Siddhartha left the King's room and returned to his palace. He passed through the beautifully decorated rooms, the magnificent hallways, past the sparkling fountains and into his rooms on the upper story. He walked among the talented musicians and past the beautiful serving girls. But none of these delights affected his mind. He had only thought, and that was to leave.
That night after dinner a strange force seemed to enter the palace. One by one the musicians and dancers and servants became drowsy and fell asleep. Finally even Yasodhara fell asleep next to her baby Rahula. The Prince saw them lying there and thought to himself, "I would like to hold my child in my arms one last time before I leave, but that might awaken Yasodhara. Then it would be very difficulty to depart. No, I must go quickly and quietly before anyone wakes up."
Stepping carefully around the sleeping bodies, he reached the window and climbed out onto the roof and then down to the ground. He went to where Channa, the charioteer was sleeping and gently woke him up. "Hurry, Channa, saddle my horse. I wish to ride tonight."
Channa was surprised that the Prince would want to go out in the middle of the night, but he did as he was asked. He saddled Kantaka and led him to the Prince. Siddhartha patted his horse and whispered, "Kantaka, my old friend, we must be very quiet. I do not want to wake up any of the guards. Tonight is a very special night." As the three of them approached the heavy gates at the edge of the gardens, the doors suddenly opened by themselves. Silently they rode out into the night. When they reached the edge of the city, the Prince looked back and vowed, "until I learn how to conquer all sufferings, I shall not return to this fair city of Kapilvastu !"
They rode all night. Just as the morning sun was about to rise they reached a quiet forest where many holy people lived. The Prince was happy and thought to himself, "now my real journey has begun." Then he turned to Channa and said, "my friend, I thank you deeply for your help. I have reached the place that I wanted. Now it is time for you to take my horse and return to the palace."
Channa could not believe that the Prince would not be returning to the palace with him. He stood there confused, tears begining to fill his eyes. The Prince understood his grief and spoke to him again very softly, "my faithful Channa, do not cry. Sooner or later we all have to say goodbye. Here, take these royal jewels I am wearing; I shall not need them anymore. Return to the palace and tell my father that I have not left in anger. It is not that I do not love my family anymore. Rather, it is because I love them all so much that I must leave them for now. If I ever discover the way to end all suffering, I shall return to them. If I fail, then it really makes little difference that I am leaving them now. Sooner or later death would pull us apart anyway. Go now, and let me begin my search."
Channa realized that there was no way he could change the Prince's mind. He took Kantaka's reins from the Prince and slowly led the horse away. Many times both the charioteer and Kantaka looked back at the Prince with tears in their eyes. Eventually they reached Kapilavastu where Channa had the sad duty of telling everyone that Siddhartha had left the royal life forever.