Thus, our Gautama Buddha preached his first sermon, ‘Dhamma Chakka Pawaththana Sutta’ (meaning, ‘setting in motion the wheel of Dhamma’) on a Esala Full Moon day (Full Moon day in the month of July) to the world and ordained the first set of monks giving the concept of Triple Gem (Buddha, Dhamma & Sangha) to the world.
Meanwhile, a person named ‘Yasa Kula Puthra’ who was going in search of deliverance came to the place and after hearing Buddha’s sermon attained Enlightenment and became the sixth monk of the Buddhist order.
Yasa’s father, who was going in search of the son met them and after listening to a Buddha’s sermon became the first lay disciple to take refuge in the Triple Gem. He invited the Buddha and his disciples for alms to his house where the mother and the lay time wife of Arahanth Yasa became the first women lay disciples who took refuge in the Triple Gem.
Venerable Yasa’s four best friends when he was in lay life, Wimala, Subadda, Punnaji & Gavampathi too entered the order and became Arahanths listening to Buddha’s sermons, and hearing this, fifty friends of them also entered the Buddhist order and became Enlightened. Thus, the Buddhist order grew to sixty disciples.
On the Ill Full Moon day (Full Moon in the month of November), at the end of the rainy season, our Gautama Buddha Called his sixty disciples and said;
“Dear Bhikkus, set forth in the journey to propagate Dhamma for the benefit of the mass. Spread out and do not go in pairs.”
Saying thus, he himself took the path towards Uruwela (Present day Bodh Gaya in India) to expound the Dhamma to a set of vey arrogant Ascetics comprising of three brothers Uruvela Kassapa, Nadee Kassapa & Gaya Kassapa and about thousand of their followers who were firmly fixed to their unorthodox beliefs. Our Gautama Buddha answered all their questions and preached Dhamma to which the ascetics listened reluctantly at the beginning and later eagerly. In the end, all of them entered the Buddhist order and attained Enlightenment.
It was with them that our Gautama Buddha visited King Bimbisara as promised to him before. Seeing Buddha and his large number of disciples, King Bimbisara was elated and made the first ‘Monastery Offering’ to the Buddhist order when he donated his garden of bamboos named “Veluwanaramaya”.
This Royal connection and ‘Monastery Offering’ played a key role in spreading the message of Dhamma in the central region of India.
During the first year after the Enlightenment our Gautama Buddha went to his birth town and made all at his former residence including his parents, lay disciples of the Triple Gem. His lay time cousins Princes Bhaddiya, Anuruddha, Ananda, Bhagu, Kimbila, Devadatta & Nanda were ordained by him; all of them became well known noble disciples of the Buddhist Order, except Devadatta.
Our Gautama Buddha’s lay time son, Venerable Rahula became the first novice monk in the Buddhist Order, at the age of seven; which prompted King Suddodhana to request from Buddha to never ordain a child without getting his parents’ or guardians’ permission; to which our Gautama Buddha readily agreed.
Ordination of Shakyas further advanced the Buddhist Order.
On the fifth year after the Enlightenment, King Suddhodana attained Enlightenment and passed away after hearing a sermon from our Gautama Buddha.
Our Gautama Buddha’s lay time foster mother Maha Prajapathi Gothami & lay time wife Yasodara were instrumental in establishing the Bhikkuni Order. Yasodhara, along with Maha Prajapathi Gothami became Arahanthis in the Bhikkuni Order.
For forty five years, our Gautama Buddha expounded Dhamma to the world.
His chief disciples were Sariputhra (Lay name Upathisaa) & Moggallana (Lay name Kolitha) who were brilliant in Intelligence.
The chief trustee of the canon law was Arahanth Upali who was born to the lowest ‘Shudra Cast’ and worked as a barber.
Arahanth Maha Kassapa (Lay name Phippili Kassapa) was declared by our Gautama Buddha as the disciple excelled in Dhuthangas (austere vows) in the Buddhist Order.
Rev. Ananda, a cousin of our Gautama Buddha was the chief in attendance to our Buddha for twenty five years from the day he was ordained, till the day our Gautama Buddha attained Parinibbana. He became an Arahanth after our Gautama Buddha’s passing away, and just before the first Buddhist council. He knew almost all the Suttas recited by Buddha by heart and actively involved in mediating between the Maha Prajapathi Gothami and our Gautama Buddha in establishing the Bhikkuni Order, which our Buddha refused at first.
For the progress of the Buddhism, Royals King Kosala, King Udena, King Bimbisara; Barons Anatha Pinndika & Mendaka; devotees like Visakha & Mallika gave great support. Great offerings had been made by them. Jethawanarama by Baron Anatha Pindika andPoorwarama by Devotee Visakha are two of them.
It is a custom of a Buddha to pass away before his body decays and becomes unpleasant to the gods & humans though he could live five times more years in this world. Therefore, our Gautama Buddha decided to attain Parinirvana when he was eighty years of age. (The time was considered by Historians as 544 – 543 BC.)
By the time Buddha decided to pass away, Buddhist vision was firmly established in the ancient India. Both lay and ordained disciples of the Gautama Buddha had been spiritually advanced.
When the time was right, he walked the 36 miles to the ‘Sal’ grove named Upawaththana, belonging to the Royals “Malla” at Kusinara (Kushinagar In Uttar Pradesh, India) from Pawa, where he had his last meal given to him by a devotee named Chunda Karmaara Puthra.
It was a Wesak Full Moon day and since it was known that the Buddha would attain Parinirvana that day, not only bhikkus and humans, but devotees from other planes of existence like gods, deities, Brahmas….etc. as well, came to pay their last respects to the Buddha.
His last ordained disciple was a very old (120 years old) Brahmin in the name of Subhadra who came to pay his last respects to the Buddha and asked for ordination. Immediately after ordination, Ven. Subadra attained Enlightenment and passed away.
Buddha, before attaining Parinivana, asked his disciples for the last time whether they had any questions regarding his preaching. When no one said anything, he uttered his last words;
“Dear Bhikkus, all volitional things perish. Strive for your own deliverance without delay.”
Our Gautama Buddha’s body was cremated at the holy shrine of “Malla Royals” Mukutbandhana Chetiya and the ceremony was conducted with due honor. The relics including his ash were divided into eight portions and were distributed among the eight royal clans.
Today they are in countries across Asia. The famous canine tooth relic is in Kandy Sri lanka; in the ‘Temple of the tooth’, which is venerated by thousands of devotees daily.
Sri Dalada Maligawa
Several relics such as our Gautama Buddha’s Collar bone, jaw bone, forehead bone, another tooth and fragments of body bones are enshrined in several stupas in Sri Lanka.