This week the 90-minute TV interview of Meghan and Harry with Oprah Winfrey shed light on the British institution of royalty and its inability to address the suicidal thoughts of Meghan, the comments of someone in the Palace on the skin colour of the baby and the Palace control over her life.
Meghan also suffered because of the ugly face of certain British newspaper and television commentators, who took every opportunity to undermine her and treat her with cynicism.
Princess Diana had gone through hell in the 1980s and 1990s until her death in 1997 with Harry aged 12. Her hour-long TV interview about life with the Royal Family in 1995 had similarities with the experience of Meghan. Prince Harry put his family before Royal protocol.
A few parallels show themselves in the flight of the Indian Prince and the flight of the English Prince and his family. Both men felt trapped in their historical circumstances.
The story of Gautama has become one of the most famous stories worldwide in human history due to his liberating realisations, questioning of power and criticism of consumerism. HIs voice still resonates today with his added emphasis on ethics, mindfulness, meditation and empathy.
The story of Harry and Meghan has created much attention at the time of writing but these current events will probably reduce to a few paragraphs in English history.
Flight of Prince Gautama
Harry has a few points in common with Gautama in terms of upbringing and outcome.
Some 2600 years ago, Prince Gautama experienced a personal crisis in the Royal Palace in the capital city of Kapilavastu of the Sakyan Kingdom of north India. The discourses of the Buddha along with Buddhist commentaries offer an account of Gautama’s decision to step out of the life of royalty.
The Prince experienced a sheltered life moving between the three palaces for the three seasons – monsoon, summer and winter. His life had not been without heartache. His mother, Queen Mahamaya, died seven days after his birth. His father, King Suddhodhana, a controlling personality, hid his son as much as possible from the realities of daily life, such as sickness, ageing and death.
Devadatta, a close cousin of the Prince, experienced a love-hate relationship with Gautama that lasted for decades.
The 29-year-old Prince struggled with his commitment to Royal duties and being the next in line for the throne, he felt trapped in the royal institution. Born into the military caste, Gautama primarily left the Palace to lead military manoeuvres and attend other royal duties. The Prince felt trapped with nobody to turn to. Matters came to a head one night when his inner conflict reached a peak.
In the middle of the night, he crept out of bed, quietly kissed his wife, Princess Yashodhara on the cheek and rode out of the Palace. He found himself unable to take a final glance at their baby son, Rahula, in case he lost his resolve to leave. The Prince had the determination to enlighten his mind to a different way of life with meaning and depth.
Gautama turned his back on one of the world’s most prosperous nations with a thriving commercial life, rich in culture, a strong army and a long-standing religious tradition. The monarchy, government and Brahmin priests took care of the affairs of state for the Sakyan people. The Prince turned his back on all of this.
History and contemporary events provide us with stories of women and men, who have stepped out of the relative security and comfort of a contracted way of life into a fresh start and the uncertainties that go with it.
It took six years for Gautama to resolve his crisis, end his suffering and realise a different vision of life. After fully waking up while meditating under a tree in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, he met five friends in Sarnath living a yogi way of life. Afterwards, he walked to Kapilavastu to see his wife and son, now just over six years old.
By then, people referred to Gautama as the Buddha–meaning the One who Woke up.
The Princess spotted Gautama walking towards the Palace. She turned to Rahula and said to him: “That is your father. Go and claim your inheritance.”
The boy’s father responded: “I have a wealth to offer that cannot perish.”
Then the Buddha shared his experiences, insights and understanding. Afterwards, Yashodhara and Rahula accompanied Gautama.
The Buddha renewed his commitments and responsibilities as a father to his son.
The essence of the message of the Buddha expresses as wisdom, freedom and universal compassion.
May Harry and Meghan not become prisoners to the ostentatious lifestyle of their neighbours who surround them.
Both would agree with the Buddha on the importance of universal compassion. The couple have a duty to keep compassion in the foreground of their daily lives. That will require reminders from their inner circle.
It would be a tragedy if the couple shift from one contracted environment in the UK to another in a super wealthy area of California.
(Painting shows Prince Gotama leaving the Palace during the night).