Buddha was a deadbeat dad
Siddhartha went quietly to see his newborn son for the first time. His wife was sleeping with the baby beside her, her hand resting on the baby’s head. The prince said to himself, “If I try to move her hand so I can take the child for one last cuddle I fear I will wake her and she will prevent me from going. No! I must go, but when I have found what I am looking for, I shall come back and see him and his mother again.
Is it right to leave your children for your own selfish ambitions? I wouldn’t.
I always wanted to be a father, and knew I would be in my life. Even with this desire and a feeling of readiness when my wife got pregnant, I am ashamed to admit that I struggled in the first few months after he was born. Resentment and depression consumed much of my thoughts.
What about me and my life? All the things I wanted to do, businesses I wanted to start, languages I wanted to learn, books I wanted to read, knowledge I wanted to consume… when would I find the time? What have I done?
Having just finished watching Slingshot, where Dean Kamen openly speaks about how he would be a terrible father, full of resentment for taking him away from his life’s purpose I couldn’t help but feel guilty. Those were some of the feelings that I had in those early days. I work a lot, and love it. I don’t compare my contribution to Dean’s but I try my best. My son’s birth was a flame that ignited the embers of my ego that I thought I had put out. The fire ragged and was consuming. Luckily, with friends and family to help I was able to starve the fire of thought, and it died as quickly as it started but it did burn us.
Buddha gave me a framework for dealing with those thoughts and feelings. The joy and love I feel today are beyond anything I could have imagined then. As a father every moment becomes a chance to play. Seeing the world through a child’s eyes is a profound perspective altering experience. It makes life pretty clear and simple. You are either living in illusion or living in love, ego or truth, where and when or here and now. Ambition hasn’t become less important, just less serious. I know more than ever that life is a game I am lucky to be playing with my wife and son. Even though I know they are illusions and ultimately impermanent, they are the most beautiful parts of life I have seen and I will enjoy them to the fullest while I can. What better way to spend your time then playing the game of life with the people you love the most.
Buddha didn’t feel these gifts, he chose to pursue ambition and a calling much like Dean. I am not judging his decision as it was his to make, but I can’t help but see the irony and wonder what would have happened if he had seen those desires to escape and self-actualize for what they were. Would Siddhārtha have still found what he was looking for? Would he still have discovered the sword that helped me cut through the illusion? I don’t know.
I do know that in less than 6 hours my son will wake us up in one of three ways: a kick, a laugh, or a fart. Fingers crossed for a laugh but I will take whatever he choses to give.