In Japan, they are called Home-Leavers, and are granted a privileged place in society. They are doing the most difficult thing, breaking the scarlet cord, and this is the first and hardest step.
It is how the Buddha’s story begins too. In the tales, when he realizes he must go, he stands in the doorway of his wife’s bedroom, and watches her sleep with their newborn son in her arms. He does not approach. He knows that if he were to touch her, his resolve would break, and he would never leave. So he turns; lets the curtain fall; leaves.
So the story is about the world’s greatest deadbeat dad.
Did he come close to their sleeping bodies? Was he near enough to smell his baby’s milk breath? Did he think about his wife’s arms around him? Did he see all the items of their safe precious world — the ornaments and jewels, the baby blankets, the neat lines of shoes? Didn’t he think, once, my self is here — I cannot leave?
And when he returns — fifteen years later — his head shaved, his face now serene, his son grown — can he say, ‘I’m home?’
Of course not. There is no home for him. Every religion has its sacrifice. Jesus gives up his life; Abraham gives up his name; Muhammad gives up his pride; and for Buddhists, Siddartha gives up his home. It’s the only way we can prove we are good: we can give something up, the thing we love the most.