Reading Buddha = Oedipus Flashbacks


I don’t know if it was just me, but didn’t some concepts in Tezuka’s Buddha remind anyone of anything? Because for me, I got little glimpses of flashbacks back to Oedipus Rex. Yeah, THAT far back.

The main aspect I picked up on was that both texts explore the themes of fate in a sense. With Oedipus Rex, the titular character was fated to end up killing his father and marrying his mother. With the caste system in Buddha, once you are born into a certain caste, you stay in that caste for the rest of your life. In both cases, whenever the main character (Oedipus and Chapra respectively) tries to fight back against their fate, it results in them suffering gravely for their actions. For Oedipus, his search for the truth on the murder on the former king of Thebes resulted in both Jocasta’s death and Oedips’s self-blinding. As for Chapra, when his true identity as a member of the slave caste is revealed instead of being a soldier, he along with his mother get executed. I guess in both of these texts, they both strongly rely on the idea of fate and destiny and keeping in line with what you are meant to be. I’m not sure if there’s any particular Buddhist meaning or further elaboration on this subject as I in no way know anything about Buddhist beliefs, but it would be interesting to see a comparison on those beliefs to see if the characters have broke some particular ideas central to Buddhism.

This was a fairly short post, but an interesting comparison in my opinion.

3 thoughts on “Reading Buddha = Oedipus Flashbacks

  1. I agree with Christel: I hadn’t thought about this at all but it’s interesting. That Chapra and his mother die could suggest a sense of fate, though I wonder if it might also be because the Buddha hasn’t really “arrived” yet even though he has been born. I think he was against castes, and perhaps in this first volume we’re seeing what happens under the usual system when someone tries to break out of their caste. It might be different in later volumes (I’m not sure), when things start to change as a result of Buddha preaching against castes. I have only seen very short summaries of later volumes that don’t tell me a whole lot about what happens!

  2. elliott cheung

    This is a really cool link to draw. Buddha is very clearly about fate as well – the order of things and how the cycle (as found on page 159) will be broken by the Buddha’s teachings.
    I got the opportunity to take a look at Pureland Buddhism once, which is a different sect of Buddhism drawing from more Chinese doctrines. I remember clearly the idea of “realms of existence” that it discussed – how when one dies, based on their karma, or the deeds of their past lives, which they forget every time they are reborn, they are relegated to becoming animals, or hungry ghosts, or humans, or they achieve enlightenment and go to the Pureland. If this principle holds true for Buddhism in its original form as will be depicted by Tezuka – which I believe it does – then Chapra and his mother’s caste would have been determined by the deeds of their past life, and unescapable. However, I don’t think this says anything specific about fighting back against your fate (although it might lead to bad karma!).
    In any case, though, it’s interesting to look at how fate is depicted in the mythology of different cultures.

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