Thursday, April 8, 2010

Even the Buddha Had Abandonment Issues

It is said that when Guatama Siddhartha was only an infant, his mother died. Today, we would probably say that this event led to a potentially chaotic and insecure attachment style and would create an "abandonment wound" for Siddhartha that he would carry with him for the rest of his life.

Looking at his life before he became the Buddha (or "Awakened One"), we can see some evidence of this. For most of his young life he was a chronic abandoner. He left his father's palace, and his young bride, to lead a life of a holy man. He tried teacher after teacher for seven years thoughout India looking for a way to remove suffering from his life, including the suffering of loss due to death. Try as he might, however, he could never abandon this wound. Finally, as a wandering aesetic, he tried to abandon his body by starving it nearly to death.

It was then that Siddhartha was saved by a young woman who gave him some rice milk, and eventually nursed him back to health. Siddhartha realized that he had been reinjuring his old abandonment wound by trying to abandon himself. So he decided to sit under a pippala tree, not to get rid of anything,  but to get to know everything about himself. 

He found that if he felt his breath coming in and out of his body, his mind would collect and gather more in the present moment, and from this perspective, he could see how his mind worked. Over and over again he returned to himself through the experience of the breath. He saw clearly (the meaning of "vipassana") all the ways he had abandoned himself, and others, in his vain attempts to escape his initial wound. I'm sure he must have wept sometimes as he looked into the deep well of sadness that this insight brought to him.

When he arose from that first meditation, the Buddha taught others, showing them that they could reduce their suffering if they, too, could stop abandoning themselves.

If you are suffering from anger, jealousy, insecurity, and the like, it may be that you have abandoned yourself. The Buddha's mother died, and indeed, he was abandoned. What caused his suffering, however, was that he kept the sense of abandonment alive throughout his early life. When he stopped abandoning himself, he was free.



  1. But if their is no self, how can one abandon one's self?