This is why people withdrew to the wilderness. This is why Buddha had to leave the palace. Remember, my emphasis is that it is not a question of leaving the palace, nor is the wilderness calling, but the web, the net of conditionings within us is so intricately connected with the palace that it will not break unless we leave the palace itself. And it will be surprising if it does break even on leaving the palace – the fear is that it will follow you even when you have left the palace.
Buddha left his palace and traveled, and the kings of the neighboring states, wherever he went, would come and say to him, “What are you doing here? If you have any problems with your father – they were all friends of Buddha’s father – then my palace is open to you, and my daughter is available to marry you. You can rule half of my kingdom. This going to the forest doesn’t suit you. It is not fitting for a prince to wander like a beggar. If you don’t get on with your father, it doesn’t matter, you are always welcome here. I am your father’s friend, hence just like a father to you.”
Buddha would laugh and say, “There is no quarrel between me and my father, and it is not about my leaving or not leaving the palace, it is about transforming myself. And if I cannot accomplish this in my father’s palace, it will be far more difficult to transform my being in your palace. If I cannot transform myself among my own family, it will be utterly impossible among those who are not my friends and relatives” – because your own people may even excuse you in some matters, but why should those who are not connected to you?
For six years Buddha constantly received such invitations. When Buddha’s father found out that his son was begging on the streets, he assumed that he had gone crazy. “We have everything he could ever need,” he would say, “and none of our ancestors has ever been a beggar. We have always lived as the emperors we are. What kind of madness has happened to this boy?” In the eyes of his father Buddha must have looked insane, and to protect himself from these eyes Buddha needed to go to the forest. Had his father been able to accept him as he was, had he been able to say, “This is the way he is, fine!” – it would have been different
The ways of being in this existence are infinite, and every soul has the right to become whatever it can, whatever it wants, whatever its potential is, whatever it is destined to be. The meaning of love is simply to allow the other to become all that he can; to allow the seed to become a tree and come to its flowering, without hindering it. Love does not require the lily to become a rose, or the rose to become a lotus. Love allows the lily to be a lily, nurturing it as a lily, watering it with care the way a lily needs to be watered, and being careful not to create problems for it. This is what love is.
And it is evident that there is no love at all in this world. Had there been love in the palace Buddha would not have needed to leave it – because love accepts you as you are, love does not try to change you. The effort to change others is an expression of hatred and violence. It is a kind of surgery: “I want to carve you like a stone, mold your features, shape your insides into my image of you. I will cut into you with hammer and chisel, telling you that you are wrong, until you turn out the way I want you to be.” And everyone is trying to improve upon the other by adding their own bit of carving.