12. A Father's Fear
Upon his arrival home the Prince immediately went to the King's room. Pressinghis hands together, as was the custom when making an important request,he announced, "I wish to become a homeless wanderer and search for theend of all suffering. Grant me your permission, Father, to leave the palace."
From the time his son was a baby, the King had feared that someday he wouldhave to hear this dreaded request. But still his son's words came as agreat shock to him. In a voice choked with tears he replied, "Dearest Son,forget this idea of leaving. You are still much too young to follow thelonely life of a holy man. Wait until you are older. Meanwhile stay herein Kapilavastu and rule my kingdom."
"O Father, I shall stay here only if you can promise me four things. Tellme that I shall never grow old, that I shall never become ill, that I shallnever die and that I shall never be unhappy. If you cannot promise me thesethings, then I must leave immediately."
The King was shocked by these strange words and began to get angry. "Forgetthese foolish ideas, Siddhartha," he said loudly.
But the Prince remained firm. "Father, if you cannot save me from the sufferingsof old age, sickness, death and unhappiness, then you must let me go andtry to save myself. It is not right to keep me a prisoner here."
But the King would hear no more. "Do not let the Prince leave! Set a guardaround the palace grounds!" he shouted to his ministers and then stormedout of the room angrily.