According to Buddhist tradition, the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (pronounced as Dhamma-chakkap-pavat-tana) was the first teaching given by the Buddha after he attained enlightenment. The Buddha had achieved enlightenment while meditating under the Bodhi Tree by the Nerañjarā river in Bodh Gaya, and after remaining silent for forty-nine days, he decided to teach.
Initially, the Buddha intended to visit his former teachers, Āḷāra Kālāma and Uddaka Rāmaputta, to teach them his insights. Still, they had already passed away or were in a place where it was not apt to preach, so he decided to visit his five former companions. On his way, he met a spiritual seeker named Upaka, to whom he proclaimed that he had achieved full awakening. However, Upaka was not convinced and “took a different path.”
The Buddha then journeyed from Bodhgaya to Sarnath, a small town near the sacred city of Varanasi in central India. There he met his five former companions, the ascetics with whom he had shared six years of hardship. Initially, his former companions were suspicious of the Buddha, thinking he had given up his search for the truth when he renounced their ascetic ways. But upon seeing the radiance of the Buddha, they requested him to teach what he had learned.
And so, the Buddha gave the teaching later recorded as the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. This teaching introduces fundamental concepts of Buddhist thought, such as the Middle Way and the Four Noble Truths.
The Middle Way is the path between self-indulgence and self-mortification. It advocates a balanced approach to life, free from extremes, and encourages individuals to lead a moderate, ethical, and contemplative life.
The Four Noble Truths are the foundation of Buddhist philosophy. They are:
- The truth of suffering (dukkha): The Buddha taught that life is characterized by suffering and that this suffering arises from craving, attachment, and ignorance.
- The truth of the cause of suffering (samudaya): The Buddha taught that the root cause of suffering is craving and attachment.
- The truth of the cessation of suffering (nirodha): The Buddha taught that it is possible to end suffering by overcoming craving and attachment.
- The truth of the path leading to the cessation of suffering (magga): The Buddha taught that the Eightfold Path, which includes correct understanding, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration, is the way to end suffering.
The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta is a profound teaching that has influenced countless individuals over the centuries. It is a reminder that the path to liberation and enlightenment is available to all who seek it, and that the teachings of the Buddha are as relevant today as they were over 2,500 years ago.