The Buddha’s Wife
By Janet Surrey, PHD and Samuel Ahem, MD, PHD
Beyond Words Publishing, INR 399.00
(Available at Pauline Book and Media Centre, Nagpurbc@gmail.com)
“Buddha’s Wife,”- the title in fact captured me at the first sight. I recalled walking through the ruins of Nalanada University at Rajgir, Bihar; visiting the Buddhist temple built on the ground (Sarnath), Uttar Pradesh, where Buddha gave his first talk to his monks after he was enlightened, and all around the place where the debris of Buddha’s presence.
Yes, I wanted to know what happened to Yasodhara, Gautama Buddha’s wife. It had never occurred to me to enquire about her life after Siddhartha left her.
The book speaks of every human being who has undergone the crucible of suffering. While suffering in itself is indifferent it is the person facing it gives a meaning, a purpose, a value. Until then it continues to be empty, pain without any fruit.
Yasodhara discovered in the early dawn that Siddhartha, her loved one and loving one, had gone leaving her with the new born babe; the child they had waited for 13 years. It was an indescribable suffering for her.
For the King, Suddhodana, who had lost his wife at Siddhartha’s birth, it gave untold pain.
Mahapajapathi, his aunt-mother, felt the same pain as she felt at her sister’s death 30 years ago, at the birth of Siddhartha.
What made Yasodhara’s suffering more poignant was that she was angry too.
Channa, Siddhartha’s servant who accompanied him beyond the bounds of the kingdom, too was not exempt from this pain. He suffered like his king, queen and princess.
The entire palace community suffered.
Then something began to emerge from the crucible of suffering; from the very heart of the pain.
Living with Siddhartha for many years Yasodhara had discovered “a searching mind” which she also shared with him.
She recalled what he had related with her: He saw a homeless monk and noticed that while the man had neither rich clothes nor worldly wealth. But he had an air of serenity and joy. He spoke to her of how he saw that those with wealth and comfort inside the palace were tormented by greed, jealousy, and discontent.”
His father had refused him permission to leave the palace in spite of his repeated requests to follow the path of a monk.”
Yasodhara felt within herself his honesty, kindness, intensity, and boldness. How he was not afraid to speak up and take action against something he saw was unkind, whatever the consequence.
She suspected he would follow his conscience. She feared it. Now it has happened.
He was gone. Gone forever!
Mahapajapathi who had faced sufferings and losses could read into Yasodhara’s savage grief.
In Mahapajapathi’s coming to me in my desperation, I had a glimpse of how suffering and compassion co-arise, Yasodhara shares.
Compassion follows suffering as the cart follows the ox.
In suffering, she who comes, who offers love and hope,
And the truth of the path,
She who has seen everything and is still smiling,
Opens the door to the end of the suffering.
This is the law, ancient and inexhaustible.
When Mahapajapathi realized that the pain of Yasodhara was beyond her to help, she formed a prayer circle with the women of the palace.
They met in a circle in the morning and in the evening. Asking for help. Giving Thanks. They called it, their circle of Compassion.
Yasodhara recalled, “How I came to see our circle as sacred—holding all of us, with love and compassion arising….It was at that moment that I began to heal.
“…the heart of each person opening, becoming a channel of that compassion—and the whole circle infused with it, available to all.”
The book is thus about healing, compassion, overcoming anger, giving new life, going forth in love, one who stays back in love —encompassing the entire community.
From suffering arises springs of life renewing oneself and giving life to others.
While Siddhartha became enlightened, back home his mother, father, wife and son as though in osmosis caught up with his spirit and emerged enlightened.
This is a book for all care givers, counselors, people going through deep suffering irrespective religion.
The authors themselves have gone through pains in their growing relationship and from this emerged this book to enlighten and give life to the readers.
In telling us the imaginative lost story of Yasodhara the authors give us a lamp for our troubled times illuminating new paths and practices for all relationships.
As you read this engrossing story, “you will find guidance on mindful practices that help us awaken to and through our relationships.”