The very first sermon the Buddha ever held was at the “Deer Park” in Sarnath near Varanasi (Benares).
Images depicting this sermon of the Buddha show the Dharmachakra Mudra, Dharma meaning “teaching” and “eternal cosmic law” and Chakra meaning “wheel”. The English name of both the Sarnath sermon and the iconographic gesture ist “Turning of the Wheel of the Dharma”. The significance of this event is that the Buddha was setting in motion the spread of Buddhist salvation knowledge.
Strictly speaking, Gautama became a Buddha by holding this sermon, because only enlightenment is a characteristic not only of a Buddha but also of Arahants (Arhats in Sanskrit) and only having found enlightenment without the help of others is a characteristic not only of a Buddha but also of a so-called Pacchekabuddha (Pratyekabuddha in Sanskrit). The difference is: A Pacchekabuddha gained full enlightenment without help from others but he himself does not help others to find the same way of salvation. A Buddha is additionally helping others to find Nirwana (thus to become Arahants) by teaching them the Dharma. This is exactly what the Buddha Shakyamuni started to do with his first sermon in Sarnath, when he preached the Four Noble Truths, which are constituing the basic teachings of Buddhism.
This first sermon about the Four Noble Truths is one of the four most significant events in the life of the Buddha, the other three being birth, enlightenment, and death (Final Nirvana). Correspondingly, the places of these four events are the most sacred sites in India, Sarnath thus being one of the four major Buddhist places of pilgrimage.
The Buddha’s first sermon, held in Sarnath’s deer park, is included in the Sutta Pitaka of the Holy Tipitaka Scriptures. Not surprisingly, the text passage is called Dhamma-Chakka-Pavattana-Sutta (Dharma-Chakra-Parvathana-Sutra in Sanskrit), meaning just this, “Turning of the Wheel of the Dharma”
So what is the content of these Four Noble Truths?
They reveal a middle path by which a human being can transcend the sufferings of earthly living during the cycle of rebirths (Samskara). The Four Noble truths are:
1. All life is suffering (Dukkha, in Sanskrit Duhkha).
2. The rout cause of suffering is craving (“thirst” Tanha, Trishna in Sanskrit)
3. The cessation of suffering can be reached by terminating craving (Nibbana, Sanskrit Nirvana)
4. The way to reach this goal is the Noble Eightfold Path
The Four Noble Truths are modeled on the form of ancient India’s four steps of medical healing, but apply to spiritual wellbeing:
1. Diagnosis of the disease.
2. Diagnosis of the causes of it.
3. Finding a cure of the disease be removing its causes.
4. Treatment to remove the disease’s causes step by step.
So what are the steps to reach Nibbana (Nirvana)?
Maybe, you will not be enlightened instantly, but read more information in our article about the “Noble Eightfold Path” next Tuesday.
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