Struggles and Scars

I’m Yasodhara, Buddha’s wife. And here’s what I felt when he renounced the world and me

He sacrificed family and love to gain enlightenment and enrich the world. But what about the wife and infant son he left behind?
buddha

The man who was married off to fix his problems

Here is a little story I want to share with you.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a guy with good looks, great manners and rich parents. He was ambitious and wanted to touch the sky. He was also a wanderer. As is the wont, his family thought of getting him married, because that somehow always fixes the “wandering” problem.

So he got married to an equally beautiful girl, with good looks, great manners and affluent parents. The two were happy, or so it seemed to the world. Strangely, how beautiful a couple looks is often a measurement of how happy they must be. And these two looked beautiful, alone, together, always.

Related reading: I thought she had a perfect life till she broke down and told me her story

siddharth and yashodhara
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How about having a baby to solve your problems?

Five years went by, but the guy was still a wanderer. He always wanted to pack his bags and scale the mountains. So the parents thought that the couple should start a family. Yes, what marriage can’t fix, babies can. So the wife got pregnant. The family was happy. Now the man would be there for his family and live happily ever after, they thought.

Then came the day when the woman went into labour. The pain was excruciating and she thought she would die. She had heard from friends that their husbands had stood with them and held their hands, while they gave birth to their baby. Yes, she had heard husbands call the pregnancy “their” pregnancy. She looked around for the husband to hold her hands, but she soon realised that in her case it was going to “her” pregnancy.
[restrict] She wasn’t told, but she knew that neither she nor the baby had fixed the “problem”. Her husband had left her. He had left the baby too. The mountains were calling him and he had a greater role to play.

She wept. She howled and then the little boy in the cradle screamed. He was hungry. She was needed.

That’s all that I know about that girl. I don’t know if she ever went back to her parents or if she remarried. I have no clue if the man ever came back or called, if the son grew up to be a wanderer too or was there with the mom. No, I don’t know any of this.

Related reading: My divorce was not by choice. It was forced on me

The prince who left without looking back

But I know a similar story from history books and I know the ending in that story.

I know that when Siddhartha left the palace and a wife who had just given birth to their son, he was gone forever. The person who came back years later was Lord Buddha, the enlightened one.

He left behind all the luxuries he was destined for, his comfortable life and yes, his wife and son too.

I follow Buddhism a lot and I often feel that the teachings of Buddha are the most tenable approach to deal with modern day stress and anxiety.

But sometimes, I mean just sometimes, I think about Yasodhara, Buddha’s wife. Legend has it that just when Yasodhara gave birth to a son, Prince Siddhartha renounced the world.

I sometimes wonder what and how she felt when she first found out that he had left. She probably never got a chance to talk to her husband again, but if she had an opportunity, what would she have asked? I don’t know, but I am a woman. A mother. And I am married. I don’t know her plight, but I want to put myself in her shoes for a little while and ask Prince Siddhartha some questions.

Why did you marry me?

Yes, you had to leave. You had your heart somewhere else. You were meant for bigger and deeper things in life and I am happy you followed your calling. When you gained the light, so many others got enlightened too. The world needed you, Siddhartha, but then while you were growing up, did you not feel even once that probably you were not meant for a mundane family life? You must have at least had doubts about getting married. Why didn’t you talk to your parents? You had enough courage to leave and never come back, why didn’t you muster some and stand up for yourself? In that process, you would have stood up for me too, you know. I would have been saved.

Why didn’t you tell me?

You had the realisation one day and then you couldn’t stop yourself from renouncing us all, could you? I understand. But had you even once shared your feelings with me, I would have felt a little less betrayed. We were bonded for life. We were life partners and even though we were not destined to be part of each other’s lives, how I wish you had come to me and explained what you wanted to do. I wouldn’t have stopped you Siddhartha, or may be I would have tried. Probably I would have thrown a fit, screamed at you, but in the end, I would have let you go. That crying would have given me closure, too. But you just left.

I waited forever

Yes, I heard about your enlightenment and I was proud. But you know I still waited for you. I know you taught the world about nirvana and how to get out of this cage called life. But I was a simple being who needed to take care of the household you had abandoned. Our son was growing up and he wanted a father. I waited, because I thought maybe one day…

You took my son away

When you came after five years as Gautama Buddha, I was overjoyed. I felt I would die of happiness. But you wouldn’t know that feeling. You were way above this. So, when I sent my son to meet you and when he asked for “heritance”, you knew what he meant. Or maybe you didn’t. But you definitely knew that taking him away was not what he wanted. It wasn’t something I wanted either. But when did I come into the picture?

buddha with son rahula
Image source

Did you ever think about me?

Siddhartha, you thought about the misery and the suffering. You were troubled by the worldly vices and you wanted a way out of this misery. You were seeking nirvana. And when you were enlightened, you became the torchbearer for the entire society. You showed the world the path, too. But tell me one thing Siddhartha: When you saw men and women coming to you, did you even once think of me? We spent many years together and we learnt a few things about each other, too. Did you ever come across something that reminded you of our time together? Did a baby ever bring back memories of the son who was back home without his father? Oh Siddhartha, did you want to say anything to me? Maybe ask for forgiveness or give some explanation. I will never know.

struggles n scars native

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P.S. This article is the result of childhood memories. Years ago we had a poem by Hindi poet Maithili Sharan Gupt titled “Sakhi wo mujhse keh kar jaate” which when loosely translated mean “Friend, how I wish he told me and went”. The poem talks about how Yasodhara is sharing her grief with a friend, “siddhi hetu swami gaye, ye gaurav ki baat. Par chori chori gaye ye bada vyaghaat” (“My husband renounced everything to gain enlightenment and that makes me proud. But the fact that he left clandestinely breaks my heart”).

So every year when we celebrate Buddha Purnima, a little corner in my heart aches for Yasodhara.
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    1 Comment

    1. यशोधरा कहाँ रहती है यहाँ

      क्यूं आए मुड़ कर
      कोई और घर न दिखा
      भिक्षा ही तो लेनी थी
      और द्वारे भी मिल जाती
      जाओ …. तुम जाते क्यूं नहीं

      या अब भी शेष है कोई परीक्षा
      मेरी नहीं…. तुम्हारी
      भान न लगी अब तक
      कि उठ पाया भी या नहीं
      परे हूं भी या नहीं
      अनुत्तरित हो क्या
      पर तुम बिन मुझे सारे उत्तर रटा दिए जग ने
      जाओ कि तुम्हारे उत्तर मुझसे परे हैं
      जाओ…. तुम जाते क्यूं नहीं

      पूछने को कितना कुछ है
      मेरी परवाह करते हो अब भी क्या
      क्या मेरे काजल का बिखरना स्मृत है
      वो हँसली के नीचे मेरा तिल
      या फिर वो राहुल की नन्हीं बांह का स्पर्श….
      पर तुम तो साधू ठहरे
      समर्पण को कुछ नहीं अब शेष मेरे पास
      अरे जाओ …. तुम जाते क्यूं नहीं

      देखो झूठ न कहना
      मुझे भान है कि जब झुके थे अभी अभी
      अपना पल्ला समेटने….
      मेरे आंचल के छोर को मुंह में दबाए
      मेरे पीछे छिपते राहुल को देखने भर ही न
      या चिंता दग्ध कि कितनी क्षीणकाय हो गई हूं मैं
      रहने दो मेरा भ्रम
      नहीं नहीं….चाहती नहीं कोई उत्तर
      जाओ …. तुम जाते क्यूं नहीं

      देखो झूठ न कहना
      अब तो लोग तुम्हारे नाम की शपथ लेते हैं
      मैं याद आती हूं न
      वो तृष्णा जिसे तजने के कथन कहते हो
      वो मैं ही हूं न
      बारम्बार तृष्णा शब्द जिह्वा पे रख
      मेरी ही स्मृति करते हो न
      छोड़ो अनकहा ही रहने दो….
      जाओ न … तुम जाते क्यूं नहीं

      तुम ने क्या पाया पता नहीं
      मुझे ही न पा पाए तुम तो….
      जाओ भी… कुछ न दूंगी तुम्हे
      कि मेरी झोली में बस हैं
      एक उतरी पायल
      दो रीते हाथ
      और कुल जमा चार अश्रु।

      जाओ भिक्षुक यशोधरा अब नहीं रहती यहां
      रहती है राहुल की मां,
      शुद्धोदन की बहू
      यशोधरा की समाधि है बरगद के तले
      सुना है कोई बुलबुल वहाँ विरह गीत गाती है
      जाओ …. अब कुछ न शेष यहाँ !

      ज्योति जोशी

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