Was Buddha an irresponsible husband and a father?


Perhaps Bhante @brahmali could be the best person to clarify this.


Yes, he was irresponsible husband and father in mundane world.
If he would stay with his family he would be an irresponsible spiritual seeker.
We all can choose how serious we are about our practice and how much we are willing to sacrifice. Some would say that monks and nuns are irresponsible children or parents or partners… But I deeply believe that family life is not supportive in practice and spiritual development.

Well, it is our choice where to be irresponsible…
Thank you to all monks and nuns for the continuation of Dhamma.


Yes, as @gabriel says, this is from the Vinaya Piṭaka, specifically the Mahakkhandhaka, which describes the ordination procedure. Here is my translation of the passage (hopefully to appear on SuttaCentral in the near future):

Then, after staying at Rājagaha for as long as he liked, the Master set out wandering for Kapilavatthu. When he eventually arrived, he stayed among the Sakyans in the Banyan Tree park.

One morning the Master robed up, took his bowl and robe, and went to Suddhodana the Sakyan’s house, where he sat down on the prepared seat. The queen, the mother of Rāhula, then said to the boy, “Rāhula, this is your father. Go and ask for your inheritance.” Rāhula went to the Master, stood in front of him, and said, “Ascetic, your shadow is pleasant.” The Master got up from his seat and left, but Rāhula followed closely behind him, saying “Give me my inheritance, Ascetic, give me my inheritance.” And the Master said to Venerable Sāriputta, “Well then, Sāriputta, give Rāhula the going forth.”


How come the vinaya uses the word queen while Sakya country was a republic. This must be a “late” introduction.


May be because her husband was called a raja. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


As part of the warrior caste, it would not have been unusual for persons such as him to leave home for long periods of time on military campaigns. Likewise, it would not have been unusual for him to go off to battle and die. It makes sense for the close tribal knit society he came from to have mechanisms for taking care of the wife and child of warrior caste men. They probably also had some kind of property as well as many family ties. Also, becoming a wandering ascetic was not a weird and unusual thing at the time, it was common. So common that brahmanical society had to create a scripture to encourage warriors to stay warriors by spiritualizing warfare! (the Bhagavad Gita).

In our society, with much more atomized family structures, it would be irresponsible probably.


How common? What are the numbers? And wouldn’t most people choosing a life of ascetic renunciation be expected to do so before getting married and having children? Or afterward, in their “retirement” years? Anyway, we have an MN Sutta that suggests that the Buddha’s parents were very unhappy about the decision. The sutta also does not mention a wife and child.

In a recent lecture by Alexander Wynne, if I am remembering the argument right, he suggests that the labeling of the Sakyans in the Buddha’s class as “khattiyas” is a later projection of Brahmanical caste distinctions back onto a society and region in which they had not yet taken hold. Apart from the caste question, I don’t think we can say for sure that the Buddha was a warrior of any kind, or part of a warrior family.


Perhaps you might want to read about the story of Ramana Maharsi , a representative of renunciate . Pall Brunton calls Ramana “one of the last of India’s spiritual supermen” .
Would you also call him another irresponsible Son(?) towards
his parents / family ?

Ramana Maharshi was born Venkataraman Iyer on 30 December 1879 in the village Tiruchuzhi near Aruppukkottai, Madurai in Tamil Nadu, South India. He was the second of four children in an orthodox Hindu Brahmin family.

(you can read his full biography if interested)

Knowing his family would not permit him to become a sanyassin and leave home, Venkataraman slipped away, telling his brother he needed to attend a special class at school. Venkataraman boarded a train on 1 September 1896 and traveled to Tiruvannamalai where he remained for the rest of his life.

While living at the Gurumurtam temple his family discovered his whereabouts. First, his uncle Nelliappa Iyer came and pleaded with him to return home, promising that the family would not disturb his ascetic life. Ramana sat motionless and eventually his uncle gave up.

In 1916 his mother Alagammal and younger brother Nagasundaram joined Ramana at Tiruvannamalai and followed him when he moved to the larger Skandashram Cave, where Bhagavan lived until the end of 1922. His mother took up the life of a sannyasin and Ramana began to give her intense, personal instruction, while she took charge of the Ashram kitchen. Ramana’s younger brother, Nagasundaram, then became a sannyasi, assuming the name Niranjanananda, becoming known as Chinnaswami (the younger Swami).

When he was near death , devotees who begged him to cure himself for the sake of his followers, Ramana is said to have replied, “Why are you so attached to this body? Let it go,” and “Where can I go?
I am here.”

Ramana Maharshi:

Reincarnation exists only so long as there is ignorance. There is really no reincarnation at all, either now or before. Nor will there be any hereafter. This is the truth.


One dark night,
fired with love’s urgent longings
—ah, the sheer grace!—
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.
In darkness, and secure,
by the secret ladder, disguised,
—ah, the sheer grace!—
in darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled.
On that glad night, in secret,
for no one saw me,
nor did I look at anything,
with no other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.


It seems to have been common enough that it is discussed in the Mahabharata and the Gita seems to have been composed partly to keep warriors from doing just that.

Also, the Buddha definitely seems to have knowledge of brahmanical doctrines, so I’m not sure that brahamanism is to alien to the area.


Possibly. Large parts of the Vinaya are relatively late. This is just about the only passage where the Buddha’s former wife is spoken of and it is certainly possible that later editors would have wanted to spruce up her credentials. After all, she was the ex-wife of the person they revered like no other. In their eyes she must have been special, almost by definition. In the suttas there is no mention of a wife at all, and Rāhula is mentioned by name, but it is never said he was the Buddha’s son. (Yet it is not clear to me why they would invent a story of a son unless they were convinced it was true.) In fact it is not even clear that rāhulamātā, Rāhula’s mother, had been the Buddha’s wife. Her identity is entirely tied up with her relationship to Rāhula. At the risk of sounding disrespectful, I have sometimes wondered if she might have been one of the dancing girls spoken of elsewhere in the suttas:

Bhikkhus, I was delicately nurtured, most delicately nurtured, extremely delicately nurtured. At my father’s residence lotus ponds were made just for my enjoyment: in one of them blue lotuses bloomed, in another red lotuses, and in a third white lotuses. I used no sandalwood unless it came from Kāsi and my headdress, jacket, lower garment, and upper garment were made of cloth from Kāsi. By day and by night a white canopy was held over me so that cold and heat, dust, grass, and dew would not settle on me.

I had three stilt houses: one for the winter, one for the summer, and one for the rainy season. I spent the four months of the rains in the rainy-season stilt house, being entertained by musicians, none of whom were male, and I did not leave the stilt house. While in other people’s homes slaves, workers, and servants are given broken rice together with sour gruel for their meals, in my father’s residence they were given choice hill rice, meat, and boiled rice. (AN 3.39)

On the other hand, it seems there were a lot of rājās in India at the time. A passage from the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta, also found in the Vinaya, suggests these kings were ranked according to their power:

Wherever powerful gods took possession of a site, just there powerful kings and government officials inclined to build their houses. Wherever gods of middle standing took possession of a site, just there the kings and government officials of middle standing inclined to build their houses. And wherever the lower ranked gods took possession of a site, just there the lower ranked kings and government officials inclined to build their houses.

If we assume that the powerful king was King Ajātasattu, then the lowest kings would presumably have been little more than chieftains who ruled over small areas. The relationship between the kings was probably feudal, in other words, a hierarchy of mutual responsibilities.

As for the Sakyans, there is some evidence to suggest they had a deliberative form of government, but this does not necessarily mean they were a republic. They may have had a kind of constitutional monarchy, for instance. In any case, the Sakyans were already part of the Kosalan kingdom so their democracy would have had limited powers. It was far from being an independent state.

In sum, I personally think it is quite likely that the idea of the Rāhula’s mother being a queen is a late one. Alternatively, it is certainly possible that she was the queen of a petty king.


Yes, but the Mahabharata, I think is from many centuries later.


I think the Buddha did have knowledge of Brahmanical doctrines, and may have thought of his own teaching as, in part, a sycretistic fusion of the best of the Brahman ascetic tradition and certain samana teachings - west and east, we could say. On the other hand, the suttas display fairly consistent intellectual resistance to the idea of a social hierarchy determined by birth, rather than spiritual merit.


I don’t think this is totally accurate, though of course, the text has many layers, including later ones.


It’s clear from non-Buddhist and Buddhist sources that Brahmanism was still expanding towards the East. E.g. one of the latest pre-Buddhist texts, Śatapatha Brahmana, speaks of the eastward expansion of Brahmins. Or some suttas speak of ‘Brahmins of the West’ who are able to guide people to heaven. You have to keep in mind that the suttas contain text elements from the Buddha’s time up until 200-300 years later when Brahmanism was fully established in Kosala and Magadha and a full-fledged economic and religious competition was solidified.

In a way I guess they didn’t need to invent it. Enlightened monastics used to say that they are ‘children of the Buddha, born of his mouth’. The only thing necessary is a guru from the Rahula lineage to take it literally, tell a pedagogic narrative, and this to be passed on.

I would repeat what I think you imply: We shouldn’t make the mistake to project what we call today a king or queen on the Buddha’s time. People didn’t have fancy maps nor the internet. Why wouldn’t you call yourself a ‘king’ if you ruled a strategically important area 100x100 km. Denmark (forgetting Greenland) still has a king…


Hi bhajte couldnyou please expand on this a little bit? Which parts and how late?


That, Namuci, is your army,
the Dark One’s commando force.
A coward can’t defeat it,
but one having defeated it
gains bliss.
Do I carry muñja grass?
I spit on my life.
Death in battle woud be better for me
than that I, defeated,



If one has read and in my opinion, fully understood the Rahula Sutta, one wouldn’t find a question like that to fit his wholehearted fatherness


Have you had look at this? If you have any follow-up questions, you are most welcome to ask.


If we are going with responsibility according to social norms in modern times we have to take into account that he must have been loaded and had a powerful family so didn’t really have to think deeply about college and care for Rahula and wife :wink: . Jokes apart he was after all a prutagjana. A little irresponsibility is allowable for the greater good. Who knows he could have been quite traumatised and depressed seeing suffering after being mollicoddled for years and needed to get out as fast as possible. As for people criticising him do they even know what his dhamma findings are? We can use “Do you even dependent origination bro” on those critics of the greatest wise person in all the worlds.:slightly_smiling_face: