3. The four sights
One day, Gautama escaped from the palace with his charioteer Channa. He wanted to see the outside world. And when he saw it for the first time in his life, it fascinated him. It also confused him and left a deep impression on him.
Gautama went on four such trips on four different days.
On the first day he saw an old man. He never saw a really old man in his life before. When he asked Channa about it he explained that all people became old someday.
On the second day he saw a man suffering from a terrible disease. Channa told him that it was normal to become sick. Everybody fell sick sometime in their lives.
On the third day he saw a decomposing corpse. Overwhelmed by the sight, he asked Channa to explain. Channa told him that death was the ultimate fate of every life. Nobody could escape that.
Then on the fourth day, he saw an ascetic, who renounced everything to seek the truth. He was deeply impressed by him. That person’s life was the opposite of his own luxurious life in the palace.
These four sights had a profound impact on Gautama. For the first time in his life he realized that there was a lot of suffering in the world.
He realized that every living creature was destined to get old, suffer from diseases and one day leave everything dear in this world and die. He also understood that one day he would also get old, sick and die.
Suddenly life seemed to be full of suffering. He could not understand the meaning of suffering. He could not find a solution to suffering either.
Riddled by these thoughts and questions, prince Gautama decided to leave home. He decided to seek the answers to these questions by following the footsteps of the ascetic.