Chapter 3: And Travel On
And they all said, “Either he is going to become a chakravartin - a world ruler - or he will renounce the world and will become a buddha, an enlightened person. These two alternatives are there, hence we raise two fingers.”
The king was worried about the second alternative, that he will renounce the world. “So again the problem: who will inherit my kingdom if he renounces the world?” And then he asked Kodanna, “Why do you raise only one finger?”
Kodanna said, “I am absolutely certain that he will renounce the world - he will become a buddha, an enlightened one, an awakened one.”
The king was not happy with Kodanna. Truth is very difficult to accept. He ignored Kodanna; Kodanna was not rewarded at all - truth is not rewarded in this world. On the contrary, truth is punished in a thousand and one ways. In fact, Kodanna’s prestige fell after that day. Because he was not rewarded by the king, the rumor spread that he was a fool. When all the astrologers were agreeing, he was the only one who was not agreeing.
The king asked the other astrologers, “What do you suggest? What should I do so that he does not renounce the world? I would not want him to be a beggar, I would not like to see him a sannyasin. I would like him to become a chakravartin - a ruler of all the six continents.” The ambition of all the parents. Who would like his son or daughter to renounce the world and to move into the mountains, to go into one’s own interiority, to seek and search for the self?
Our desires are extrovert. The king was an ordinary man, just like everybody else - with the same desires and the same ambitions. The astrologers said, “It can be arranged: give him as much pleasure as possible, keep him in as much comfort and luxury as is humanly possible. Don’t allow him to know about illness, old age, and particularly death. Don’t let him come to know about death and he will never renounce.”
They were right in a way, because death is the central question. Once it arises in your heart, your life-style is bound to change. You cannot go on living in the old foolish way. If this life is going to end in death, then this life cannot be real life, then this life must be an illusion. Truth has to be eternal if it is true - only lies are momentary. If life is momentary, then it must be an illusion, a lie, a misconception, a misunderstanding; then life must be rooted somewhere in ignorance. We must be living it in such a way that it comes to an end.
We can live in a different way so that we can become part of the eternal flow of existence. Only death can give you that radical shift.
So the astrologers said, “Please don’t let him know anything about death.” And the king made all the arrangements. He made three palaces for Siddhartha for different seasons in different places, so that he never came to know the discomfort of the season. When it was hot he had a palace in a certain place in the hills where it was always cool. When it was too cold he had another palace by the side of a river where it was always warm. He made all the arrangements so he never felt any discomfort.