The First Virtue

Ezra Azra


© Copyright 2024 by Ezra Azra
Artwork by Thomas Nordwest at Wikimedia Commons.
Artwork by Thomas Nordwest at Wikimedia Commons.
From the beginning, Communities of people everywhere throughout history, independently of one another, have formulated virtues by which everyone in that Community is required to live.

Nobody has attempted to make a list of all the virtues defined by all Communities. Probably, such a list would be endless, even without duplicated virtues.

Some virtues that have been found to occur in many Communities, are, alphabetically, Compassion, Fairness, Honesty, Honour, Justice.

There has never been an attempt in history, or fiction story-telling to determine which virtue that occurs in more than one Community is the most important of all.

This fiction story is the first attempt. It is being offered because it arises firmly out of a centuries-old traditional belief practised to this day by an ancient venerable religion.

Buddhism is a major religion in the world. Siddhartha Gautama Buddha is the alleged name of the alleged founder.

The first profound mystery of Buddhism is that nothing is known for certain about Siddhartha Gautama Buddha himself.

It is alleged Siddhartha Gautama Buddha was born approximately six hundred years before Jesus. This guess is not helpful since Christian scholars give an approximate alleged date as the birthdate of Jesus, too.

All three alleged names of the alleged founder of Buddhism are so uncertain as to leave the alleged founder with no name at all.

Siddhartha was not a name; it was a title conferred to many adherents of other religions at the time, and it meant ‘One who has attained one’s goal.’

The same applies to the other two alleged names. Gautama meant ‘One who has the most light.’ Buddha meant ‘One who brings enlightenment.’

In other words, nobody knows the real name of the alleged founder of Buddhism; he is only known by three titles that, in his time and before, were common titles in more than one current religion. The meanings of these titles make it not possible that any child would have been given any of them as names. Nobody knows what the alleged founder’s adult name was before his teachings and his way of life earned him the three titles: Siddhartha Gautama Buddha.

Contributing most significantly to the uncertainties about his name is the fact that in the time of the alleged founder of Buddhism, and long, long before his time, there was no writing in his part of the world.

Writing came to that part of the world hundreds of years after his death. In other words, if, indeed, he had been a teacher of virtues, it cannot be certain what virtues he taught.

Again, in other words, this story about the founder of Buddhism has been gleaned from the same highly apocryphal sources as everything else has been written by everybody throughout history.

So far, it is certain that the man who came to be known as the founder of Buddhism was the very first person to teach fairness to oneself and to others as the most important human virtue.

And this teaching in his life was not in any way, by himself or by anyone else, seen as a result of special enlightenment. In him and taught by him, fairness was the first practical requirement for peaceful everyday Community living. There was nothing spiritual in and about its beginnings.

He had been born into a wealthy family. He was one of seven children. He was the seventh child; the only male.

In his Community, men were allowed to marry as many wives as they could afford.

In his Community, the one-and-only purpose of marriage was to produce sons. The firstborn birth of a daughter brought child-bearing attempts to an end because of the fear a second daughter would be produced.

And so the father married the next wife as soon as the previous wife produced a daughter. This happened six times. Siddhartha was the second child of the sixth wife.

The firstborn, a son, of the sixth wife had been stillborn; and so the mother was allowed to try again. Had that firstborn stillborn been a daughter, she and her husband would not have tried for a second child. That the first had been a son, even though dead at birth, was seen as a good sign; and so husband and sixth wife tried again.

Her second child was a boy. This made her the most important wife of the six. By ancient custom, she was allowed to try again after her son’s birth, because she might produce a second son. However, she and her husband decided to not take the risk. They feared the Gods of their Community might see it as arrogance in mere mortal husband and sixth wife to presume the Gods would favour them three times in succession.

And so Siddhartha was forever his parents’ last child.

As the only son he was the sole heir to the family’s considerable farm wealth, by ancient tradition.

When Siddhartha was about six years old he came to know about the Community’s ancient tradition of the “Living Goddess”, or, the “Kumari Devi.”

Religious leaders would gather and select a young virgin girl about to have her fifth birthday. She would be the Community’s Goddess to be worshipped. The child would be housed in a palatial home. She would be displayed to the Community only a few times a year. Everybody prayed to her and lavished her with gifts and money. She remained their supreme Goddess until her first menstruation.

At that time, her divinity ended. The search began for the next Kumari Devi.

The previous Goddess would return to a life of an ordinary person. Since she and her family were allowed to retain much of the huge amount of material wealth she had acquired during her reign as the Community’s supreme Goddess, her return to ordinary mortal living could have been happily welcomed. It was not.

In the belief of a Kumari Devi, came the belief that she had to be celibate all her life, as a Goddess and forever afterwards as a mere mortal. If she were to marry, her spouse would die during the marriage ceremony.

Everybody for centuries and centuries did not question anything about the Kumari Devi worship. Everybody, that is, until Siddhartha at around the age of six, came to know about the Kumari’s post-Goddess fate.

It disturbed Siddhartha that childlessness in ordinary mortals, considered by the Community as a curse equal to demon-possession, was forced upon a post Kumari Devi virgin. For years and years he dare not let anyone know of his objection to the centuries-old Community belief. In all those years his bottled-up disappointment increased at the unfairness of a Kumari Devi’s post-Goddess fate.

At sometime in its build-up in intensity within him, the issue of unfairness spilled over into his daily duties as the wealthy owner of a vast farm.

He came to regard meat-eating as unfair to the animal about to be eaten by other animals and humans.

Up until that time, there were no restrictions on meat-eating, in his Community nor in any Community in his part of the world. His farm was the first on which the practice was discontinued.

In time it grew in him that he had a responsibility to teach to others his commitment to and belief in fairness to oneself and to others as the primary ethical virtue. His considerable material wealth made it easy for him to take up teaching.

Because in his Community, as in all others everywhere in those times, a wife was relegated to being only a privileged slave to her husband, Siddhartha never married.

This decision by a wealthy man deeply baffled everyone inasmuch as marriage was believed to be the only way ordinary persons attained, in the eyes of all the Gods, equality with the Gods; higher than martyred mortal saints.

Because Siddhartha had no sons to be his heirs, after his death, his estate would be divided among his sisters’ sons.

He believed it unfair that by Community laws his sisters could not inherit any of their father’s wealth. He searched the laws and customs. He found no other way.

He invented a way. His considerable wealth gave him the courage to dare to depart from hundreds of generations of tradition.

He declared he had had a holy vision. He had to go on a pilgrimage to a distant holy shrine. He divided his estate equally among his sisters, and gave out that in obedience to the holy vision he had experienced he would spend the rest of his life teaching fairness, while he made his way to the distant shrine.

His magnanimous fairness to sisters was so alien in those times, it had a mighty effect in the phenomenal spread of Siddhartha’s reputation as a holy teacher, even though he had never named any God in his teaching, and never stipulated any religious ritual or prayer.

The day came for him to set out for the shrine. Most of the Community members came to bid him safe journey, and success.

Two former Kumari Devis approached him and asked to join him in his journey to the shrine he had seen in his vision.

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