In the traditional world one never hears a story for the first time; every telling is a retelling.

Traditional accounts of the life story of the Buddha contain an apparent paradox: at birth he is virtually omniscient, but by adolescence when he encounters the famous “four sights”—an old man, an ill man, a corpse, and a mendicant—he does not know how to understand them. This article proposes one possible religious meaning visible within this paradox, relating to differing motivations which encourage believers both to begin Buddhist practice, since they share the ignorance the Buddha felt as a young man, and to continue it despite the vast distance to its final goal