I am the husband of a lovely wife and the father of two beautiful boys. Would you think highly of me if I told you that one day, I decided to leave them to find enlightenment? I did not say goodbye, nor leave a note — but simply left. I made sure there was plenty of money in the bank, so my family would not be in financial need after my departure. Does that sound commendable? Or more like a crime? Buddha’s quest for enlightenment appears more like a tale of abandonment to me.
One account of his life relates…“Siddhartha’s (Buddha’s birth name) mind was made up: he would leave his life of luxury and search for truth. Knowing he would not receive consent, that very night as everyone lay sleeping, he bid a silent farewell to his wife and son. He mounted his horse and set out for the forest in the far reaches of the land where the holy men gather. When he arrived, he cut his long hair and donned the robe of an ascetic, a man of solitude searching for wisdom. Now, at the age of twenty-nine, his journey had begun.”
Read the whole story at: Buddha’s Story
Now, I’m all for enlightenment. But at what cost? Is abandoning your family an acceptable path to awakening? Some would say it doesn’t matter. Detachment from need & desire is part of the way. Well, I’m sorry but a child needs his father! Abandoning your child, not to mention your wife for any reason is unacceptable and selfish. Is it me or does Buddha’s decision seem based in ego?
Wouldn’t finding enlightenment AND being a dependable person be that much better? Why not try raising your children and finding your higher self? Not to mention working full time to pay the bills! Now become enlightened! Suddenly it seems near impossible.
Buddha didn’t have to raise his family. He left them behind like trash so he could find his true self. Nice huh? He parked himself under a tree and forwent all his worldly possessions (not to mention his responsibilities to his family). If you ask me, Buddha took the easy way out. And although I respect in his teachings, I do not respect his course of action as a father.
Just one second though. Is there more conflict than meets the eye here? Maybe it was heart wrenching for Buddha to walk away from his family. Maybe it was for the greater good that he did so. Instead of looking at it as abandonment of his family, could it be that his path gave him no other choice? Or maybe the story was crafted (as my wife suggested) during a time where socially, a wife and child were not considered equal in importance to the man of the house. I don’t know, but here’s a question: Is the greater good of many souls more important than the greater good of one? Does the impact Buddha made on the world make the hurt he inflicted upon his son acceptable? If, to save 100 I must kill 1, does that make me a savior or a murderer? For no matter what I choose, there is suffering.
But I am not Buddha. I am a man struggling to survive and keep my family healthy and safe. This is my higher self. Yes, I would like to find enlightenment, but I have chosen, like many dads, to put my family first — not my own needs. There is no ego here, and I think at some level, the story of Buddha is flawed because what he did at least in part included ego & selfishness.
What I do know for sure is that I have no desire to leave my family behind — for any reason. How can I help the world if I am not honoring the ones closest to me? What kind of example is that?
And, how can we as modern day dads find a slice of peace and enlightenment of our own? Before my children were born, I made a strong connection with spirit (when I was able to make the time to meditate for an hour a day). Now I struggle to get in touch with it. For me I know the answer begins with more sleep, meditation and a bit of exercise every week. The sleep part is going not so good (at least tonight). As I write this, it’s already 12:30 in the morning.
Remember, you are not alone…