The Buddha?s First Sermon (Annotated) Introduction This is the first and earliest of the surviving account of the teachings of The Buddha. All Black text indent text is from on the Buddha.net version of this sutra. All the rest ?text is my annotation. And is just my ideas, doubt everything, be your own light:) Setting in Motion the Wheel of Dharma
Thus have I heard: On one occasion the Blessed One was living in the Deer Park at Isipatana (the Resort of Seers) near Varanasi (Benares). Then he addressed the group of five monks (Bhikkhus): 'Monks, these two extremes ought not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the household life. (What are the two?) There is addiction to indulgence of sense-pleasures, which is low, coarse, the way of ordinary people, unworthy, and unprofitable; and there is addiction to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy and unprofitable.
I see this as a contrast between the doctrines of nihilism and mysticism and The Buddha?s discovery of a path between the two doctrines.
The Middle Path Avoiding both these extremes, the Buddha has realized the Middle Path; it gives vision, gives knowledge, and leads to calm, to insight, to enlightenment and to Nibbana.
This passage is often over looked, but it states the objectives of The Middle Path and they are not simply the attainment of Nirvana but also of ?vision, knowledge, calm, insight and enlightenment in itself. ?So, the first stage of his enlightenment can be seen as the recognition of the extremes between nihilism and mysticism. The next stage is to see that there is a path between the two extremes and that this path leads to vision, knowledge, calm, insight and enlightenment.
And what is that Middle Path realized by the Buddha?.? It is the Noble Eightfold path, and nothing else, namely: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. This is the Middle Path realized by the Tathagata which gives vision, which gives knowledge, and leads to calm, to insight, to enlightenment, and to Nibbana.
The Noble Eightfold Path is the moral, mental, philosophical and spiritual path that is composed of practicing the techniques and intuitions of right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. That short passages above contain Buddhism, in a nutshell: Simply follow the middle path between nihilism and mysticism and get closer to vision, knowledge, calm, insight and enlightenment. Thats it! But there is more... The Buddha then goes on to explain why The Middle Path is the right path, and the answer is that it leads from suffering towards vision, knowledge, calm, insight and enlightenment. In other words, he is getting down into not just the prescription but the mediicn and cause itself. He starts:
The First Noble Truth Stated The Noble Truth of Suffering, monks, is this: Birth is suffering, ageing is suffering, sickness is suffering, death is suffering, association with the unpleasant is suffering, dissociation from the pleasant is suffering, not to receive what one desires is suffering - in brief the five aggregates subject to grasping are suffering.
It is easy to equate Suffering directly with suffering in the senses we traditionally think.? But in the above passage we can also see how suffering is more complex. Its not just the pain and aging that is suffering but its inevitable failure to receive ones desires and the lack of the pleasant that is suffering. The last line ?the five aggregates subject to grasping are suffering.? Captures the entire problem if suffering from the perspective of the Buddha?s new theory of mind as being made of five aggregates and how this illusionary ego will always be grasping for more. And that grasping is suffering. He goes on to show this in the Second Noble Truth:
The Second Noble Truth Stated The Noble Truth of the Origin (cause) of Suffering is this: It is this craving (thirst) which produces re-becoming (rebirth) accompanied by passionate greed, and finding fresh delight now here, and now there, namely craving for sense pleasure, craving for existence and craving for non-existence (self-annihilation).
The more we want the more we want. The more we need newness the more newness we need. Greed makes more greed. As long as there is an ego that craves the cravings will feedback into the ego and the world and make more and more suffering. This is the ultimate causes of suffering. It creates a cycle that will keep producing more ego and more suffering. The Third Noble Truth Stated
The Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering is this: It is the complete cessation of that very craving, giving it up, relinquishing it, liberating oneself from it, and detaching oneself from it.
The Second Noble truth gave us the cause of the problem. The Third Noble Truth (above) tells us, simply and obviously, completely detach oneself from the cause of craving, that is to not let the ego, that illusion of the five aggregates, have any chance to grasp. I like to think that up until here we are like, OK, that makes sense, but now what? How can we end the cycle of negativity? The answer was already in terms of the Middle Path, ie, The Noble Eightfold Path, which is, the Fourth Noble Truth. The Fourth ?Noble Truth Stated
The Noble Truth of the Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering is this: It is the Noble Eightfold Path, and nothing else, namely: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
Those are the four noble truths, the above is pretty much all of Buddhism in a single page. But such is their important we are told them again, not just to clarify, but to show method of how they should be approached. The First Noble Truth Realised
"This is the Noble Truth of Suffering": such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before. "This suffering, as a noble truth, should be fully realized": such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before. "This suffering, as a noble truth has been fully realized": such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before.
Here he states the truth, as before, but then he goes on to say how it must be realised and that it has been realised. In other words he is saying don?t just accept the truth because it is his ?light? (I take this to mean Dharma) but rather realise it? yourself. And how to realise it? He answers this clearly, realise it with vision, knowledge , wisdom, science under your own light.. So he saw the truth and then he realised it and then he realised it was ?fully realised? which I think means he couldn?t doubt it. The Second Noble Truth Eradicated
"This is the Noble Truth of the Origin (cause) of Suffering": such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before. "This Origin of Suffering as a noble truth should be eradicated": such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before. "This Origin of suffering as a noble truth has been eradicated": such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before.
Here The Second Noble Truth is stated but the method is different, it doesn?t use ?realisation? but the idea of knowing one must eradicate the cause. ?The Origin itself, the second Noble truth, the fact that suffering has a cause, must be eradicated. When he says erridcated he means literally remove it from the world. Suffering has an inevitable cause, this cannot be solved, it can only be eradicated. The Third Noble Truth Realised
"This is the Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering": such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before. "This Cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, should be realized": such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before. "This Cessation of suffering, as a noble truth has been realized": such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before.
The Fourth ?Noble Truth Practiced
"This is the Noble Truth of the Path leading to the cessation of suffering": such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before. "This Path leading to the cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, should be developed": such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before. "This Path leading to the cessation of suffering, as a noble truth has been developed": such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before.
So what is being said here, is that these realisations and eradications are not enough. They must be developed and integrated into one singular path of practice, The Noble Eightfold Path developed and illuminated by vision, knowledge, wisdom and ?science. Finally The Buddha brings this all together and back to the start. This passage can be read many ways:
As long as my knowledge of seeing things as they really are, was not quite clear in these three aspects, in these twelve ways, concerning the Four Noble Truths, I did not claim to have realized the matchless, supreme Enlightenment, in this world with its gods, with its Maras and Brahmas, in this generation with its recluses and brahmanas, with its Devas and humans. But when my knowledge of seeing things as they really are was quite clear in these three aspects, in these twelve ways, concerning the Four Noble Truths, then I claimed to have realized the matchless, supreme Enlightenment in this world with its gods, with its Maras and Brahmas, in this generation with its recluses and brahmanas, with its Devas and humans. And a vision of insight arose in me thus: "Unshakable is the deliverance of my heart. This is the last birth. Now there is no more re-becoming (rebirth)."
We saw above how the Buddha showed middle path away from the mystical life. I don?t think it is too preposterous to assume that when he speaks in the above passage about ?recluses? and religious teachers and mythical beings he is making the same statement as with his first statement about the middle path away from self-mortification. He saw the path between nihilism and mysticism and then he realised it with certainty that The Four Noble Truths confirm his insight that there is no rebirth. Finally, the Suttra Ends:
This the Blessed One said. The group of five monks was glad, and they rejoiced at the words of the Blessed One.