its peoples. Every high-born and well-to-do man in India generously recompensed a fortune teller for a horoscope reading, especially for one foretelling a newborn heir. A desire to live a long and comfortable life, and prevent misfortune in advance is characteristic to both people and animals. But humans lifted their gaze to the sky and beheld in it a power that surpassed their collective experience.2 That is why they gladly employed the art of the fortune-tellers. One newborn at the time was the son of the King of Shakyas. The Shakya tribe descended from the Sun Dynasty of ancient Indian kings.3 The child was named Siddhartha which means “he who has attained his goals.” Though, they say Siddhartha’s horoscope foretold glory; choice was always under his control. Philosopher-ascetics at that time often spoke about the existence of two main paths: downward and upward. Good and commendable acts and knowledge took people on the upward path to the sky, towards freedom, and light. Disgraceful acts and ignorance led people on the downward journey to darkness. Ascetics were mostly men who, living in groups in the woods4, devoted long hours to meditation and self- analysis in pursuit of salvation. At the moment when little Siddhartha was born in the royal palace, the ascetic 2 Perhaps, for this reason, astrology was able to establish itself in Egypt

    and Babylon and spread to the Mediterranean world and India. Although astrology adapted itself to the local belief system, it still maintained constancy in its methods of prediction. 3 Ancient Indian kings descended from two major dynasties, the Sun Dynasty

    and the Moon Dynasty. Krishna, Bharat, Rama, and Buddha Shakyanumi are

    notable examples. In Sanskrit India is named after Bharat. 4 Not all ascetics lived in the woods. Some resided in mountainous areas and

    others near rivers. Indeed, some traveled from one place to another in groups or

    alone. There were a few ascetics who devoted their lives to practice residing in

    only one cave or forest hut, most traveled between multiple locations throughout

    the year.

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    life was far from his consciousness; as if on a different planet. Their paths were yet to cross. 2. Maya, Siddhartha’s mother, died shortly after giving birth to the prince. Yet his family surrounded him with such love and care that it seemed to fill the child’s whole existence to the fullest. Siddhartha’s life also abounded in luxury. In each season he lived in a different palace. Each boasted an exquisite pond in which dancers and actors performed. Everything that could please the senses existed in his life. The love and tenderness that Siddhartha received from his family brought him great happiness, but luxury made him uneasy. He felt something deceptive and frightening about it. He often recalled the impermanence of the luxuries in his mother’s life. The young prince paid close attention to those who were old and sick, and reflected on the fate of those who died. “How can I neglect them?” he asked himself. “I myself will have to face the same fate.” Like all princes, Siddhartha had an instructor in martial arts and a Brahmin teacher who taught him not only grammar, but the sacred texts that deal with world creation, gods, rituals and the history of the Shakya dynasty. The inquisitive student asked questions about the path of salvation from suffering, but his teachers would avoid direct answers. “A warrior serves the glory of his clan. The Gods themselves greet him for his valor,” said an instructor who had himself fought many battles. “I dream of vanquishing suffering itself in battle,” the prince made a commitment in his heart. “Every man has his own path predetermined by his actions in the past,” claimed the Brahmin. “The Gods send us omens and messengers to point out that which is destined to come.”

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    Depicted is Black Tara, whose reincarnation was Shri Prajapati,

    the aunt of Buddha Shakyamuni. After the Buddha’s mother died, she accepted responsibility for his upbringing and maturity

    alongside her own son, Nanda. Shri Prajapati became the head nun in Gautama’s sangha and went on to attain Buddhahood in

    her lifetime. The sutras mention her supernatural qualities as well as her role in ordaining many male and female disciples.

  • 6

    “I have already seen the three messengers,” reflected Siddhartha. “They were the sick man who was without strength, laying on the ground dependent on others, the old man who suffered in his tired and weakened body, and the dead man who was indifferent to all that he was attached in his earthly life. They pointed out to me the path that all mortals must walk. I must find salvation from suffering.” Sometimes bliss would suddenly seize the young man. He could not explain the reason for these experiences except for the presentiment that the solution for the task at hand was near. But then the bliss would unexpectedly disappear without a trace and Siddhartha would return to observing his ongoing life. Siddhartha’s body, well-tempered through horse- riding, archery, wrestling and other martial disciplines, became beautiful and strong. His art of contemplation, fortified by memorization of the sacred texts and lessons in dialogue, ripened brilliantly. Siddhartha was ascending the stairway towards greatness. Fate offered him two more generous gifts: his beloved wife and son. The reigning king, however, was preparing his heir to the throne for the task of heading the glorious clan of descendants from the Sun Dynasty. While most people might have been satisfied with military val


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