Prince Charles (now King Charles iii) and Prince Siddhartha. An Analysis of Shared Privilege and Response

I stood for Parliament for the Totnes constituency for the Green Party in 1986 and 1992. The following year, I started work on a book called The Green Buddha. I wrote a chapter titled Prince Charles and Prince Siddhartha. With some firm advice to Prince Charles, aged 42 at the time of writing. Below this section is the chapter in the book published in 1994.

King Charles iii, the new King, can contribute to restoration of the Earth. He may lapse into self-preservation and survival of the monarchy through playing the head of state role as his mother thus remaining fearful of sounding political.

In 1629, King Charles claimed the Divine Right of Kings to Rule, dissolved Parliament and governed as an absolute Monarch for 11 years. This intensity of self-importance led to a civil war. The trial took precedence over God-given rights. He is the only English King literally to have lost his head.

King Charles 1 (1600 – 1649) became King of England at the age of 25 – same age as Queen Elizabeth. On the 30 January 1649, the King placed his head on a low wooden block draped in black and stretched out his arms in front of him to show the executioner he was ready for the axe. Hundreds of commoners came to witness his death. The executioner severed it from his body outside the Palace of Whitehall.

The current King Charles will need active and bold expressions on concern and compassion for his citizens as his kingdom goes through an extended period of inflicting self-harm on itself with ongoing suffering and conflict at every level of our social and political life. That is his royal prerogative. It is not enough to smile, shake hands and offer momentary words of soothing comfort on his royal excursions into the public arena.

Formerly Prince Siddhartha, the Buddha had an indirect impact on Prince Charles, via a classic book and international best-seller in the 1980s on Buddhist Economics called Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher, a German economist working for the British government.

Chapter from The Green Buddha on Prince Charles and Prince Siddhartha
Published 1994

So, what of all these titles, names and nations.
They are merely worldly conventions.
They have come into being by common consent.
This false belief remains deeply ingrained
in the minds of the ignorant for a long time.
The Buddha.

At times, Prince Charles, heir apparent to the British throne, breaks out of the stifling royal mould and reveals a genuinely compassionate connection with the real world. Listening to his heart, he speaks out on issues that matter to him, spiritual values, community service, the needs of the underprivileged, alternative medicine, architecture, the environment, organic farming, the English language, inner cities. His views endear him to a significant number of thoughtful people working to change the values and institutions of our society. He is a regular talking point in the spiritual green movement.

The spiritually aware Charles (Philip, Arthur, George), the 21st English Prince of Wales, bears considerable authority due to his royal heritage. Whenever the Prince speaks on these issues and on the spiritual decline in society, the media take notice. His international status means that he also incurs the full wrath of the media due to their conventional standpoints. ‘Royal watchers’ target Charles for ridicule; they seek out politicians, doctors, architects, religious leaders and city planners who will undermine Charles ‘concerns. In the conflict of opinions, the media leaves the British public mystified about the man who will one day be their King. Charles told one journalist: “You know as far as I can make out, I’m about to become a Buddhist monk, or live halfway up a mountain, or only eat grass. I’m not quite as bad as that. Or quite as extreme. “

Prince Charles regularly finds himself enmeshed in the pseudo reality of royal protocol, his public image, identification with his role, the superficiality of a pampered lifestyle and various forms of self-indulgence. Constantly involved in public relations, he spends endless days every year dutifully asking the appropriate questions at public functions. “I have had to fight every inch of my life to escape royal protocol. I am determined not to be confinement to cutting ribbons,” he told a television interviewer. Like his predecessor, Prince Siddhartha, heir to the Sakyan kingdom 2500 years ago, Charles continues to struggle between the subjugation of himself to orthodox notions of duty to his country and his genuine spiritual concerns for people worldwide and their environment.

In1948, Charles was ‘born to rule,’ a situation that has often troubled his life. Advisors, hangers-on, courtiers and private secretaries, whose worlds revolve around maintaining appearances, control and authority, surround him. At times, the future King of England defers to his advisers’ views about what he should say and do. Daily exposure to this inner circle as well as a judgemental father, a disappointed mother and a luxurious but tedious lifestyle represses his spirit. Unjustly imprisoned in the royal cage, he endeavours to break out of the extraordinary expectations that he must conform.

Apologists for Charles say that he has no choice in the matter, that he does his best. They say he cannot change his life. But this kind of defensiveness from his supporters damns Charles: it is the worst of all insults of the many that he must endure. With such comments, they treat him as a victim of his birth, upbringing and privileged environment. The example of the Buddha shows that this need not be true.

Prince Siddhartha, Heir to the Sakyan Kingdom

The Buddha was born Siddhartha Gautama in Lumbini Park to King Suddhodhana and Queen Mahamaya in May,553 BC. He was the son of the ruler of a kingdom in northern India. While en route to her parent’s home for the birth, his mother went into labour, so she gave birth to Siddhartha in a park named Lumbini. A sage, named Kala Deva, reputed to be a clairvoyant, looked at the baby prince and commented to his father: “I perceive from certain particular signs that this baby is destined to become a fully enlightened one. “

Worried that the heir apparent to the Sakyan kingdom might renounce his birth right, King Suddhodhana called in eight leading Brahmin priests. One of them, Kondanna said: “A time will come when Siddhartha witnesses four special signs and as a result he will seek enlightenment. “

Seven days after the birth of Siddhartha, his mother died. The Queen’s sister, Prajapati, brought him up. As children Siddhartha and his cousin, Devadatta, were exploring the grounds of the palace when Devadatta took his bow and arrow and shot a swan flying
Siddhartha ran to the swan, gently pulled the arrow from its wing and used leaves to stop the blood. Devadatta claimed the bird belonged to him so they went to the Council of the Wise Whiteside: “A life must belong to him who tries to save it. A life cannot be claimed by one who tries to destroy it.” Siddhartha nursed the swan back to health.

The King made every effort to protect his young heir from the signs of suffering in the world. Living a self-indulgent and pampered life, Siddhartha remained apart from genuine contact with suffering humanity, illness, the pain and anguish of old age and even from wandering ascetics. The King built three palaces for Siddhartha, one for each of the Indian seasons, amidst a beautiful environment for hunting and fishing with an abundance of trees, flowers, animals and birds. Siddhartha met many beautiful women in the royal court, but he fell in love with Yashodara, Avery distant relative. The people of the Sakyan Kingdom rejoiced at the fairy tale marriage of Siddhartha to Yashodara.

Yashodara’ s pregnancy galvanized the prince into looking at his life and destiny. Cracks in his fairy tale existence appeared doubts began to set in his mind. Though, unlike Prince Charles, he had no mass media to contend with, he knew the Sakyan people, and his domineering father demanded that he fulfil his duty to the State. Confused and restless, Siddhartha, aged 29, summoned his charioteer, Channa, to take him into the countryside. That trip altered the course of his life; he waitressed an old man with white hair, no teeth, dry skin, bent back and contracted body. “Even I, myself, must one day look like that ” he exclaimed to Channa. Siddhartha returned home in despair.

Facing the Reality

Despite the King’s further efforts to hide his son from the real world, Siddhartha saw a sick man writhing in pain, groaning, with blood shot eyes and in terrible agony. “What a wretched plight, “Siddhartha said. Then he saw a corpse, cold, stiff and yellowing, carried in a funeral procession en route to cremation. Channa turned to the Prince and said: “There is nothing you can do about death.” On the final trip with Channa, Siddhartha met a wandering monk engaged in the pursuit of resolution of the paradoxes of life and death, haves and have-nots, good and evil, the profane and the profound. A distressed Siddhartha asked Charrua: “Why is this monk so calm amidst the sorrows of the world?” While lost in these thoughts arise from the palace galloped up to announce that Princess Yashodara had given birth to a son. “Another bond to tie me, “Siddhartha sighed. Siddhartha’s extremely privileged and sheltered life became meaningless; he now knew he would have to face ageing, sickness and death. His materially secure existence, with its comfortable hereditary. and religious values, lost all meaning.

The King called for a sumptuous feast to celebrate the birth of his grandson, named Rahula. After the huge celebration many guests stayed overnight in the palace guest rooms, dining hall and any comfortable spot available. Siddhartha looked at chemosensory, others sniffed in their sleep while others belched the glamour of the occasion seemed even more trivial than before. He went up to the royal bedroom, took a final look at his sleeping wife but could not bring himself to tuck back the sheet to look at his baby son’s face. Hurriedly, he left the room to find his charioteer. He told Hanna to saddle his favourite horse Kanthaka. When Siddhartha passed beyond the city gates, he took a quick glance back towards the palace but then rode on with Channa riding besides him. They rode through the night, crossed the river Anoma, and entered the Magadha kingdom.

Siddhartha handed Channa his silk robes, his sword and jewellery, cut off his long hair and changed into ragged clothes. He told Hannah that when he had found what he was looking for he would return to the palace to tell his wife, son, adopted mother and thianthrene is a poignant story that the horse, Kanthaka, refused to budge when Siddhartha handed the reins to Channa until Siddhartha had walked out of sight in the moonlit night. Tears fell from the eyes of Siddhartha’s favourite horse as though he knew his master had abandoned him and all other loved ones.

Siddhartha Gautama (the surname belongs to a subdivision of the military caste) set out on a quest for the Ultimate Truth. As Siddhartha pursued his search, people treated him as something of an enigma. Royal attendants told King Bimbisara of Magadha that Siddhartha wandered in the area always “charming and polite.” Siddhartha sought out the presence of Kondanna, the priest who had predicted that Siddhartha would renounce his palace responsibilities for a noble calling. At this time, Kondanna shared his spiritual Iife with four others Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahanama and Assaji. The six men became spiritual students of Alara Kalama, a renowned spiritual teacher in Magadha, and later Uddaka Rampautta, glorified for his teaching of mystical experiences.

Still dissatisfied, Siddhartha and his companions formed their own hermitage in Sarnath, near Benares. They gave up hope of finding a teacher of liberation and instead explored severe spiritual practices fasting, meditating in the heat of the midday sun,

Prince Charles finds a Teacher

Laurens van der Post, the South African explorer and writer, accompanied him on that trip. Van der Post, author of The Lost World of the Kalahari, understood the spiritual and cultural heritage of the people native to the region. He also introduced Charles to the writings of Carl lung, the Swiss psychologist, who emphasised the significance of intuition and dreams. The spiritual life and the wilderness struck a deep chord within Charles. He began the process of awakening to that significant dimension beyond his image makers, conditioned notions of duty and a controlled environment. Van der Post became Charles ‘first guru, and later the godfather of Charles’ son, William.

Inspired also by his father’s concern with conservation, Charles developed a keen interest in the land. With money from his vast estate of 130,000 acres, mostly in Cornwall and Devon, Charles bought himself Highfield House, a country house including a farmwith410 acres, a few miles outside Tetbury, Gloucestershire. It became a refuge from his various public roles, and a place for practical application of his ideas.

Unlike the President of any country, who campaigns for office, Charles was born into his, but the Buddha pointed out that a man does not become noble through birth but through the actions of body, speech and mind. To his credit, Charles has never flinched from controversy.

He has earned himself the respect of many who campaign privately and publicly for alternative values that offer a genuine holistic vision connecting health, work, community and environment.

During the 1980’s, he became more confident in expressing his views in his public talks. At the 150th anniversary of the British Medical Association, Prince Charles, the outgoing president, spoke to a large gathering of senior members of the medical profession. To their surprise and dismay, Charles spoke highly about unorthodox medicine stating that Paracelsus inspired him, and that he and other members of the royal family benefit regularly from homeopathy. In what has become a celebrated talk, he told the eminent audience:

“I have often thought that one of the less attractive traits of various professional bodies and institutions is the deeply ingrained suspicion and outright hostility which can exist towards anything unorthodox or unconventional.

The Media and Princess Diana

“I suppose that human nature is such that we are frequently prevented from seeing that what is taken for today’s unorthodoxy is probably going to be tomorrow’s convention. Not only is Charles heir to the British throne but he will also become head of the British Commonwealth. He travelled overseas regularly with his wife, Princess Diana. Her exceptional beauty and endless changes of luxurious clothes, a distinctive symbol of privilege, overshadowed Charles ‘insightful perceptions. To his chagrin, the press overlooked many of his addresses to audiences worldwide because they were concentrating on Diana and her fashion sense. The media, the public and the royal advisers reduced the Royal Couple to show business personalities, megastars in the megamachine.

The marriage, initially regarded as a romantic fairy tale, became a nightmare, then a sobering lesson to a Prince and Princess about living in a fictional world of self-projection and dependency on public acclaim. He and his wife’s personal lives filled the front pages and the gossip columns day after day. The media displayed contempt for any request to respect the couple’s feelings. Many journalists have their own history of failed marriages, affairs and emotional addictions; yet rather than display compassion for the daily suffering in two other people’s lives they haunted them day and night. The press displayed a degree of vulgarity in their pursuit of the royals that is to their shame. To demand higher moral standards from the monarch is an act of unjustified self-righteousness from the “royal watchers” and their aggressive editors.

The media ignored its duplicity in the public crucifixion of Charles and Diana. The press contributed to the wrecking of the marriage as much as the emotional confusion between the two of them did. For Diana the stress manifested as bulimia and later as substantial withdrawal from all forms of public life. Desperately feeling the need to be understood, Charles sought for years close communication with another woman. Charles’s advisers then believed that Charles lost his public credibility. The hardened view of some observers is that the Royal Couple and the press deserve each other, but the bottom line must remain compassion. The hope is that Charles can now devote his time fully to the matters that concern him and Diana can find some peace in her life.

Small is Beautiful – on Buddhist economics

His love of Small is Beautiful, an international best seller on Buddhist economics and other themes, has modestly influenced Charles’ perceptions. Written by E.F. Schumacher, regarded as a founding father of the international green movement, the author explains the necessity for a new form of economics. Schumacher wrote: “While theatricalities mainly interested in goods, the Buddhist is mainly interested in liberation. But Buddhism is the middle way and therefore in no way antagonistic to physical wellbeing. Itis not wealth that stands in the way of liberation, but the attachment to wealth; not the enjoyment of pleasurable things, but the craving for them. The keynote of Buddhist economics is simplicity and nonviolence. From an economist’s point of view the marvel of the Buddhist way of life is the utter rationality of its patterns amazingly small means leading to extraordinarily satisfactory results.

“Many passages from Small is Beautiful inspired Charles. He became president of the Intermediate Technology Development Group, a charity that Schumacher founded. Once Charles sent a message to an organic food conference at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester. His note demonstrated the influence of Schumacher:

“For some years, modern farming has made tremendous demands on the finite resources of energy which exist on Earth. Maximum production has been the slogan to which we have adhered. In the last few years there has been increasing realization that many modern production methods are not only very wasteful but also unnecessary. The supporters of organic farming, bio agriculture, alternative agriculture and optimum production are beginning to make themselves heard, and not before time. “

In the 1970’s Charles established the Prince’s Trust aimed to help disadvantaged young people from 14-25 years of age, and later the Youth Business Initiative designed to help the young unemployed set up their own businesses. He became a patron for the Royal Society for Nature Conservation. He regularly advocates support for the plight of the people of the Third World through appropriate technology and education. His projects express the heart of a compassionate man.

Prince Charles continues his annual round of royal duties. The Prince of Wales is Colonel of the Welsh Guards and Colonel in Chief of the Parachute Regiment, the Royal Dragoon Guards, the Royal Regiment of Wales, the Gordon Highlanders, the Cheshire Regiment and the 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Gurkha Rifles. Asa major figure in the military establishment, an historical backbone of the monarchy, Charles never addresses in his public talks the significance of disarmament or nonviolence though it must have crossed his mind that war causes greater suffering and hardship to people and their environment than any other human activity. His support for the military establishment and the protection of the environment puts him in two distinct worlds. The former ensures the continuity of the monarchy since the military prefer to fight for Queen and Country rather than the current crop of politicians. Charles wants it both ways – to uphold continuity of his personal lifestyle, and social and environmental justice.

His project expresses the heart of a compassionate man through a genuine willingness to give support to people in need. He has become a spokesperson for their aspirations. Through his empathy with the underprivileged, he once said: “We have managed through our Western arrogance to make at least two generations feel ashamed of their ancient traditional customs, culture and spiritual values. Now I suggest is the time when we should in all humility learn from our Third World neighbours.

In his book, A Vision of Britain, Prince Charles wrote on the back jacket “My chief object has been to try and create discussion about the design of the built environment to rekindle and alert awareness of our surroundings; inspire a desire to observe; but, most of all to challenge the fashionable theories of a professional establishment….”

Within the same book, he wrote: “Man is much, much more thana mere mechanical object whose sole aim is to produce money. Manis a far more complex creation. Above all, he has a soul, and the soul is irrational, unfathomable, mysterious.” It takes a certain courage for the heir to the throne to write and publish such thoughts an echo of] lung’s beliefs. For such statements, Charles deserves our gratitude and not vilification as a “loony” prince.

He told the London Press Club: “Our protection depends, I believe, on the mystical power which from time immemorial has been called God whose relationship to man seems to depend on man’s relationship to his inner voice.” When he was 26 years old, Charles visited a Buddhist monastery in Kyoto and commented that he felt he had “come home at last.” He has found time to spend further days in the Kalahari Desert with Laurens Van der Post, and for some relative isolation on a Hebridean Island.

No doubt Charles will continue to include his spiritual, environmental social and global concerns in his public speeches. But I believe his extremely privileged lifestyle, comparable to a tycoon, waters down the authority of his statements. He must introduce personal discipline and wisdom into the way he conducts his life, uses his privileges, prosperity and power. Being a thoughtful person is no substitute for the inner voice which says ‘NO’ to the trappings and gross pursuits of pleasure that run through Charles’s life.

The press has noted his use of the royal yacht, helicopters, private planes, Flying war planes, lavish holidays, petrol guzzling cars, endless new suits, banquets, indulgence in luxuries and praise for NATO’s nuclear defence policy. He receives phenomenal income from his estates yet only began paying income tax because of media exposure and public pressure. Charles shows a Victorian at Tithe o parenting when he gives support to slapping children. Charles takes pleasure in risking serious injury in the pursuit of various sports, whether skiing on dangerous slopes of the Alps, foxhunting or playing polo. Charles uses these sports to prove himself, particularly his sense of self-worth. But these sports, which include the pleasure of hunting and killing animals, birds and fish, reveal displaced sense of risk taking. “I’m not someone overburdened with a sense of self confidence,” he once remarked. Charles must decide whether he will risk total commitment to a life affirming process or engage in duplicity through supporting life denying institutions such as the military, blood sports and a highflying lifestyle. Every time Charles compromises, he turns his back on the fate of the Earth and the depth of his spiritual awareness.

Charles seems pulled between two conflicting values. One is the pressure on him to conform to the stereotyped aims of the royal household and the other is listening to the real world of suffering and its resolution. His first and only duty is listening to his deep inner voice of compassionate action, not to the expectations or please his advisers and private secretary. As long as Charles submits to image makers, he compromises his commitment to the quality of life on Earth. Since the media damns him either way, he must take great risks for the Earth, change his lifestyle and forget his public image. There is no justification for placing personal credibility before Truth.

Renunciation and Privilege

Unlike Prince Siddhartha, who totally renounced his royal position, Charles has not yet taken such an uncompromising step. Prince Charles belongs to a coterie of power and privilege consisting of the Royal Family, the House of Lords, Senior Civil Servants and the Church. As heir to the throne, Charles Philip Arthur George Windsor embodies the values of wealth and possession. From birth, he lives tied to the hereditary chain, which holds together the Establishment in Britain.

Charles is pivotal in this narrow world of wealth and privilege but having let go of the ties of marriage, Charles centrings deeper yearnings for the underprivileged and the environment to the surface through one simple act of compassion to renounce the throne, his birth and other associated relics of the Middle Ages. He must cut his tie to his hereditary chains. Such an announcement might rattle the Establishment out of its arrogant complacency Namakwa for a fair and just society. Then there may be a possibility of freedom in Britain from the rigid control of the Establishment who have always ensured their personal interests come first.

Like Prince Siddhartha, Prince Charles must forget this so—called royal blood, his loyalty to the Queen, his staggering wealth, the expectations of his advisers and the wall of conformity that imprisons him. He must see the emptiness of upholding the charade of believing his national duty is to become King of Britain. Charles must renounce his right to the throne and the suffocating responsibilities that accompany it. [n1936 his great uncle, King Edward VIII, renounced the throne out of love for Mrs. Wallis Simpson, an American woman. In his message to the nation and the worldwide British Commonwealth that then covered a fifth of the Earth, King Edward said he had made an “irrevocable determination to renounce the throne for myself and for my descendants.” When his Great uncle Edward made the decision out of love for a woman, there was a public outcry.

Charles must renounce the throne for himself and his descendants out of love for those causes which touch his heart. He can then give full rein to his intuition and awareness. If he shakes off theirs of his birth, Charles can enter the path to an enlightened life, for which Prince Siddhartha set an historical precedent. Such a step by Prince Charles would free him from the perpetuation of the royal soap opera and the associated morass of lies and deceptions dished out to the public. If Charles renounces the throne and all his titles, it could become a turning point in the fortunes of Britain with beneficial reverberations for humanity and the Earth.

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