The Sermon at Benares – Summary

‘The Sermon at Benares’ is a chapter written by Betty Renshaw. The chapter covers the journey of Gautam Buddha from princehood to his saintly life. After seeing the suffering of the world, he decided to give up all worldly pleasures and sought enlightenment. He finally attained salvation under a tree at Bodhgaya.


Gautam Buddha (563 B.C to 483 B.C) was a prince. His parents had named him Siddhartha Gautama. He had been shielded from the sufferings of the world. At the age of twenty five he saw a sick man, an aged man and a dead man. He also saw an ascetic begging for alms. Unable to understand that, he went in search of spiritual knowledge.

After wandering for seven years, he sat under a Peepal tree and vowed that he would stay there until he got enlightenment. He got that after a week and named the tree as ‘Tree of Wisdom’. He himself came to be known as Buddha.

He gave his first sermon at Benares. This sermon contained ten important points. These points were conveyed through the story about Kisa Gotami whose only son had died. She went to people asking medicine for him. At last a man told her to go to Buddha, the Sakyamuni.

Buddha told her that he would cure her son if she brought some mustard seeds from a house where no death had taken place. Kisa went from house to house but was unable to find one where no death had been seen.

She finally realised that death was common to all and no one could avoid dying. No one can save their relatives. People weep over their dead ones. It is only the wise who do not grieve as they have accepted the truth.

If a person weeps, his sufferings only become greater. Those who do not grieve have peace of mind and will overcome sorrow.

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