Buddha TV Serial Review

August 9, 2017

Quite simply, the Buddha TV Serial is the best and the most inspiring that I have seen on Indian TV. As an Indo-Canadian, I don’t find Indian mythologicals very inspiring – they are too full of supernatural happenings, and we cannot relate to them in real life.

The Buddha serial is different. Like all great literature worldwide, it is a coming-of-age story. Watching the episodes, you can imagine yourself in Siddhartha’s shoes going through real life experiences. He is, by nature, a very compassionate person and as he grows up he realizes everything around him is fake. He has been brought up inside a palace, not allowed to step outside the palace gates. Inside the palace, there is no sickness, disease or death, as all the old and sick people have been moved to another city. When he does, finally, step out he realizes the world inside the palace is unreal. As he continues his spiritual quest, he realizes many other things in the world are unreal as most of us live in a dream state.

Siddhartha loves his mother but one day, he realizes that she is not his real mother at all- she is his aunt who took care of him. Suddenly, his whole world falls apart and he embarks on his spiritual journey to find out what is real and what is fake in the world. These coming of age scenes are beautifully portrayed in the TV serial.

Siddhartha views the world very differently from most of us. He is child-like in his simplicity viewing the world with fresh, discerning eyes. Only two kind of people have this type of clarity – young children, and some old people who look at the world with furious intensity, knowing their time is limited.

Again, like a child, Siddhartha is very, very curious and his questions never stop. He questions why the Brahmins do rituals and he questions most of the beliefs held dear by the society he grew up in. Later, as he continues with his journey he questions whether the different yoga practises lead to the ultimate truth. His real question is: what causes pain and sorrow in this world?

His final answer: all of this comes from our attachments and desires. When we seek pleasure, its opposite, pain, rears its ugly head. So what is the solution? Stay in the middle, between the two extremes. Be neither happy nor sad- just beyond this duality and deepen your experience of who you are at the core of your being.

The serial captures the essence of Siddhartha’s approach- stay away from superstition, do not accept somebody else’s approach and follow your own path to salvation. He also gives us some simple techniques for doing so: practice meditation on the breath, watching it flow in and out. Also, go deeper and deeper and observe the sensations in your body. Once you are firmly established in the “observer” state you approach nirvana, the highest state of being.

Apart from high philosophy, this TV serial captures the highlights of Siddhartha’s life, and his message very beautifully. For me, the most moving scene is where he talks to Unglimal, a known killer who has taken hundreds of lives. Eventually, he realizes his mistakes and becomes a follower of Buddha. The simple message is that even the most hardened criminal is not beyond redemption. Every episode of this serial has its moments of deep spiritual insight as sinners and saints alike come to Buddha’s abode, seeking understanding and spiritual redemption.

The serial is full of characters who do great justice to their roles. King Shuddhodanda excels in his role as Siddhartha’s father; Siddhartha’s surrogate mother, wife and aunts are portrayed beautifully. Even the evil brother, plays his role to perfection. The sets are a delight to watch; the costumes are well designed, based on sound historical research.

Some people have criticized the serial for its historical inaccuracies and the way it has depicted Buddhism. Both mainstream Hindus and mainstream Buddhists have issues with how their religion is depicted but they all miss the point. Historical accuracy is not how you judge a TV serial like. You judge it on how well it inspires you in your own life, and on this score, it gets a perfect ten.

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