Home of Buddha's First Sutta
12.28.2015 - 12.28.2015 71 °F
We had our guides drive us 13 kilometers north eat of Varanasi to the town of Sarnath. It is thought that Sarnath is where the Buddha came to give his first Sutta after he attained enlightenment. This Sutta discourse was on the topic of the four noble truths, which form the cornerstone of Buddhist belief. The city is also referred to as Isapatana in some Buddhist scriptures.
Visiting Sarnath was really wonderful. Because it is such a meaningful location for Buddhists, it is a place for pilgrimage as well as a place where many Buddhist countries chose to construct a Buddhist temple in their style for pilgrims to visit. In Sarnath we visited Buddhist temples from Thailand, Japan, Tibet, and Sri Lanka. Each has different architecture and slightly different representations of the Buddha. Some construct Buddha out of gold and others stone or sandalwood. The Sri Lankan temple was built on the spot where Buddha gave his first discourse, so it was overrun with tourists. The other monasteries and temples were much calmer likely because tourists did not know about the other temples to visit.
The Tibetan monastery and temple was the most peaceful. It seemed like tourists didn't know about it, so it was calmer. It has the biggest gold Buddha tucked in the back and photos of HHDL (His Holiness the Dalai Lama) there. There were at least 50 rooms for lodging monks and others coming to Sarnath to study at the Tibetan monastery.
The Japanese temple houses a reclining Buddha made of sandalwood. You could smell the sandalwood just walking up to the Buddha.
The Sri Lankan temple also has a park with children running around and flying kites. Inside the temple the walls are all filled with murals telling different stories of the Buddha from his birth to death.
This is a representation of Buddha giving his first sutta near where he actually did it. It was said he gave the sutta underneath a people's tree, or peepal tree. Lord Buddha is also believed to have attained enlightenment under this type of tree, which is often also referred to as the Bodhi tree or the ‘Tree of Enlightenment.’ The tree can live and grow for hundreds of years. An interesting property of these trees is that they release a compound that assists in slowing depletion of the ozone layer. It is considered a sin to cut down a people's tree. you can see the peepal tree hanging over the spot where the statues are gathered.
The Thai government built the largest and newest Buddha statue currently in Sarnath out of stone.
In the 12th century Sarnath was sacked by Turkish Muslims and the city was plundered, as a result some non-Muslim artifacts were destroyed. The current temples were built well after that.
We really enjoyed Sarnath and found that it enriched our understanding of the different religions that India has cultivated and nurtured. In many ways it's a very open, accepting, and spiritual country.