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May 30th
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Home History General The Buddha's Life - Giving First Sermon

The Buddha's Life - Giving First Sermon

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Article Index
The Buddha's Life
Noble and Ignoble Quests
Renunciation of Worldly Life
Meeting Alara, the Great Ascetic
Meeting the Sage Udaka
Practising Extreme Austerities
Mara's Persuasion
Right Reasoning
The Enlightenment
Giving First Sermon
Meeting with Upaka
Group of Five Monks
All Pages

Giving First Sermon

Having spent seven days each at seven different places, the Buddha went back to the goat-herd's banyan tree on the fiftieth day. Seated under the tree, he considered:

"To whom should I best teach the doctrine first? Who would quickly comprehend the Dhamma?" Then it occurred to him: "There is Alara Kalama who is learned, skilled and intelligent. He has long been a person having but little dust of defilement in the eye of the wise. What if I teach the doctrine to Alara Kalama first? He would quickly comprehend this Dhamma."

It is significant that the Buddha had tried to first seek out someone who would understand his teaching quickly. It is of utmost importance to inaugurate new meditation centres with devotees who are endowed with faith, zeal, industry, mindfulness and intelligence. Only such devotees as are in possession of these virtues can achieve penetrative Insight quickly and become shining examples for others to follow. Devotees lacking in faith, zeal, industry, mindfulness and intelligence or enfeebled in mind and body through old age can hardly be source of inspiration to others.

When we first launched on teaching the Satipatthana Vipassana Meditation, we were fortunate in being able to start off with three persons (my relatives actually) endowed with unusual faculties. They acquired the knowledge of awareness of arising and passing away (udayabbaya nana) within three days of practice and were overjoyed with seeing lights and visions accompanied by feelings of rapture and bliss. Such speedy attainments of results have been responsible for the worldwide acceptance and dissemination of the Mahasi Vipassana Meditation technique.

Thus, it was that the Buddha thought of teaching his first sermon to someone who would quickly grasp it and when he considered Alara Kalama, a deity addressed him:

"Lord, Alara Kalama had passed away seven days ago."

Then knowledge and vision arose to the Buddha that Alara had indeed passed away seven days ago and had, by virtue of his jhanic achievements, attained the Sphere of Nothingness ( Akincannayatana Brahma Plane - the State of Immateriality).


"Great is the loss to Alara of Kalama family,"

bemoaned the Buddha. As Alara was developed enough, he would have readily understood the teaching of the Buddha. He could have gained the Path and attained Arahatship instantly, but his early death had deprived him of this opportunity. In the Sphere of Nothingness, where only mental states exist without any forms, he could not have benefitted even if the Buddha had gone there and taught him the Dhamma. The life span in the Sphere of Nothingness is also very long, being sixty thousand world cycles. After expiry there he would appear again in the human world, but would miss the teachings of the Buddhas. As a common worldling he would do the rounds of existence, sometimes sinking to the netherworld to face great sufferings. Thus the Buddha bemoaned that the loss of Alara was very great.

It is possible in the present times that there are people deserving of higher attainments, but pass away without an opportunity of hearing the Satipatthana Meditation practice as expounded by us, or having heard the Dhamma thus taught but had not yet made the effort to put it into practice. The good people assembled here now hear what we are teaching should see carefully that such rare opportunities for their upliftment be not thrown away.


Then the Buddha thought of teaching the first sermon to Udaka, son (pupil) of the great sage Rama. Again a deity addressed the Buddha:

"Lord, Udaka Ramaputta had passed away last night."

The knowledge and vision arose to the Buddha that the hermit Udaka had indeed died the previous night in the first watch and by virtue of his jhanic achievements had attained the state of neither Perception nor Non-perception ( Nevasannanasannayatana Brahma Plane). This sphere is also a state of immateriality, a formless state and its life span extends to eighty-four thousand world cycles. This is the noblest, the loftiest of the thirty-one planes of existence, but the Dhamma cannot be heard there. On appearing again in the human world, Ramaputta could instantly attain x if he could but listen to the Dhamma because he was already so highly developed. Unfortunately, he would not get such an opportunity again, having missed it by dying one night too early. The Buddha was thus moved again to utter in pity:

"Great is the loss to the hermit Udaka, the son (pupil) of the great sage Rama."

Then the Buddha thought again to whom he should give his first sermon. The group of five Bhikkhus appeared in his divine vision and he saw them living then in the deer Sanctuary in the township of Benares.


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" The bhikkhu who is calm in body, calm in speech, calm in mind, who is well-composed and has given up (lit., vomited) worldly pleasures, is called a "Tranquil One". "

The Dhammapada

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