Young prince Siddhartha had been raised in complete luxury. His life had been so arranged that he knew no suffering, no lack, no want. So when he first encountered suffering—in the form of a sick person, an old person, and a dying person—he was determined to find its cause and its solution. For six years he endured the most extreme self-denial the Hindu tradition of his day encouraged. Eventually he sat himself down beneath the Bodhi tree, determined to remain in deep meditation until he solved the problem of suffering.
For six days he sat, and then he had an awakening through which he saw the deep truth of reality. He entered a state of perfect oneness and bliss—nirvana. And he was tempted to remain in this state, for here there was no suffering, no struggle, no sorrow, no strife.
But what good would it do for him to have found the solution to merely his own life’s suffering? What would be the result of his determination if he alone attained nirvana while all other beings suffered on?
Siddhartha roused himself and stood. It was the beginning of a new day, and there was much work to be done.