Siddhartha Gautama
Siddhartha left his family to seek an end to suffering. He had been raised sheltered from knowing there was suffering in the world and when he learned of it, he was drawn to conquer it. He left his family and eventually became the Buddha. When he visited 6 years later he ordained his son a monk. Later his wife also dedicated herself to the holy life by becoming a nun.

Was Siddhartha being selfish by leaving his family?

It may not be fair for us to look at his situation from our own context. He did not abandon his family to poverty; they lived in the royal household and were cared for by many servants. But he still left his family without a husband and father, regardless of how well-off they remained. His wife and son suffered and thus Siddhartha’s actions were selfish according to my definition in yesterday’s post. Buddha cared more for his own growth than about caring for his family, even though he then brought what he learned to the world. But he did it by leaving his family. What is the greater good? Is there a greater good? Would it be fair to discount the teachings of the Buddha because he started on his path with a selfish act?


Luke 18:28-30
28Then Peter said, ‘Look, we have left our homes and followed you.’ 29And he said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.’

What can we take from this? It implies that some of the disciples were married and left their wives in order to follow Jesus. What sort of leaving was this? Were they leaving their lives—giving them up, or was this akin to a soldier whose wife remains at home while he goes off to war? Basically, is leaving synonymous with abandoning? I don’t know, but I have always felt that it was about leaving one life for another—so giving up the former life to follow Jesus. Is that right? If you say yes, then why is it not right for your MLCer?

What sort of husband and father was Gandhi? His wife and oldest son, Harilal, complained he neglected them. Gandhi eventually disowned Harilal who died of liver failure five months after his father was assassinated. In response to complaints from his brother that he was failing to meet his familial responsibilities, Gandhi told him “my family now comprises all living beings.”

All freedom struggles demand political, social and personal sacrifices. It is the price we have to pay,” –Nelson Mandela

Often the person making sacrifices is not the one hurt by those sacrifices and often those who are great leaders dedicate themselves to a cause that is so great to them that they sacrifice those smaller circles closest to them. Great deeds come on the backs of those who suffer from the accomplishment of the deeds. Life is paradox and we are all both saints and sinners.

Are these men exceptions because they are great leaders or prophets or divine? There are many good deeds that come in the aftermath of suffering and sometimes even because of suffering. There are even good deeds that come at the expense and suffering of others. Does that justify the suffering?


There is a lot more I want to say on this topic. I have just purchased The Survival Papers: Anatomy of a Midlife Crisis and Dear Gladys: The Survival Papers Book 2, both by Daryl Sharp. I read the first book several years ago and was not amused. From what I recall it seemed like an incoherent ramble straight from the mind of an MLCer. Perhaps that may be insightful to see inside the twisted lair, but it was one-sided; it showed nothing of the pain and destruction from the point of view of the MLCer’s spouse or children—no one mattered but the MLCer. This side-stepped any morality narration may have provided. Now the back cover says it includes the MLCer and his therapist, but the therapist may have been caught up in his own turmoil and was simply validating and accepting the bad behavior of the MLCer.

I hope to read both these books and then continue this topic. If you’d like to read these as well, go ahead…but you’ve been warned, so do so at your own peril! Cue creepy laughter.

Series NavigationFollowing Your Bliss & Narcissus


Spiritual Leaders & Sacrifice: Who Pays?2 Comments

  1. Thanks RCR! Definitely a warning to standers that the Sharp books are very difficult to read. I found them helpful in their ugliness… I felt like they gave me a glimpse into the inner spew that was my MLCer's head and this helped me let go and focus on myself.

  2. This is a very interesting topic, and as a buddhist I shall respond. firstly from what I know of the time he lived in Siddhartha's family was not the "love bond/choice" of marriages we have today, it would have been an arranged marriage and he and his wife would have lived a formal structured existence.
    if you jump to the writings on Nichiren Daishonin (a 13th century monk) he encouraged women equally to men, wrote beautifully about marriage and encouraged a unity based on faith, that would overcome the inequalities of mediaeval Japan. (he encouraged one troubled follower to "stay at home and drink sake with his wife" ) and the current lay leader Daisaky Ikeda , his wife made a choice to support her husband in his mission as lay leader, I believe she prepared a special meal and even made a ceremony of it to "allow" him to follow his mission as a world leader, she supports him, but they have a unity of respect and faith .
    I have also, as a creative woman, started engaging in discussing Virginia Wolf's concept that a woman writer needs to kill the angel in the house . Coventry Patmore wrote a poem about wifely duties (in the 19th century) and Wolf was saying that in order to write, "that" ideal of woman would have to be killed. I don't think the two things are unconnected, the quest to follow your mission /be creative.
    For me the angel in the house of my marriage is dead. and may never return. that has been part of my journey.
    We don't know what conversations happened when Siddharta left the palace, when Ghandi followed his mission or when Jesus' disciples talked to their families. but times have moved on and women have a voice. long may this discussion continue it is a good one .

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