Prince Siddhartha is invited by his father King Suddhodana to the Ploughing Festival at his farm. As his father is engaged in ploughing, Prince Siddhartha sits in the cool shade of the rose-apple tree.
And, as he sits there enjoying the sights and sounds and the splendour of Nature, he is given a deep insight into Life and Living.
This is how Edwin Arnold describes the incident in his wonderful book The Light Of Asia:
But on another day the King said,
"Come, sweet son, and see the pleasance of the spring.
And how the fruitful earth is wooed to yield
Its riches to the reaper; how my realm -
Which shall be thine when the pile flames for me -
Feeds all its mouths and keeps the King's chest filled.
Fair is the season with new leaves, bright blooms,
Green grass, and cries of plough-time."
So they rode
Into a garden of wells and gardens, where,
All up and down the rich red loam, the steers
Strained their strong shoulders in the creaking yoke
Dragging the ploughs; the fat soil rose and rolled
In smooth long waves back from the plough; who drove
Planted both feet upon the leaping share
To make the furrow deep; among the palms
The tinkle of the rippling water rang,
And where it ran the glad earth 'broidered it.
With balsams and the spears of lemon-grass.
Elsewhere were sowers who went forth to sow;
And all the jungle laughed with nesting songs,
And all the thickets rustled with small life
Of lizard, bee, beetle and creeping things
Pleased at the spring-time. In the mango-sprays
The sun-birds flashed; alone at his green forge
Toiled the loud coppersmith; bee-eaters hawked
Chasing the purple butterflies; beneath,
Striped squirrels raced, the mynahs perked and picked,
The nine brown sisters chattered in the thorn,
The pied fish-tiger hung above the pool,
The egrets stalked among the buffaloes,
The kites sailed circles in the golden air;
About the painted temple peacocks flew,
The blue doves cooed from every well, far off
The village drums beat for some marriage feast;
All things spoke peace and plenty, and the Prince
Saw and rejoiced.
But, looking deep, he saw
The thorns which grow upon this rose of life:
How the swart peasant sweated for his wage,
Toiling for leave to live; and how he urged
The great-eyed oxen through the flaming hours,
Goading their velvet flanks; then marked he, too,
How lizard fed on ant, and snake on him,
And kite on both; and how the fish-hawk robbed
The fish-tiger of the which it had seized;
The shrike chasing the bulbul, which did chase
The jewelled butterflies; till everywhere
Each slew a slayer and in turn was slain,
Life living upon death. So the fair show
Veiled one vast, savage, grim conspiracy
Of mutual murder, from the worm to man,
Who himself kills his fellow; seeing which -
The hungry ploughman and his labouring kine
Their dewlaps blistered with bitter yoke,
The rage to live which makes all living strife -
The Prince Siddhartha sighed. "is this," he said,
"That happy earth they brought me forth to see?"
How salt with sweat the peasant's bread! How hard
The oxen's service! In the brake how fierce
The war of weak and strong! i'th' air what plots!
No refuge e'en in water. Go aside
A space, and let me muse on what ye show."