I have been continually amazed by how many lay persons in the Buddhist community have not heard of or read Buddha’s first sermon entitled Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (Turning the Wheel of Dhamma). It’s considered to be the “handful of leaves” Gotama spoke about when he compared what he knew to a forest of leaves and the handful of leaves in his hand as all the necessary teachings to awaken.
I started out learning about Gotama’s teachings 12 years ago and, up until 2 years ago, had never heard a dharma talk on the subject. It was only after Stephen Batchelor visited the area in which I live (Santa Fe/Albuquerque) in October of 2009 that I started to become familiar with it. It was at that time that I took it up as my main practice and realized how helpful it could be.
I have taken the liberty of posting the translation by Stephen Batchelor because it is not widely accessible and can be a valuable resource for Secular Buddhism.
Turning the Wheel of Dhamma
This is what I heard. He was staying at Baranasi in the Deer Park at Isipatana. He addressed the group of five:
One gone forth does not pursue two dead ends. Which two? Infatuation, which is vulgar, uncivilised and meaningless. And mortification, which is painful, uncivilised and meaningless.
I have awoken to a middle path that does not lead to dead ends. It is a path that generates vision and awareness. It leads to tranquillity, insight, awakening and release. It has eight branches: right seeing, thinking, talking, acting, working, trying, recollecting, concentrating.
This is dukkha: birth is dukkha, ageing is dukkha, sickness is dukkha, death is dukkha, encountering what is not dear is dukkha, separation from what is dear is dukkha, not getting what one wants is dukkha. This psycho-physical condition is dukkha.
This is craving: it is repetitive, it wallows in attachment and greed, obsessively indulging in this and that: craving for stimulation, craving for existence, craving for non-existence.
This is cessation: the traceless fading away and cessation of that craving, the letting go and abandoning of it, freedom and independence from it.
And this is the path: the path with eight branches: right seeing, thinking, talking, acting, working, trying, recollecting, concentrating.
Such is dukkha. It can be fully known. It has been fully known.
Such is craving. It can be let go of. It has been let go of.
Such is cessation. It can be experienced. It has been experienced.
Such is the path. It can be cultivated. It has been cultivated.
There arose in me illumination about things previously unknown.
As long as my knowledge and vision was not entirely clear about the twelve aspects of these four noble truths, I did not claim to have had a peerless awakening in this world with its humans and celestials, its gods and devils, its ascetics and priests. Only when my knowledge and vision was clear in all these ways, did I claim to have had such awakening.
The freedom of my mind is unshakable. There will be no more repetitive existence.
This is what he said. Inspired, the five delighted in his words. While he was speaking, the dispassionate, stainless dhamma eye arose in Kondanna: “Whatever has started can stop.” [Mv. I, 6.16-28, pp. 15-7. Cf. SN 56:11, pp. 1843-6, tr. SB]
You can compare Batchelor’s translation with the more traditional translation at: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.011.than.html
Do you see any differences?