The Eight-Spoked Wheel

Blair Hurley

Enlightenment

Siddartha, certain that he is close to the truth of why people suffer and how to escape from it, sits under the bodhi tree through the night. Depending on which folk tale or epic poem you read, he defeats Mara the deceiver, or he sits by himself; he fights armies and conquers death, or he sees the light coming up through the leaves and finds himself alone and aware.

So he’s enlightened. What happens now? Does he look any different? Is there a serene smile on his lips? Does he feel triumphant, sorrowful, special, or is he now above all human emotion?

If you read the scriptures, they begin to betray a certain desperation to show his otherness, that he is different now. One sutra says that he makes fire and water erupt simultaneously from every pore. One says he fills the universe with multiple copies of himself, populating the gaps between every atom with Buddhas. Hyperbole is a fondly used device in Indian texts.

But maybe he feels thin and tired, as any forty-year-old who has sat on the hard ground all night would. Maybe he staggers a little as he walks down the hill, and goes unnoticed by the first few wanderers and mendicants on the road. Maybe when a girl gives him a bowl of rice, and asks him if he is a god or a man, he eats in silence, filled with his own loneliness, pregnant with speech that won’t come.

About the Work

Blair Hurley

Blair Hurley is a Boston native and has short stories published in Descant, The Red Rock Review, Quality Women’s Fiction, The Best Young Artists and Writers in America, and elsewhere. A graduate of Princeton University with her MFA from NYU, she is currently at work on a novel.

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