The following excerpts about the life of Buddha are taken from Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s book, Introduction to Buddhism:
When the people of the Shakya kingdom realized that the prince intended to leave the palace they requested the king to arrange a marriage for him in the hope that this would cause him to change his mind.
The king agreed and soon found him a suitable bride, the daughter of a respected Shakya family, called Yasodhara. Prince Siddhartha, however, had no attachment to worldly pleasures because he realized that objects of attachment are like poisonous flowers, which initially appear to be attractive but eventually give rise to great pain.
His resolve to leave the palace and to attain enlightenment remained unchanged, but to fulfill his father’s wishes and to bring temporary benefit to the Shakya people, he agreed to marry Yasodhara.
However, even though he remained in the palace as a royal prince, he devoted all his time and energy to serving the Shakya people in whatever way he could.
When he was twenty-nine years old, the prince had a vision in which all the Buddhas of the ten directions appeared to him and spoke in unison saying, “Previously you resolved to become a Conqueror Buddha so that you could help all living beings trapped in the cycle of suffering. Now is the time for you to accomplish this.”
The prince went immediately to his parents and told them of his intention: “I wish to retire to a peaceful place in the forest where I can engage in deep meditation and quickly attain full enlightenment. Once I have attained enlightenment I shall be able to repay the kindness of all living beings, and especially the great kindness that you have shown me. Therefore I request your permission to leave the palace.”
When his parents heard this they were shocked, and the king refused to grant his permission. Prince Siddhartha said to his father “Father, if you can give me permanent freedom from the sufferings of birth, sickness, ageing and death I shall stay in the palace; but if you cannot I must leave and make my human life meaningful.”
The king tried all means to prevent his son from leaving the palace. In the hope that the prince might change his mind, he surrounded him with a retinue of beautiful women, dancers, singer, and musicians, who day and night used their charms to please him; and in case the prince might attempt a secret escape he posted guards around the palace walls.
However, the prince’s determination to leave the palace and enter a life of meditation could not be shaken. One night he used his miracle powers to send the guards and attendants into a deep sleep while he made his escape from the palace with the help of a trusted aide.
After they had traveled about six miles, the prince dismounted from his horse and bade farewell to his aide. He then cut off his hair and threw it into the sky, where it was caught by the gods of the Land of the Thirty-three Heavens. One of the gods then offered the prince the saffron robes of a religious mendicant.
The prince accepted these and gave his royal garments to the god in exchange. In this way he ordained himself as a monk.
To find out more about Buddha, see Introduction to Buddhism.