(Part One) 10. The Four Sights: a Monk

After many days of contemplation and distress, Siddhartha visited the city for the fourth time. As he was driving to the park he saw a happy man wearing an orange coloured robe. He asked Channa, “Who is this man wearing an orange robe? His hair is shaved off. Why does he look so happy? How does he live and what does he do for a living?”

“That is a monk.” replied Channa, “He lives in a temple, goes from house to house for his food and goes from place to place telling people how to be peaceful and good.” The prince felt very happy now. He thought, “I must become one like that,” as he walked through the park.

He walked until he was tired, then sat under a tree to think some more. As he was sitting under the cool shady tree, news came that his wife had given birth to a fine baby boy. When he heard the news he said, ” An impediment (“rahula”) has been born to me, an obstacle to my leaving has been born,” and thus his son’s name became Rahula.

As he was returning to the palace he met the Princess called Kisagotami. She had been looking out of the palace window and, seeing the prince coming, was so taken by his handsome looks that she said loudly, “Oh! How happy must be the mother, and father, and the wife of such a handsome young prince!”

As he passed this woman, Siddhartha heard this and thought to himself, “In a handsome figure the mother, father and wife find happiness. But how does one escape obstacles and suffering to reach nirvana (escape from suffering, a lasting liberation which is happiness and genuine peace)?” With this question he realised what he must do. “I must quit this household life and retire from the world in quest of enlightenment. This lady has taught me a valuable lesson. I will send her a teacher’s fee.” Loosening a valuable pearl necklace from about his neck, Siddhartha honoured his word and sent it as payment to Kisagotami, with thanks.