Welcome to all the monks and novices, and blessings to all the laity. It has been 2599 years since the Buddha has expounded the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. And before giving this Sutta, Turning the Wheel of Dhamma, the Buddha had attained enlightenment on the 15th day of the 6th lunar month, 2599 years ago. The Lord Buddha was enlightened under the Maha Bodhi Tree, and then he enjoyed the bliss of liberation in 7 places, staying 7 days in each place, for a total of 49 days. While the Buddha was enjoying the bliss of liberation, he received the highest peacefulness. And so, the Buddha exclaimed that all phenomena (dhammas) have causes for them to arise, and that the Buddha understands all of those causes. The Buddha said that this peacefulness has great and profound value. The Buddha went over how he attained enlightenment, going back and forth through the Dhamma we call Paticca Samuppada, the dependent co-arising of phenomena. And after enjoying the bliss of liberation, the Buddha then travelled to teach the Pancavaggiya, five ascetics, in the Isipatana Deer Park. And there is a question of why if the Buddha could perform psychic miracles, he possessed special abilities and could have flown there, then why did he have to walk? Here we can see into the practice of the Buddha. He didn’t do things that were excessively supernatural. He just lived his life in a simple way, as normal, walking there. And this contains many meanings. There would be those who would see the Buddha and have faith arise. This could be devas, divine beings, as well. Or it would be a cause for something later in the future. Because seeing a samana, a renunciant, is the highest blessing. By just seeing the Buddha, they may raise their hands in anjali. They may just rejoice and feel joyous because they saw the Buddha’s bright and radiant features. So the people seeing the Buddha may have been joyous and smiled. And this is merit already.

So the Buddha walked and then he met Upaka, the Ajivaka, who was a naked ascetic. The ascetic Upaka asked the Buddha who was his teacher, whose teachings did he follow? The Buddha said that he was the teacher, that he had no teacher. He was a venerable Abhibhū. This meant that the Buddha fully knew for himself, that he was rightly self-awakened.

The ascetic Upaka saw the radiance, aura and the brightness of the Buddha, and he gained faith. He said that the Buddha was an anantajina, he was one who had conquered. And Upaka shook his head. To Indian people, the shaking of their heads means they acknowledge. Upaka accepted the Buddha’s enlightenment. And this was the important reason that the Buddha walked from Bodh Gaya to Varanasi city, in order to teach ascetic Upaka. Because later on in the future, Upaka would have noble virtue arise.

So after departing from the Buddha, Upaka went to a village and met a hunter. The hunter saw Upaka and gained faith in him. He invited Upaka into his house and offered food and a place to stay and the necessary requisites. Upaka stayed there at ease, practising his asceticism. But later he fell in love with the daughter of the hunter, named Cāpā, to the point where he couldn’t eat or sleep. And the hunter asked Upaka whether he loved his daughter and if he wanted to come back to being a lay person? He gave Upaka a set of white clothing, and so Upaka disrobed from being an ascetic and married the daughter of the hunter, Lady Capa. And Upaka took up the occupation of carrying meat to sell at the market. When Upaka had a child, the wife would continually mock him, by telling their son that he was the son of someone who carried meat to sell. He had no occupation, was useless, had no skills, but he had wanted to marry and then worked like this in this position. Upaka was mocked and criticised, which is something normal in this world that we can see in society. There is always comparing and competition. That this person has little knowledge, that person has a lot of knowledge. Or even for children, students in the same class, that this kid is skilled, that kid is not skilled. This kid is smart, that kid is not smart. That one is diligent. There is comparing all the time. And if this comparing has attachment, then it becomes a kilesa, mental defilement. But if the comparing has mindfulness and wisdom, there is searching and contemplating, then it could lead to becoming a Rightly Self-Awakened Buddha. Like how the Buddha was comparing when he saw an old person, a sick person, a dead person, seeing it full of suffering. He thought that maybe there is that which does not age, does not sicken, does not die. So he searched and contemplated with mindfulness and wisdom. But mostly, people are comparing with conceit, and ego, and with a sense of self constantly. 

So Upaka had no occupation and his wife compared him with others saying that her husband had no knowledge. He could only do the work of using his physical strength to carry meat to sell. So she mocked him through talking to his son. But after receiving a lot of this, the ones with parami, they have shame come up. They have feelings which won’t let them endure it anymore. So here, Upaka had the thought of running away from his wife to go pay respects to the Buddha. But the wife mocked him even more than before. So in the end he really did run away and did meet the Buddha. The Buddha knew already that if Upaka had come to him then he would receive him. And the Buddha taught him and he attained to anagami, non-returner. 

So we can see that the Buddha travelled with the thought of whom he would meet, in what place, and what their future would be like. The Buddha knew clearly. He was a teacher of the devas and all humans. The Buddha was one who knew clearly into the 4 Noble Truths. And the Buddha had the intelligence to teach, satthadevamanussanam. He was a teacher of all the devas and humans. He knew how to teach them, at the appropriate time. Like where the Buddha travelled and met Upaka, and later would teach him to become an anagami.

So the Buddha consistently did not show psychic miracles, because if he did, then his disciples would see the Buddha doing that and would do it as well. And it would become that people would be attached to miracles and psychic abilities. And then they wouldn’t be interested in Dhamma. Because the Dhamma is more important. The Buddha taught that whether it is miracles, psychic abilities, or knowing the minds of others, it can help to spread the Buddha Sasana, but the important thing is the miracle of Dhamma. The miracle of the Dhamma is the teaching of the Dhamma, and having people understand and see that Dhamma. This is more important.  This is called Anusāsanīpāṭihāriya. This is important for spreading the teachings of the Buddha far and wide. If it were psychic miracles, then when that individual performing them dies, it ends there. But the Dhamma can last until this present day. 

So this is encompassed in the period that the Buddha travelled to Varanasi City with metta and compassion. We could imagine that if we had the highest happiness already, alone were already happy, what we would do. But the Buddha had to go through difficulties and hardships in walking, in teaching, in receiving arguments from other sects, all for the benefit and happiness of the multitudes of people. For the devas and all human beings. So this the Buddha’s virtue of great compassion, which is boundless and without equal. We can reflect on the sacrifice of the Buddha, where he traveled to teach the Pancavaggiya, and they evaded him by going to the Deer Park, and so the Buddha followed them. Where would there be another teacher that would have the patience, determination and sacrifice like this. And in the last stages of the Buddha’s life, he didn’t fly from Pataliputra town to Kusinara Town. The Buddha walked. Even though the Buddha’s body was very sick already, having dysentery and bloody diarrhea. But the Buddha had patience and high endurance. These are some examples. 

So tomorrow will be Asalha Puja, which is the 2599th year anniversary of when the Buddha first taught the Dhamma. So we are able to study the Dhamma, listen to Dhamma, and know of the Dhamma. And through learning and practising Dhamma, we can see the Dhamma in this present era. It isn’t just in the past. 

So we don’t need to doubt about the Buddha enjoying the bliss of liberation in each place for 7 days each. This is for one who has strived to build their parami already. Like we can look in this life, where there are athletes who run fast. Can we run as fast as them? Like sports in the Olympics, such as swimming or other competitive sports, not everyone can become the best in the world. Or maybe they can do it this year, but in a later year they won’t be able to do it again. There will be someone who beats them.  

Why is this? It is because of training in this life, or it’s from past causes in past lives. So the Buddha had built his parami and spiritual development an immense, immesurable amount. He gained knowledge and could enjoy the bliss of liberation, the highest happiness. And the Buddha had even built parami for an incalculable amount of lifetimes with past Buddhas. We should think that there are some things about the Buddha which are beyond our knowledge. We should learn about the Dhamma that the Buddha taught, about dukkha, suffering, samudaya, the cause, nirodha, cessation of suffering, and magga, the path. We should know how dukkha is like. That there is Dukkha because there is attachment, and it continues on because craving arises. So we know this and then we train ourselves to be better, to progress our minds each day. We use this good opportunity we have in this lifetime. 

So today we learn Dhamma together and this is the highest blessing of our life. May we be determined to develop our minds to the highest in this lifetime. May you all grow in blessings.