Gautama's father tried to shield his son from suffering, but the boy's curiosity could not be contained. Having heard of the beauty of the nearby groves, he wanted to see them. His father granted his wish, but he staged the trip thoroughly to prevent him from seeing anything that would upset him. He was moved around in a golden chariot on a road covered with flowers, yet the gods had other plans and intervened with four sights of suffering. The first one was the appearance of an old man. We read:
“Who is that man there with the white hair, feeble hand gripping a staff, eyes lost beneath his brows, limbs bent and hanging loose? Has something happened to alter him, or is that his natural state?” “That is old age,” said the charioteer, “the ravisher of beauty, the ruin of vigor, the cause of sorrow, destroyer of delights, the bane of memories, and the enemy of the senses. In his childhood, that one too drank milk and learned to creep along the floor, came step by step to vigorous youth, and he has now, step by step, in the same way, gone on to old age.” “What! And will this evil come to me too?” “Without doubt, by the force of time,” said the charioteer.