In this unit: Despite his father’s best intentions, Prince Siddhartha discovered the true nature of the human condition. During an excursion outside the palace walls, he saw things that caused him to think deeply about all the suffering in the world. He knew then that he would have to radically change his life in order to find the answers he was looking for.
The Pleasure Palace
To stop the prince from thinking about leaving home, King Suddhodana built a pleasure palace for Siddhartha and Yasodhara. Dancers and singers entertained them, and only young people were allowed into the palace. The king did not want Siddhartha to know that everybody gets sick, grows old and will die. But the prince was not happy. He wanted to know what life was like for people who lived outside the palace walls.
The Four Sights
After some time the prince was not happy living in the palace. He wanted to go outside and see how other people lived. He went out with his attendant, Channa. They left the palace four times.
On the first trip, the prince saw an old man. He came to know that everyone had to grow old.
On the second trip, the prince saw a sick man. He came to know that everyone could get sick any time.
On the third trip, he saw a dead body. He knew that everyone would have to die one day.
On the fourth trip, the prince saw a monk who was happy and calm. He made up his mind to leave home so that he could help people to find peace and happiness.
The Prince Leaves Home
Siddhartha went quietly to see his newborn son for the last 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.”
Siddhartha left the palace. It was midnight, and the prince was on his white horse Kanthaka with Channa, his faithful servant, holding on to its tail. He was going away to try to understand old age, sickness and death. He rode to the bank of a river and dismounted from his horse.
He removed his jewellery and princely clothes and gave them to Channa to return to the king. Then the prince took his sword and cut his long hair, put on monks robes, took a begging bowl and told Channa to go back with Kanthaka to the palace.