The significance of this Day is explained by Choten Dorji, Lecturer in Buddhist studies at Lekjung Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies, Punakha:
Every fourth day of the sixth month in the Bhutanese calendar is observed as the First Sermon of Lord Buddha, formally known as Drukpa Tshe Zhi. Among the many great deeds of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, the turning of the Wheel of Dharma at Deer Park in Sarnath is considered the most significant.
At Sarnath, the five ascetics had resumed their austere practices. When they saw the Buddha approaching, thinking that he was still the Gautama who had forsaken their path, they decided not to welcome him. Yet, as he neared, they found themselves involuntarily rising and paying respect to him. Proclaiming that he was the Buddha, Shakyamuni assured them that the goal had been attained. On the first night, the Buddha was silent. On the second, he made a little conversation and on the third, he began his teaching. At the spot where all the Buddhas first turned the wheel, 1,000 thrones appeared. Shakyamuni circumambulated those of the three previous Buddhas and sat upon the fourth. Thus, inviting the Gods and all who wished to hear, and saying that he spoke not for the purpose of debate but in order to help living beings gain control of their minds, Shakyamuni began the first turning of the Wheel of Dharma. He taught the middle way that avoids the extremes of pleasure and austerity, the Four Noble Truths, and the Eightfold Path.
Lord Buddha said: Here, O’monks, is the Noble Truth about suffering. Birth is suffering, old age is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering. To be united with that which one doesn’t love is suffering, to be separated from that which one loves is suffering, not to have that which one desires is also suffering. In brief, the attachment to any of the five constituents of existence is suffering. Here, O’monks, is the Noble Truth concerning the cause of suffering. It is this desire that brings rebirth, related to a passionate greed, that finds a new enjoyment here, then there; i.e., the thirst for the pleasure of the senses, the desire for existence and for the perpetuation of oneself, and the desire for non-existence. Here, O’monks, is the Noble Truth concerning the cessation of suffering. It is the complete cessation of that desire, its abandonment, giving it up, rejecting it, one’s liberation from it, one’s separation from it. Here, O’monks, is the Noble Truth concerning the Path that leads to the cessation of suffering. It is the Noble Eightfold path that consists of correct vision, correct thought, correct speech, correct action, correct way of life, correct effort, correct attention, and correct concentration.
The teachings included in the collection known as the First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma, which began here, extended over a period of seven years. Other teachings, such as those on the Vinaya and on the practice of mindfulness were given elsewhere, but the wheel was turned twelve times at Sarnath. At this moment, he understood beings throughout existence are propelled by the force of their actions (karma) which bind them to an endless cycle of suffering, birth and death. Everything in beings’ experience is unstable and changing. At this point he became, as his followers described him, the “Buddha”, the “Awakened One”.
Although Buddha was reluctant to teach initially, it was out of great compassion for other beings that he decided to teach what he had discovered by and of himself – the Dharma. In his first teaching at Deer Park in Sarnath, Buddha shared his conclusions regarding the Middle Way with five monks (bhikkhus) and delivered the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths. This teaching became known as the First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma (dharmachakra). The first turning of the wheel of dharma is mainly concerned with abandoning negative actions of the body, speech and mind. According to Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, the first turning of the wheel can be related to the following quote from the Prajñaparamita sutras, “Mind is devoid of mind. The nature of mind is clear light.” Mind refers to the First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma where mind is spoken of as if it is inherently existent. The profundity of these truths is such that even the slightest movement they may produce in the mind will end up guiding those who encounter them to liberation and enlightenment.
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