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The Life of the Buddha
The Four Sights
 More of this Feature
  1. Birth and Early Life
  2. The Four Sights
  3. The Search
  4. Enlightenment
  5. The First Teaching
  6. The Dissemination
  7. The Parinibbana
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 Related Resources
  The Four Noble Truths
  The Three Jewels
  Who was the Buddha?
  Reviews: Biographies
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The Struggle Within

At what point the Buddha's disaffection for his life of luxury began to manifest itself is hard to determine. It is likely that it was something that he struggled with for a long time before, at the age of twenty-nine, he decided to leave the palace, his life of pleasure and comfort, and even his wife, Yasodhara, and child, Rahula. The factors that must have led up this emphatic and irrevocable decision have been crystallized in the traditional account.

Outside the Palace

Because of the prophecies that attended Siddhattha's birth - that he would either become a world ruler or a great holy man - his father, Suddhodhana tried to shield his son from the more distressing features of the world. Consequently, Siddhattha spent his life with the confines of the palace and its grounds, absorbed in pleasure. 

But dissatisfaction grew to the extent that one day Siddhattha asked his charioteer to take him on an excursion outside of the place. On the first visit he encountered an old man. On the next excursion he encountered a sick man. On his third excursion, he encountered a corpse being carried to cremation. Such sights brought home to him the prevalence of suffering in the world and that he too was subject to old age, sickness and death - that no-one, not even a king's son,  could escape these three. What hope was there, what point in living, if this was the destiny of all? On his fourth excursion, however, he encountered a holy man or sadhu, apparently content and at peace with the world. Perhaps, there was a way out of what seemed like the inevitability of suffering after all! (In Buddhism these are referred to as 'the four sights' or 'four signs'.)

The Leaving

It was not easy for Siddhattha to leave his home and family. As his wife and child lay sleeping, he said his goodbyes, fearing that if his wife should wake he wouldn't be able to leave. And then he was gone, to begin life as a wandering holy man in search of the ultimate... 

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