The accounts of the Buddha’s life were written many years after his Siddhartha Guatama’s death by idealised followers rather than objective historians. Therefore, it is difficult to separate fact from the fiction, myths and legends which surround his life. The FOUR SIGHTS is celebrated by Buddhists as the start of Buddhism and enlightenment. If this is fact or fiction, I am not sure, but this is the story of THE FOUR SIGHTS which is about an old man, a sick man, a corpse, and a monk that has been passed down through the generations and through the centuries…..
THE FIRST SIGHT: An old man
Prince Siddhartha’s father did everything possible to make sure that he would follow in his footsteps and become the leader of his empire, Nepal. The prince married, became a great warrior and took pleasure in many things to please his father. Yet, he was not happy. So, one day he took an excursion outside the palace grounds. As he walked down the street he encountered an old man with grey hair, a wrinkled face and sunken eyes which appeared to be blind. There were no teeth in his mouth and as he stood up he was trembling, bent double and looked as though he were about to fall. The prince had not seen anyone like this before. That is when he realized that power, wealth and knowledge cannot stop the ageing process and that he himself would one day be like this old man.
He returned home to the palace in a depressed state. He could not stop thinking of the old man and the ramifications of what he had seen. This was indeed suffering.
THE SECOND SIGHT: A sick man
Siddhartha left the palace for the second time, curious as to what else life had to offer. This time he came upon a man lying in the street, crying with pain. His body was twisted and covered in purple patches. He went to help him, but was told to stay away, because this man had the plague which was contagious. The prince was horrified to learn that there was no way of curing this man. Therefore, everyone could get sick and nothing could be done to stop it. This was indeed suffering.
THE THIRD SIGHT: A corpse
The prince asked permission of his father to leave the palace for a third time. The king was dismayed to see the change in his son, who was now deeply depressed, but he knew there was nothing he could do to stop him.. The prince walked for half a day and this time saw a group of people walking down the road crying. Four men behind them were carrying a plank of wood on which a thin man lay without moving. This man was whitish grey and never spoke. The crowd then stopped and watched as the plank was placed upon a pile of wood and then set a light. The man still did not move as the flames began to lick his body. The prince could not understand why the man did not move away from the flames and stand up. He was told that the man was dead. This was the first time that Siddhartha learnt that everyone died. There was no way to stop this. No money could make him immortal.
He went home and sat in his room alone, thinking about death. He did not understand why no one could stop this from happening. He decided that he must find a way to stop death and help everyone in the world.
THE FOURTH SIGHT: A monk
After a few days, the prince went out into the city once more. He was worried about what he would see this time. However, he came upon a man in orange robes with a shaved head who seemed happy. He was told that this man was a monk who went from house to house begging for food and telling people how to be peaceful and good. The prince felt happy on hearing this and decided that he too must become a monk.
He started to walk home and rested under a tree thinking about what he had seen. He then received news that his wife had given birth to a baby boy. Instead of being happy he was unhappy, because he saw this as an obstacle in his way of leaving the palace and finding such happiness as the monk had. He asked himself how one escaped from the suffering he had seen and find a lasting liberation which is happiness and peace, or in other words Nirvana. This is when he realized that he must leave his family, money and power forever and go in search of enlightenment.