Sarnath,India :Where Buddha gave his first sermon .
14 Aug 2013
Sarnath(Isipatana in Pali), from Saranganath, means "Lord of the Deer" and relates to another old Buddhist story in which the Bodhisattva is a deer and offers his life to a king instead of the doe the latter is planning to kill. The king is so moved that he creates the park as a sanctuary for deer. The park is still there today.
The Buddha went from Bodhgaya to Sarnath about 5 weeks after his enlightenment.
After attaining Enlightenment the Buddha, leaving Uruvela, travelled to the Isipatana to join and teach them. He went to them because, using his spiritual powers, he had seen that his five former companions would be able to understand Dharma quickly. While travelling to Sarnath, Gautama Buddha had to cross the Ganges. Having no money with which to pay the ferryman, he crossed the Ganges through the air. When King Bimbisāra heard of this, he abolished the toll for ascetics. When Gautama Buddha found his five former companions, he taught them, they understood and as a result they also became enlightened. At that time the Sangha, the community of the enlightened ones, was founded. The sermon Buddha gave to the five monks was his first sermon, called the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. It was given on the full-moon day of Asalha Puja. Buddha subsequently also spent his first rainy season at Sarnath at the Mulagandhakuti. The Sangha had grown to 60 in number (after Yasa and his friends had become monks), and Buddha sent them out in all directions to travel alone and teach the Dharma. All 60 monks were Arahants.
Several other incidents connected with the Buddha, besides the preaching of the first sermon, are mentioned as having taken place in Isipatana. Here it was that one day at dawn Yasa came to the Buddha and became an Arahant. It was at Isipatana, too, that the rule was passed prohibiting the use of sandals made of talipot leaves. On another occasion when the Buddha was staying at Isipatana, having gone there from Rājagaha, he instituted rules forbidding the use of certain kinds of flesh, including human flesh. Twice, while the Buddha was at Isipatana, Māra visited him but had to go away discomfited.
After attaining enlightenment at Bodh Gaya the Buddha went to Sarnath; and it was here that he preached his first discourse in the deer park to set in motion the 'Wheel of the Dharma'. It is one of the most holy sites as in this place the stream of the Buddha's teaching first flowed.
At this place, the Buddha encountered the five men who had been his companions of earlier austerities. On meeting the enlightened Buddha, all they saw was an ordinary man; they mocked his well-nourished appearance. "Here comes the mendicant Gautama," they said, "who has turned away from asceticism. He is certainly not worth our respect." When they reminded him of his former vows, the Buddha replied, "Austerities only confuse the mind. In the exhaustion and mental stupor to which they lead, one can no longer understand the ordinary things of life, still less the truth that lies beyond the senses. I have given up extremes of either luxury or asceticism. I have discovered the Middle Way". Hearing this the five ascetics became the Buddha's first disciples.
Gautama Buddha started teaching not to debate but for the advantage of and out of compassion for human beings. He explained the middle way which avoids extremes, the Four Noble Truths, and prescribed the Eight-fold path. The Four Noble Truths are: 1. There is suffering; 2. Suffering has a cause; 3. The cause is removable, and 4. There are ways to remove the causes. So as to remove the causes the Buddha prescribed an Eight-fold Path: Right speech, Right action, Right livelihood, Right effort, Right mindfulness, Right concentration, Right attitude and Right view.
A Monastic tradition flourished for over 1,500 years on the site of the deer park at Sarnath. In the third century BC Ashoka erected a column 15.24 m in height which had four lions as its capital which is now treasured in the archaeology museum. The lion symbolises both Ashoka's imperial rule and the kingship of the Buddha. The four-lion capital was adopted as the emblem of the modern Indian republic. The last and largest monastery constructed before the Muslim invasion was Dharma-Chakar-Jina Vihar, erected by Kumardevi, wife of King Govinda Chandra, who ruled over Benares during 1114 to 1154. In 1194 AD, Kutubuddin Aibak, the Muslim conqueror, leveled the city to the ground. Sarnath became a forest of debris below which the historical ruins remained buried. Of the two great stupas which adorned the city only the Dhamekha remained which is of the 6th century.