Saturday, March 26, 2016

Book Review : Yasodhara, the Wife of Bodhisattva

Title : Yashodhara, the Wife of the Bodhisattva: The Sinhala Yasodharavata (The Story of Yasodhara) and the Sinhala Yasodharaopadanaya (The Sacred Biography of Yasodhara)

Author : Ranjini Obeyesekere

"Through unaccountable eons of measureless time he perfected the Virtues to become a Buddha
For yet more multiples of measureless time he perfected those same Virtues
For still more eons multiplied unaccountable times he strove to become a Buddha.
Then as a bud matures and comes to bloom, he became a Buddha"

Becoming a Buddha is actually a state of enlightenment which is borne out of believing, practicing and executing the virtues like Generosity, Morality, Renunciation, Wisdom, Effort, Patience, Truthfulness, Resolution, Kindness and Equanimity.

Yashodhara : the wife of Bodhisattava, is the translation and compilation of two works : The Sinhala Yasodharavata (The Story of Yasodhara) and the Sinhala Yasodharapadanaya (The Sacred Biography of Yasodhara). While the former is a folk poem bringing out the pathos of a young wife bemoaning the departure of her husband, the latter is more of an account of how Yashodhara accompanies Bodhisattva through various births and her role in being his true soul mate through all their incarnations.

Prince Siddhartha leaves his wife Yashodhara and infant son to embark on his journey towards enlightenment. While being left behind in the palaces, she undergoes various emotions - of love and loss, despair and resignation, which eventually give way to equanimity that is born out of acceptance and understanding.

The author beautifully brings out the essence of the human emotions at the time of such deep loss, "Like all human beings faced with the finality of a loss, she tries to cope in the many ways women have - by recalling past happiness, mourning present absence, reproaching the lost love, questioning her own possible shortcomings. At the same time, because of her own great love, she wishes that no ill befall the loved one in this or any other existence."

The other half of the book focuses on the strong and confident queen who first decides to shun the worldly comforts as and when her consort does far away on his chosen path. Later she follows the footsteps of Bodhisattava as his disciple and a nun. She, who has been with Bodhisattava through all samsaric existences, acquires a state where she decides on the timing of her own death and on preceding the Buddha to nirvana.

The translations are quite readable and understandable. Though actual translated works form a part of the book, the rest of it is a commentary on various aspects including the time at which it is written, the comparison of writing style and detailed explanation of the original text. The author has done a great service to the humanity by extending the reach of this content beyond Sinhala language for wider readers.

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