Was the Buddha married and father of a son

In a previous discussions someone mentioned: “Strange Rahula only appears once in the huge Anguttara”

Did the idea of the Buddha having been married and having a son, emerged centuries after his death and why was this concept needed?

Before we can explore the question I would like to suggest you present us the rationale for assuming that the rare or non-occurrence of a character in the numerical sutta collection (i.e. Anguttara Nikaya) should imply his historical existence is to be doubted. :confused:

Is this something you came up with yourself or read any EBT scholar hypothesize?

P.S.: I ask this because I remember you have previously said you only consider kosher the Samyutta Nikaya. Even to the point of advising people who is new to the Pali Canon to not even read the MN.

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Or another way to frame Gabriel question is:

How would Rahula presence in the sutta relate to his relationship with the Bhudda?

Why should we hear or read more from him because of that causal link?


I only quoted someone else to start a discussion.

My interest in this question is that if the Buddha never married and never fathered a son then it is more easy to reconcile his living home which happened in daylight with his parents crying and no mention of a wife and son in that sutta.

I often get the impression Westerners often approach the matter of the Buddha’s wife & child from the modern perspective of the nuclear family. Gotama’s primary social obligation would have probably been towards his clan thus parents were probably the core relationship. Primarily, his departure would have probably brought shame or loss of honor upon his parents. That’s my view.

For example, DN 31 states:

In five ways should a mother and father as the eastern direction be respected by a child: ‘I will support them who supported me; I will do my duty to them; I will maintain the family lineage and tradition; I will be worthy of my inheritance; and I will make donations on behalf of dead ancestors.’

The word ‘jati’ is not only used as ‘physical birth’. It is also used as ‘clan’, ‘society identity’ & ‘caste’ (such as today in modern India). Therefore, when the arahants declared ‘birth is ended’, it probably also included all of those burdensome caste & clan obligations of Indian clan & caste culture.

Now, this word birth (játi) has many meanings.

For in the passage “[He recollects … ] one birth (játi), two births” (D I 81) it is becoming.

In the passage, “Visákhá, there is a kind (játi) of ascetics called Nigaóþhas (Jains)” (A I 206) it is a monastic order.

In the passage, “Birth (játi) is included in two aggregates” (Dhátuk 15) it is the characteristic of whatever is formed.

In the passage, “His birth is due to the first consciousness arisen, the first cognition manifested, in the mother’s womb” (Vin I 93) it is rebirth-linking.

In the passage “As soon as he was born (sampatijáta), Ánanda, the Bodhisatta …” (M III 123) it is parturition.

In the passage “One who is not rejected and despised on account of birth” (A III 152) it is clan.

In the passage “Sister, since I was born with the noble birth” (M II 103) it is the Noble One’s virtue.



Would you please kindly point us the sutta you’re alluding to here?

MN 26.14 / MA 204 as per The authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts (Banthe Sujato & Ajahn Brahmali)

I think there’s a typo, MN26, right?

So, the point is that in the account of his spiritual career he does not mention leaving behind a child (nor a wife).

That’s an interesting curiosity, but does not necessarily mean they didn’t exist.

Interestingly, I have just found this in Wikipedia:

In the Mūlasarvāstivāda-vinaya, used by Tibetan Buddhists, it is claimed that Rāhula was conceived on the evening of the Renunciation, and born six years later, on the day that his father achieved Enlightenment (which is also said to coincide with a lunar eclipse).

I would be nice to confirm whether commentaries or any EBT confirm that version of the story.

What to say about Yasodhara? I remember reading somewhere she eventually became a bhikkhuni herself…

Mind however it seem she was apparently called other names such as Bhaddakaccānā, Bimbādevī and Rāhulamātā (mother of Rahula), at least this is what Wikipedia tells us.

An interesting side-tangent that might be helpful towards answering the OP is another question: which elements of the “modern standard Buddha story” (that is to say, how the life of the Buddha is presented in religious textbooks, for example) stem from EBTs, and which are later Indic hagiography (a la “Nāgārjuna the Alchemist”)?

For instance, I recall a detail of Buddha’s life that had him naming his children something like “Fetter & Weight” or “Vice & Distraction”***, or something like that, which is clearly hagiographical and symbolic (IMO), and somewhat unintentionally funny to the modern comic sensibility. Are the names of Buddha’s children revealed in EBTs or is this later material?

***as the conversation below indicates, I was half-remembering Rāhula, whose name means “fetter”.

My personal conspiracy theory, based on accounts of Gotama’s life in the palace, is Gotama was not interested in sexual intercourse, despite being customarily married, which is why he remained childless for 12 years.

As an agreement or ‘business deal’ between Gotama & his father, Gotama bit the bullet & had sexual intercourse with his wife to father an heir to the throne in exchange for leaving home.

Fortunately, the 50% probability of bearing a son fell in his favour.

:rooster: :chicken: :baby_chick:

Wow! So is there any room for interpreting the phrase ‘birth is ended’ as actually being ‘social identity is ended’? Or is it surely about rebirth?

[quote=“Senryu, post:11, topic:5521”]

In MN 93, the word ‘birth’ is used in relation to caste.You many be interested in reading MN 93.

Sure. MN 140 may possibly apply.

Bhikkhu, ‘I am’ is a conceiving; ‘I am this’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall not be’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be possessed of form’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be formless’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be percipient’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be non-percipient’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be neither-percipient-nor-non-percipient’ is a conceiving. Conceiving is a disease, conceiving is a tumour, conceiving is a dart. By overcoming all conceivings, bhikkhu, one is called a sage at peace. And the sage at peace is not born, does not age, does not die; he is not shaken and does not yearn. For there is nothing present in him by which he might be born. Not being born, how could he age? Not ageing, how could he die? Not dying, how could he be shaken? Not being shaken, why should he yearn? MN 140


MN 96 shows the social attitude towards caste or clan duty, which Gotama rejected.

In this regard, master Gotama, the brahmins declare the brahmin’s wealth to be going on almsround. Indeed, a brahmin, despising the wealth of going on alms-round, is not doing his duty, just like a guard taking the not-given.


In this regard, master Gotama, the brahmins declare the kshatriya’s wealth to be the bow and quiver. Indeed, a kshatriya, despising the wealth of the bow and quiver, is not doing his duty, just like a guard taking the not-given.

In this regard, master Gotama, the brahmins declare the vaishya’s wealth to be ploughing and cattle-herding [agriculture and pastoral farming]. Indeed, a vaishya, despising the wealth of ploughing and cattle-hering, is not doing his duty, just like a guard taking the not-given.

In this regard, master Gotama, the brahmins declare the shudra’s wealth to be the sickle and carrying-pole. Indeed, a shudra, despising the wealth of the sickle and carrying-pole, is not doing his duty, just like a guard taking the not-given.


If you are able to construct a dependent origination around the coming into being of social identity and not rebirth then you could say so.

But that will be very tough for in the mundane dependent origination jati is always framed together with marana, which definetely means death.

Nevertheless, we are always free to choose what to overlook when we grasp to point of views…

To me, a key implication of this alternative reading of the term is that it would be reducing the Buddha to some sort of Indian Diogenes. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

Its not so tough when ‘death’ is regarded as the death of ‘self/social identity’. For example:

  • A wife leaves a husband thus the ‘husband’ identity traumatically ends.

  • A job is lost thus the self-identity as a certain ‘profession’ is traumatically lost.

  • A ‘world champion’ in a sport ceases to be ‘world champion’ due to losing.

  • The self & social identity of a rich man ends when he becomes a poor man due to making bad investments & the crash of the stock market

  • A once beautiful woman looks into the mirror and says to herself: “my skin is wrinkling; my teeth are rotting; my hair is greying”.

  • A corpse is viewed is identified in an ambulance, hospital, morgue or cemetery in terms of self-social-identity as “my mother”, “my father”, “my son”, “my daughter”.

The craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming: This, friend Visakha, is the origination of self-identification described by the Blessed One. MN 44

It is not tough for Thanissaro, who offers an alternate view:

11) Birth: the actual assumption of an identity on any of these three levels.
12) The aging-and-death of that identity, with its attendant sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair.

Shape of Suffering

:seedling:[quote=“gnlaera, post:13, topic:5521”]dependent origination jati is always framed together with marana, which definetely means death.[/quote]

Within these definitions, the word ‘sattanam’ (‘beings’) is found therefore they can be taken to imply what is born & dies is a ‘being’ (‘satta’).

SN 5.10 refers exactly to this, grasping to the ‘view’ that a ‘being’ (‘satta’) exists. [quote=“gnlaera, post:13, topic:5521”]
To me, a key implication of this alternative reading of the term is that it would be reducing the Buddha to some sort of Indian Diogenes

I think MN 22 may reply to such assertions about the Buddha:

Bhikkhus, both formerly and now what I teach is suffering and the cessation of suffering. MN 22

If it is believed life is suffering, how can the ending of suffering ever be known when alive? it follows, it appears the whole idea of Nibbana would become total conjecture & speculation if suffering is not merely a state of mind.

Kind regards :seedling:

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I can’t conceive any incentive for inventing such a detail. If some Buddhist propagandists had wanted to massage the Buddha’s biography, I should have thought it more likely that they would do so by removing the wife and son rather than introducing them. That is, in the hagiographies of Indian ascetic traditions the usual thing is to sex the saint up by sexing him down.

Interestingly, I recently learned that in Jainism people are divided over what Mahāvīra got up to before his going forth. The Śvētāmbaras claim that he married and had a daughter, while the Digambaras (the more severely ascetic tradition) claim that he was a lifelong brahmcarī who resolutely resisted his parent’s entreaties to marry and produce an heir.


I wouldn’t have a clue about the actual question at hand, but in terms of a credible incentive for inventing such a detail, I’d be willing to entertain the possibility of this detail being considered an important part of the renunciation narrative.

As an aside, I have before wondered why ‘well known’ familial connections don’t seem to be offered as overt bits of information in the sutta themselves. In this case, why eg. doesn’t MN61 or MN62 simply state Rāhula is the Buddha’s son?

Other details, like - off the top of my not very well studied head - the fact that the Buddha was from a Sakyan clan, that he left his mother and father weeping as he went forth, or that in a previous life Moggallāna had a sister called Dūsı̄ are included in the texts. There seems to be plenty of scope within the nature of the suttas to record the facts such as the Buddha being Rāhula’s father, which in turn makes me curious as to why they don’t appear to.


I believe Moggallāna was Dūsī. :lotus:


Oooops, right you are! I did warn, “off the top of my not very well studied head”… :embarrassed_face:

His sister’s name is, nevertheless, given (Kālī) so the basic point still stands. :sweat:

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It’s about the ending of rebirth. The teaching on samsara is a foundation in the Buddha’s teaching and is taught in countless suttas.

I have just created a topic to address the topic of how can jāti and maraṇa be interpreted.

You are welcome to participate and help us identifying the different ways we can make sense of these terms.