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  • Thong Tri Temple

The Story of Buddha: The Renunciation (5)

Updated: May 30, 2022

August 29, 2020 | Equanimity {Upekṣā}


Prince Siddhartha was moved by all he had seen outside the palace. The first three sights: aging, sickness and death were emblems of the inevitable suffering of humanity. The fourth sight was of an ascetic (a monk) who appeared to be at ease, restrained, and compassionate. The monk, who had devoted his life to rid himself of all ties and desires to the world, signified a means to overcome the cause of human suffering and a path towards wisdom and enlightenment.


The prince began to loathe the sensual pleasures of the world, realizing its worthlessness and began to value the wisdom of renouncing these pleasures. Prince Siddhartha wondered why human beings, who are subject to birth, decay, disease, death, sorrow, and impurities, thus search after the same things. He realized their disadvantages and endeavored to seek after the unattained, unsurpassed, liberation from cycles of rebirth, which is the perfect security of Nirvana.


Finally, the day that King Suddhodana had been dreading for many years had arrived. Ever since it had been prophesied by Asita that Prince Siddhartha may someday become a great king or a great teacher, King Suddhodana had feared that his son would relinquish his rightful place as the King of Shakya. By shielding the prince from the miseries of the world and showering him with every comfort that his palace could provide, the King had hoped that his son would someday become a great king.


The Prince, then, asked this father four questions. If the King could resolve these questions, then Siddhartha would postpone the monastic order and return to care for the people and rule over the country. Siddhartha asked:


a) How shall I stay young forever and never grow old?

b) How shall I stay healthy forever and never become ill?

c) How shall I live forever and never die?

d) How shall all people never be unhappy?


These four questions confused King Suddhodana, and he was unable to solve any of them.


Prince Siddhartha became resolved in his decision to seek renunciation in search of Truth and Eternal Peace. Soon afterward, however, Prince Siddhartha learned the news that his wife, Yasodhara, would soon give birth to a son named Rahula. Everyone in King Suddhodana's court was overjoyed by the news, except for Prince Siddhartha. On the contrary, he regarded the child as an impediment (or Rahu) to his path toward renunciation.


One night after a great feast, the soldier guards, musicians, dancers, and servants became drowsy and fell asleep. The Prince saw the sleeping dancers lying in disarray in a corpse-like manner. He was again reminded of the Four Sights and decided to set forth on his journey to seek the means to stop human suffering. The Prince ordered his trusted charioteer, Chandaka, to saddle his white horse, Kanthaka. Then, he went to look upon his wife Yosodhara and child Rahula one last time while they slept soundly. The Prince felt great compassion for his beloved wife and precious child but knew that they would not lack for any worldly comfort for the rest of their lives. Siddhartha stole away from the palace at midnight. It was the night of February 8th, and he was 29 years old.


After crossing the river Anomā, Siddhartha rested on its banks, cut off his hair, and removed his royal jewels and garments. He handed over his possessions to Chandaka with instructions to return to the palace. This is how the Prince of Shakya renounced the physical comforts of the world. A young man and a Prince, at the age of 29, who could have had every worldly desire fulfilled to his heart’s content, left it all behind in order to ease the anguishes of humanity.


Siddhartha assumed the simple yellow garb of an ascetic and set out in search of Truth and Peace.


To be continued...


May you all be free from suffering and all the causes of suffering!


Namo Shakyamuni Buddha.


References:

“Chơn Lý,” Tác Giả Đức Tổ Sư Minh Đăng Quang (Language in Vietnamese)

“Phật Học Phổ Thông,” Tác Giả Hòa Thượng Thích Thiện Hoa (Language in Vietnamese)

“The Seeker’s Glossary of BUDDHISM,” Edited by the Van Hien-Study Group, Sutra Translation Committee of the United States & Canada

“A Simple Path – Basic Buddhist Teachings,” by His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama

“The Buddha and His Teachings,” by Venerable Narada Mahathera (Sri Lanka 1970), Buddha Dharma Education Association Inc.

"Kinh Tụng Hằng Ngày," Biên Soạn Thượng Tọa Thích Nhật Từ (Language Vietnamese)

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