After the birth of their son, Rahula, Gautama Buddha left both his wife and child to seek enlightenment.
This is what I read in my class 7th textbooks which made me believe that Buddha could find the secrets of birth and death only because he left his kingdom. In fact, his wife and child were portrayed as an impediment to his spiritual journey. I always questioned my mother why did Buddha leave his kingdom to know the truth.
Fortunately, the time came when I developed an inclination towards the spiritual path. I found a lot of answers through my meditation practices and processes. However, the question of Buddha leaving his family to seek the truth hadn’t left me. I always felt that all these spiritual processes wouldn’t disclose the mechanics of birth, death, fame, success, failure etc. to me. So, one day I happened to question my teacher who has been guiding me through the meditations from past one year.
I asked him-When Buddha found it under the Bodhi tree, how was it possible for me to find the purpose of my existence while being stuck in the worldly desires?
The best thing about having a spiritual master in your life is that he knows how and when to deliver the knowledge to the student. In his presence, the right knowledge reaches you through the right source to make your consciousness blossom fully.
That was the day, my teacher told me about the invincible and compassionate Yashodhara, wife of Gautama Buddha. Honestly, I hadn’t even heard the name Yashodhara before and didn’t have even the slightest idea about her.
He told me that Yashodhara stepped into spirituality as softly as the summer breeze yet as deep as the ocean. She attained enlightenment inside the royal palace alongside fulfilling all her responsibilities.
Yashodhara’s story has answered a lot of my questions about spirituality and the way a seeker can gain the highest without abandoning anything. In this article, you will read about the graceful ways that Yashodhara adopted to fulfill her quest for enlightenment without running away from any of her responsibility.
Yashodhara, the Invincible Spiritual Seeker
The daughter of King Suppabuddha and Queen Pamita, Yashodhara was married to her cousin Prince Siddhartha when both were in the 16th year. Yashodhara was an epitome of beauty and compassion standing true to the meaning of her name ‘the bearer of the glory’.
After the birth of their son, Rahula, Gautama Buddha left his kingdom to live life as a homeless ascetic to find the truth. We all know the story further. But have you ever wondered what happened to Yashodhara after Buddha left her?
Yashodhara received marriage proposals from several princes but she turned a blind eye to all of them. In fact, many of her relatives sent her assurances to maintain her and Rahula. But Yashodhara was a true ‘virangna’ who knew how to lead her life with valor and courage.
Yashodhara didn’t hinder in Buddha’s quest for enlightenment. Instead, she decided to follow Buddha’s lifestyle even after being inside the palatial walls. She dispensed the comforts and luxuries of the royal life and adored in a plain yellow robe without any jewelry. Like Buddha, she reduced her meals to a single meal in a day and slept on floors. She shifted to a hut in the palace garden to ensure she continues to live the same life as Buddha was living. For all the time Buddha was away from her, she made sure that she was informed of Buddha’s decisions so that she could match up to his level of dispassion for life.
Here are some breathtaking life lessons that I could take from Yashodhara’s life:
Enlightenment can Happen to Anyone!
It is true that enlightenment came to Buddha after he abandoned the materialistic world and meditated under the Bodhi tree. Another big truth is that Yashodhara became enlightened living inside the royal palace. She was courageous enough to abandon her royal attires and comfort even after being inside the palace.
So, enlightenment cannot come only to those who give up on the worldly pleasures and choose to lead an isolated life. The universe doesn’t differentiate among people on the basis of age, occupation, experience, caste, creed, religion etc. while making a choice to impart the highest knowledge. All it requires is a sincere desire and an open-mind to allow the universe to whisper the infinity in your ears.
True Love knows no Boundaries
Yashodhara’s love for Buddha was unconditional and knew no boundaries. She knew Buddha would leave her after marriage because the four heavenly messengers were bound to take him away from the palace life yet she didn’t step back from marrying him.
Her eternal love and devotion towards her husband were proved by her actions after Buddha leaves her. Yashodhara didn’t object her husband’s decision to leave her and Rahul. In fact, Yashodhara continued to live in the same way as Buddha did as if she was still living with him.
Yashodhara had the privilege to marry another prince and lead a comfortable life. Also, she had the choice to continue living her imperial life without worrying about enlightenment. Yashodhara’s ardent love towards her husband and his family is reflected in the choices she made without worrying about her future.
Living life like a Virangna
It takes a great deal of courage to stand by your duties and responsibilities at the hour of crisis. Yashodhara could have held her parents or in-laws culpable for her condition. She could also have gone behind Buddha to bring him back to the kingdom or maybe have left Rahula to him.
But Yashodhara didn’t do anything that would stop or even distract Buddha from his path of enlightenment. She proved to be a real warrior who didn’t resign from her responsibilities during hard times instead took them up with great valor. It is also said that she encouraged her father-in-law to develop a broader perspective towards people in his rule which further highlights her warrior attitude. She was a real virangna who balanced her duties and spiritual quest wisely.
An Ideal Mother
Another appreciable decision taken by Yashodhara was to bring up her son Rahula in the absence of his father Siddhartha. He could have been easily misled by other inhabitants of the kingdom.
But Yashodhara ensured Rahula learned about the life and doings of his father. She was successful in fulfilling the responsibility of a mother who knows how to kindle respect and love in the child towards the father. She could have easily encouraged Rahul’s interest in the materialistic world. But she chose to glorify his father’s life in front of Rahul.
Fulfilling her Spiritual Destiny
Yashodhara knew she was in the last cycle of birth and death and thus she had no choice than to fulfill her spiritual quest. Yashodhara has always been considered and portrayed as a stumbling block in Buddha’s path of enlightenment. But only a few have been able to understand her role in Buddha’s path. She is a silent yet the most compassionate character who stood with Buddha through all hardships and obstacles. She was among the 13th great disciples of Buddha who attained supernormal powers and led the life of a Bhikkhuni.
Yashodhara is a powerful woman character who continues to inspire us even today. Her inspiring story and wise choices prove that enlightenment can come to anyone who has a quest for it. She continued to seek enlightenment inside the palatial walls and raising up her son. She is indeed a true warrior who truly followed the spiritual path without creating a bang for it. That’s why she is much less highlighted and known than Buddha. Only a few of us know that Yashodhara was deeply spiritual as Siddhartha and had an equally strong astrological chart as him.
An ideal wife, a true mother, and a sincere seeker, Yashodhara was successful in fulfilling the purpose of her birth before she preceded Siddhartha into the deathless realm.
It is indeed amazing to know such a female protagonist who was fully dedicated to the purpose of her existence. Had Yashodhara acted in the other way around, we would have never known an enlightened Buddha today!
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