Act I takes place in a sort of 'mythological time' and
covers events from before the conception of Siddharta, his birth, his mother's death, and
the decision that he is to be kept protected fro the realities of life.
At the palace of Kapilavastu a ceremony is taking place in honour of King Suddhodana and
Queen Maya. Maya is full of sorrow, because she feels she is soon going to die. The King
prays to Heaven for a son. The ceremonies continue as time passes. Some children play a
game with Maya's sister, Prajapati - singing a song about sorrow that strikes where it
Maya dances a dance symbolising the conception of the child, and come the dawn a messenger
arrives with the news that Maya has given birth to a son, Siddharta, a marvellous child,
who was able to walk at once and take seven steps towards the four corners of the world.
The astrologer interprets these signs: Siddharta will grow up and enjoy life's flower on
earth, after which he will leave the King's realm. Suddhodana and the ministers are
worried. This prophecy must not be fulfilled; the child must be protected from life. He
must grow up in a kingdom of happiness and pleasure, where all that is ugly, wicked and
lacking in harmony shall be wiped out or hidden, and where sickness and death must not
even be mentioned.
In a wave of mass hysteria, all those who do not live up to these ideals are cast into
prison. The first victim is the happy messenger, who unfortunately is lame. A procession
bearing the body of Maya puts a damper on the scene, and Prajapati, who, like the
astrologer, does not agree with this forced removal of unwanted elements, makes a warning
speech. But everybody else supports the King's grand plan. 'The Palace of Pleasure' is
built, and people begin to practice living a 'life without blemish'.