LORD BUDDHA'S FIRST TURNING OF THE WHEEL OF DHARMA
07-25-09: Commemoration of the first teachings of the Buddha
THE DECISION TO TEACH
After his enlightenment, Lord Buddha remained several weeks in meditation. He had abandoned his father's palace and his royal inheritance, his beloved wife and son and his concubines, the whole of his predicted destiny as Chakravartin, emperor of the world, to become a wanderer, seeking for a way out of suffering for all beings.
Now he had found it but he thought, how are they going to understand, this is too profound a knowledge? And he decided to keep it to himself, until two gods came and kneeling in front of him, with their palms pressed together, they begged him to teach what he had himself learned.
They said, it's true that it's a very difficult thing to understand, but some beings might have enough merit to take advantage of this knowledge, please teach! And so the Buddha, who probably needed that somebody requested the teachings to be able to teach, abandoned the area of the Bodhi tree and started walking towards Varanasi.
He intended to reach Deer Park and preach the Dharma for the first time to his old companions, the ascetics who had despised him for sustaining his body with food in order to meditate properly.
When he reached Deer Park, the five ascetics saw him from afar and decided to ignore him. But when he got closer, his demeanour was so majestic that they prepared a seat for him with their own tattered mantles. This is what the Buddha taught then: the Aryas' Four truths, the truths that only the Noble ones, those who see ultimate reality directly, can contemplate directly: the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause, the truth of cessation, the truth of the path.
Lord Buddha said: Here, O monks, is the Noble's 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 heaps or constituents of existence is suffering.
Here, O monks, is the Noble's 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's truth concerning the cessation of suffering. It is the complete cessation of that desire, its abandonment, one's giving it up, rejecting it, one's liberation from it, one's separation from it.
Here, O monks, is the Noble's 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, and correct way of life; correct effort, correct attention, and correct concentration.
A NAKED ANALYSIS OF EXISTENCE
The Noble Ones' Four Truths acknowledge that there is suffering but show that suffering is not arbitrary, it has a cause. By removing the cause, suffering can cease, and since there is a way to remove the cause of suffering, there is a path to the cessation of suffering.
Thus, Lord Buddha teaches that the true cause of suffering leads to true suffering but also that following the true path one can reach the true cessation of suffering.
This first sermon represents a sharp, naked analysis of existence, and implicitly contains the eighty-four thousand teachings of the Buddha. The explicit doctrine of Buddhism is extremely vast and has been expressed by the founder in several different levels according to the capacity of beings to understand it.
The Four truths of the Aryas look disconcertingly simple upon reading them for the first time, almost a knowledge appropriate for a child. But they are not simple truths. They are called the Noble's truths because only those who can see ultimate reality directly --the Aryas or Noble ones-- can also see directly that all of life is suffering, that even that which we call happiness has the nature of suffering.
For us common beings to understand this requires study, thought, analysis --an inferential knowledge. For the Noble ones it's a direct, non-conceptual knowledge.
(It's important to know that nobody is a Noble one by birthright, all the Noble ones were once common beings that gained their status by studying, thinking, analyzing and ... meditating).
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.