September 07, 2021

#08-132: The Great Departure of Prince Siddhartha

a Thai-looking man is seated in a carriage drawn by two horses and driven by a charioteer. In the foreground is a meditating monk, a skeleton, and a man with a skin condition
A Thai illustration of the Four Sights (with only three in view, unless one man is sick and old)

Note: Buddhists mark four key events in the life of their founder: his birth, departure from home, enlightenment, and death. In this story, let's see how he renounced a life of luxury.

Get Ready: In order to follow his path, the Buddha left behind his wife, his newborn son, and his responsibilities to his parents. (He later did much more for them than he could have if he had stayed.) Do you think it's all right for a person to do this?

This is the story of how the young Prince Siddhartha left his life of luxury to become a monk practicing austerities in the forest and, eventually, become the Buddha.

When the boy was born to the King and Queen of Kapilavastu, sages told his father that there was a chance he might become either a great king or a great religious figure. Naturally his father wanted him to follow in his own footsteps, so he kept him from ever seeing anything unpleasant, something that might stir his compassion and cause him to pursue a holy path.

He was given three pleasure palaces, one for each season of the Indian year, and supplied with all the delights a young man could want. No one who was ill was allowed to be around him, nor anyone who was elderly. And of course he never saw hint of death.

But the Prince was curious, and began asking his driver to take him out into the city. Even though the King arranged for all unpleasantness to be hidden from him on these excursions, on each trip he saw: first an old person, then a sick person, and then a dead body. Each time, his driver explained that, yes, these things would happen to him some day. On the fourth trip he saw a wandering ascetic, and learned that this man was seeking a way out of suffering. This experience is called "The Four Sights."

Arriving home from this fourth trip and pondering all he had seen, the Prince learned that on that very day he had become a father. He muttered that this child would bind him to the life of this world, and so the child was named Rahula, meaning "fetters" or "bonds."

That night, to celebrate the baby's birth, the King had arranged for him to be entertained by dancing girls. But the young Prince, tired from his journeys, fell asleep. The dancers took a break, and they, too, fell asleep. The Prince woke to find these otherwise-beautiful woman snoring and even drooling in their sleep!

"It is all just appearance!" he thought. "Beauty and youth are fleeting." And so, in what is known as "The Great Renunciation," he crept into the room where his wife and son were sleeping, bade them a silent goodbye, and slipped out of the palace to go into the jungle seeking enlightenment.


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. ascetic
  2. austerities
  3. drooling
  4. fleeting
  5. follow in his footsteps
  6. luxury
  7. muttered
  8. pondering
  9. renunciation
  10. stir

  1. having spit fall from the lips
  2. giving up of something
  3. thinking about
  4. temporary; passing
  5. do the same thing he did
  6. spoke lowly and unclearly
  7. a person who denies himself all luxuries
  8. extreme religious practices
  9. give rise to; cause
  10. comfort and elegance

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for September 7, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. g; 2. h; 3. a; 4. d; 5. e; 6. j; 7. f; 8. c; 9. b; 10. i