Again, Siddhartha left with Channa, followed by a procession of ministers, musicians and servants. The citizens lined the streets and were happily looking at the royal parade.
This time Siddhartha was a group of people carrying a dead boy to some place. He asked Channa why the man was lying still and the people were crying and where was he being taken. Channa told him that the person was now a dead man, who was being taken to the river for his body to be burnt.
The prince was confused. “What do you mean by dead? And if they burn his body , will it not burn him? Please, Channa explain what you mean so I can understand”.
Channa explained to him all about life that had been hidden from him all these years by his father. He told him how a baby grew into a child and then a young man, who then goes through the joy and happiness of life; bringing up a family, working for a living, and growing older and weaker. Slowly the old person cannot move from his bed, not recognize people forget things; slowly growing worse and worse till breath would leave the body, weakening his strength and understanding. He was now dead; all that was left behind was his cold body, which he has already left behind and would later be burnt by his family.
Channa told him that every person had to die in one day. These words, uttered innocently by the charioteer, shocked the Prince deeply. “Do you mean,” he explained passionately, “that one day my wife, my child, my friends and myself will all be dead?” The prince wondered why the people were singing and dancing when death was waiting for everyone. He wondered why people bothered to dress up, when one day they would only be wearing a white sheet. The prince wanted to go back to the palace. He was lost in his thoughts of old age, sickness, dead.
However, to please the Prince, Channa drove the chariot to a beautiful garden. A large feast was prepared there by the palace chefs. They all welcomed the Prince joyfully and cheered when he stepped from the chariot. But the prince did not smile, nor did he say anything. His thoughts were totally absorbed in what he had seen that day. He was deeply thinking about the mystery of death.
The Luminous Life of Buddha ( မဟာလူသား မြတ်ဗုဒ္ဓ ) Edited by SHYAM DUA TINYTOT Publication