ando wrote:One of the things I've had trouble explaining to my non-Buddhist friends is in what way was Gotama kind and compassionate when he walked out from his wife and child. I'm still uncertain if he had the permission of his parents and wife when he did.
This is just my understanding of why he left, I might be wrong: After seeing the realities of aging, sickness and death which apply to all beings the Buddha-to-be had a strong sense of urgency to find the way out of suffering. In India at that time the spiritual quest was relatively common, many people left home and became wanderers and ascetics. From a Buddhist POV, the difference between the Buddha and other wanderers is that the others failed to reach the goal, whereas the Buddha successfully fulfilled the spiritual life, discovered the Four Noble Truths, and taught the True Dhamma to others.
First of all his compassion was to himself, I believe that he recognized that if he is to help anyone else out of Dukkha he must first help himself. As kind and compassionate as he could be to his family in a household life that kindness and compassion would never be as far-reaching and long-lasting in its benefit (to himself and other beings) compared to if he became the Buddha, which I am very grateful he did. Once he attained Buddhahood he could help many many beings that he might not have been able to otherwise even if he were the best husband, the best father or even the best king. Also, the kind of happiness a husband, father or king can provide is only temporary whereas a Buddha who teaches others how to free themselves from suffering forever, irreversibly is the greatest gift he could give to the world.
Quite frankly, my leaving my family would cause hardship to my siblings who, like my parents, depend on my income to survive. My renuncuation would be a betrayal, a most unkind act to them. Although my desire to ordain is high, I haven't finished thinking about the fallout that would happen when I leave home.
You don't need to rediscover the Dhamma - the Buddha has done the hard work already. If it is not practical to become a monastic at the moment I wouldn't worry too much, just do the best you can for now. Even lay people can become stream-winners, once-returners and non-returners. Worst case scenario is you live a wholesome life as a kind and caring layperson. That's not so bad, is it?