On November 23, 2013, the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Southern California was filled with the melodic sounds of “Prince Siddhartha the Musical.” This musical production, which was directed under the Fo Guang Shan Academy of Art of the Philippines and adapted based on Venerable Master Hsing Yun’s bestseller “The Biography of Sakyamuni Buddha,” marked the beginning of the year-long celebration of Hsi Lai Temple’s 25th anniversary. Ten years on, let’s explore the show’s history.
A Musical Journey to Enlightenment
The musical tells the story of the Buddha’s life, exploring his path to awakening through elegantly composed English lyrics and music. The journey begins with the scenes “Ancient Indian Society,” “The Birth of Prince,” “Growing Up,” “Renunciation and Practice as a Monk,” “First Turning of Dharma Wheel,” and culminates in “The Return of the Buddha.”
Through more than 50 performance artists from the Fo Guang Shan Academy of Art Philippines, the audience was taken on a journey through time to the Buddha’s birthplace in ancient India, where they experience the significance of religious purification of the heart and the message of Humanistic Buddhism. The performers convey the idea that everyone can attain awakening, just as the Buddha did.
Catholic Artists Move by the Compassion of the Buddha
Although most members of the Fo Guang Shan Academy of Art Philippines are Catholic, the artists have been deeply moved by the compassion of the Buddha while performing the musical. They also recognize the value of religious exchanges and the concept of racial integration, and through the artistic form, they reproduce the history of the founder of Buddhism, Sakyamuni Buddha.
As the choreographer, Jude Gitamondoc, who is Catholic, shared that he wishes to present the spirit of the culture, religion, human life, and experience from Venerable Master Hsing Yun’s book, “The Biography of Sakyamuni Buddha.” He was deeply moved by the compassion and tolerance taught in Buddhism and wanted to share with the audience the joy that he received from the Venerable.
A Successful Journey
The musical’s first run was on July 6, 2007, at the Waterfront Cebu, under the name “Siddhartha: A Musical Journey to Enlightenment.” Due to its positive response and overall success, the cast was invited to perform excerpts of the musical at Fo Guang Shan in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, in celebration of Hsing Yun’s birthday in September 2007.
A repeat performance of the musical in its entirety at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila was successfully concluded on November 4, 2007. The Manila show was presented by I.B.P.S. Manila, Philippines, and Buddha’s Light International Association – Philippines.
The stories of the Buddha have not only inspired many Buddhists to follow his path to awakening but also touched countless people’s hearts with his compassion and wisdom. “Prince Siddhartha the Musical” is an exceptional tribute to Buddha’s life that captures the spirit of Humanistic Buddhism and promotes religious exchanges and racial integration.