19 Jul

Old Age and Death.  Siddhartha encountered these on his next 2 trips. The concept of Sickness had unsettled him, and now these next 2 provoked. They baited him. They were part of an arc connected to an unseen cycle. But what?  He would not ponder this until much later. “I will get old. This body of mine will surely break down and become feeble. Then death. End. And yet we gleefully glide through…for that?” That stirring he had felt now rose to his heart and he felt deep sadness and regret. We enter into this life and the journey seems to only be about leading us out. He was bogged down with this and his heart ached – not out of disappointment but something deeper – as if his life had been unrequited. He did not cast blame on anyone for this for he was just now starting to learn. That was not the fault of his father who only had loved and protected his son.  The perceptions of reality and collective consciousness of a peoples get passed on like any other legacy. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. It results in stability and heritage (most of time). But, at other times it may result in stagnation and after a while those same old perceptions and social mores become the shadows we watch and accept. We forget what makes them. Or we choose not to remember. Siddhartha was stirred. That could only come within. It was not something that could be taught. When he was moved to go out again even after the sleepless nights that had ensued after his grappling with the visions of Old Age and Death, he tried to brace himself for what he could possibly encounter next.  He walked far down the road leading away from the palace. He saw again some of the other past visions on his way and he took them in. Still they were strange to him but he continued on until he saw some weird amalgam of all the visions he had so far absorbed. It came in the form of a man who was crooked and breathless like the sick man he had first seen, wrinkled and white-haired like the old person he had seen, and draped in nothing more than a cloth – just like the one that had been wrapped around the dead man he had seen.  What was this then? He approached the man and asked him.  The man was surprised by the inquisitive nature of the Prince. Siddhartha was dressed in his regal robes and his long hair was perfumed and combed straight back.  The man sensed who Siddhartha was. He replied, “I am only a man who has long left his home. Determined never again to return until my search for a way out of suffering in this world comes to an end.”  Siddhartha had never heard such a riddle. “Do you mean until you die?” he replied. Siddhartha’s recent discovery of death was fresh in his mind. He viewed it with such finality that he could only interpret what these words had meant was that the only way to find a “way out” of suffering was to end your suffering, and the only “end” had to be death.  That’s how it had to be. The man smiled at Siddhartha and answered, “Death does not end suffering in this life. It just passes it on to the next.”  Siddhartha could say no more. He stood silently and looked at the man with a blank expression. He felt warmed however. As if standing by a fire just in its infancy. Its flames still light hues of orange and delicately trying to darken and get stronger. But, not yet anywhere close to roaring. The man smiled again at Siddhartha and walked away.  This strange man had been the tinder. That stirring that had so gripped Siddhartha had now reached his mind. It brought him focus. He knew what he had to. He would have to leave the palace and his family, and like the wandering man, he too had to figure out a way out of suffering. Otherwise, death would come between him and everyone he had ever loved anyway. And what would then be the point of remaining confined within those walls and being content to allow the dancing to simply play out while watching and doing nothing?  He could never be happy with that especially after what he knew now.  He had to cast himself out. But, he wanted to say good-bye first. It seems you always have to begin with good-bye.

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