Buddha’s first discourse: Dhammacakkappavattana sutta

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2018-03-19 15:42:47

Dhammacakkappavattana sutta

Dhammacakkappavattana sutta: Setting in Motion the Wheel of Truth or the Dhamma sutta. Two months after Buddha’s enlightenment on full moon day, Buddha gave the first discourse at the Deer Park in Isipatana near benares. This discourse was delivered to the 5 ascetics (Kondanna, vappa, Bhaddiya, mahanama and assaji). These 5 ascetics later became Buddha’s first 5 disciples.

In this discourse, Buddha taught the essences of his teachings which are the 4 noble truths, eightfold noble path and he opened his speech by telling the five ascetic to avoid the two extremes (self-indulgence and self-mortification) and to follow the middle way.

At the end of the discourse, the ascetic Kondanna achieved the first stage of enlightenment (sotappana) and he said “Whatever is subject to arising is also subject to cessation.” Upon hearing this, Buddha said “Kondanna knows! Kondanna knows !”.

Avoiding the two extremes

Before enlightenment Buddha experienced the two extremes which are self-indulgence when he was a prince in the palace and self-mortification when he was searching for enlightenment. After experiencing both extremes which are futile, he found the middle way that leads to enlightenment. He taught the ascetics to avoid the two extremes.

1.         Self-indulgence: attachment to sensual pleasures (kamasukhallikanuyogo), which is inferior, low, vulgar, ignoble, profitless and connected with misery;
2.         Self-mortification: Attachment to self-mortification (attakilamathanuyogo), which is painful, profitless, ignoble and connected with misery.

The middle path (majjhima patipada) discovered by a Perfect One is the path, which will lead to Nibbana. It is the noble eightfold path which leads to wisdom, insight and finally to enlightenment (Nibbana).

Four noble truths 

1st noble truth: There is suffering. Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, sickness is suffering, death is suffering, sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering, association with the loathed is suffering, dissociation from the loved is suffering, not to get what one wants is suffering. In short, suffering is clinging onto the five aggregates is suffering.

2nd noble truth: There is a cause of suffering. Craving is the cause of suffering. Craving for sensual desires (kamatanha), craving for being (bhavatanha) and craving for non-being (vibhavatanha).

3rd noble truth: There is an end to suffering. It is fading, ceasing, giving up, relinquishing, letting go and rejecting, of that same craving that ends suffering.

4th Noble truth: There is a path that leads to the end of suffering which is the noble eightfold path. The 8 factors aim to promote and perfect the three essentials of Buddhist training and discipline: Sila (morality), Samadhi (Meditation) and panna (wisdom).

The First Noble Truth is to be realized in 3 phases:
•           Suffering, as a noble truth, is this
•           This suffering, as a noble truth, should be comprehended
•           This suffering, as a noble truth, has been comprehended

The Second Noble Truth is realized in 3 phases:
•           The origin of suffering, as a noble truth, is this.
•           This origin of suffering, as a noble truth, can be abandoned.
•           This origin of suffering, as a noble truth, has been abandoned.

The Third Noble truth is realized in 3 phases:
•           Cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, is this.
•           This cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, can be verified.
•           This cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, has been verified.

The Forth Noble truth is realized in 3 phases:
•           The way leading to cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, is this.
•           This way leading to cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, can be developed.
•           This way leading to the cessation of suffering, as a noble truth, has been developed.

Noble eightfold path 

1. Right Speech (sammà vàcà)
2. Right Action (sammà kammanta)
3. Right Livelihood (sammà àjiva)
4. Right Effort (sammà vàyàma)
5. Right Mindfulness (sammà sati)
6. Right Concentration (sammà samàdhi)
7. Right Understanding (sammà diññhi)
8. Right Thought (sammà sankappa)

Morality (Sila)

Morality is the ethical conduct built on the vast conception of universal love and compassion for all living beings. This is the basis of the Buddha’s teaching. Three factors of noble eightfold path that come under morality are Right speech, Right action and right livelihood.

Right Speech
Right Speech is the practice of correct speech, which means:
i)          Abstain from lying and adhering to truth
ii)        Abstaining from tale-bearing or back-biting (slander) which paves the path for disagreement and disunity.
iii)       Abstain from using harsh, malicious and abusive language while cultivating courteous and gentle words in communication. This promotes social harmony
iv)        Abstain from irresponsible, vain talk such as gossiping and speak only what is meaningful and conducive to one’s and others’ welfare.

Right Action
Right Action deals with abstinence of three kinds of bodily misconduct: taking life, theft and misappropriation, and sexual misconduct. The mundane Right Action produces wholesome worldly results whereas the practice of transcendental Right Action, avoiding those misbehaviours completely with pure mind intent upon the Path, is contributory to liberation.
Right Action guarantees the fundamental human rights of right to live, right to possess and right to maintain sexual relations within the confines of legally permitted boundary.

Right Livelihood
Right Livelihood is to reject wrong kinds of living and live by right means of livelihood. Wrong livelihood means gaining a living by earning wealth by devising ways and means detrimental to sentient’ beings. In this connection, usually five kinds of trade to avoid are: trading in arms, human beings, flesh, killing animals, intoxicating drinks and poisons. Live by a profession which is honourable, blameless and harmless to others.
Samadhi (Meditation)

Samadhi (Concentration)
Right Effort 
Right Effort is the Four Great Efforts. It enjoins the putting forth effort consciously in four ways: to prevent the arising of unwholesome thoughts that have not yet arisen; to abandon unwholesome thoughts that have already arisen; to develop wholesome thoughts that have not yet arisen; and to maintain wholesome thoughts that have already arisen by one who practises the Path of Emancipation.

Right Mindfulness 
Right Mindfulness deals with the four kinds of contemplation: contemplation of the body, of sensation, of mind and of mind-objects.

Right Concentration
Right Concentration is the attainment of 4 meditative absorptions (jhànas). Through meditative absorptions one can overcome the five hindrances: desire for sensual pleasure, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry and sceptical doubt.

Panna (Wisdom) 

Right Understanding
Right understanding also called right which is the forerunner of the entire path, the guide for all the other factors. Right view is the understanding of the four noble truths. Primarily there are two, external and internal, factors conducive to Right Understanding. They are:
1. Hearing from others on information of dhamma
2. Thoughtful reflection after receiving information on dhamma which leads to understanding.
Mundane state of right Understanding is called ‘knowing accordingly’ but not yet free from defilements. This is developed by ordinary worldlings.

The Supra-mundane stage of Right Understanding appears only when one realises one or the other of the four stages of sainthood: Stream-winning, Once-returning, Non-returning and Arahanthood. This is only achieved by the Noble ones (ariyapuggala). This stage of understanding is at the highest level and unshakable.

Right Thought
Right Thought is defined as having mainly three constituents: renunciation or giving up of sensual enjoyment; developing thoughts of loving kindness and goodwill without any kind of anger, delusion and hatred; and practising harmonious environment, abstaining from violence.


At this memorable moment in which Buddha delivered this discourse to the 5 ascetics, it is said that many invisible beings like devas and brahmas were also present. At the moment of the news of “the wheel of truth is set in motion” spread to the brahma realm, the system of thousand worlds trembled and quaked. 


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