The Four Sights: Old Age
king did everything he could think of to ensure his son
Prince Siddhartha would grow up prepared for a life following in
his own footsteps and become a king. He ordered a high
wall to be built around the palace, including its parks
and gardens, but the prince was not happy living like
a prisoner. One day he told his father, "I must go
out of the palace gate and see how other people live."
well, my son," said the king, "you shall go outside
the palace wall to see how people live in my city. But
first I must prepare things, so that all would be good
and proper for my noble son's visit."
king ordered the people of the city to prepare for his
son's visit by making the streets and homes beautiful
and welcoming him as he passed them by. When the people
had decorated the city the king said, "Now you can
go, my dear son, and see the city as you please."
the young prince was going through the streets all of
a sudden, from a small old hut beside the road, out came
an old man with long silver-grey hair, wearing very old,
torn and dirty rags. The skin of his face was dried and
wrinkled. His sunken eyes were dim and he was almost blind.
There were no teeth in his mouth. He stood up, trembling
all over, almost bent over double and clutching at a shaking
stick with two bent and skinny hands to save himself from
old beggar dragged himself along the street, paying no
attention to all the happy people around him. He was speaking
very feebly, begging people around him to give him food,
as he would die that very day if he could find nothing
to eat. When the prince saw the old man, he didn't know
what he was looking at. It was the first time in his life
that he had seen an old man of this type.
is that, Channa?" he asked his driver. "That
really cannot be a man! Why is he all bent? What is he
trembling for? Why is his hair silver-grey, not black
like mine? What is wrong with his eyes? Where are his
teeth? Is this how some people are born? Tell me, oh
good Channa, what does this mean?"
told the prince that it was an old man and he was not
born like that. "When young he was like us and now,
due to his old age he has become this way." Channa
told the prince to forget this man. But the prince was
not satisfied. "Everyone in the world, if he lives
long enough, becomes like this man. It cannot be stopped,"
prince ordered Channa to drive back home at once, as he
was very sad and wanted to think carefully about that
terrible thing called old age.
night there was a grand royal feast for the prince, but
he was not interested or happy at all during the dinner
and dance. He was thinking all the time, "Some day
you will all grow old and frail and bent every
one of you, even the prettiest."
could not sleep when night came. He was in bed thinking
that one day, everyone would grow old, grey, wrinkled,
toothless and ugly like the old beggar. He wanted to know
if anyone had found a way to stop this horrible thing
king, when he heard this story, was very sad and worried
that his son would leave the palace. He told his attendants
to put on more dances and dinners. But the prince begged
his father to allow him to see Kapilavatthu on an ordinary
day without the people being told of his visit.