The Buddha was a tropical Taurus Sun and Scorpio Moon (he was born shortly after sunrise on the first full Moon of spring, also known and celebrated as Vesākha by the Buddhists). Various commonly held incidents in Buddhist texts and legends indicate the positive and negative aspects of the Buddha’s upbringing. From a contemporary analysis, Siddhartha Gautama experienced a dysfunctional family (which is quite common for anyone with the Moon in Scorpio) that had repercussions for many years, before and after his awakening at the age of 35.
His mother died in childbirth (represented by the Buddha’s Scorpio Moon) and his only parent was his overly controlling father (represented by the Buddha’s Taurus Sun) who was fixated on the idea that his son, Siddhartha, should one day become a great warrior king and bring the whole kingdom wealth and prosperity.
Shortly after Siddhartha’s birth, an astrologer saw his chart and told the king that his son would become either a king or a sage (the Buddha) in the future. Siddhartha’s father, King Śuddhodana, did not like the sage option and did everything in his power to make sure that Siddhartha would never follow a spiritual path. And so he set up a false facade for him – making everything in his world and his life seem joyful, everlasting and beautiful. Siddhartha grew up thinking that there was no sorrow, no sickness, no death – he didn’t even know these things existed. It is said that King Śuddhodana lived in such fear of his son going on a spiritual quest that he did not allow family, friends or servants to even talk about such suffering in front of Siddhartha.
Despite the King’s efforts to keep everything hidden, Siddhartha eventually came face to face with the realities of life and saw sickness, death and suffering with his own eyes. The evidence shows that Siddhartha became disillusioned to the point of rejection of everything he had been brought up to believe. The obsessively protective and controlling King caused widespread pain and confusion throughout the family living in the palace, while Siddhartha entered into a personal crisis, which led to his final decision to escape the palace when his Saturn Return hit him.
The story of Gautama’s upbringing reminds all of us that the problems of the dysfunctional family go far back in human history. Such issues do not just belong to the malaise of contemporary society. Siddhartha reacted, in the most direct way possible, to his sheltered upbringing and the pleasures and comforts of a seductive lifestyle.
Contemporary psychology recognises the impact of childhood influences. With his capacity for recollection, the Buddha drew extensively from the experiences of his upbringing. He would have sensed the power of his early life as a resource for his awakening and priorities in teaching. Rather than portray himself as a victim of his dysfunctional family, he drew upon his formative years for insights. His story has been a source of inspiration for centuries and has become one of the most famous stories in human history.
The life story of the Buddha shows the heart and mind of a man who has not rejected the past, nor denied its influence, but he has positively acknowledged influential and informative experiences. His awakening shed light on various experiences so that he understood clearly their causation, rather than acting as a shadow or an obscuration of a liberated life.
To his nomadic Sangha, the Buddha said:
“I lived a very spoilt life (as a Prince). I saw an old man. All delight in youth left me. I saw a sick person subjected to disease. All delight in health left me. I saw a dead person. All delight in life left me.”
From his personal experience of a dysfunctional family life, the Buddha subsequently took a realistic approach to such matters. He gave a simple injunction in response to a problematic upbringing. “Develop and practice trust if our parents were untrustworthy. Develop and practice wholesome actions if our parents engaged in unwholesome behaviour. Develop and practise generosity if our parents were mean.”
We can learn about the significance of causation, compassion and wisdom, from the dynamics of the Buddha’s difficult family history. The Buddha, who used his insights into his upbringing to form part of his teachings, shows that we can draw insights from our family history and apply them to daily life. The Buddha adopted a practical approach that we can summarise today: mindfulness of thinking, words (speaking/writing) and actions matter.
May all beings live with insight and wisdom.