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The Birth of the Buddha 2. The Birth of the Buddha The Birth of the Buddha

The Birth of the Buddha

3. The Four Encounters

This brings us straight to the next act, Siddhartha's disenchantment with his life of pleasure. This stage of the Buddha's life is told through story of Siddhartha's rides with his charioteer. As he leaves the confines of his luxurious apartments, he encounters for the first time in his life a decrepit old man, a severely ill man, and a corpse being carried to the funeral pyre by mourners. The experience is traumatic, and when he afterwards sees a wandering ascetic with serene and composed features Siddhartha resolves that he will leave his home and take up the life of a wandering ascetic himself.

Figure 5, a Chinese Painting from the Tang Dynasty, shows the two scenes of the young prince encountering these painful miseries of a human life. It is perhaps difficult to understand why Siddhartha reacted so violently to the sight of these miseries, because we know that most people become accustomed to seeing them from childhood on. His reaction can be understood only by learning that his father Shuddhodhana, always haunted by the fear that his son might enter the religious life, had succeeded in keeping such sights from him until his manhood.

The Birth of the Buddha 4. The Great Departure