The First Sermon of the Buddha
BUDDHA SHAKYAMUNI TURNED THE WHEEL OF DHARMA OF FOR THE FIRST TIME
The Buddha’s first sermon at Deer Park: on suffering and its end
The Buddha said, “I teach one thing and one thing only: suffering and the end of suffering,” which is the ultimate goal of Buddhism. In his first sermon at Deer Park, he taught the Four Noble Truths of the existence of suffering, the cause of suffering, that the cause of suffering can end, and the path to the end of suffering. This doctrine, expounded by the Buddha in his major discourses and expanded upon in expositions by his closest disciples, underlies the basic Buddhist teachings that have evolved since his time.
Thus have I heard. The Blessed One was once living in the Deer Park at Isipatana (the Resort of Seers) near Varanasi (Benares). There he addressed the group of five bhikkhus [monks]:
“Bhikkhus, these two extremes ought not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the household life. What are the two? There is devotion to the indulgence of sense-pleasures, which is low, common, the way of ordinary people, unworthy and unprofitable; and there is devotion to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy and unprofitable.
“Avoiding both these extremes, the Tathagata [“Thus-Perfected One”] has realized the Middle Path: It gives vision, it gives knowledge, and it leads to calm, to insight, to enlightenment, to Nibbana [Sanskrit: Nirvana]. And what is that Middle Path. . . ? It is simply the Noble Eightfold Path, namely, right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. This is the Middle Path realized by the Tathagata, which gives vision, which gives knowledge, and which leads to calm, to insight, to enlightenment, to Nibbana.
“The Noble Truth of suffering (Dukkha) is this: Birth is suffering; aging is suffering; sickness is suffering; death is suffering; sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering; association with the unpleasant is suffering; dissociation from the pleasant is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering – in brief, the five aggregates of attachment are suffering.
“The Noble Truth of the origin of suffering is this: It is this thirst (craving) which produces re-existence and re-becoming, bound up with passionate greed. It finds fresh delight now here and now there, namely, thirst for sense-pleasures; thirst for existence and becoming; and thirst for non-existence (self-annihilation).
“The Noble Truth of the Cessation of suffering is this: It is the complete cessation of that very thirst, giving it up, renouncing it, emancipating oneself from it, detaching oneself from it.
“The Noble Truth of the Path leading to the Cessation of suffering is this: It is simply the Noble Eight fold Path, namely right view; right thought; right speech; right action; right livelihood; right effort; right mindfulness; right concentration. . . ’’