11. A vision of Peace
The Prince sank deeper and deeper into gloom. He seemed to lose interestin everything. He hardly ate anything anymore, and as a result began tolook pale and unhealthy. The King and everyone else were very upset thatthese unhappy changes had come over their beloved Siddhartha.
One day he appeared before the King. "Father," he began, "lately my mindhas been very troubled. I feel restless and would like your permissionto leave the palace once again. Perhaps a change of scenery will do megood."
The King was quick to agree to his son's request, for he would do anythingto please him and make him happy again. But, as before, he asked some ofhis most trusted ministers to stay close to the Prince and keep an eyeon
This time Siddhartha saddled Kantaka himself and rode out of the palacegrounds in search of some beautiful countryside. Finally he came to theedge of some farmland and dismounted. The ministers followed close behind.They tried to gain his attention with stories, news and gossip of the court.But the Prince had no interest in such idle talk, and soon the ministersleft him alone and walked away, still chattering to themselves.
Siddhartha looked out over the farmland. A man and his oxen were plowingthe field, the birds were singing and the sun was shining brightly. "Itis so beautiful here," he thought. "The plowed rows in the field look likeripples on a lake."
He sat down, and his mind relaxed for the first time in a long while. Butas he looked closer at the scene before him, he began to notice thingshe had not seen before. Where the plow had come by and cut rows into thesoil, he saw the bodies of hundreds of small insects that had been killedby its blade. He saw hundreds more running back and forth in confusionnow that their homes had been destroyed.
He also noticed that the birds were not just gayly singing. They were constantlysearching for food, swooping down to snatch up the frightened insects.And the smaller birds darted about in fear, scared of the hawks and otherlarge birds who circled hungrily above them.
He noticed that the oxen laboured heavily while trying to drag the heavyplow through the ground. The lashes of the farmer's whip cut painful blistersinto their sweating sides. And the farmer, too, worked hard. Like the beasts,his rough and sun-burnt body glistened with sweat.
"Such a circle of misery," thought the Prince. "This farmer, his animals,the birds and the insects-they work all day trying to be happy and comfortable,to have enough to eat. But, in fact, they are constantly killing and hurtingeach other, and themselves! How pitiful the worldseems to me."
The Prince's heart was filled with compassion for all these suffering creatures.He hated to see them so unhappy. He found a shady place to sit under arose-apple tree and began to meditate deeply on what he had seen. As helooked deeper and deeper into the nature of the suffering he saw, his mindbecame more and more concentrated and calm. He experienced a quietnessunlike anything he had known before.
With his mind now at rest he began to think, "Every living thing is searchingfor happiness. Yet most are so blinded by their ignorance and desires thatthey find nothing but misery. Fear, diappointment, hunger,old age, sickness,death-these are the rewards they find for all their trouble!
"Now that I have seen this, I have no more interest in the small and changeablepleasures of this world. I must find something that will bring me lastingpeace and happiness. But how can I be content to free only myself fromsuffering? I must figure out a way to help all other living creatures aswell. They have been so kind to me, and they are suffering so much! I mustsearch for a way to end all this suffering and then share it with everyoneelse."
When Prince Siddhartha had finished this compassionate meditation he openedhis eyes. Standing before him, dressed like a poor beggar, was a man hehad never seen before. His eyes were calm and bright and he had the lookof great peace on his face.
"Please tell me," the Prince asked, "who you are?"
The man answered, "I am someone who has become frightened by the sufferingsof the world. I have grown tired of the so-called pleasures to be foundin the company of others, so now I wander about alone. I have given upmy home and now live and sleep in caves, in the forest or
whateverI find myself. My only interest is in finding the highest and most perfecthappiness." When he had spoken these words, the man disappeared as if bymagic, leaving the Prince both astonished and overjoyed.