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 old age, sickness, death and the holy man
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The sight of a holy man

One day, the Prince summoned his charioteer Channa and as they drove through the city streets on this fateful day, suddenly the Prince saw for the first time a decrepit old man in deplorable condition. Siddhattha, having a sensitive nature, was astonished and shocked. Channa told him all beings, without exception, who live a long life are subject to the disabilities of old age. The Prince, now terribly upset, returned to the palace. On subsequent journeys, he beheld an extremely diseased man writhing in agony, and then a corpse being carried along for cremation attended by wailing mourners. Until now he had no true sense of the troubles of old age, no knowledge of the seeping of strength and the pain of enduring illness, nor knowledge of the utter finality of death and the grief of mourning. He was devastated to learn the true nature of life which had been hidden from him for so long. As the shadow side of reality grew clearer, all pride and ardor of youth vanished. He asked, "Must everyone I love and I myself, too, simply endure helplessly this tyranny of birth, old age, disease and death?" In India, the belief exists that birth-and-death are an endless cycle until one can halt the cause of perpetual rebirth. These questions began to haunt the young Prince. With increasing apprehension, he began to question how anyone could truly enjoy living in a "fool's paradise" and feel happiness when there is no escape from dissatisfaction, unrest, loss and death. The problem of suffering captured and burned his mind and all his thoughts focused on escaping this trap of continual rebirth. On his last excursion, he beheld an unaccustomed sight: a dignified man with shaven head, barefoot, clad in a simple yellow robe and holding an almsbowl. His calm face and composed, peaceful presence spoke to Siddhattha in a way that touched his heart. Channa told him this was a wandering mendicant monk, a spiritual seeker having few possessions, who delighted in a life of simplicity and purity. Living lightly, he trained his mind to be equanimous under all circumstances. He told the Prince that the wanderer was seeking deliverance from all suffering through discipline and meditation, sharing with others what he discovered along the way.

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