Routledge

Buddha’s First Sermon

Introduction: Buddha preached his first sermon, the Dhamma-cakka-pavattana-sutta (“The Sutta of Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion”), at Sarnath near Benares to his five companions, with whom he had practice austere asceticism before his enlightenment at Bodh Gaya. Its teaching of the “Middle Way” (majjhima patipada),”The Four Noble Truths” (cattari ariya saccani) and the “Noble Eightfold Path” (ariya atthangiko magga) contains the fundamental principles of Buddhism. It has come down in several slightly different versions. The most famous one belongs to the Samyuttanikaya (V. 420) of thePali Canon of Sri Lanka.
(see also AHOI, Ch.2, section: The Rise of Buddhism)

(Translated by Edward J. Thomas, The Life of Buddha as Legend and History, New York 1931, p. 87)

Buddha’s First Sermon


These two extremes, O monks, are not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the world. What are the two? That conjoined with the passions, low, vulgar, common, ignoble, and useless, and that conjoined with self-torture, painful ignoble, and useless. Avoiding these two extremes the Tathāgata Buddha has gained the knowledge of the Middle Way, which gives sight and knowledge, and tends to calm, to insight, enlightenment, Nirvāṇa.
What, O monks, is the Middle Way, which gives sight …? It is the noble Eightfold Path, namely, right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. This, O monks, is the Middle Way …
(1) Now this, O monks, is the noble truth of pain: birth is painful, old age is painful, sickness is painful, death is painful, sorrow, lamentation, dejection, and despair are painful. Contact with unpleasant things is painful, not getting what one wishes is painful. In short the five khandhas of grasping are painful.
(2) Now this, O monks, is the noble truth of the cause of pain: that craving, which leads to rebirth, combined with pleasure and lust, finding pleasure here and there, namely the craving for passion, the craving for existence, the craving for non-existence.
(3) Now this, O monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of pain: the cessation without a remainder of that craving, abandonment, forsaking, release, non-attachment.
(4) Now this, O monks, is the noble truth of the way that leads to the cessation of pain: this is the noble Eightfold Path, namely, right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. ‘This is the noble truth of pain.’ Thus, O monks, among doctrines unheard before, in me sight and knowledge arose, wisdom, knowledge, light arose. ‘This noble truth of pain must be comprehended.’ Thus, O monks, among doctrines unheard before, by me was this truth comprehended. And thus, O monks, among doctrines unheard before, in me sight and knowledge arose.

 

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