Wednesday, June 14, 2017

What about Yasodhara, the Buddha's wife?

Amber Larson, Dhr. Seven, Crystal Quintero, Wisdom Quarterly
Yasodhara (Princess Bimba who became Ven. Bhaddakaccana): I know we had an agreement from many lives back, and I know I knew where you were and how you were advancing as did your parents, but I still missed you like you said: All things are subject to separation. Thank you for coming back to save me, your son, Shakyians and the world.
(Geethanjali: Cartoons for Kids) Buddha Stories: Married Life before he became the Buddha

Prince Siddhartha and his Princess
(Bhante Walpola Piyananda & Dr. Stephen Long)
If this is too radical a view of "Yasodhara" (real name was Bimba Devi), we recommend an excellent book by the Los Angeles-based monk and friend of Wisdom Quarterly, Ven. Walpola Piyananda, Abbot of Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara: Thus We Heard Recollections of the Life of the Buddha.

He was not at all the first to realize the real nature of the relationship the Bodhisattva had with his wife before departing on his quest.

And even fewer seem to read the Life of the Buddha to the end to realize what happened to Princess Bimba and their young son Prince Rahula (almost certainly not his actual name), who were "abandoned" to a luxurious life in the place in the Kingdom of the Shaykas (Sakas, Shakyians, Scythians).

This was not in Nepal but  in Central Asia -- which could have included Ukraine to the north all the way south to the northwestern frontier of "India" or the loosely affiliated kingdoms around Magadha and Savatthi -- in the vicinity of modern Bamiyan, Mes Aynak, and Kabul (ancient Kapilavastu), Afghanistan as Dr. Ranajit Pal reveals for us.

Scythian Princess Bimba, Sid's wife
Ven. Piyananda imagines dialogue to accompany and fill in various sutras making their relationship the opposite of what modern people, particularly well-meaning but biased Westerners (and sometimes people-pleasing Easterners), today take it to mean. Because Siddhartha achieved his goal, he came back and many members of his extended family became enlightened.

The princess (Yasodhara, Bimba Devi, Rahulamata) became an enlightened or truly "noble" nun (Ven. Bhaddakaccana) and the fiercest disputant in all the land she traveled as a wandering ascetic. No one ever tells that part of the story. Their son also became enlightened and a prominent member of the Noble Sangha. Knowing this, one can avoid such egregious Yasodhara-fantasies as explored in the Tibetan film Samsara by Pan Nalin.

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