Rediscovering the Buddha: Legends of the Buddha and Their Interpretation

By Hans H. Penner | Go to book overview

4
Flight from the Palace

Life in the palace became ugly and gloomy. One day an inhabitant of the heavens appeared before the prince in the form of an ascetic. Startled, Gotama asked who he was. The recluse told him that his knowledge that life was nothing more than an endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth had led him to adopt the homeless life. Relatives and strangers had become the same for him; greed and hate had ceased to be. He told Gotama that wherever he found himself, at the root of a tree, a deserted sanctuary, a hill, or a wood, that became his home. He had no possessions, no expectations; intent on gaining freedom from rebirth, he accepted whatever was given to him. And then before Gotama’s very eyes he flew off into the sky. Gotama now knew very clearly what had to be done, and he made plans to leave the palace for the homeless life.

One night he found mother and son fast asleep. He wished to hold them both in his arms, but he knew that they would be disturbed and awakened from their warm and comfortable sleep. He therefore passed them by and descended to the lower part of the palace and into the stables in the outer courtyard. He awoke his groom, Chandaka, and said, “Quickly, bring my horse Kanthaka, for I want to depart from here to gain freedom from rebirth.” As the east gate of the city opened quietly, they left Kapilavatthu without aid from anyone, crossed the river, and headed for the forest. He was twenty- nine years old.

-27-

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