In the sixth century B.C., in the prosperous city of Kapilavatthu in northern India (modern Nepal), lived Queen Sirimahamaya, wife of King Suddhodana. The Queen was faithfully observing Buddhist vows (precepts). One day, she dreamed of a beautiful white elephant carrying a lotus came encircled her and entered her body from the right hand side. Perplexed by this dream, the King summoned some wise brahmins to analyse it. They predicted a beautiful son would be born to the royal couple. If the child remained in the palace, he would become a Universal Monarch; if he renounced from royal life he would become a Buddha, a fully-enlightened Awakened One.
According to custom, the Queen prepared to return to her parents’ home for her labour. On the tenth month of pregnancy, in the morning of the 15th day of the 6th waxing moon; Queen Sirimahamaya and the royal retinue were traveling to her hometown at Devadaha. While to royal palanquin passed by the beautiful Lumbini Grove, the Queen decided to take a breather through the shady trees and scented flowers. While enjoying her stroll, the Queen reached out for a branch of the Sala tree, she felt a mild labour contraction. The royal aides hurried to prepare the area for labour and put up curtains surrounded the Sala tree. A baby Prince with perfected features of 32 Great Man Signs was born. His birth was greeted by two streams of celestial shower and other wondrous events. After that, the Prince rose onhis feet, turned toward the north and took seven steps, each step was miraculously cushioned by a lotus sprung up from the earth. With a resounding voice comparable to the lion roar yet most endearing as the voice of the Brahma King, the Prince stated: “I am the supreme being. I am the most advanced being in the world. I am the most sublime being in the world. This is my final birth.”
On the fifth day, the Prince was named Siddhattha which means “wish fulfilled“. His family name was Gotama, clansman of the Sakyan people. Many wise brahmins again predicted that there were two life paths for the baby Prince. Except the youngest brahmin, Kondañña who excelled others in wisdom, raised only one finger and convincingly declared that the prince would definitely retire from the world and become a self-enlightened Buddha.
Queen Sirimahamaya passed away on the seventh day after given birth, the little Prince was lovingly raised by his maternal aunt, Mahapajapati, who later married the King. Prince Siddhatha was highly gifted and mastered everything that he was exposed to, including royal education and special training in the art of warfare. He was described as brilliant and incomparably intelligent. At the age of seven, the Prince finished eighteen schools of teachings within a brief period of seven day, exhausted all the knowledge and skills of the renowned teachers. He had an inquiring mind and a contemplative nature.
In the same year, the Prince joined the Ploughing Festival with his father. King Suddhodana settled the young Prince under the shade of the Jombhu tree (Jave Plum) with the nurses. After awhile, the nurses took part in the festival. As he waited for his father, the Prince sat cross-legged and relaxingly went into meditation. Soon, he developed the First Jhāna. The power of his deep meditation caused miracle, the shade of the tree did not shift despite the movement of the sun. The shade was seen to provide protection to the prince throughout the duration of his meditation. King Suddhodana was filled with reverence and saluted his son who was in deep meditation.
The prophecy about the Prince forsaking his heritage caused considerable concern for the King and members of the royal family. The King provided Prince Siddhatha with a divine-like lifestyle with the intention to keep him attached to the life of a householder and to assume the throne later on. He was exposed to extensive pleasures, surrounded by every luxury and delight imaginable. Soon he developed into a young man of strength, incompatible charm and great beauty. Ever-compassionate and helpful, the young Prince endeared himself to everyone. At the age of sixteen, Prince Siddhatha married his beautiful cousin Princess Yasodharā who was of equal age. For thirteen years, he led a happy marriage and luxurious life, ignorant of the vicissitudes of life outside the palace. There were three palaces built for different seasons, the cold, the hot and the rainy season. Night and day a white parasol was held over him to prevent from heat or cold, dust, leaves or dew.
One glorious day, Prince Siddhattha went on an excursion outside the palace. He came in direct contact with the stark realities of life, his observant eyes met the rare sights of a decrepit old man, a diseased person, a corpse and a dignified monk. The first three sights convincingly proved to him the inexorable nature of life, while the sight of monk signified the means to overcome the ills of life for calm and peace. These four unexpected sights urged him to renounce the world. Although the he had every desirable thing in the world including the royal throne, Prince Siddhattha decided to leave the world in search of Truths and Eternal Peace.