The trip to the pleasure grove and the four "divine" messengers : the old man, the sick man, the dead man and the religious mendicant

King Suddhodana, the prince's father, and all of the royal relatives, wished to see Prince Siddhattha stay on and rule the royal estate, not leave the home life and become a religious mendicant as some of the Brahmins had predicted, so they sought ways to tie the Prince to all kinds of sensual pleasures. But Prince Siddhattha was of a philosophical nature, befitting a man who was born to become a great religious teacher, and found pleasure in these distractions for only a short time. When he reached the age of 29 he began to feel wearied of them.

An important reason for the arising of this feeling in the Prince was his sighting of what are known as the four "divine messengers" while touring the royal gardens outside the city on his royal chariot. Of the four divine messengers - an old man, a sick man, a dead man, and a religious mendicant- the Prince saw the old man first.

The Pathamasambodhi describes the old man thus: "His hair was gray, his sides crooked, his body bent forward. In his hand he held a stick and while walking along the way he shook and swayed pitifully ..."

The Prince was saddened at the site, just as he was when he saw the sick man and the dead man on his second and third trips to the royal garden. He reflected that he would one day have to be like them. Then he thought how in this world there are always pairs of opposites, such as darkness and light, and heat and cold, and so since there was suffering, there must be a way out of suffering.

On his fourth visit to the royal garden, the Prince saw a religious mendicant, "wearing the ochre robe and with restrained bearing..."

At the sight of the religious mendicant, the Prince became inspired to leave home. He thought or exclaimed to himself, "Sadhu pabbaja!" which means in simple terms, "To become a monk, that would be good!" And he made up his mind on that very day to leave the home life.
 

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