Buddha realized that Mankind cannot see the Truth that he could now see. Because of this problem, he was unsure whether or not to teach his findings to the rest of the world.
The brahman Sahampati persuaded him to accept the challenge of teaching the world. He did this by presenting the Buddha with an image of a lotus pond, which naturally will have some lotuses still under water because they are still undeveloped; others will be at the surface; and there are those which are above the water and quite untouched by it. This analogy also applies to the human world.
The Buddha understood the point and took up the challenge (Figure 28.1). He decided to teach his five former companions first. He sent to see them and told them that he was now an arhat (‘perfected one’) and wished to teach them the dhamma.
They would not accept this at first, because when he had given up extreme asceticism they assumed that he had given up the quest for enlightenment. Then they realised that his transformation had taken place, and so he preached his first sermon; the Benares Sermon, known as the ‘Sermon on Setting in Motion the Wheel of Truth’.
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