Book review: Buddha’s Wife (Gabriel Constans)

The story of what happened to Yasodhara, the wife of Siddhartha, and their son after he left them both in the middle of the night to seek enlightenment is one of the more compelling yet least talked about stories in spiritual literature. In Buddha’s Wife, author Gabriel Constans explores that story in a fictional tale that is both captivating and moving.  Buddha’s Wife opens at the end of Yasodhara’s life. Long time friend Ananda is caring for the ailing Yasodhara as friends and family gather to say their goodbyes (the Buddha himself having passed away some years earlier).  Rahula, who in this story has outlived his father and did not choose ordination, has become estranged from his family, but is on his way from Sri Lanka to say goodbye to his mother. Ultimately, this tale is about the role of women in the life of the Buddha and within Buddhism’s earliest days as much as it is a story of compassion and forgiveness.

Yasodhara’s life and that of those close to her are replayed through a series of flashbacks framed as conscious memories being relived by the various characters in the novel. In a similar vein to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon, Buddha’s Wife retells an important story from the point of view of the women of that story. It explores many issues during Buddhism’s initial appearance and development from a different point of view, especially that of the Buddha’s view on women and enlightenment, including the famous conversation around that issue with Ananda. Through Buddha’s Wife, we see the Buddha not only as an enlightened being, but we especially see him as a man, and it is this humanizing of the Buddha that makes his achievements all the more attainable for all of us. One of the best books I’ve read this year, Buddha’s Wife is available in August from Robert D. Reed Publishers and available for pre-order from your local, independent bookstore.  (Shop local, shop independent, and tell ’em you saw it on Elephant Journal!)

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Alice Kinston Jun 11, 2012 2:33am

Only wanna remark on few general things, The website layout is perfect, the content material is rattling great : D.

S. Reed Sep 8, 2009 1:34pm

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

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Todd Mayville

Todd is a single dad of four diverse and lively kids, and is an English teacher and climbing team coach at a local public high school. A rock climber, cyclist and avid reader, Todd also practices yoga and meditation as often as he possibly can, which helps him stay at least a little centered and sane.