The Birth of Buddhism

In the first sutra that the Buddha delivered to the Five Monks called “Turning the Dharma Wheel Sutra,” he expounded his personal realization of the Middle Way, a completely new philosophy that is distinct from other religious philosophies. The Buddha warned the Five Monks that indulgence in sense pleasures and self-mortification are two extreme feelings that hinder the development of the mind and weaken physical and mental abilities. Neither can lead to supreme bliss, liberation, and enlightenment. He preached that the Middle Way leads all sentient beings to the state of complete purity and liberation. For a philosopher who has cut off desire, any bodily pleasure is fleeting. All sense pleasures are unobjectionable for ordinary people, but for practitioners, they are a kind of alertness because detachment is their happiness. However, self-mortification, as extreme as it is, is not something ordinary people can do and is a kind of self-inflicted pain that is useless and not rational.

The Buddha had also practiced such asceticism and found it only increased pain rather than reducing it, which was useless for liberation. With his Tathagata wisdom, he pointed out the errors of the two extremes and established a middle way system, the Noble Eightfold Path. Later, the Buddha expounded the Four Noble Truths, and then he converted fifty people, including Yasa, in the city of Varanasi and accepted them as lay disciples.

Later, a man named Upali, who was highly respected among the ninety-six external paths in India and the leader of the Zoroastrian religion, was over a hundred years old. Because of his high status, he was extremely arrogant. When the Buddha came to visit him at the place where he practiced asceticism, he was even more disdainful. However, after several encounters with the Buddha and his incredible supernatural powers and ultimate teachings, he finally fell to the ground and converted to Buddhism. His five hundred disciples also converted to Buddhism together with him. Later, his two brothers each took two hundred and fifty people and joined the Buddha’s sangha and became monks. This is the famous story of the Three Upali in Buddhism. Shortly thereafter, the Buddha, through his disciples, using appropriate and causal means, converted Shariputra and Maudgalyayana, two of the six external paths, and their two hundred disciples into the sangha. From then on, the Buddhist sangha continued to grow and expand.

When the Buddha had only sixty or so disciples, he treated them as truth bearers, and preached his teachings equally to all sentient beings. They lived on alms, solely devoted to propagating the dharma. Because most of them were arhats who had realized the fruit, their sole purpose was to teach the dharma and promote virtue. Buddhism flourished in India for a time, and many external paths converted to Buddhism, and Buddhism established its position in Indian philosophy and religion.

Noun Definitions:

Middle Way

The path that avoids the extremes of indulgence in sense pleasures and self-mortification, which is neither attachment to life nor attachment to death, nor is it holding the view of eternalism or nihilism.


The teachings of the Buddha, the gateway for sentient beings to transcend the mundane and reach enlightenment.


The ability to understand the true nature of things, and to comprehend the laws and principles that govern the world.


The state of being awakened to the ultimate truth, the realization of the true nature of all things.


To take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and to become a Buddhist.