(2) PRINCE SIDDHARTA'S EXIT THROUGH THE FOUR GATES

One day, Prince Siddharta left the castle from the East gate. There he encountered a toothless old man, bent with age, walking slowly with a cane. He learned that no man can avoid aging. Some days later, he went out through the South gate where he met a sick person. Leaving from the West gate, he witnessed a funeral and strongly felt the impermanence of life. Finally, when Siddharta passed through the North gate, he found an ascetic doing practices, trying to achieve enlightenment. At that time, he learned that there is an ideal life beyond appeasing our five basic desires. This famous story is known as the prince's exit through the four gates.

There is a parable that tells the story of a man who fell into the world of suffering. The man was brought in front of King Emma, the lord of darkness, who scolded him harshly. King Emma asked: "Haven't you seen the three messengers that I've sent to the world of humankind? The first was an old man with white hair, toothless, with sunken eyes, wrinkled, trembling body, weak, moaning and walking with a cane. Didn't you see the messenger that I sent to you?" Next, King Emma asked: "When you were in the world of humankind, did you never meet a sick person, a man with a skinny body, moaning with pain, unable to move, to eat or to go to the toilet by himself? Didn't you see this second messenger that I sent to you?" Finally, with a stronger voice, King Emma yelled: "Did you never see a dead person? When life ends and a man is forever unable to breathe, his body gets cold and decomposes. If he is abandoned in the fields, he is devoured by wild animals. If he is cremated his body turns to ashes. That is the third messenger that I sent to you. Didn't you see him?" Looking at the man who was speechless, King Emma concluded, "Although you've met those three messengers, you've ignored them and now you are falling into Jigoku and are going to suffer. This is not your parents' fault, neither are your siblings to be blamed. You are reaping the fruit of the seeds you've planted yourself." In a thunderous voice, King Emma ordered his servants to carry the man to Jigoku.

This parable and the story of Prince Siddharta's exit through the four gates have a common lesson that makes us reflect upon life and its purpose.

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