17th Gyalwa Karmapa"Buddhism is a way of life through which we develop the qualities of our mind.
This way of life is very unusual, as it is a means to attain happiness without harming others.


Travel Log - In Nepal and India with lama Puntso

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December 17, 2017

The Opening of the Eye of the Universe

After Lumbini and the Buddha’s birthplace, after Kushinagar and his parinirvana, here we are at Sarnath, the site of his first teaching: the four truths of the noble ones. What indeed happened?

Sarnath Stupa in the Evening

After Enlightenment

At age forty-five, the Buddha attained enlightenment. Seven weeks later, he chose to teach the dharma, as it was the most ultimate benefit he could accomplish for beings. But it was not easy, firstly because what his teaching was new and, at the time, there were rishis, scholars, from many different traditions who were very powerful. Therefore, the Buddha was very careful about whom he taught the dharma to. In fact, what happened is this: after having realized enlightenment, the Buddha had an exchange with a man who declared that he did not have the time to listen to his teaching. Upon hearing this, the Buddha was surprised. He thought that perhaps there were no disciples or people able to receive the teaching he could give and the experience he could share. He thought, “Maybe it’s better if I just meditate instead.” And he went back to meditate in the same spot where he had come from.

At this moment, various dharma protectors along with divine beings like Brahma and Indra realized there was a risk that Buddha would not teach, not transmit the dharma. They thus made a formal request that he teach the dharma in the world. The Buddha accepted.

Initially, he wanted to teach his former master, who had taught him about austerity and with whom he had spent six years meditating. As Siddhartha had accomplished all of the instructions and this master could not transmit anything further to him, he decided to go looking elsewhere. His master asked him to bring back the most profound instructions he could find. Siddhartha accepted. His departure created a lot of anger among the five friends with whom he had practiced and who, upon his leaving, considered him to be lazy. Later, Siddhartha, having become Buddha, was unable to teach the dharma to his former master as he had passed away. He decided to seek out his five co-disciples, whom he discovered at Sarnath.

Sarnath Stupa in the Morning

When the Buddha arrived in Sarnath, his former companions saw him coming from a distance and did not want to receive him, as they were still quite angry. They thus decide not to welcome him properly, but as the Buddha approached, the strength of his merit and his energy caused the disciples to welcome him correctly in spite of themselves. The first evening, they talked together. They discussed where each was at, how they had evolved, and what each had accomplished. Then, the Buddha announced that the next morning he would give his first eaching. It was the full moon of the seventh month of the Theravadan calendar.

The next morning, as promised, the Buddha taught the four truths of the noble ones in three manners.

In the first teaching, the Buddha focused on the essence of each of these noble truths. He presented the first truth as that of suffering, the second as that of the causes of suffering, the third as that of the cessation of suffering, and the fourth as that of the path that leads to cessation.

The Dharma Is Born

In fact, while the Buddha was teaching these four aspect, the oldest and most learned among the five disciples, Gaudinia, attained the state of arhathood just by listening to this first teaching. There were many auspicious signs in the sky along with various sounds. This was the devas exclaiming—proclaiming that the eye of the universe had opened, that the wheel of dharma had begun to turn, and they beat the drum of the dharma. We could say that this situation constituted the establishment of the dharma. The teacher was present—the Buddha who transmitted, Gaudinia, once realized, fulfilled the condition of the sangha, and of there was the teaching itself, being transmitted. Thus, the three aspects were present; the dharma was born.

Gaudinia’s realization is quite surprising. In fact, to set a vast field afire, if each stem is dry, a single spark is enough to make every stalk burn. In this case, for Gaudinia, it was quite the same. Everything was ready, all the conditions were in place, and he needed only this one teaching to fulfill the conditions to realize arhathood.

Next, we come to the second teaching on the four truths of the noble ones. We saw that the first teaching consisted in giving the essence and name of each truth; here the Buddha additionally gave the characteristics or function of each truth.

He said, “You should know the truth of suffering, you should abandon the causes of suffering, you should realize the truth of cessation, and you should practice the truth of the path.” There is a metaphor that explains the four noble truths. It says, “We must first know the illness. We must give up the cause of illness. Healing the illness is obtaining good health. The means to healing the illness is the treatment we adhere to.”

The Buddha repeated the truths of the noble ones a third time, but this time his teaching focused on the result. Once, we have obtained realization, we can say, “I have seen; I know the truth of suffering; I have abandoned the cause of suffering; I have realized cessation because I have applied the path.”

Lama Sherab Gyaltsen and Lodreu Rabsel Rinpoche visiting Sarnath while we were practicing together.

Once the Buddha had transmitted the four truths of the noble ones, each disciples had attained a realization. For some, it was arhathood, for others, the path of seeing, but all had realized the various levels and all were liberated. This constituted the first turning of the wheel of the dharma. After this, following these three repetitions of the four truths of the noble ones, the Buddha, of course, developed his teaching over many years.

(Excerpt from a Teaching Given by Khenpo Mriti, DKL 2012)


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