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The Birth of the Buddha 3. The Four Encounters The Birth of the Buddha

The Birth of the Buddha

4. The Great Departure

Siddhartha was now nearly thirty and the moment of his final decision was imminent. Tired of waiting, his father, King Shuddhodhana, had already begun preparations for the crowing his heir, and in seven days Siddhartha was to be enthroned. Shuddhodhana took every precaution to prevent his son's flight and even mobilized all Shakya people capable of bearing arms to guard the palace exits. At this same moment Siddhartha's son, Rahula, was born. "It is a bondage which has come to me," said Siddhartha when he heard of his first-born and only child, meaning that it was another tie added to those already holding him back. However, that night as he left his palace, he stopped and thought: "I must see my son." He went to the residence of his wife and opened the door. She was asleep on a bed, her hand on her son's head. Siddhartha, with one foot in the doorway, stopped and watched. "If I lift the Queen's hand to take my son in my arms she will awaken and thus my departure will be hampered. When I shall become Buddha I will come back and see him." And with these words he went forth on his horse, accompanied by his charioteer, Chandaka. But how did he pass through all the doors and gates heavily guarded? Again, it was the moment when supernatural assistance interfered and helped him.

As Figure 6 show, thirty-three gods descended from the sky and put all of Kapilavastu's inhabitants into such a profound sleep that no sound whatsoever would awaken them. And to be even safer they held the horse's hoofs in their hands to soften their pounding on the ground and helped him jump over the wall of the palace. According to traditional reckoning he was then twenty-nine years old and this was the beginning of a six-year quest for awakening.

The Birth of the Buddha 5. Austerities