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Chapter 12: Leaving the Family

picture by Li Yin Lan & Angela Shih
He looked over the room full of sleeping girls, some snoring, some with their mouths dropped open and saliva dribbling.
Drawing by Angela Shih, John Muir College (UCSD), Class of 2010, and Li Yin Lan, Eleanor Roosevelt College (UCSD), Class of 2010, by permission

After his son was born, it was obvious to those around him that Siddhartha was becoming more and more withdrawn. King Shuddhodana fully agreed with his counselors that young men liked beautiful women more than anything in the world, and he desperately stocked the palace with the most attractive singing girls and dancing girls he could find and gave them orders to keep Siddhartha happy and distracted at all costs.

Siddhartha took little interest. One evening he was watching them through half-closed eyes as they labored to keep his attention. Finally he fell asleep, and the exhausted girls and other attendants took a break and soon fell asleep themselves, simply lying down on the floor in the same room.

picture by Brianna Hom
Siddhartha was revolted.
Drawing by Brianna Hom, Eleanor Roosevelt College (UCSD), by permission

Suddenly Siddhartha awoke. He looked over the room full of sleeping girls, some snoring, some with their mouths dropped open and saliva dribbling down their painted faces or onto their fancy clothes. Siddhartha was revolted. Most likely it was at that moment that he decided to give up palace life —which was not at all beautiful just then— and to seek the way to avoid suffering.

He quietly got up and sneaked out to find Chandaka and ordered him to make ready Kanthaka, the King of Horses. He went to say goodbye to his wife, Lady Yashodhara, and his little son Rahula. He found them napping. He decided not to wake them, since he knew they would try to stop him.

picture by Lisa Lu
It was better to let them sleep and avoid their interference.
Drawing by Lisa Lu, Eleanor Roosevelt College (UCSD), Class of 2010, by permission

“Someday, when I have found the true way, I will return to see them again,” he thought. Meanwhile it was better to let them sleep and avoid their interference.

Very quietly the prince slipped from the palace without waking a soul, and he and Chandaka left the town of Kapilavastu.

picture by Anonymous UCSD Student
He took off his jewelry and his fancy outer clothes and he gave them to Chandaka, who climbed astride the King of Horses.
Drawing by an Anonymous Student, Sixth College (UCSD), Class of 2009, by permission

He and Chandaka and Kanthaka, the King of Horses, went on till they got to the banks of the River Anoma (Anomā). Kanthaka carried Siddhartha and Chandaka across in one mighty leap. Once across the river, Siddhartha dismounted and took off his jewelry and his fancy outer clothes. He gave them to Chandaka, who climbed astride the King of Horses and returned with them to King Shuddhodana at the palace in Kapilavastu.

And so it was that prince Siddhartha of the clan of Shakya, at the age of 29, departed from his clan’s land and left his family to become a wandering hermit.

The life of a wondering ascetic is not supposed to be comfortable, but it is not easier when your father is a king who wants you back at the palace. Where could Siddhartha find refuge, or could he? Read Part III to find out.


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