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The Prince Who Walked Out of His Fairy Tale

Samira Ahmed looks at the life of Siddhartha, the prince who exchanged his comfortable life for a troubled journey of self-discovery. His goal was to become the Buddha.

Siddhartha is the name of a prince who became the Buddha.

He was born in present day Nepal, sometime around 563 BC, and he grew up as a prince enjoying a comfortable existence for the first 29 years of his life. It was then, as a married man with an infant son, Siddhartha abandoned his palace and set off for a wandering life with a band of ascetics seeking spiritual fulfilment.

In 'The Prince who walked out of his fairytale' Samira Ahmed pieces together the story of Siddhartha - the Sanskrit name meaning 'He who achieves his goal'. She tells the story of how Siddhartha abandoned future kingship after the shocking discovery of old age, sickness and death. She tells of how he took up and then discarded extreme asceticism and how, after six years of penance, he sat unmoving under a tree until he gained Nirvana or perfect enlightenment and became known as the Buddha.

Samira Ahmed looks at the appeal of the image of the seated Buddha and the spread of Buddhist ideas into the West. She considers how writers and thinkers have imagined the experience of enlightenment, and explores how others have interpreted the relevance of the Buddha's key ideas for today's fast moving materialistic life. With readings, poetry and music - including Tibetan chant, Herbie Hancock, Bengali film soundtrack, and Wagner.

Producer: Anthony Denselow
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

30 minutes

Last on

Sun 31 Aug 2014 23:30

Music Played

  • Hariprasad Chaurasia

    Jod and Jhaala with Pakhawaj

    • Times Music India.
  • Hemanta Mukhapadhyay

    O Nadire Ekti Kotha

    • from the soundtrack to the 1972 film version of ‘Siddhartha’..
  • Lama Gyurmé & Jean-Philippe Rykiel

    Offering Chant

    • Rain of Blessings.
    • Real World Records.
  • Ryuichi Sakamoto


    • Little Buddha.
    • Milan Spi.
  • Herbie Hancock


    • Speak Like a Child.
    • Decca (UMO).
  • Philip Glass

    Love and Joy

    Performer: Ana Maria Martinez. Performer: Denyce Graves. Performer: Michael Schade. Performer: Eric Owens. Performer: Albert Dohmen.
    • Symphony no 5.
    • Nonesuch.
  • Ronald Corp


    Performer: Apsara Choir.
    • Stone Records.
  • Richard Wagner

    Act 1 Prelude

    Performer: Vienna Philharmonic.
    • Parsifal.
    • Decca.
  • Trad.

    Tsuru No Sugomori

    Performer: Kohachiro Miyata.
    • Shakuhaiki – The Japanese Flute.
    • Nonesuch.


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