After trying extreme asceticism as a path to enlightenment, he found that it does not lead to awakening. So he abandoned the two extremes of indulgence (as a royal) and mortification (as an ascetic) for a moderate approach, a Middle Way, based on a healthy body and meditative absorptions (jhānas, calm and joyful altered states of consciousness based on samādhi or "mental unification").
The following is the first teaching he gave to anyone. In other contexts, the Buddha taught the Four True Realities for the Spiritually Ennobled Ones to people after first giving them a preparatory gradual discourse to ensure that they were in the right frame of mind/heart be able to fully benefit from the teaching, for example:
"Then the Blessed One gave the householder Upāli a step-by-step discourse, that is, a talk on giving, virtue, the heavenly worlds; he made known the danger, the inferior nature and tendency to defilement in sense-pleasures, and the advantage of letting them go. When the Blessed One knew that the householder Upāli's mind/heart was ready, open, without hindrances, inspired, and confident, then he expounded to him the elevated Dharma-teaching of the buddhas: pain/disappointment (dukkha), its origination, its cessation, and the path" (M i 379-80).
The Four True Realities taught by the Buddha are not things to "believe" as such but verifiable and liberating facts to be open to, see, contemplate, and respond to appropriately: by fully understanding dukkha/pain/the painful, abandoning what originates it, personally experiencing its complete cessation, and developing the path that leads to its cessation.
These Four True Realities are the fundamental dimensions of experience, as seen by a spiritually ennobled person with deep wisdom: the conditioned world, what originates it, the cessation/transcending of it (the unconditioned element nirvana), and the path. Indeed, it is by insight into these that a person becomes spiritually ennobled.
The Buddha teaches the Five Wandering Ascetics until they gain enlightenment (
|Dhammacakkappavattana Sutra: "The Discourse on the Setting in Motion of the Wheel (or Vision) of the Basic Pattern: The Four True Realities of the Spiritually Ennobled Ones"|
|Mara: Don't bother teaching. They'll never understand.|
- right view
- right intention
- right speech
- right action
- right livelihood
- right effort
- right mindfulness
- right mental unification.
- Birth is painful,
- aging is painful,
- illness is painful,
- death is painful;
- physical pain,
- unhappiness and distress are painful;
- union with the disliked is painful;
- separation from the liked is painful;
- not getting what one wants is painful;
- in brief, the Five Bundles of Grasping-Fuel are painful.
|What rises is of a nature to fall away.|
- craving for sense-pleasures
- craving for rebirth
- craving for annihilation (of what is disliked).
|The oldest artifacts representing the Buddha in human form are from his native Afghanistan.|
|I get it! He didn't claim to be awake till he was sure.|
|In the Buddha's Words (Bhikkhu Bodhi)|
|Let the other devas know that finally a fully-enlightened teacher has awakened on earth!|
And when the Wheel [of Vision] of the basic pattern [of things] had been set in motion by the Blessed One, the earth-dwelling devas raised a cry:
|The devas cried out. And a great arose.|
|The Buddha and Añña Koṇḍañña|