Buddha's Life

How Buddha came to leave his luxurious life

At his birth there had been a prediction by a Brahmin-priest that Siddharta would only become a king if he was not confronted with the less pleasant aspects of life, such as death, disease and old age. The king, Siddharta's father obviously wanted him to become king after him. So he made sure that Siddharta lived in luxury and disease, old age and death were unknown to him. 

But one day prince Siddharta asked to see how other people lived. 

This worried the king, who told Siddhartha he could go into the city once they cleaned it up a little. The king
ordered everyone to clean up and decorate the city before Siddhartha journeyed through it. Once the city was decorated, the prince went with a driver named Channa through the streets of the city surrounding his father's palace. While riding through the streets in a carriage, he saw an old man laying in the street. He was dressed in rags and begged people for food or money. Prince Siddhartha was dismayed and asked Channa what was wrong with the old man. Channa told him, "He's just an old man. Some people end up like him. Forget about him." 

But, Siddhartha couldn't forget about the old man. He went back to the palace and was very depressed by the incident. He became afraid of the spectre of 'Old Age'. King Suddhodana was worried when he heard how seeing the old man affected him. He tried to distract his son, but failed - Siddhartha wanted eagerly to return to the streets of the city. He told his father he wanted to see the city as it was un-decorated. He really wanted to see how common people lived.

Reluctantly, the king gave Siddhartha permission to go into the city. Siddhartha and his friend Channa dressed up as common folks and wandered through the city. It was much different than when they'd visited before. Rather than dancing and celebrating, the people were all very busy. Many were working hard at whatever their trade was - and doing so quite happily.

Siddhartha saw a man laying on the ground beside a building. The man twitched and hugged himself tightly. His face was covered with ugly sores and he could hardly breathe. The prince knelt by the man and turned to Channa, "What's wrong with him?"

"He is sick my prince. Please stay away from him, or you may become ill too!"

When they returned to the palace, Siddhartha was more depressed than he had been the night before. He sat up all night and thought deeply about 'Old Age' and 'Illness'. He begged his father to allow him to return to the city. King Suddhodana knew he could not stop fate and allowed his son to go back into the city.

Again, he and Channa dressed up as common folk and went into the city. During this journey they saw a small group of people carrying a flat board that was holding the body of a man. The body was still as a stone as they lowered it onto a burning pyre. The man on the board remained motionless as the flames swallowed him.

Siddhartha watched all this in disbelief - he had never witnessed death before. He turned to Channa and asked, "Why is that man laying there while the flames burn him up?"

"He is dead my prince. No life flows through him - it has left the body. Flames cannot hurt him now."
"Do we all die Channa?"
"Yes, my prince. We all do."

Prince Siddhartha was shocked and dismayed by this new concept of death, and went home and again stayed up all night thinking about 'Old Age', 'Illness', and 'Death'.

Many days later, Siddhartha visited the city. Channa drove the carriage through the streets where Siddhartha saw a man in an orange robe who seemed very happy.

"Who is that man in the orange robe Channa? Why is he smiling like that?"

"That is a monk, my prince. He asks for offerings of food from people and walks around telling them how to live in peace and harmony."

Prince Siddhartha decided right then, he needed to become a monk. He went to a park and sat under a tree when a messenger found him and told him his wife had just given birth to a baby boy. Rather than being happy, Siddhartha felt a heavy weight being placed on his shoulders. He sighed and returned to the palace where his father had prepared a great feast in celebration of his new son. Siddhartha went to the feast just to please his father. He sat bored through all of the dancing, singing, and feasting, and actually fell asleep in the middle of it all. He woke late at night surrounded by drunken partiers. He was offended by their presence and quickly left the hall and went to his sleeping wife and newborn son. He watched them sleep for a long time, then made a decision. 

"I must leave this place and live the life of a monk. I have to find a way to defeat 'Old Age', 'Illness', and 'Death'."

The palace where he had lived his whole life had by now become a prison to him. Knowing the king would try to stop him, Siddharta left the palace in the dead of night to become a monk.

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