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The relevance of the Buddha

DIWAN SINGH BAJELI

Arun Kuckreja's Buddha is not an embodiment of eternal tranquility but a contemporary leader, anguished by the chaotic, violent and intolerant human condition.



VOICING THE ANGUISH Sunit Tandon at a play reading

Propounded by Gautam Buddha, Buddhism as enshrined in the `Noble Eightfold Path' is one of the major spiritual forces in the world today. Born in 323 B.C., Gautam's life and thoughts have been interpreted and re-created by writers, poets, theatre and film personalities according to their individual artistic vision in different parts of the world. The latest work on the Buddha is by Arun Kuckreja in the form of a soliloquy which was read by Sunit Tandon, a media and theatre personality, before a select gathering at India Habitat Centre this past week. It was an evening remarkable for profound reflection on the thoughts of the Buddha, who continues to influence the spiritually crippled humanity as a source of redemption. Arun Kuckreja has earlier written "Dashaanan" in the same form. It seems he is pioneering a new genre in the theatre art. It is a brave attempt to break through the conventional idiom.

Blood and gore

A blend of history and mythology, Arun Kuckreja's "Buddha" is not an embodiment of eternal tranquillity but in a highly anguished state of mind, pouring out his thoughts over the chaotic, violent and intolerant human condition. Buddha looks back with a bruised heat at human history, discovering that all history has been the history of blood and gore.

The complexity and depth of the soliloquy is enhanced by poetic imagery and metaphors. The reference to the white swan mortally wounded by Dev Datta's arrow is the manifestation of the destruction of the innocent, the beautiful and the pure by brute force. The dying swan asks a perturbing question - when you cannot restore it, what right you have to take my life? In his painful reflection, the Buddha is critical of his own conduct in deserting his wife and son in quest of true knowledge and Nirvana. He also comments on Rama, who too had deserted his pregnant wife Sita.

Arun Kuckreja's Buddha is our contemporary. Compared with "Dashaanan", the "Buddha" is bold and imaginative, displaying his art as a dramaturge more polished and sharp. "Buddha" also offers hope for mankind living in misery, despair and obsessed with fear and terror of death. Buddha asserts: Night meets dawn/ The universe lit like the full moon/I am the sun of hope/I Gautama Siddhartha have attained Buddhahood.

Intense experience

A fine actor as Sunit is, his reading offers an intense experience. Through his intonation, pauses and facial expression he brings to the fore the dilemma of Buddha, his feverish sentimentality and his anguish over the human condition. His style of reading evokes an atmosphere that inspires the audience to internalise the Buddha's philosophy.

This was followed by a panel discussion on the relevance of Buddhism in a world at war against itself. The participants included former Union Minister Vasant Sathe, who released "Buddha - A Soliloquy", published by HOBO. Also present were author Uma Vasudev, theatre person Sohaila Kapur, and Varsha Das of Bharat Soka Gakkai. A prayer poem for lasting world peace by Daisaku Ikeda, president of Soka Gakkai International was read on the occasion.

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