The Sermon At Benares

[This is one version of the Budhha's first presentation of his doctrine, as related by a monk who is passing on the tradition as he heard it.]

Thus have I heard: at one time the Blessed One dwelt at Benares at Isipatana in the Deer Park. There the Blessed One addressed the five monks:-

"These two extremes, monks, are not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the world. What are the two? That conjoined with the passions and luxury, low, vulgar, common, ignoble, and useless; and that conjoined with self-torture, painful, ignoble, and useless. Avoiding these two extremes the Tathagata [the Perfect One; that is, the Buddha] has gained the enlightenment of the Middle Path, which produces insight and knowledge, and tends to calm, to higher knowledge, enlightenment, Nirvana.

"And what, monks, is the Middle Path, of which the Tathagata has gained enlightenment, which produces insight and knowledge, and tends to calm, to higher knowledge, enlightenment, Nirvana? This is the noble Eightfold Way: namely, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. This, monks, is the Middle Path, of which the Tathagata has gained enlightenment, which produces insight and knowledge, and tends to calm, to higher knowledge, enlightenment, Nirvana."

And the Blessed One spoke kindly to his disciples, pitying them for their errors, and pointing out the uselessness of their endeavors, and the ice of ill-will that chilled their hearts melted away underthe gentle warmth of the master's persuasion.

Now the Blessed One set the wheel of the most excellent law rolling and he began to preach to the five monks, opening to them the gate of immortality, and showing them the bliss of Nirvana.

The Buddha said:

"The spokes of the wheel are the rules of pure conduct; justice is the uniformity of their length; wisdom is the tire; modesty and thoughtfulness are the hubs in which the immovable axle of truth is fixed.

"He who recognizes the existence of suffering, its cause, its remedy, and its cessation has fathomed the four noble truths. He will walk in the right path. Right views will be the torch to light his way. Right aspirations will be his guide. Right speech will be his dwelling place on the road. His gait will be straight, for it is right behavior. His refreshments will be the right way of earning his livelihood. Right efforts will be his steps; right thoughts his breath; and right contemplation will give him the peace that follows in his footprints.

"(1)Now this, monks, is the noble truth of suffering: 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 groups of grasping (skandhas) are painful.

"(2) Now this, monks, is the noble truth of the cause of suffering: the craving, which tends 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, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering, the cessation without a remainder of craving, the abandonment, forsaking, release, non-attachment.

"(4) Now this, monks, is the noble truth of the way that leads to the cessation of suffering: this is the noble Eightfold Way; namely, right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

"As long as in these four noble truths my due knowledge and insight were not well purified, even so long, monks, in the world with its gods, Mara (the temptress), Brahma, its beings with ascetics, brahmins, gods, and men, I had not attained the highest complete enlightenment. This I recognized.

"And when, monks, in these four noble truths my due knowledge and insight were well purified, then monks . . . I had attained the highest complete enlightenment. This I recognized. Knowledge arose in me, insight arose that the release of my mind is unshakable: this is my last existence; now there is no rebirth. I have even now attained Nirvana."

Thus spoke the Blessed One, and the five monks expressed delight and approval at the Blessed One's utterance. The devas left their heavenly abodes to listen to the sweetness of the truth; the saints that had parted from life crowded around the great teacher to receive the glad tidings; even the animals of the earth felt the bliss that rested upon the words of the Tathagata: and all the creatures of the host of sentient beings, gods, men, and beasts, hearing the message of deliverance, received and understood it

in their own language.

And while this exposition was being uttered there arose in Kondanna (the eldest of the five monks) the pure and spotless eye of the doctrine that whatever was liable to origination was all liable to cessation.

When the wheel of the most excellent law was thus set turning by the Blessed One, the earth-dwelling gods raised a shout: "This supreme

wheel of doctrine has been set going by the Blessed One at Benares at Isiptana in the Deer Park, a wheel which has not been set going by any ascetic, brahmin, god, Mara, Brahma, or by anyone in the world." The gods of the heaven of the four Great Kings, hearing the shout of the earth-dwelling gods, raised a shout . . . The gods of the heaven of the Thirty-three, hearing the shout of the gods of the four Great Kings . . . the Yama gods . . . the Tusita gods . . . the Nimmanarati gods . . . the Paranimmitavasavattin gods . . . the gods of the Brahma-world raised a shout: "This supreme wheel of doctrine has been set going by the Blessed One at Benares at Isipatana in the Deer Park, a wheel which has not been set going by any ascetic, brahmin, god, Mara, Brahma, or by anyone in the world."

Thus at that very time, at that moment, at that second, a shout went up as far as the Brahma-world (the highest region), and this ten-thousandfold world system shook, shuddered, and trembled, and a boundless great light appeared in the world surpassing the divine majesty of the gods. . . .