Home » Excerpts » How The Buddha-To-Be Saw The Four Sights

The realities of life are the truths
we live in the midst of now –
they are truths so close that
they are often neglected.

Stonepeace | Books

Then the Bodhisattva [Sakyamuni Buddha-to-be] called Chandaka, his charioteer. “Prepare a chariot so that I may go to the royal gardens.” Chandaka related this to the king [the Bodhisattva’s father]. “Nothing that is displeasing to the prince should be visible,” said the king. “Everything should be pleasant!” And yet the Bodhisattva left through the Eastern Gate. He beheld a man afflicted with the pains of aging. This man was in fact an emanation produced by the gods through the power of the Bodhisattva himself. He asked Chandaka,

“Charioteer, this man is weak and slight.
His flesh and blood withered, his skin wrinkled,
White hair, lost teeth, and body very frail,
He walks in pain upon a staff – who is he?”

Chandaka replied,

“My only ‘god’, this man is beat by age,
His strength and senses lost, he suffers now.”

Chandaka answered all of the Bodhisattva’s questions about this and other matters. And the Bodhisattva said,

“I must go back, do turn this chariot quick.
If even I will age, what use is play?”

And they returned to the palace. In the same way the Bodhisattva went out through the Southern Gate. There he saw a sick person. He went out once more, this time through this Western Gate. There he saw a dead person. And again he asked Chandaka who this person was. Chandaka told him about death, and the Bodhisattva said,

“If only age and death would disappear!
If pain is great bound in this five-heaped self
[of form, feeling, perception, volition and consciousness],
what need to speak of age, death ever present?
Go back, I must seek means to be free of this!”

Then they returned to the palace. Once more they went out, this time through the Northern Gate, where the Bodhisattva saw a mendicant. And even through he knew full well, he asked Chandaka once again. “Who is this person in saffron robes?” he asked – even though he well knew. “His appearance is so peaceful and gentle.” “This is a renunciant,” said Chandaka. “He is seeking complete peace, free of all attachment.” The Bodhisattva said,

“This you describe I now desire as well.
Renunciation, long praised by the wise,
This now brings benefit to me and others.
It results in immortal bliss and ease.”

The Life Of The Buddha
Tenzin Chogyel

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