Connection with others as a spiritual path is explored by Surrey—a clinical psychologist, Buddhist dharma leader, and writer—and Shem, a physician and writer (The House of God). Troubled by an aspect of the Buddha’s famous origin story, in which the prince Siddhartha leaves his wife, Yasodhara, and newborn son without saying goodbye, the authors use an “imagined re-creation” of the abandoned woman’s search for healing within relationships to illuminate the “Path of She Who Stays” in contemporary life. After narrating the tale of Yasodhara’s survival and spiritual growth in the company of others, Surrey and Shem draw on Jean Baker Miller’s relational-cultural theory dealing with the importance of relationships, Zen peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh’s concept of interbeing, and other sources to investigate the power of connection to heal individuals and, perhaps, a suffering world. Focusing on circles—groups of connected people or things—they address spiritual friendships, parenting, couple communication, 12-step groups, care of the dying, peacemaking, and other topics, calling on all to become “relational and spiritual activists.” Extensive practices are included. Yasodhara’s story, in the authors’ capable hands, proves to be a somewhat didactic but effective strategy to pull together many strands of the relational path and inspire readers to further exploration. (June)
The Buddha’s Wife is a visionary work of profound insight, imagination, compassion, and scholarship. In telling the lost story of Yasodhara, Surrey and Shem give us a lamp for our troubled times, illuminating new paths and practices for all relationships.
The Buddha’s Wife is a riveting tale that will move your heart and shift your focus to the precious beings around you. In our world, where the social fabric is torn by violence, greed, and neglect, this visionary story offers us an alternative path beyond individualism and self-preoccupation. Drawing on the deep wisdom of relational and spiritual practices that Surrey and Shem have studied, created, and engaged in over decades, this timeless and beautiful narrative shows us what deep attunement to ourselves and to one another looks like, as well as the means by which we can work to manifest it.
What must it have been like for the Buddha’s wife to be abandoned the night after her first child was born? Surrey and Shem have a brilliant story to tell, one of a heart shattered by loss, a community that doesn’t shy away from suffering, and a path to freedom that is radical yet ordinary, humble yet profound. The authors offer a healing vision, nurtured throughout their life together, that is just what our world.
The Buddha’s Wife carries us beyond any one religious tradition to launch us gently into streams of a universal wisdom. Therein is its spiritual power. This is a beautifully written book for all who know, at least intuitively, that our liberation—as people and as a planet—is rooted in our shared commitments to more radically relational and mutual ways of being than any of the major world religions (including Buddhism) either teach or practice.
Janet Surrey and Samuel Shem have written a remarkable book, both as a work of literature and a work of spiritual teaching. Through their moving personal story and their beautiful imagining of the life of Yasodhara, the Buddha’s wife, they describe a ‘relational path’ to awakening, one that contrasts with that of the heroic solitary seeker we see so often in religious texts and myths. The Buddha’s Wife comes at a time of distress and conflict in our culture and offers hope that we might learn to live together in a new way, founded in an understanding of our shared struggle for happiness and freedom.
A brave and life-changing book, The Buddha’s Wife speaks to perhaps the greatest challenge of our time, our false sense of separateness. For all people of all faiths, The Buddha’s Wife shifts perception and thus opens us to possibility. It touched me deeply.
Though I'm not a Buddhist, I sense that this account deepens and adds beautiful shadings to the story of the Buddha's life. I know that in its focus on relationship, it's a powerful antidote to the hyperindividualism that marks our world.
"An imaginative tour de force, this book lets the Buddha's central teaching shine through with stunning relevance for our lives today. Enlightenment or awakening has traditionally been viewed as a solitary achievement. The tale of Yasodhara offers a welcome and engaging counter-balance, where relationships are recognized as central to the Buddhist view of reality as well as to our personal lives. ALong with the engrossing story, the authors offer reflections and guidance on mindful practices that help us wake up to and through our relationships. Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike will want to train in the fullness of presence."
"Bless you Janet, Sam, and Yashodhara for pointing us in the feminist clarity that we serve best as an ‘I’ in the nest of the ‘we’, being communal at home and the world was the smartest decision of my life. Let's help midwife a loving world."
The Buddha’s Wife is a gripping telling of an amazing 2,500-year-old story, followed by a collection of contemporary inspirational stories, and specific reflections and practices collected from the lives and work of ‘relational activists’ all over the world. A great read and a practical guide for anyone who wants to ‘wake up’ and walk a path of healing with others.
This long-untold story, a truly provocative teaching tale—timeless and timely, perfect for our disenchanted era—will prove useful and enlightening to those who seek to find freedom within relationships. Here is a whole fresh take on the well-tilled field of the historical Buddha's life and teaching.
"A beautiful imagination of the feminine and relational side of the Buddha's tale."
"In this creative, groundbreaking rendering, the relational ‘Yin’ of Buddhism, so often absent, is brought beautifully to life. The teachings are clear, vibrant, relevant. They guide us in loving more fully, and are the very grounds for healing our earth and bringing peace to our world."
"Smoothly written and with compelling applications of social and psychological theories as well as Buddhist tradition, this can serve both spiritual practitioners and secular readers seeking insight on strengthening themselves and their relationships."