The Prince

Siddhartha was born in a royal Hindu family.   He was brought up by his mother's younger sister, Maha Prajapati.   By tradition, he is said to have been destined by birth to the life of a prince, and had three palaces (for seasonal occupation) built for him. Although more recent scholarship doubts this status, his father, said to be King Ĺšuddhodana, wishing for his son to be a great king, is said to have shielded him from religious teachings and from knowledge of human suffering.

When he reached the age of 16, his father reputedly arranged his marriage to a cousin of the same age named Yasodhara.   She gave birth to a son, named Rahula.   Siddhartha is said to have spent 29 years as a prince in Kapilavastu.  Although his father ensured that Siddhartha was provided with everything he could want or need, the future Buddha felt that material wealth was not life's ultimate goal. At the age of 29, Siddhartha left his palace to meet his subjects. 

Despite his father's efforts to hide from him the sick, aged and suffering, Siddhartha was said to have seen an old man. When his charioteer Channa explained to him that all people grew old, the prince went on further trips beyond the palace. On these he encountered a diseased man, a decaying corpse.  These depressed him deeply.  On another day on going out he saw an ascetic.  He asked his charioteer Channa, who is this man.  He replied, your highness, this is a hermit.  He explained the virtues of the hermit.  

He was delighted by the thought of renunciation and becoming an asectic.  He decided to find the cause of ageing, sickness, and death by living the life of an ascetic.  Accompanied by Channa and riding his horse Kanthaka,  Gautama quit his palace for the life of a mendicant.  It is said that, "the horse's hooves were muffled by the gods" to prevent guards from knowing of his departure.

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