5. The Pleasure Palaces
6. A Song of
Beauty 7. An Unexpected Sight 8.
The Second Journey
9. The Final Shock 10. Fading Pleasures
11. A Vision of Peace 12. A Father's
Fear 13. Escape 14. The Journey Begins 15. Six Years of Struggle An
Offering 17. The Great Battle 18. Awakened 19. Whom to Teach 20. The
First Teaching 21. A Mother's Grie 22. A Rude Man 23. Words of Praise
24. Kindness to Animals 25. The power of Love 26. The return 27. The
King and the Spirit Tree 28. Equal love to All 29. The Final days
Issued a Buddha poornima wallpaper Buddha & Sai Baba
The Pleasure Palaces
Soon afterwards, Prince Siddhartha
and Princess Yasodhara were married. The King wanted to be certain that
his son would never desire to leave the kingdom, so he ordered not one but
three magnificent places to be built for the new couple. "Make them as
beautiful as possible," he told the chief builder. "I want them to be so
magnificent that the people entering them will think they are in heaven.
"I want one to be a summer palace, made of cool marble and surrounded by
refreshing pools and fountains. The second will be the winter palace, warm
and comfortable. And the third will be for the rainy reason. Place these
palaces in the middle of a large park, with beautiful scenery in every
direction. And surround the park with a large wall, so that nothing
unpleasant from the outside world can ever get in. Everything is to be so
perfect that Prince Siddhartha will be tempted to leave."
The King did everything possible to make these new homes attractive to the
Prince. He had the most skilled musicians in his kingdom play there
throughout the day and into the night. All the servants were beautiful
young dancing girls, and the chefs in the kitchen were instructed to serve
a never-ending variety of delicious food. Nothing was allowed into the
palaces that night disturb the Prince's mind and make him want to leave.
And so for many years Prince Siddhartha lived in these heavenly
surroundings. From morning to night he was entertained in a thousand ways.
He never say anything that was not beautiful, nor ever heard any sound
that was not sweet and pleasant. For instance, if one of the servant girls
became ill, she was removed from the palace and not allowed to return
until she was better again. In this way, the Prince never saw sickness or
anything that might disturb his gentle mind. The King ordered that no one
speaking to the Prince should ever mention anything sad or depressing. And
even if one of the plants in the garden began to droop or wilt, it was
immediately snipped off by a special gardener . Thus the Prince never even
saw a faded or dying flower! In all these ways, then, he was kept ignorant
of the suffering and unpleasantness in the world.
The time went by, Yasodhara had a son who was Rahula. Everything seemed
like to desire. The King was very pleased, glad that his plans to keep the
Prince interested in the royal life were working out so well.
A Song of Beauty
One evening after dinner, Prince
Siddhartha lay reclining on his couch, his head resting in Yasodhara's
lap. The musician were playing sweet melodies and the servant girls were
whispering and laughing quietly to each other. The evening was like so
many the Prince had known since moving into the pleasure palaces. But this
night he felt a bit restless. Turning to one of his favorite singers, he
requested, "Please lull us to sleep with a song. Choose a tune you have
never sung for me before."
The singer graciously agreed and began to make up a new song from the
words that floated through her mind; all the while accompanying herself on
a stringed instrument. She sang of the beauties of the world, of the
distant lands where she had traveled as a child, of golden cities where
happy people lived.
The song enchanted the Prince and when it was over he asked the singer,
"tell me truly, are there really such beautiful places beyond these garden
walls? What kind of lives do the people in the city live? Are there things
in this world more lovely than what I have seen in these magnificent
palaces? Please tell me all you know."
"O Prince," she answered, "surely these palaces of yours are most
magnificent; but there are many other beautiful things to be seen in this
wide world. There are cities and towns, mountains and valleys, distant
lands where people speak strange languages. There are many things that I
have seen, and many more that I have only heard about. Your palaces and
gardens are indeed beautiful, but there is much to see outside their
Hearing this, the Prince became interesting in seeing all these strange
and wonderful things for himself. For so many years he had been content to
live within the pleasure palaces and gardens, completely forgetting about
the world beyond. But now he desired to journey out, and so he sent a
message to the King requesting him to arrange a travel party into the city
beyond the garden walls.
An Unexpected Sight
The King still wanted to be certain
that his son would not see anything on his trip that might disturb his
mind. This might make him want to leave the kingdom and follow the holy
life. So the day before the Prince was about to travel to the city, the
King sent his servants and soldiers out with this message: "By order of
the King! Tomorrow the royal Prince Siddhartha will visit the capital city
of Kapilavastu. Decorate your houses and the streets and let everything be
colorful in his honor. Let those who are sick or old or in any way
unhealthy stay indoors tomorrow. Nothing should be seen in the city that
is not young and fair and beautiful." And then, very gently, the soldiers
took all the street beggars and brought them to a part of the city where
the Prince would not visit.
When the morning came, the charioteer Channa groomed the Prince's favorite
horse, Kantaka, and drove out through the palace gates with his royal
passenger. It was the first time the Prince had seen Kapilavatu since he
was a small child, and it was the first that the most of the citizens of
the city had ever seen their Prince.
Everyone was excited and lined the newly decorated streets to catch a
glimpse of the handsome young man as he rode by. "How tall and good
looking he is!" They said to one another. "How bright his eyes and his
brow!" We are indeed fortunate that someday he will be our king."
And the Prince, too, was delighted. The city was sparkling and clean and
everywhere he saw people laughing and cheering and even dancing. The
streets where he rode were covered with the flower petals the citizens
joyously threw towards their beloved Prince. "The song was true," he
remembered happily. "This is indeed a golden, beautiful and wondrous
But as the Prince and his charioteer were riding by they spotted an old,
bent, sad-looking person among the joyous crowd. Curious-for the Prince
had never seen anything like this before-he turned and asked, "Channa, who
is that person over there? why is he stooping over and not dancing like
the others? Why is his face not smooth and shining like everyone else's;
why is it pale and wrinkled? Why is he so different from the others?"
And Channa pointed to that man, who remained unseen by everyone else, and
answered the Prince, "Why Sir, that is just an old man."
"Old?" the Prince questioned. " Was this man always "old" like this
before, or did it happen to him recently?"
"Neither, O Prince," Channa answered. "Many years ago that wrinkled man
before you was young and strong as all the others you see here today. But
slowly he lost his strength. His body became bent, the colors faded from
his cheeks, he lost most of his teeth, and now he appears the way he
Surprised and saddened, Siddhartha asked again, "That poor man, is he the
only one suffering the weakness of old age? Or are there any others like
"Surely you know, O Prince, that everyone must experience old age. You,
me, your wife Yasodhara, Rahula, everyone at the palace-we are all growing
older every moment. Someday most of us will look like that man."
These words so shocked the gentle Prince that for a long time he remained
speechless. He looked like a person who had just been frightened by a
sudden lightning flash. Finally he regained his voice and spoke, "O Chana,
I have seen something today that I never expected to see. In the midst of
all these happy young people this vision of old age frightens me. Turn the
chariot back to the palace ; all my enjoyment of this trip has fled. Turn
back; I wish to see no more."
Channa did as commanded. When they arrived back home, the Prince entered
his palace without greeting anyone, hurried upstairs to his own room, and
sat by himself for a long time. Everyone noticed how strangely he acted
and tried hard to cheer him up. But nothing helped. At dinner he did not
touch any of his food, even though the chef prepared his favorite meal. He
paid no attention to the music and dancing, but sat by himself thinking,
"Old age, Old age, Old age..."
The Second Journey
The King heard about his son's
unhappy mood and wondered what could have gone wrong. "He needs more
variety, " the King thought. "I will plan another trip for him , but this
time to an even more beautiful section of the city."
And so Channa prepared Kantaka again, and again they rode out into
Kapilavastu. The streets were decorated as before, and the people were
again happy to see their Prince. But this time, seen only by Siddhartha
and his charioteer, a vision of a sick person appeared in the crowd of
"Look, Channa," the Prince called out. "Who is that man who coughs so
violently, who shakes his body and cries so pitifully?"
"That is a sick person, O Prince." "Why is he sick?" he asked. "People
become sick for many reasons, Sire. Perhaps he ate some bad food or let
himself become too cold. Now his body is out of balance and he feels
"Do even happy people like those in the crowd ever become sick?" "Oh yes,"
answered the charioteer. " A person might be healthy one day and sick the
next. No one is safe from illness." For the second time the Prince was
deeply shocked. " I can not understand," he said , "how people can be so
carefree and happy knowing that sickness might strike them at any time.
Please, turn back the chariot. I have seen more than enough for one day."
When he returned to the palace the Prince was even more unhappy than
before. Nothing anyone did could make him smile, and he did not want to
speak to anyone. When the King found out about his son's unhappiness he
became very worried and confused. "I have tried everything to make my son
happy, but lately his heart is filled with gloom. I must ask my ministers
what I can do to brighten my son's spirits."
They suggested that the next time the Prince wanted to leave the palace
grounds, he should not go alone. Rather, he should be accompanied by
singers, dancers and nobles from the court. And they should plan to visit
a specially prepared garden where the Prince could be amused and
distracted by all sorts of entertainment.
And so, when Prince Siddhartha again requested to visit the city beyond
the garden walls, many arrangements were made to make the journey as
enjoyable as possible. The city was beautiful even more than before . All
unpleasant sights removed and a special park was prepared with all manner
The Final Shock
Siddhartha and Channa again left the
palace by chariot. With their accompanying ministers, musicians and
servants they looked like part of a ceremonial parade. As before, the
people lined the streets and feasted their eyes on the grand, royal
But for a third time a vision appeared that only the Prince and his
charioteer could see. A group of sad eyed people, carrying a long box in
which a body covered in a orange sheet lay, appeared from one of the
houses and slowly made its way down one of the side streets.
"Channa, why is that man in the box lying so still?" Is he asleep? And why
are all those people crying? Where are they taking him? "He is dead man,
Sire. They are going to the river where they will burn his body." The
Prince was confused. "What do you mean by dead? And if they burn his body
, will it not burn him? Please, Channa, explain what you mean so I can
And so Channa explained, telling the Prince the truths his father had
tried to hide from him all these years. "That man was once alive, as you
and I are now. He was born, grew into a child, then he became a young man.
He experienced the many pleasures and pains of life, raised a family,
worked for a living and grew older. Then he began to get weaker and
weaker. He was confined to his bed. Soon he was unable to recognize even
his closest friends. He grew worse and eventually his breath left his
body. And with his final breath, his understanding and life-force also
left. Now he is dead. All that is left behind to see is the body he cared
for so much while he was still alive. It lies there cold and without
feeling. When his family burn the body he will not feel anything, because
he has already left it behind."
"Tell me, Channa, is it unusual for people to die like this?" The
charioteer answered "No, my Prince, not at all. It is true that there are
some people who never get the chance to grow old, and there are some who
are very rarely sick. But everyone, without exception, must one day die."
These words, uttered innocently by the charioteer, shocked the Prince
deeply. "Do you mean," he exclaimed passionately, "that one day my wife,
my child, my friends and myself will all be dead? And all these people I
see here today, all dressed up so radiant, will also died? Oh, how blind
is the world that it can dance and sing while death is just waiting for
everyone! Why do they all bother to dress themselves in such fine clothes
if one day they shall be wearing nothing more than a simple white sheet?
Do people have such short memories that they forget about death? Or are
their hearts so strong that the thought of death does not bother them?
Come, Channa, turn the chariot around. I wish to return to the palace and
But instead, Channa drove the chariot to a beautiful garden. There all the
most charming singers and dancers from the palace were waiting, along with
musicians, ministers and a large feast prepared by the palace chefs. They
all welcomed the Prince joyfully and cheered when he stepped from the
chariot. But the Prince did not smile, nor did he say anything. His
thoughts were totally absorbed in what he had seen that day.
Everyone tried his
or her best to amuse the Prince. The dancing girls flirted with him,
hoping to win at least a smile from his handsome but saddened face. Yet
Siddhartha did not even seem to notice them. He could not get the visions
of old age, sickness and death out of his mind.
One of the ministers, seeing that the Prince was not enjoying any of the
splendid arrangements that had been made for him, came over to the Prince.
In the joking manner of a friend he said, "Siddhartha, it is not right
that you ignore these lovely dancers and refuse to join the festivities.
Come on! You are young and healthy; you should be enjoying yourself. What
is the matter? Aren't these women pretty enough for you?"
But the Prince answered him in a voice as strong and low as thunder. "You
have misunderstood me. I do not dislike the lovely people and things I see
here. But when I think of how quickly their beauty will disappear, how
everything changes so fast, I can not find much pleasure in them anymore.
"If there were no old age, sickness and death, then I too, could find
great pleasure in such lovely objects. But in the middle of such
unhappiness, knowing what awaits us all in the future, how can I be
satisfied with pleasures that will fade so quickly? "You, my friend, must
have a stronger heart than mine if you can be amused so easily. But for
me, everything I see is on fire with suffering. Until I find a way out of
this suffering, such worldly amusements do not interest me at all." And
so, unable to brighten the Prince's mood, everyone returned sadly to the
palace. When the ministers told the King that his son could not be
entertained or distracted by anything, he felt so much grief that he could
not sleep, "O, my beloved son," he thought to himself, "what else can I do
to keep you here in my kingdom with me? What other pleasures can I provide
so that you will stay? And with such worried thoughts, fearful that he
would soon lose his only son, the King spent the night in despair.
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