Why Did the Buddha Start His Spiritual Journey?

We already know about the Buddha’s discovery of the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. But what do we know about the time before that and the reasons that prompted the Buddha to leave his home and become a monk?

These are some of the subjects taken up in a wonderful book titled The Life of the Buddha According to the Pali Canon based on the research and translations by a Buddhist scholar Bhikkhu Nanamoli. What this book is trying to accomplish is to present us with the earliest canonical version of the Buddha’s life as described in the scriptures of Theravada Buddhism.

The Buddha in His Youth by Odilon Redon.

In describing his former life, the Buddha said that he “had three palaces; one for winter, one for the summer, and one for the rains.” Indeed, he was surrounded by servants, good food, entertainment, and all the riches of his kingdom were at his disposal. But there was something that troubled him amid all this wealth. The Buddha recounts:

Whilst I had such power and good fortune, yet I thought, ‘When an untaught ordinary man, who is subject to ageing, not safe from ageing, sees another who is aged, he is shocked, for he forgets that he himself is no exception. But I too am subject to ageing, not safe from ageing, and so it cannot befit me to be shocked on seeing another who is aged.’ When I considered this, the vanity of youth entirely left me.

I thought, ‘When an untaught ordinary man, who is subject to sickness, not safe from sickness, sees another who is sick, he is shocked, for he forgets that he himself is no exception. But I too am subject to sickness, not safe from sickness, and so it cannot befit me to be shocked on seeing another who is sick.’ When I considered this, the vanity of health entirely left me.

I thought, ‘When an untaught ordinary man, who is subject to death, not safe from death, sees another who is dead, he is shocked, for he forgets that he himself is no exception. But I too am subject to death, not safe from death, and so it cannot befit me to be shocked on seeing another who is dead.’ When I considered this, the vanity of life entirely left me.

He concludes with this resolve:

Why being myself subject to birth, ageing, ailment, death, sorrow and defilement, do I seek after what is also subject to these things? Suppose, being myself subject to these things, seeing danger in them, I sought after the unborn, unageing, unailing, deathless, sorrowless, undefiled supreme surcease of bondage, Nibbana?

And so his main search for the path to self-transcendence began. Complement this particular portion of The Life of the Buddha with our articles on the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, the five Buddhist precepts, 3 Buddhist principles, and 5 best Buddhism books for beginners.

What’s Your Reaction?
+1
0
+1
0
+1
0
+1
0
+1
0
+1
0
+1
0