The First Ser­mon of Lord Bud­dha

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Ev­ery fourth day of the sixth month in the Bhutanese cal­en­dar is ob­served as the First Ser­mon of Lord Bud­dha, for­mally known as Drukpa Tshe Zhi. . One of the im­por­tant deeds of the Bud­dha Shakya­muni is the the turn­ing of the Wheel of Dharma at Deer Park in Sar­nath is con­sid­ered the most sig­nif­i­cant

At Sar­nath, the five as­cetics had re­sumed their aus­tere prac­tices. When they saw the Bud­dha ap­proach­ing, think­ing that he was still the Gau­tama who had for­saken their path, they de­cided not to wel­come him. Yet, as he neared, they found them­selves in­vol­un­tar­ily ris­ing and pay­ing re­spect to him. Pro­claim­ing that he was the Bud­dha, Shakya­muni as­sured them that the goal had been at­tained. On the first night, the Bud­dha was silent. On the sec­ond, he made a lit­tle con­ver­sa­tion and on the third, he be­gan his teach­ing. At the spot where all the Bud­dhas first turned the wheel, 1,000 thrones ap­peared. Shakya­muni cir­cum­am­bu­lated those of the three pre­vi­ous Bud­dhas and sat upon the fourth. Thus, invit­ing the Gods and all who wished to hear, and say­ing that he spoke not for the pur­pose of de­bate but in order to help liv­ing be­ings gain con­trol of their minds, Shakya­muni be­gan the first turn­ing of the Wheel of Dharma. He taught the mid­dle way that avoids the ex­tremes of plea­sure and aus­ter­ity, the Four Noble Truths, and the Eight­fold Path.

Lord Bud­dha said: Here, O’monks, is the Noble Truth about suf­fer­ing. Birth is suf­fer­ing, old age is suf­fer­ing, ill­ness is suf­fer­ing, death is suf­fer­ing; sor­row, lamen­ta­tion, pain, grief and de­spair are suf­fer­ing. To be united with that which one doesn’t love is suf­fer­ing, to be sep­a­rated from that which one loves is suf­fer­ing, not to have that which one de­sires is also suf­fer­ing. In brief, the at­tach­ment to any of the five con­stituents of ex­is­tence is suf­fer­ing. Here, O’monks, is the Noble Truth con­cern­ing the cause of suf­fer­ing. It is this de­sire that brings re­birth, re­lated to a pas­sion­ate greed, that finds a new en­joy­ment here, then there; i.e., the thirst for the plea­sure of the senses, the de­sire for ex­is­tence and for the per­pet­u­a­tion of one­self, and the de­sire for non-ex­is­tence. Here, O’monks, is the Noble Truth con­cern­ing the ces­sa­tion of suf­fer­ing. It is the com­plete ces­sa­tion of that de­sire, its aban­don­ment, giv­ing it up, re­ject­ing it, one’s lib­er­a­tion from it, one’s sep­a­ra­tion from it. Here, O’monks, is the Noble Truth con­cern­ing the Path that leads to the ces­sa­tion of suf­fer­ing. It is the Noble Eight­fold path that con­sists of cor­rect vi­sion, cor­rect thought, cor­rect speech, cor­rect ac­tion, cor­rect way of life, cor­rect ef­fort, cor­rect at­ten­tion, and cor­rect con­cen­tra­tion.

The teach­ings in­cluded in the col­lec­tion known as the First Turn­ing of the Wheel of Dharma, which be­gan here, ex­tended over a pe­riod of seven years. Other teach­ings, such as those on the Vi­naya and on the prac­tice of mind­ful­ness were given else­where, but the wheel was turned twelve times at Sar­nath. At this mo­ment, he un­der­stood be­ings through­out ex­is­tence are pro­pelled by the force of their ac­tions (karma) which bind them to an end­less cy­cle of suf­fer­ing, birth and death. Ev­ery­thing in be­ings’ ex­pe­ri­ence is un­sta­ble and chang­ing. At this point he be­came, as his fol­low­ers de­scribed him, the “Bud­dha”, the “Awak­ened One”.

Although Bud­dha was re­luc­tant to teach ini­tially, it was out of great com­pas­sion for other be­ings that he de­cided to teach what he had dis­cov­ered by and of him­self – the Dharma. In his first teach­ing at Deer Park in Sar­nath, Bud­dha shared his con­clu­sions re­gard­ing the Mid­dle Way with five monks (bhikkhus) and de­liv­ered the doc­trine of the Four Noble Truths. This teach­ing be­came known as the First Turn­ing of the Wheel of Dharma (dhar­ma­chakra). The first turn­ing of the wheel of dharma is mainly con­cerned with aban­don­ing neg­a­tive ac­tions of the body, speech and mind. Ac­cord­ing to Dilgo Khyentse Rin­poche, the first turn­ing of the wheel can be re­lated to the fol­low­ing quote from the Pra­jña­paramita su­tras, “Mind is de­void of mind. The na­ture of mind is clear light.” Mind refers to the First Turn­ing of the Wheel of Dharma where mind is spo­ken of as if it is in­her­ently ex­is­tent. The pro­fun­dity of these truths is such that even the slight­est move­ment they may pro­duce in the mind will end up guid­ing those who en­counter them to lib­er­a­tion and en­light­en­ment.

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