As a deer in the wilds, unfettered, goes for forage wherever it wants: the wise person, valuing freedom, wanders alone like a rhinoceros.“Khaggavisana Sutta: A Rhinoceros” (Sn 1.3), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/snp/snp.1.03.than.html .
Being alone does”t mean miseries and sadness. It doesn’t mean being unwanted. In Buddhism, the idea of being alone is not associated with loneliness. It is simply a state of not wanting.
The absence of desire and craving for company.
In our age of mass media, happiness is constantly depicted as being surrounded by family and friends. At the minimal, a life partner or a pet is essential for bringing a smile to one’s face.
How many advertisement in the world depicts a person being contented with himself, in a cave or a spartan room? If everyone is contented with a simple life, the business man will cry in despair.
Seen from this perspective.
The Buddha is teaching us how to live a life of true freedom. We do not have to try our best in looking cool /good / attractive to others. Nor do we need to be pretentious and please others, so that we can become part of their inner circle.
We are totally capable of being happy with ourselves. We can travel alone, watch movie alone, eat alone and still be happy. Not that we are averse to company. Just simply because we are fine and happy in whatever situations we are in.
We can enjoy our meal even when we eat alone and in silence!
Such an idea maybe very strange to those who have a strong craving for company. Their sense of self worth is measured by the recognitions and acceptance of others. Therefore, being popular becomes an essential part of their life. In another word, their sense of happiness in completely reliant upon others. That is a very tiring way of living, isn’t it?
If we look at the Buddha, he is sometimes surrounded by hundreds of monks. At times, he is alone. Sometimes he is being hosted by King and ministers. Sometimes, he wandered incognito from house to house begging for food. He is being true and being Buddha. He doesn’t change his personality to pander to others. He is completely free and happy!
From this verse, we can catch a glimpse of the enlightened way of living. There is so much freedom! Again the emphasise is an absence of adversity towards social functions and also an absence of craving for social gathering.
For most people, this sutta is being perceived as encouraging an anti-social behaviour or encouraging a hermit lifestyle. To which people critic it as bad, Hinayana Buddhism, only suitable for monks and nuns etc.
I think, that is because they are missing the point and projecting their craving or aversion onto the pure teachings of Buddha. If we remind ourselves of Buddha’s middle way, then we will see the beauty in his advice.
For a layman, this sutta is a good wake up call. To wake up from the delusion created by media propaganda. It is never late to learn a new perspective, that happiness is not dependent on good company. We are our best company when we practice mindful living.
May all be well and happy.