But as the chained elephant longs for the wilds of the jungles, so
the prince was eager to
see the world, and he asked his father, the
king, for permission to do so. And Suddhodana ordered a
with four stately horses to be held ready, and
commanded the roads to be adorned where his son would pass.
houses of the city were decorated with curtains and banners, and
spectators arranged themselves on either side, eagerly
gazing at the
heir to the throne. Thus Siddhattha rode with Channa, his
charioteer, through the streets of the city,
and into a country
watered by rivulets and covered with pleasant trees.
There by the wayside they met an old man with bent frame, wrinkled
face and sorrowful brow,
and the prince asked the charioteer: "Who
is this? His head is white, his eyes are bleared, and his body is
He can barely support himself on his staff."
The charioteer, much embarrassed, hardly dared speak the truth. He
said: "These are the symptoms
of old age. This same man was once a
suckling child, and as a youth full of sportive life; but now, as
years have passed
away, his beauty is gone and the strength of his
life is wasted."
Siddhattha was greatly affected by the words of the charioteer,
and he sighed because of the
pain of old age. "What joy or pleasure
can men take," he thought to himself, when they know they must soon
And lo! while they were passing on, a sick man appeared on the
way-side, gasping for breath,
his body disfigured, convulsed and
groaning with pain. The prince asked his charioteer: "What kind of man is this?"
And the charioteer replied and said: "This man is sick.
The four elements of his body are confused
and out of order. We are
all subject to such conditions: the poor and the rich, the ignorant
and the wise, all creatures
that have bodies are liable to the same
And Siddhattha was still more moved. All pleasures appeared stale to
him, and he loathed the
joys of life.
The charioteer sped the horses on to escape the dreary sight, when
suddenly they were stopped in
their fiery course. Four persons
passed by, carrying a corpse; and the prince, shuddering at the
sight of a lifeless
body, asked the charioteer: "What is this they
carry? There are streamers and flower garlands; but the men that
are overwhelmed with grief!"
The charioteer replied: "This is a dead man: his body is stark;
his life is gone; his thoughts
are still; his family and the friends
who loved him now carry the corpse to the grave." And the prince was
full of awe
and terror: "Is this the only dead man, he asked, or
does the world contain other instances?"
With a heavy heart the charioteer replied: "All over the world it is
the same. He who begins
life must end it. There is no escape from
With bated breath and stammering accents the prince exclaimed: "O
worldly men! How fatal is
your delusion! Inevitably your body will
crumble to dust, yet carelessly, unheedingly, ye live on." The
the deep impression these sad sights had made
on the prince, turned his horses and drove back to the city.
When they passed by the palace of the nobility, Kisa Gotami, a young
princess and niece of
the king, saw Siddhattha in his manliness and
beauty, and, observing the thoughtfulness of his countenance, said:
the father that begot thee, happy the mother that nursed
thee, happy the wife that calls husband this lord so glorious."
The prince hearing this greeting, said: "Happy are they that have
found deliverance. Longing
for peace of mind, I shall seek the bliss
Then asked Kisa Gotami: "How is Nirvana attained?" The prince
paused, and to him whose mind
was estranged from wrong the answer
came: "When the fire of lust is gone out, then Nirvana is gained; when
of hatred and delusion are gone out, then Nirvana is gained;
when the troubles of mind, arising from blind credulity, and
evils have ceased, then Nirvana is gained!"
Siddhattha handed her his precious pearl necklace as a reward for
the wisdom she had inspired
in him, and having returned home looked
with disdain upon the treasures of his palace.
His wife welcomed him and entreated him to tell her the cause of his
grief. He said: "I see
everywhere the impression of change; therefore,
my heart is heavy. Men grow old, sicken, and die. That is enough to
away the zest of life."
The king, his father, hearing that the prince had become estranged
from pleasure, was greatly
overcome with sorrow and like a sword it
pierced his heart.