Welcome to Zen and Now

This is a new musical version of the life of Siddhartha Gautama, who became known as a Buddha, an enlightened person.

There are 26 new songs and the life story is set to music. You can watch and listen and, if you like, you can participate in the project.

This is a completely free, amateur site.
Like millions of other people during Lockdown, we decided to do a creative project and this is the result. 

The story is told in 18 Chapters with  a natural interval after the first 9 Chapters. The Narration and the Songs interweave. The songs are inspired by events of Siddhartha's life and by our experiences of the present.

You might listen to short sections or jump around and listen to whatever bits interest you.

If you want to go straight to the videos, jump to Story with Pictures.

Siddhartha had a deeply interesting life, full of drama and challenges.
He searched for the balanced and harmonious way of life.
Although his story is well known in parts of the world, it is not so well understood in others. 
His life has had a life-enhancing impact on millions of people. 


Zen and Now Connections

NOW we think about....

Sustainable development. Global quality of life. Ecological balance. Reducing unnecessary suffering. Building a more just and peaceful world. Finding optimum solutions to political challenges. Having a good life. Advancing scientific discovery. Bringing up families. Understanding and improving physical and psychological health, fitness, well-being. Practising yoga, meditation. Learning how to use our passions constructively. Enjoying sport, music , culture. Creating good recipes and rhythms of life. 

SIDDHARTHA thought about..

All the above.

Trying to understand the life of Siddhartha Gautama can help us find creative connections between his search and our everyday lives. His life is still highly influential and relevant. To give just one example, the International Red Cross is now carrying out a global conference on the convergence between Buddhist principles and International Humanitarian Law. Whatever your life is now, there is some value in linking it with Zen.

What will you find on the website?

Under "Story with pictures" you can follow each step of Siddhartha's life story. There are 18 Chapters in which the narration interweaves with songs.

You can watch the whole story with pictures continuously by clicking on the Playlists, or you can click onto the YouTube links piece by piece.

The next Home Page has other suggestions for how to watch.

Under "Story - sound only" you can hear the story and the music via the Soundcloud links. You can hear the whole story continuously if you prefer.

Under "Participate" you will find all you need to join in the project:
the script; the libretto; vocal scores; backing tracks and examples.

Under "Notes and Ideas" you will find suggestions and links to other relevant sites and people.

"Thanks" and "Contact" speak for themselves. 


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Suggestions about how to watch

Because Siddhartha decided to face up to some of the worst evils of the world, in one or two  of the sections some of the pictures accompanying the songs and narration may not be suitable for young children.

Of course you may have many different ways of watching or listening. 
There are over 70 videos in Zen and Now.
Some are very short and less than a minute - others are about 3 minutes long.

The Narration of the life story is in chronological order.

Some songs provoke instant reactions - others may grow on you over time.

Although it is possible to listen to the whole work over a single session, it is much more likely that people will listen to little bits at a time.

The first half is about 64 minutes and the second half is about 80 minutes.
To listen to the songs alone is about one hour. 

The songs in this piece are connected with aspects of Siddhartha's life but the connections will often not be obvious. Sometimes the song is directly inspired by an episode in Siddhartha's  life story: sometimes by events from our own lifetime. We have used songs which meant something to us. Liam and I have done musicals about the assassination of Oscar Romero in El Salvador, about the conflict in Northern Ireland and many other themes.  In Zen and Now we have attempted songs of many different kinds. The five singers on this project were magnificently adaptable. 

If you want to know more about the links between the songs and the life of Siddhartha, there are comments in the Notes and Ideas section.

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Chapter One:           Between the Mountains and the River
Chapter Two:           Farther Shore
Chapter Three:       The Garden of Earthly Delights
Chapter Four:          Love of my Life
Chapter Five:           Bright Lights
Chapter Six:             The Quest
Chapter Seven:        Where is the Good Life?
Chapter Eight:         Sujata's story
Chapter Nine:          The Night of Light

Chapter Ten:              Setting the Wheel in Motion
Chapter Eleven:         Hate is the Gate - Angulimala's story 
Chapter Twelve:         Kisa Gotami's story
Chapter Thirteen:      Devadatta's story
Chapter Fourteen:      Rainbow Civilization
Chapter Fifteen:         Fire and Flower
Chapter Sixteen:         Promised Land
Chapter Seventeen:    If they kill me
Chapter Eighteen:       Now and Forever

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SONG 1:              1.2 Welcome to World of the Shakya
SONG 2:             1.4 Maya's Dream: The Prophecy Song
SONG 3:             2.2 Farther Shore: Mother's death
SONG 4:              3.2 Set the Night on Fire: Luxury Life
SONG 5:              3.5 Wake up Dead: Devadatta threatens
SONG 6:              4.2 I'll Compare Thee: Siddhartha and Yasodhara
SONG 7:              5.2 I've stripped off illusions: Amrapali the Courtesan
SONG 8:              6.2 Never Apart: Siddhartha's Quest: Yasodhara's fears
SONG 9:              6.4 After Tomorrow: Siddhartha sets out
SONG 10:            7.2 Where is the Good Life? Chorus only
SONG 11:             8.2 Misunderstood: Sujata sings
SONG 12:            8.5 Magnificat: Sujata
SONG 13:            9.2 Everyman is vulnerable: Mara
SONG 14:            9.5 Simple Song 

SONG 15:            10.3 Now and Forever: Siddhartha 
SONG 16:            10.5 Listen: Siddhartha
SONG 17:            11.3 Hate is the Gate: Angulimala
SONG 18:            12.2 So many ways to die: Kisa Gotami
SONG 19:           13.4 Your mother: Devadatta
SONG 20:          14.2 Stone walls: Sectarian divides
SONG 21:           14.4 Magadha: Where is the good life?
SONG 22:          15.2 Promised Land: Siddhartha returns home
SONG 23:          16.2 Seemed like a dream: Siddhartha's followers
SONG 24:          17.2 Time was: Fears rise
SONG 25:          17.4 If they kill me: Threats and response
SONG 26:          18.2 Now and Forever Finale: Last words

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Names of the main characters

Siddhartha Gautama: known as Buddha and Shakyamuni, the sage of the Shakya
Suddhodana: a Shakya ruler, Siddhartha's father
Maya: Siddhartha's mother
Asita: one of the seers
Pajapati: Siddhartha's stepmother
Yasodhara: Siddartha's wife
Rahula: Siddhartha's son
Devadatta: Siddhartha's cousin
Channa: the Charioteer for Siddhartha's family 
Amrapali: a Courtesan
Sujata: a milkmaid
Angulimala: a serial killer
Kisa Gotami: a widow whose child has died
Mahanama: a Shakya chief after Sudhodanna's death
King Bimbisara of Magadha
King Ajatasatu of Magadha, son of Bimbisara
King Pasanadi of Kosala
King Vidudabha of Kosala, son of Pasanadi
Ananda: a close friend and follower of Siddhartha
Sariputta: a close friend and follower of Siddhartha
Moggallana: a close friend and follower of Siddhartha
Cunda: the blacksmith at whose house Siddhartha had his last meal

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When and where?

Siddhartha was born about 2570 years ago, 550 years before the birth of Jesus. He lived at about the same time as Confucius and about 180 years before Aristotle and Plato.
He was born in a garden in Lumbini, which is now in Nepal, and he died about 80 years later in Kushinagar, which is now in the north-east of India.