A Soon-to-be Buddha’s Sheltered Life

I am taking a class about South Asian culture and I find it very interesting to learn about how different their culture is from ours. During the fourth week I learned about Buddhism. The story we read about opened my eyes to other religions and how each one differs from one another. Out of the religions we learned out Buddhism was the most unique; also the most exciting to learn about.

It is amazing to learn that someone could be so sheltered and held back in life that they would not even know of aging, sickness, and death until they were a grown adult. The story of Siddhartha is a new learning experience. He learned things never taught to him within his father’s palace. Then finding out that at some point in life you will age, possibly get sick, and eventually die would be a shocker to anyone who did not even know these horrors existed. I believe him running away from his wife and child was not the best response, but I can understand where he came from. Why get attached to people in the world, especially your own child, if everyone is eventually going to die?

A new fully enlightened being was thought to have been decided from the deities. Once they felt it was the right time than it was done. The new enlightened being was a male. “The Buddha- to- be” chooses the most adequate family to where he will take his ultimate birth. He will choose a Queen and king close to the India and Nepal border and the family he picks will then be his mother and father, (Mittal and Thursby, 118-119).

The Bodhisattva, on the day of the full-moon incarnates in the womb of Maya, who is the queen. She has a dream about being touched by a white elephant. That symbolizes the creation of the Buddha-to-be. What is strange is the Bodhisattva decides to whom he will be born. Although the deities really decide the time he still gets the final decision on which family to be part of. After all they will be his parents while he is young.

When Siddhartha is twenty-nine years old he finds a way to bribe charioteer to take him outside of the palace walls, which his father does not approve of. He does so because he is restless. It was not Siddhartha who manipulated his way out but the Gods because they felt he was ready to leave and accomplish enlightenment. Once the Prince leaves he “sees the so-called Four Holy Sights” which then lead to him leaving the kingdom” (Mittal and Thursby, 120).

The first of the four Holy Sights is described as an old man that is in need of support from a cane, and has decaying teeth. He has lost his hair and has wrinkled skin. This sight shocks Siddhartha, and his charioteer explains that all people age and eventually die. On his second journey he sees the second of the four Holy sights: a man that is sick. The sick man is portrayed vividly. His body is misshapen and blood and pus discharges from the man’s sores, though the man himself seems to be crippled, scruffy and poor.

The third Holy Sight is that of a dead man. Siddhartha is shocked to realize that he too will eventually die. He learns that even though he has been kept in the palace nowhere is safe from aging, getting sick, and dying. On his fourth journey he does not witness old age, sickness, or death, but he sees a frugal, a wanderer, and a hunter of spiritual certainties. He wonders why someone would want to abandon the world. After he returns to the palace he realizes things he had not before and is determined to leave home, which he happens to on the night his son comes into the world. He does not want any attachments because he plans to abandon the world.

Basically he abandons his wife and newborn child because he does not want any attachment in a world that leads to horrible things. Being sheltered his whole life left him vulnerable and na¯ve. The four noble truths are: “Dukkha, not be satisfied, which is one of the three so-called symbols of being, the cause of dukkha is thirsting, craving, desire, and misbeliefs that things have durability, the termination of dukkha is possible also known as nibbana. There is a way leading toward the termination of being unsatisfied; the path is the fourth noble truths, or the Noble Eightfold Path,” (Mittal and Thursby, 122).

In order to find enlightenment one must know what the world is made of. He must see the old, sick, and dying to fully understand what life is like. To give up ones’ possessions is hard for man. We are of a greedy and materialistic nature. A Buddhist sacrifices worldly belongings and be completely content with the world. More of us should try giving things up. Materials are not everything.

Work Cited:

Mittal, Sushil and Thursby, Religions of South Asia, (2006, Routledge), pages: 118-122