Buddha’s Wife is a novel about compassion, inspiration and forgiveness. Thousands of books, texts and stories have followed Siddhartha’s teachings and his path to becoming The Buddha, but little has been written about his wife Yasodhara, their child Rahula or their relatives, until now.
Yasodhara was the first woman in Siddhartha’s life, but not the last to follow in his footsteps. Why did he call his son “a hindrance” and believe women were a trap of desire and attachment “not fit to follow or understand my teachings”? How did Yasodhara and the nuns fight for equal treatment and rights? How could The Buddha have such compassion for others, yet be so scared of intimacy, emotion and love? What happened to sixteen-year-old Yasodhara and her two-day old son, Rahula, after her husband (Siddhartha) left her sleeping in the middle of the night to seek enlightenment?
Gabriel Constans Tells Story of Buddha's Wife
by Louis Peitzman —San Francisco Chronicle. Nov. 19, 2009
"It's commonly said - if not accepted - that when it comes to religion, women get the short end of the stick. In many cases, these slights are obvious; in others, they're harder to pinpoint.
"Author Gabriel Constans studied Buddhism under roshi Houn Jiyu-Kennett, the first woman sanctioned to teach in the West. Still, there was one aspect of Buddhist history that was never fully covered.
"'Even (Jiyu-Kennett) didn't speak much about Yasodhara, the wife of Buddha, or that she had become a nun' Constans says. 'I didn't know anything about that for almost 40 years.'
"That's because, until recently, there hasn't been much research done on the subject of the wife and son Siddhartha left behind. In the West especially, information and discussion of Yasodhara is slim. When Constans began his research, he discovered just how little there was.
"'All I could find were two sentences written about her,' he says. 'She came from such-and-such a family, and she later married Siddhartha, who became known as the Buddha, and that was about it.'
"Naturally, there was more to the story than that. A firsthand account is out of the question, but Constans decided to do the next best thing: In 'Buddha's Wife,' he offers his novelized version of what happened to Yasodhara and her son, Rahula, after Siddhartha left. To start, he put himself in the mind-set of his title character.
"'Siddhartha left her and their only child in the middle of the night, two days after the child was born, after they'd been married for 10 years,' he says. 'And I thought, my gosh, I wonder how that affected her.'
"Angry, hurt and confused is probably an understatement, but 'Buddha's Wife' is not an unflinching tirade against Siddhartha. Instead, this is a novel about forgiveness and reconciliation, not to mention the importance of seeing things from all angles.
"'I tried to get more of (Yasodhara's) perspective in terms of how it affected her family and her individually,' Constans says. 'It just felt natural, like I was speaking in her voice.'
"So far, the response from Constans' fellow Buddhists has been predominantly positive. After all, his attempt is not to condemn the Buddha nor to dissuade potential followers from the religion. While Constans doesn't excuse Siddhartha's abandonment of his wife and son, he explains that 'it didn't really distract me from the truth that (Siddhartha) found and shared, as far as being compassionate and forgiving and finding out what's real for you.'
"Some critics are less open to Constans' interpretation. 'Buddha's Wife' reinforces the humanity of a figure many have deified - and the idea of a fallible religious leader can be problematic. For Constans, it's not so cut and dried.
"'People tend to want things black and white,' he says. '(Deifying) simplifies things in a lot of ways. You don't have to question much. You don't have to find your own understanding.'
"So while a few naysayers are up in arms, 'Buddha's Wife' does offer a new take on an all-too-forgotten woman - provided you're willing to embrace those shades of gray."
|Publisher:||Reed, Robert D. Publishers|
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About the Author
Gabriel's books include over a dozen works of fiction and nonfiction. Buddha's Wife (a novel); Don't Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief's Wake Up Call; Saint Catherine's Baby (stories); The Skin of Lions: Rwandan Folk Tales; Paging Doctor Leff: Pride, Patriotism & Protest (biography); Luscious Chocolate Smoothies: An irresistible collection of healthy cocoa delights; and Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter, are a few of his most recent titles. Buddha's Wife is presently in pre-production as a feature film with Sacred World Productions.
Dr. Constans has served the community since 1974 as a grief counselor, chaplain, social worker, and massage therapist and is certified in Thought Field Therapy (TFT). His private counseling and consulting practice is located in Santa Cruz, California. He is a mental health consultant at the Santa Cruz Integrative Medicine and Chi Center. Gabriel worked at the Center for Grief and Loss at Hospice of Santa Cruz County, as a social worker, educator and bereavement counselor since its founding in 1977. Additional experience includes work as a program manager for an innovative mental health center; Impact and Dharma programs at California State prisons and as a drug and alcohol counselor for teens and ex-convicts.
Mr. Constans Doctorate in Death Education is from The Union Institute and University. His Masters in Pastoral Counseling was from Beacon College and his Bachelor of Science in Human Relations and Organizational Behavior is from the University of San Francisco.
Gabriel is the co-parent to five children and two grandchildren in The States and an extended family at The ROP Center for Street Children in Rwanda, which he supports. He also enjoys his work as a board member of the Ihangane Project for women and rural health care in Rwanda.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
"Buddha's Wife" is a brilliant contribution to the genre of literary fiction. Gabriel Constans combines traditional stories of the heroism of Siddhartha (Buddha) with an imaginary fictional account of the story of Yasodhara and her son Rahula. Yasodhara narrates her story. Hers is a story of birth into royal lineage and of then choosing poverty for love. She tells of the happiness of her early marriage and the birth of her son. This is followed by the experience of "drowning in sorrow" after her husband, Siddhartha, betrayed her and deserted them to pursue a life of "enlightenment." Constans beautifully recreates Yasodhara's life to draw attention to the women around Buddha, to encourage the reader to rethink the spiritual implication and the injustice of inequality within the caste system. This inequality has yet to be resolved today, both in society and in religion. He exposes the inconsistency of religious men and expresses the emotions of Yasodhara's brother as he is "locked behind his daunting exterior of privilege." Constans' writing reveals an amazing insight into the emotions of the heart. He puts into words the fear and pain of rejected love. He describes the price and sacrifice of following one's heart. He paints word pictures of the smoldering poison of hatred, of love turned to loathing, and of the gift of freedom found in forgiveness. Each of the characters share an important role in calling attention to the nature of genuine religion, evidenced by Godlike attributes and character. "Buddha's Wife" is inspiring, and fervent, written with sensitivity. As Reviewed for Midwest Book Review
As a Buddhist female, I bought this book with enthusiasm. "Ah, more about the females in early Buddhist history!" I was quite disappointed. It appears to be ccompletely fictional, which would be okay if that were clearly stated [one word on back]. But even then, because of its poor construction, it fails to grab the reader or to inspire with any clear sense of the female characters. And I felt it was far off the mark in understanding Buddhist views on the faults of attachment and the meaning of universal love and compassion. On top of that, it was poorly edited. I found several spelling and grammar errors. I had planned to pass this book around to all my friends. Now it will probably end up in the trash. As a Buddhist who has no wish to cause distress, I am sorry to be so blunt, but I feel this book does a disservice to the women of Buddhism. Although Constan's intention may have been good, I'd prefer it off the market. My only happy thought is that the profits from my purchase will hopefully go to his cause of raising funds for Rwandan Orphans Project