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In 6th century B.C, in the forests of Lumbini a boy was born to King Suddhodhana of the Shakya clan and his consort Maya Devi. In his lifetime, Siddhartha Gautam would grow up to be no mere prince, but a teacher, philosopher and spiritual leader.

At the age of 29, Siddhartha Gautam renounced the pleasures of his royal life and set himself on a spiritual path intent on alleviating universal suffering. For the next few years, Siddhartha lived as an ascetic. Inspired by the words of several gurus, he meditated and practised the new way of life with five other ascetics. Over a period of time, the other ascetics became his first followers/disciples.

One day a little girl offered Siddhartha a bowl of rice. Upon accepting her offering, he realised that physical austerity cannot help one achieve inner peace and spiritual release.

That night, Siddhartha decided to sit alone under a Bodhi tree. He said he would get up only after the truth he fervently sought came to him. He meditated for several days in that same spot. As he did so, it is believed that he purified his mind, and saw his entire life, previous births and his thoughts.

When Siddhartha attained enlightenment he became the Buddha. He spent the remainder of his life teaching people the truth of life and how to achieve enlightenment. He founded the original order of Buddhist nuns and monks. Several of them went on to become great scholars and teachers. 

In 483 BCE, the Buddha breathed his last in Kushinagar (Uttar Pradesh).

According to Buddhist tradition, all monks who attain enlightenment are Buddhas. However since, Siddhartha Gautam was the first to attain enlightenment, he is known as The Buddha.

The International Buddhist Confederation celebrates Dharma Chakra Day on 4th July to commemorate the Buddha’s first sermon to his first disciples at Deer Park, Rsipatana, modern day Sarnath (Uttar Pradesh).

As per Buddhist tradition, the sermon took place in Ashada month, on the day of Asalha Pooja, seven weeks after the Buddha attained enlightenment.

Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta* (Pali) is a record of this first sermon. Translating to The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of the Dharma Sutta, it is during this sermon that the Buddha first propagated the Four Noble Truths to his first five disciples - Kondanna, Assaji, Bhaddiya, Vappa and Mahanama.

The sutta (sutra, discourse) also consisted of:
  • The two extremes that must always be avoided
  • The Middle Way
  • The Four Noble Truths
  • The Noble Eightfold Path
  • The Twelve Insights of the Four Noble Truths
  • Proclamation of release from the cycle of rebirth
  • The Opening of the Dhamma Eye
  • Proclamation of the gods upon the setting of the Wheel of Dharma in motion by the Buddha
  • Buddha’s response to his disciples’ questions (after discourse)

*Dhammachakka – Dharma Chakra – The Wheel of Dharma
Pavattana – Pravartana – Declaration
Sutta – Sutra – Scripture
Did you know?
  • Currently, there are four branches of Buddhism – Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana, Traditional/Modern Buddhism
  • Mahayana is the most commonly practiced branch of Buddhism
  • The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader for Tibetan Buddhism (part of Vajrayana Buddhism)
  • The Laughing Buddha is believed to have been a Chinese monk named Ch’i-t’zu
  • The Dharma Chakra has eight spokes representing the Noble Eightfold Path
A branch of Buddhism that rose to popularity in the 20th century is Zen Buddhism.
  • It is a mixture of Indian Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism
  • It attempts to decipher the meaning of life without the distractions of logical thought and language
  • It propagates the belief that all human beings are Buddha
  • It believes in the power of self and sends us on a path of enlightenment through introspection
  • The answers we seek outside already dwell within us – this is the essence of Zen Buddhism
Indo-Tibetan Buddhism is practiced in Tibet and Bhutan.
  • It is derived from Indian Mahayana Buddhism
  • It has preserved several Indian Buddhist practices that originated in the early medieval period
  • When the Dalai Lama was forced to escape to India, Tibetan Buddhism saw a strong revival of its monasteries, including the those of the Gelug tradition
  • The main objective of Tibetan Buddhism is Buddhahood – the awakened state

The teachings of the Buddha and tales of Buddha Dhamma have been a part of folklore and have been wonderfully elucidated in the Jataka tales, life stories of Bodhisattvas (a person who is on their way to Buddhahood) and by Buddhist monks around the world.

They have transcended centuries and found relevance in every generation because of the simplicity the faith preaches. It emphasizes the importance of independence, a concept that is very dear to the modern world.

In celebration of Dharma Chakra Day, The Nestery brings you a handpicked selection of tales and activity books. Take a look - you don't have to be a practising Buddhist to benefit from Zen meditation and the Buddha's teachings.


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