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Gotama deserting wife and child

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One of the criticisms of Buddhism is that the Buddha-to-be (Prince Siddhattha Gotama) left his wife and son to seek enlightenment. But on further investigation, this is not a valid criticism on at least the following ten points:

  • 1. It was the custom, cultural norm at the time (in India) for young men to leave home and enter the homeless life as an ascetic.
  • 2. The prince was leaving to achieve a greater purpose that would eventually benefit not only all humans but also his wife and son.
  • 3. His wife and son forgave him.
  • 4. His wife and son would be well taken care of, at least materially.
  • 5. He left unwillingly as well, not neglecting a last look at his wife and son before leaving.
  • 6. He wasn't a Buddha (enlightened yet)
  • 7. He came back after enlightenment to visit and teach his family
  • 8. Yashodhara became a bhikkhuni (nun)
  • 9. His son, Rahula became a bhikkhu (monk)
  • 10. Some teachers say that he received permission from his wife to leave:

Thich Nhat Hanh in Old Path White Clouds, Parallax, 1991 translates or interprets that the Buddha and Yashodhara were discussing his going forth and she agreed. The night before the renunciation she set out his coat and shoes to be ready for him to leave in the middle of the night.

Bhante Madawela Punnaji also states that there has been a mistranslation and the Buddha did in fact receive permission from his wife.


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