Buddhism Simplified
Brief notes on Buddhist thought and practice
(more about these pages)


After seeing the Four Sights, Prince Siddhartha sat thinking in the garden. Suddenly, a servant came running with news: Princess Yashodara had just given birth to a baby boy!

When he heard the news, the prince just sat and murmured over and over, "...an obstacle has been born…a fetter has arisen... an obstacle has been born..." Although most of us rejoice at the birth of a baby, the prince realized that even the joys of life also tie us to this world.

The Chinese have an expression, "sheng-lao-bing-si." It means "birth, old age, sickness, death." These are called the "four afflictions" that affect every person.

You may wonder how birth could be an affliction, but it's certain that to be alive is to suffer. If we were never born, we would never suffer. This insight would become very important in the thinking of the Buddha-to-be.

The servant who brought the news misunderstood what Siddhartha was saying, and thought the word "obstacle"--"rahu"--was to be the new baby's name.

And so the child was named "Rahula."

  1. Do you think birth is an "affliction"?
  2. Are you troubled by this young man's response to the birth of his first (and only) child?
  3. What "fetters" or "obstacles" are there in your life that might seem like "blessings" to others?
Next time: The Dancing Girls

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