Why did the Buddha set off on his Quest?
Prince Siddartha (the Buddha to be) was heir to the throne, had a beautiful wife and had the finest things in life for him to enjoy, courtesy of his father, the King. Life wasn’t too bad being a prince. But in the prime of his life, Prince Siddartha left everything behind in search of the Ultimate Truth.
Because even though he was extremely handsome, strong and healthy, he was shocked to realize one day, he too would get old. One day, his good health will be no more – he will encounter illness and eventually die.
The Limitations of the Happiness Found in the World
He realized that the pleasures of life are good while they last – health, wealth and good family and friends – but they can only satisfy us so much. You can only enjoy these good things in life for only so long before they start changing and before you know it, one day, they’ll be gone. He realized that one day, everything that was his, everything that was beloved to him will become otherwise, will become separated from him.
So he left it all behind, to set off on a spiritual quest to see if there was an answer to the dilemmas of getting old, getting ill and eventually dying. Is there a way to be free of these things? If so, how?
What the Buddha Discovered
The newly enlightened Buddha gives his answer – even though his physical body would deteriorate over the years, he has discovered something that does not decay or die, inside of him. Something of utmost purity, supreme wisdom and of the highest happiness.
But unlike the everyday pleasures of the world, the sort of happiness that the Buddha discovered does not decay or die out over time, because it is beyond time. And so, this happiness he discovered is eternal and everlasting – he called it Nirvana. “Nibbanam paramam sukham” – Nirvana is the highest happiness, Nirvana is the utmost bliss! – the Buddha declares in Dhammapada verse 204.
The Buddha sets off to share the Goodness and Wisdom that he has Discovered
So here, the Buddha answers Upaka’s question that he is indeed a Victorious One. For he has won victory and freedom over birth and death – because he has discovered something inside of him that is Deathless.
Even though time may age his body, death can not touch this awakened nature within him. And so, he is going back into the world to “beat the drum of Deathnessness” so that all may hear… and learn how to find this precious jewel of enlightened Nirvana inside of themselves as well.