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Abstract

Gautama Buddha and Saint Augustine: two men born centuries and worlds apart, whose parallel lives tell the story of man’s struggle to find meaning in his own life, and to understand himself in terms of the divine. Some time in the middle of the first millennium BCE, the bodhisattva who would become Gautama Buddha took his final birth in the Himalayan foothills of present-day Nepal. Born a prince of the warrior caste and destined for enlightenment, the bodhisattva would escape the world of privilege and excess, before renouncing his titles and possessions and enduring much mortification on his path to Buddhahood. Many centuries later, in 354 CE, a man was born in Numidia, present-day Algeria, whom the world would come to know as Saint Augustine. Born to a Christian mother and a pagan father, Augustine’s life was that of a man in conscientious pursuit of justification, emerging from a youth of misguided hedonism, only to endure many trials on his path to piety and an intimate relationship with God.

Though separated by many years and miles, the extraordinary lives of Gautama Buddha and Saint Augustine bear a striking resemblance to one another. The lives of men like Gautama Buddha and Saint Augustine have often and long since provided insight for those in search of a deeper understanding of themselves and the divine. By examining the lives of these two men side by side, this work attempts to shed light on the fascinating phenomenon of two such polarizing individuals emerging completely independently of one another, yet following very much the same path of self-examination to their respective realizations. What is ultimately gained from this dual examination is not simply a message of enlightenment or conversion, but rather an indisputable assertion of the universal and immeasurable importance of introspection.

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Humanities

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Apr 15th, 9:40 AM Apr 15th, 10:00 AM

Introspection and Realization in the Parallel Lives of Gautama Buddha and Saint Augustine

Gautama Buddha and Saint Augustine: two men born centuries and worlds apart, whose parallel lives tell the story of man’s struggle to find meaning in his own life, and to understand himself in terms of the divine. Some time in the middle of the first millennium BCE, the bodhisattva who would become Gautama Buddha took his final birth in the Himalayan foothills of present-day Nepal. Born a prince of the warrior caste and destined for enlightenment, the bodhisattva would escape the world of privilege and excess, before renouncing his titles and possessions and enduring much mortification on his path to Buddhahood. Many centuries later, in 354 CE, a man was born in Numidia, present-day Algeria, whom the world would come to know as Saint Augustine. Born to a Christian mother and a pagan father, Augustine’s life was that of a man in conscientious pursuit of justification, emerging from a youth of misguided hedonism, only to endure many trials on his path to piety and an intimate relationship with God.

Though separated by many years and miles, the extraordinary lives of Gautama Buddha and Saint Augustine bear a striking resemblance to one another. The lives of men like Gautama Buddha and Saint Augustine have often and long since provided insight for those in search of a deeper understanding of themselves and the divine. By examining the lives of these two men side by side, this work attempts to shed light on the fascinating phenomenon of two such polarizing individuals emerging completely independently of one another, yet following very much the same path of self-examination to their respective realizations. What is ultimately gained from this dual examination is not simply a message of enlightenment or conversion, but rather an indisputable assertion of the universal and immeasurable importance of introspection.