Follow, follow, follow, follow,
Follow the Yellow Brick Road.
Follow the Yellow Brick, Follow the Yellow Brick,
We’re off to see the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
You’ll find he is a whiz of a Wiz! If ever a Wiz there was.
If ever oh ever a Wiz there was, the Wizard of Oz is one because,
Because, because, because, because, because.
Because of the wonderful things he does.
We’re off to see the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz,
I’m sure you all recognize those lyrics from the song sung by Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, and Bert Lahr in the classic MGM musical, The Wizard of Oz. This year marks the 110th Anniversary of the creation of author Frank Baum’s book, “The Wizard of Oz.” Written in the year 1900, the book was made into a stage play two years later. Then, in 1939, it became the ever-popular movie starring Judy Garland as Dorothy. That was 72 years ago.
Could it be that if the movie had been made 2500 years ago and the Buddha had seen it, that he would have recognized it as a metaphor of his Noble Truths and Path? It’s obvious that each one of us is on our own personal Yellow Brick Road, or some sort of path or journey through life. And, on the way, most of us are searching for wisdom, looking for a wizard or a wise man like Buddha, to help us escape from suffering and frustration so we can enjoy our trip . . . so we can have a happier life.
You all know the story, but let me first synopsize it: Twelve-year-old Dorothy lives on a farm in rural Kansas with her aunt and uncle. A tornado transports her and her little dog, Toto, from her peaceful and happy life to a strange faraway village of little people known as Munchkins. Dorothy is told by the Good Witch of the North, that if she follows the yellow brick road, it will lead her to Emerald City, where the mysterious Wizard of Oz, will help her get back home. She is warned to be careful, because the Wicked Witch of the West will try to prevent her journey.
On her way Dorothy meets a Scarecrow with no brain, a Tin Man with no heart, and a Cowardly Lion with no courage. All three decide to accompany Dorothy to the Wizard, thinking he can help them get what they are lacking. But along the way they demonstrate that they already have the qualities they believe they lack.
Their meeting with the Wizard reveals that he is a fraud, but he does have common sense. He tells them they already have what they are searching for and that since he also is from Kansas, he will take them all back to their farm.
The story and film ends with Dorothy awakening in her bedroom in Kansas, realizing that it was all a dream, but also that there is no place like home with the people you love.
Here’s the Buddhist interpretation of the story:
Dorothy represents each one of us. Dorothy’s aunt and uncle and Toto, the dog, represents those we love and are close to in life. Kansas, the home and farm represent security.
The Munchkins represent everyone and the Good Witch of the North is compassion and loving kindness. The Scarecrow reflects our need and search for knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment; the Tin Man, our search for love and understanding, to give it and to receive it; and the Cowardly Lion, our need of courage to meet life’s difficulties.
The Wicked Witch of the West represents all the obstacles we encounter in life, obstacles that prevent us from feeling secure and from being happy. They are mainly Buddhism’s three poisons: ignorance, selfish desire, and anger or hate.
Emerald City could be Heaven or Nirvana or just a safe place where we can be happy. The Wizard is (take your pick) religion, Jesus, the Buddha, insight, enlightenment, etc.
And the Yellow Brick Road? Well, that’s the Path to follow to reach the place of safety where one is happy. In Buddhist teachings it’s called the Noble Eightfold Path. You remember that special Path, don’t you? Well, to refresh your memory here it is in brief. Realistic, Skillful or Right:
View or Understanding, Thought, Speech, Action, Livelihood, Effort, Mindfulness and Concentration.
Right View or Understanding means seeing the reality proclaimed in The Four Noble Truths, that (1) life for the unenlightened is filled with suffering and frustration; (2) caused by the three poisons of greed, anger or hate, and ignorance; (3) but these poisons can be eliminated; (4) by following The Noble Eightfold Path, Buddhism’s Yellow Brick Road.
We are all on a trip down the Yellow Brick Road, trying to practice loving kindness and compassion as we search for enlightenment and a happy life. In that way, we are all Buddhists, regardless of what other name we may call ourselves. Remember what Shakespeare’s Juliet said: a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. Somewhere over the Rainbow, at the end of the Road or Path is a pot of gold . . . a chocolate hot fudge sundae . . . a dozen sweet smelling roses . . . or whatever it is that makes you happy. The Yellow Brick Road is the Eightfold Path to freedom from unhappiness. So relax a bit, plan your trip, and then enjoy your adventure down life’s Yellow Brick Road.