Four Significant Visions
the prince grew up, the father’s fervent wish was that his son
should marry, bring up a family, and be his worthy successor;
for he often recalled to mind with dread the prediction of the
sage Kondañña, and feared that the prince would
one day give up home for the homeless life of an ascetic. According
to the custom of the time, at the early age of sixteen the prince
was married to his cousin, the beautiful Princess Yasodharâ,
the only daughter of King Suppabuddha and Queen Pamitâ
of the Koliyas. The princess was of the same age as the prince.
father provided him with the greatest comforts. He had, so the
story tells, three palaces, one for each of the Indian year’s
three seasons. Lacking nothing of the earthly joys of life,
he lived amid song and dance, in luxury and pleasure, knowing
nothing of sorrow. Yet all the efforts of the father to hold
his son a prisoner to the senses and make him worldly-minded
were of no avail. King Suddhodana’s endeavours to keep away
life’s miseries from his son’s inquiring eyes only heightened
Prince Siddhârtha’s curiosity and his resolute search
for truth and Enlightenment. With the advance of age and maturity,
the prince began to glimpse the woes of the world.
one occasion, when the prince went driving with his charioteer
Channa to the royal gardens, he saw to his amazement what his
eyes had never beheld before: a man weakened with age, and in
the last stage of ageing, crying out in a mournful voice:
master! lift me to my feet; oh, help! Or I shall die before
I reach my house!"n5
was the first shock the prince received. The second was the
sight of a man, mere skin and bones, supremely unhappy and forlorn,
"smitten with some pest. The strength is gone from ham,
and loin, and neck, and all the grace and joy of manhood fled."n6
On a third occasion he saw a band of lamenting kinsmen bearing
on their shoulders the corpse of one beloved for cremation.
These woeful signs, seen for the first time in his life, deeply
moved him. From the charioteer he learned that even he, his
beloved Princess Yasodharâ, and his kith and kin,all,
without exception, are subject to ageing, disease, and death.
after this the prince saw a recluse moving with measured steps
and down-cast eyes, calm and serene, aloof and independent.
He was struck by the serene countenance of the man. He learned
from Channa that this recluse was one who had abandoned his
home to live a life of purity, to seek truth and answer the
riddle of life. Thoughts of renunciation flashed through the
prince’s mind and in deep contemplation he turned homeward.
The heart throb of an agonized and ailing humanity found a responsive
echo in his own heart. The more he came in contact with the
world outside his palace walls, the more convinced he became
that the world was lacking in true happiness. But before reaching
the palace he was met by a messenger with the news that a son
had been born to Yasodharâ. "A fetter is set upon
me," uttered the prince and returned to the palace.