Suddodhana tried his best to ensure that Prince Siddhartha would be prepared for the life of a ruler. He had a high wall built around the royal residence, including its parks and gardens, yet Siddhartha was not content with living like detained. One day he expressed his desire to leave the palace and to see how other people live. The young prince was unaware of things such as old age, sickness or death.
The King agreed, but he had arranged for preparations before he would allow him to see the city. He ordered the people to arrange for the prince’s visit by decorating the city and welcoming him as he passes them.
As Siddhartha was passing through the town, unexpectedly, from a little old hovel adjacent to the street, out came an old man with long silver-silver hair, wearing exceptionally old, torn and messy clothes. His face had dried and wrinkled with old age. His depressed eyes were pale and he was going blind. He was teethless too. He got up trembling, grasping at his walking stick with two bowed and thin hands to enable himself to stand.
The old man dragged himself along the road, unaware of all the cheerful environment around him. He was talking weakly, asking people for food. Prince was unable to understand what he was seeing. He had seen an old man of this sort for the first time ever.
He thought that it cannot possibly be a man, he asked his driver Channa about him. He asked why was his body crooked, why he was trembling and why were his hair grey? He wondered what happened to his teeth or what was wrong with his eyes. He asked him if that’s how some people are born.
Channa answered that it was an aged man and he was certainly not born in that manner. He became like this due to his old age. The Prince was not satisfied when told to ignore that man. Channa said that everybody in the world becomes like that man if they live enough to get old.