Excerpts on the Awakening of the Buddha from The Buddhacarita (by Ashvagosha)

Siddhartha longs to see the forest-groves of the city, beloved by the women. Father arranges a pleasure outing: no afflicted persons - heaven forbid that the prince with his tender nature should even imagine himself to be distressed.

The gods send an old man to stir the heart of the prince.


II:28. [Old Age]  Who is this man that has come here, O charioteer, with white hair and his hand resting on a staff, his eyes hidden beneath his brows, his limbs bent down and hanging loose -- is this a change produced in him or him natural state or an accident?

II:30.  That is old age by which he is broken down -- the ravisher of beauty, the ruin of vigor, the cause of sorrow, the destruction of delights, the bane of memories, the enemy of the senses.

II:31. He too once drank milk in his childhood, and in the course of time he learned to grope on the ground; having step by step become a vigorous youth, he has step by step in the same way reached old age. Old age strikes down everyone, even the King's son.


II:41. [Sickness] Yonder man with a swollen belly, his whole frame shaking as he pants, his arms and shoulders hanging loose, his body pale and thin, uttering plaintively the word "mother," when he embraces a stranger - who, pray, is this?


II:57 [Death] This is some poor man who, bereft of his intellect, senses, vital airs and qualities, lying asleep and unconscious, like mere wood or straw, is abandoned alike by friends and enemies after they have carefully swathed and guarded him. / This is the final end of all creatures; be it a mean man, a man of middle state, or a noble, destruction is fixed to all in this world.


IV: 86.  [Withdrawal from women] Old age, disease, and death -- if these three things did not exist, I too should find my enjoyment in the object that please the mind.


IV: 97. I am fearful and exceedingly bewildered, as I ponder the terrors of old age, death, and disease; I can find no peace, no self-command, much less can I find pleasure, while I see the world as it were ablaze with fire.