Why did the Buddha go on the road?

Why did the Buddha go on the road?

Over the years it has been consistently the four visions of a sick man, old man or a corpse or a yogi that has been explained to be the reason Gautama went out from his home. And it was often pointed out that this was a kind of trope of those men and women who went on the road of spiritual seeking, so it could be a tale that was just useful for talking about the Buddha. But recently I have run into several counter arguments that pointed out that it was the violence and turmoil of the world as expressed in the Attadanda Sutta with its powerful opening statement that may be a more accurate call. These stories can be taken apart in so many ways, and it may just be current events and my bias that I haven’t drawn to this new way of talking about his motivation. What do you think?


Part of it was due to all of the obligations and disturbances of living in a Palace, being a Prince too.

Could you attain Samyaksambuddhahood while being the CEO of Microsoft? Especially these days, it’s a clear, lacking, no, most likely. One has to let go of material life to some extent.

What the Buddha did was revolutionary, though there were many revolutionary Spiritual seekers back then in the Hermitages and Forests, Gautama Buddha’s Full Enlightenment and subsequent Sangha changed the course of history. Because Enlightening one’s own mind can even change the entire Cosmos.

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The narrative of Gotama’s going forth as a result of seeing the devadūtas is from the commentaries rather than the suttas. In the suttas it’s actually a past Buddha, Vipassī, who goes forth for this reason. But by the time of the commentaries the notion had arisen (apparently in all Indian Buddhist schools) that there are certain “regularities” (dhammatā) that are common to the final life of every Buddha. The schools differed over what these dhammatās were, each coming up with its own list, but one on which they all agreed is that every Bodhisattva in his final life gets to see the three or four devadūtas, who are in fact devas from the Pure Abodes.

Notwithstanding the absence of such a narrative in the suttas, it does seem in keeping with the spirit of what the Buddha says about his going forth in AN3.39. What’s said here doesn’t contradict what’s said in the Attadanda Sutta, but merely presents another angle on things.


It seems to be much of what I thought I knew or assumed was common knowledge seems to come from the commentaries.

and this seems to be a situation with both good and bad features. on the one hand the commentaries of Buddhaghosa were built on much older commentarial tradition which means you have things from the past carried forward, but on the other hand it is a thousand years after the Periirvana and people’s opinions or understandings about what’s possibly going on is very different.

Turn on, tune in, drop out!

Its a cycle that repeats itself every few human generations…

:nerd_face: :bouquet:

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So which generation was the Buddha according to that theory? I’m guessing the second turning? :nerd_face: :joy: :pray:

There’s an old Vedic proposal that Buddha descended in order to promote Ahimsa and vegetarianism during a time when animal slaughter was on the rise under the misuse and false pretexts of the Vedas. So Buddha came and outwardly rejected the Vedas, and created His own system of philosophy. This is a highly held belief in India.

We find in Practice of Buddhadhamma however, that Buddhism is beginningless, and that Samyaksambuddhas emerge from time to time, sometimes upon an eon, sometimes more frequently. What is the driving force behind the emergence of the Buddhas? That’s an important question to ask. :slightly_smiling_face:

Yes, very likely. The generation before him had formed orderly societies and strong institutions (which lasted for the next 150 years till the rise of imperial Magadha).

The problem for the Buddha’s generation was that there was no place for them in those structures… the previous generation was in the prime of health and had no intention of abdicating their positions (MN83). This is why the Buddha was still a prince in waiting at age 29, not a king. He could of course have gone all Prince Charles and waited … and waited … and waited for his turn. But he chose to go his own way instead and do something really meaningful with his life.