Thursday, June 30, 2016

What about the Buddha's WIFE? (video)

Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly; "Samsara" (vimeo.com)
Prince Siddhartha looks in on his wife and newborn before renouncing the world.

The royal wedding of Prince Siddhartha and Princess Bimba called Yasodhara (Hintha)
.
Wisdom Quarterly reader Anonymous recently sent in a link to a clip from the wonderful albeit misleading movie "Samsara." It can be called "Yasodhara's speech" asking all the things people ask when they say, "What about the Buddha's wife?" It is so full of misconceptions that we thought we'd better address them.

Princess Bimba called "Yasodhara"
The popular misconceptions about poor Princess Yasodhara (actually named Bimba Devi), who married her cousin, the Shakyan Prince Siddhartha (the Buddha-to-be), when they were both 16 is lamentable.

He remained married 13 years, from 16 to age 29, when he grew to understand that life was not what his father had presented to him. There is in fact suffering for all in the form of old age, sickness, death and more fundamentally from impermanence, the impersonal nature of existence, and the unsatisfactoriness of all composite things.

Time for a royal teen wedding.
Wishing to save his family and people, he realized he would have to go on a quest in search of enlightenment and nirvana. More than a king, they needed someone to point out the Path to Freedom.

Nirvana is the end of all suffering. And as there was no teacher who knew the path, the ascetic Siddhartha had to become a trailblazer. He had felt this way for years and must have shared his realization with his wife. The final straw came when his son was born.

Because we misunderstand and read things only from our perspective with assumptions about men today, we think the worst.

I'll be back to save everyone, family.
"Oh, what a heartless brute that Siddhartha to leave his poor wife all alone...with nothing but three palaces, a staff of servants, parents, friends, an extended family, royal status, a new son -- future heir to the throne -- to groom for the position, her choice of any man in the kingdom or surrounding kingdoms in Scythia ("Shakya Land"), money, and news of his ascetic adventures. She mimicked him from a distance wanting to be like him even as she lived in splendor declining offers to remarry.

We will rule Shakya Land (Scythia).
We know for certain, as the texts record, that Prince Siddhartha's father, King Suddhodana, and Yasodhara knew what Siddhartha was up to after he renounced. And soon after realizing his goal, he came back to save everyone wishing to be saved.

One would not get that from this Hollywood version of the story, which is strange because "Samsara" is a Tibetan Buddhist movie with Asians in lead roles and behind the scenes, but far too many Western sensibilities, pandering to a modern audience.
  • A better book to read about Siddhartha and Yasodhara's wedded life is a recent book by happy Ven. Walpola Piyananda of Dharmavijaya Vihara Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles. It details many of their conversations and is much more accurate than moviemakers and others' assumptions. He must be contacted for the title.
What really happened to Yasodhara?

Brilliant, beautiful Bimba (A. Thammasak)
Both the Buddha's former wife Yasodhara ("Bearer of Glory") and his son, Rahula ("Bond"), ordained under the Buddha Shakyamuni along with many Shakyians (Scythians).

Princess Yasodhara as the Buddhist nun Ven. Bhaddhakaccana (aka Rahulamata) became the greatest disputant in northwest "India" (there was no such place as "India" until later but only loosely affiliated kingdoms like Magadha).

Many members of the family clan, who lived in the northwest, at the foothills of the Himalayan range known as the Hindu Kush, very likely in modern Afghanistan, Gandhara, and Pakistan (which only came into being as a country a half century ago).

No good deed goes uncriticized. He came back.
So a 16 year old, married, became a princess, living in splendor and happiness even as her young husband had misgivings about the royal life of nobles, the parties, the hedonism, the luxury and attachment to refinement.

Then after 13 years of this, she gave birth to a beautiful prince but had to see him raised by royal servants and the king and his wife, Siddhartha's adoptive mother (Maha Prajapati, who later became the world's first Buddhist nun).

There is a path to the end of suffering!
She then got to see him again after he fulfilled his life's purpose, his quest, as he taught everyone the path of enlightenment and end of suffering -- his wife and son, his mother and father, his brother and sister, Nanda and Sundari Nanda, his cousins and childhood friends, even his arch nemesis, Yasodhara's brother, the infamous Judas-figure, Devadatta.

A man has a spiritual goal to accomplish so he renounces the throne and the world, gives everything up, then succeeds in his efforts AND comes back to save everyone. What a "brute." What a "selfish brute." How could Yasodhara ever have married a man like that?

No comments: