Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Buddha's First Sermon at Sarnath

Buddha's First Sermon at Sarnath, Kushan Period, ca.
3rd centuryPakistan (ancient region of Gandhara)Gray schist;

The Buddha's first sermon took place in a deer park in Sarnath, four miles outside the city of Benares. In art, this setting is symbolized by the two small deer at the base of the Buddha's seat. The Buddha has his right hand on a wheel, which is the symbol of the Buddha's doctrine (dharma). By turning the wheel with his hand, he figuratively sets the doctrine in motion and disseminates Buddhism through the world. The Buddha is surrounded by six figures. The five robed figures with shaved heads represent the five ascetics who originally abandoned Siddhartha when he ended his six years of stringent yogic practice and fasting and accepted a bowl of rice. They became his first audience and then his first disciples. It is unclear who is represented by the bare-chested sixth figure.

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