Youth of Luxury and Pleasure
According to the legend, young Siddhartha was surrounded by beautiful things and kept captive within the palace grounds so he would not be subjected to the sicknesses and poverty of the people of the kingdom. Guards were posted all around the palace grounds and Siddhartha was discouraged from leaving and protected from seeing anything distressing. He had everything he could ever want. His life was pleasure and luxury. He grew into a talented athlete, an intelligent and charming young man. His future as a leader of the people seemed secure.
One afternoon, when Siddhartha was eight years old, he sat under the shade of a rose apple tree watching the plowing of the fields as the town prepared for the new crop. He noticed that the plowing had upset the ground and that insects had been harmed in the process. The young boy felt sadness come over him as if he were attached to the insects, as though he had experienced a personal loss. And yet the day was beautiful and the shade of the rose apple tree wonderfully cool. Joy rose up inside him and he experienced a moment of meditative bliss. The compassion and love he felt for the insects took him outside himself and he was momentarily free. Legend has it that as the day wore on, the shadows moved, except for the rose apple tree, which continued to shield the young Siddhartha.
Since his mother died, Siddhartha was subsequently raised by her sister, Prajapati. She is often called “the Mother of Buddhism” because she played a pivotal role in bringing women into the Buddha's circle. After being denied several times, Prajapati's consistent pleas paid off and Buddha allowed her to start an order of nuns, thus allowing women to enter in the realm of Buddhist practice.
When Siddhartha was sixteen he married the beautiful Yasodhara. Yasodhara was Siddhartha's cousin and considered the loveliest girl in the kingdom. According to legend, he impressed her in a contest by piercing seven trees with one arrow.
At age twenty-nine, Siddhartha's life was as much the life of luxury as it had been before, except his wife was pregnant with their first child, indisposed, and unable to entertain him. She beseeched her husband to find his own diversion, so Siddhartha considered venturing outside the gates of the kingdom after overhearing someone speak of the beauty of the spring in the forest just beyond.