Chapter 2: Begin with the Body
And there were different palaces, one for every season, and he gave orders to all the servants that Buddha should never see even a wilted flower; so that he would not come to know that flowers can die and the question, “Maybe I too will die?” would never arise in him. So during the night all the dead flowers would be removed from the garden. Any weak tree would be uprooted and removed. Only young people were allowed to be around him; old people were not allowed to enter because Buddha might think, “Man becomes old.one day maybe I too will become old.”
Until he grew up to be a young man, he did not know anything about death. He had never heard about death. He was kept totally ignorant of the people that were dying in his village so that he would not think, “If people die, then maybe I too will die one day.”
I’m trying to explain the meaning of contemplation. Contemplation means to reflect on whatever is happening around you. If death is happening right in front of you, then contemplate on whether it will happen to you too. If you see someone who is old, then contemplate on whether this will also happen to you.
Buddha’s father tried in every way to prevent this kind of contemplation from happening in him - I want you to do everything so that this contemplation will arise in you. The father did everything he could to prevent Buddha from thinking, but still it happened.
One day Buddha went out and saw an old man walking on the street. He asked his attendant, “What has happened to this man? Do other people look like this too?”
The attendant said, “I cannot lie to you - everyone has to become old like him one day.”
Buddha immediately asked, “Me too?”
The attendant said, “My lord, I cannot lie to you, no one is excluded.”
Buddha said, “Take me back to the palace! I now understand that I too can become old. If this is going to happen tomorrow, then there is nothing left.”
This is what I call contemplation. But the attendant said, “We are going to a youth festival, the whole village will be waiting for us. Let’s go on.”
Buddha said, “I have no wish to go. The youth festival has no meaning because everybody will get old one day.”
They went a little further on and saw a funeral procession. Buddha asked, “What is this? What are these people doing? What are they carrying on their shoulders?”
The attendant was hesitant to answer. He said, “I should not tell you, but I cannot lie to you. This man has died, he has died and these people are taking him away.”
Buddha asked, “What is it to die?” For the first time he came to know that people die.
Buddha said, “Now I have no wish to go, take me back immediately! It is not this man who has died - rather, I have died.”