A Song of Beauty

One evening after dinner, Prince Siddhartha lay reclining on his couch, his head resting in Yasodhara's lap. The musician were playing sweet melodies and the servant girls were whispering and laughing quietly to each other. The evening was like so many the Prince had known since moving into the pleasure palaces. But this night he felt a bit restless. Turning to one of his favorite singers, he requested, "Please lull us to sleep with a song. Choose a tune you have never sung for me before."

The singer graciously agreed and began to make up a new song from the words that floated through her mind; all the while accompanying herself on a stringed instrument. She sang of the beauties of the world, of the distant lands where she had traveled as a child, of golden cities where happy people lived.

The song enchanted the Prince and when it was over he asked the singer, "tell me truly, are there really such beautiful places beyond these garden walls? What kind of lives do the people in the city live? Are there things in this world more lovely than what I have seen in these magnificent palaces? Please tell me all you know."

"O Prince," she answered, "surely these palaces of yours are most magnificent; but there are many other beautiful things to be seen in this wide world. There are cities and towns, mountains and valleys, distant lands where people speak strange languages. There are many things that I have seen, and many more that I have only heard about. Your palaces and gardens are indeed beautiful, but there is much to see outside their walls."

Hearing this, the Prince became interesting in seeing all these strange and wonderful things for himself. For so many years he had been content to live within the pleasure palaces and gardens, completely forgetting about the world beyond. But now he desired to journey out, and so he sent a message to the King requesting him to arrange a travel party into the city beyond the garden walls.