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Departure from Palace

Now fully aware of the sorrow that pervaded the world outside the sheltered life of the palace, Sakyamuni resolved to abandon his opulent life as a prince, vowing instead to seek through fasting and meditation a way to relieve the sufferings of humankind.
Fearing that his father would try to prevent his departure, he decided to leave secretly at night. The king's guards fell into a deep sleep, and four nature spirits (yakshas) lifted the Prince's horse Kanthaka into the air, so that his hooves would make no noise on the cobblestone pavement.
As an ascetic in the Himalayan Mountains, the former prince lived an austere life of self-denial -- fasting, subjecting his body to strict discipline, meditating in the lotus position in all weather.
Yet after six years, enlightenment still eluded him. He came down from the mountains, bathed, and sat beneath a pipal tree at Gaya, vowing not to move from that spot until he attained full enlightenment.

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