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The Bodhisatta's Renunciation

It was night. The prince found no rest on his soft pillow; he

arose and went out into the garden. "Alas!" he cried, "all the

world is full of darkness and ignorance; there is no one who

knows how to cure the ills of existence." And he groaned with


Siddhattha sat down beneath the great jambu-tree and gave himself

to thought, pondering on li
e and death and the evils of decay.

Concentrating his mind he became free from confusion. All low

desires vanished from his heart and perfect tranquillity came

over him.

In this state of ecstasy he saw with his mental eye all the

misery and sorrow of the world; he saw the pains of pleasure and

the inevitable certainty of death that hovers over every being;

yet men are not awakened to the truth. And a deep compassion

seized his heart.

While the prince was pondering on the problem of evil, he beheld

with his mind's eye under the jambu-tree a lofty figure endowed

with majesty, calm and dignified. "Whence comest thou, and who

mayst thou be?" asked the prince.

In reply the vision said: "I am a samana. Troubled at the thought

of old age, disease, and death I have left my home to seek the

path of salvation. All things hasten to decay; only the truth

abideth forever. Everything changes, and there is no permanency;

yet the words of the Buddhas are immutable. I long for the

happiness that does not decay; the treasure that will never

perish; the life that knows of no beginning and no end.

Therefore, I have destroyed all worldly thought. I have retired

into an unfrequented dell to live in solitude; and, begging for

food, I devote myself to the one thing needful."

Siddhattha asked: "Can peace be gained in this world of unrest? I

am struck with the emptiness of pleasure and have become

disgusted with lust. All oppresses me, and existence itself seems


The samana replied: "Where heat is, there is also a possibility

of cold; creatures subject to pain possess the faculty of

pleasure; the origin of evil indicates that good can be

developed. For these things are correlatives. Thus where there is

much suffering, there will be much bliss, if thou but open thine

eyes to behold it. Just as a man who has fallen into a heap of

filth ought to seek the great pond of water covered with lotuses,

which is near by: even so seek thou for the great deathless lake

of Nirvana to wash off the defilement of wrong. If the lake is

not sought, it is not the fault of the lake. Even so when there

is a blessed road leading the man held fast by wrong to the

salvation of Nirvana, if the road is not walked upon, it is not

the fault of the road, but of the person. And when a man who is

oppressed with sickness, there being a physician who can heal

him, does not avail himself of the physician's help, that is not

the fault of the physician. Even so when a man oppressed by the

malady of wrong-doing does not seek the spiritual guide of

enlightenment, that is no fault of the evil-destroying guide."

The prince listened to the noble words of his visitor and said:

"Thou bringest good tidings, for now I know that my purpose will

be accomplished. My father advises me to enjoy life and to

undertake worldly duties, such as will bring honor to me and to

our house. He tells me that I am too young still, that my pulse

beats too full to lead a religious life."

The venerable figure shook his head and replied: "Thou shouldst

know that for seeking a religious life no time can be


A thrill of joy passed through Siddhattha's heart. "Now is the

time to seek religion," he said; "now is the time to sever all

ties that would prevent me from attaining perfect enlightenment;

now is the time to wander into homelessness and, leading a

mendicant's life, to find the path of deliverance."

The celestial messenger heard the resolution of Siddhattha with


"Now, indeed," he added, "is the time to seek religion. Go,

Siddhattha, and accomplish thy purpose. For thou art Bodhisatta,

the Buddha-elect; thou art destined to enlighten the world.

"Thou art the Tathagata, the great master, for thou wilt fulfil

all righteousness and be Dharmaraja, the king of truth. Thou art

Bhagavat, the Blessed One, for thou art called upon to become the

saviour and redeemer of the world.

"Fulfil thou the perfection of truth. Though the thunderbolt

descend upon thy head, yield thou never to the allurements that

beguile men from the path of truth. As the sun at all seasons

pursues his own course, nor ever goes on another, even so if thou

forsake not the straight path of righteousness, thou shalt become

a Buddha.

"Persevere in thy quest and thou shalt find what thou seekest.

Pursue thy aim unswervingly and thou shalt gain the prize.

Struggle earnestly and thou shalt conquer. The benediction of all

deities, of all saints, of all that seek light is upon thee, and

heavenly wisdom guides thy steps. Thou shalt be the Buddha, our

Master, and our Lord; thou shalt enlighten the world and save

mankind from perdition."

Having thus spoken, the vision vanished, and Siddhattha's heart

was filled with peace. He said to himself:

"I have awakened to the truth and I am resolved to accomplish my

purpose. I will sever all the ties that bind me to the world, and

I will go out from my home to seek the way of salvation.

"The Buddhas are beings whose words cannot fail: there is no

departure from truth in their speech.

"For as the fall of a stone thrown into the air, as the death of

a mortal, as the sunrise at dawn, as the lion's roar when he

leaves his lair, as the delivery of a woman with child, as all

these things are sure and certain--even so the word of the

Buddhas is sure and cannot fail.

"Verily I shall become a Buddha."

The prince returned to the bedroom of his wife to take a last

farewell glance at those whom he dearly loved above all the

treasures of the earth. He longed to take the infant once more

into his arms and kiss him with a parting kiss. But the child lay

in the arms of his mother, and the prince could not lift him

without awakening both.

There Siddhattha stood gazing at his beautiful wife and his

beloved son, and his heart grieved. The pain of parting overcame

him powerfully. Although his mind was determined, so that

nothing, be it good or evil, could shake his resolution, the

tears flowed freely from his eyes, and it was beyond his power to

check their stream. But the prince tore himself away with a

manly heart, suppressing his feelings but not extinguishing his


The Bodhisatta mounted his noble steed Kanthaka, and when he left

the palace, Mara stood in the gate and stopped him: "Depart not,

O my Lord," exclaimed Mara. "In seven days from now the wheel of

empire will appear, and will make thee sovereign over the four

continents and the two thousand adjacent islands. Therefore,

stay, my Lord."

The Bodhisatta replied: "Well do I know that the wheel of empire

will appear to me; but it is not sovereignty that I desire. I

will become a Buddha and make all the world shout for joy."

Thus Siddhattha, the prince, renounced power and worldly

pleasures, gave up his kingdom, severed all ties, and went into

homelessness. He rode out into the silent night, accompanied only

by his faithful charioteer Channa.

Darkness lay upon the earth, but the stars shone brightly in the