Shakyamuni Buddha attained the enlightenment of a buddha on the 8th of December of his thirty-fifth year and immediately began his journey to convey Buddhism to all. This is the story of his first sermon, given in a place where Brahminism flourished. When the elder Brahmin Behransha appeared in a venue, all the gathered Brahmins worshipped him together. They were so awed by Behransha that they felt as if they would become blind if they looked him directly in the eyes. Some were even moved to tears.
The elder’s attendant (Attendant A) bent forward and received a small dose of what the Brahmins got from Behransha. He felt a bit of superiority.
Behransha, who was well-respected as a saint of Brahmanism, was one hundred twenty years old. Attendant A took a quick look at Behransha. He thought Behransha seemed in a good mood today. The attendant felt as if his own mind was soothed by Behransha’s calm look. He had a connection with this elder from a younger age. Since then he had served this elder. Attendant A thought he was happy thanks to the countenance of Behransha. This attendant had been called a ‘boy’ when he first came to serve Behransha, and as he grew up he wanted to continue to serve the elder until the end, despite the limited time left.
Today’s assembly had not been called by the elder, Behransha. A son of the Royal Family of Shakya attained the supreme enlightenment and became a buddha. It was said that he was to give a sermon for the Brahmins.
Attendant A had often heard about this Shakya from a well-informed Brahmin follower.
Shakya was young but possessed the virtue of Buddha. Attendant A, wondering what kind of person he was, watched the situation with a look of condescension. He thought “How dare he come into this town where Brahminism is flourishing. “Shakya is said to be in his mid-thirties, and therefore he has nothing to fear or is just conceited.”
‘Young whippersnapper… He boasts he has attained the supreme enlightenment, but I wonder how good he really is.
“If he talks rubbish, I would point out that what he says is false. I will embarrass him in front of everyone. There is no other saint than Saint Behransha!”
Attendant A muttered to himself as he sat down among the audience, taking a seat next to the elder, who was cheerfully receiving greetings from those surrounding him, and waited for the sermon to begin. However, even at the appointed time, Shakya failed to come to the stage. Whereas the venue had been settled as they waited for Shakya to appear, they became noisier the longer they waited.
‘He is late. What happened to him?’ Sensing the mood of the venue, Behransha asked this of Attendant A. Attendant A replied ‘The time has come but Shakya is not appearing. It is highly likely that he came to know that you are here, and he is intimated.’ Then, the elder shook his head generously.
“Even if that is true, he must be coming out soon.”
All agreed with this comment, but despite their continued waiting, Shakya didn’t appear. The atmosphere of the venue grew heavier and heavier. The elder said, ‘A long time has already passed. This is not good at all….. Since he is not coming out, I myself will go and see him cheer him up.’ He stood up and went to Shakya’s waiting room.
Attendant A came along behind him and observed the situation. Soon, his eyes caught Shakya sitting straight, quietly in the room. Shakya had healthy, bright skin. A tense atmosphere emanated from his body, and yet, there was a gentleness about him. Attendant A hadn’t noticed such gentleness in anyone he had met before. He experienced an unexpected attraction to the young, enlightened Shakya. Behransha confronted Shakya face-to-face and looked down on him quietly. Seeing the Brahmin saint in front of him, Shakya closed his eyes and showed no sign of agitation. Feeling ignored, Behransha said, without hiding his unpleasant feeling, ‘You, Shakya. Why do you not bow and salute me?’
Attendant A saw Shakya was still ignoring Behransha, and he said to himself ‘How dare he did not greet the saint of Brahmanism, who is right in front of him…’ Since he had become the elder, Behransha had never received such a humiliating insult. No one in this town had ever ignored Behransha.
‘What is making this young man so calm?’ Attendant A was feeling astonishment rather than anger. Eventually, Shakya solemnly spoke to the elder. ‘I am a buddha.’, he said. ‘I have never heard of anyone who made a buddha bow and salute. You should bow and salute me.’
A moment of silence passed. Attendant A cast a glance at Behransha.
With an expression of disbelief on his face, the saint stood still. It was obvious that his mind was churning. With a trembling voice, Behransha finally forced his words out: ‘Shakya, I do not know if you are a buddha or not, but does a buddha have respect for the aged? I am one hundred and twenty years old, and I hear you are just thirty-five. You should first bow and salute me.’
Attendant A thought the logic poor but assumed the elder had to make an additional argument. Attendant A felt sympathy for Behransha’s position. Simultaneously, he felt strongly that this situation needed to be settled peacefully.
Attendant A prayed that Shakya would somehow show respect to the elder, but Shakya’s next words were far more pointed and piercing.
‘The value of a human is not decided by age. It depends upon the virtue the person has. I am a buddha. I have a buddha’s virtue. Therefore, it’s you that needs to salute me.’
How dignified Shakya’s attitude was. Profound, but soft and penetrating, his voice weighed heavily in the pit of Attendant A’s stomach.
‘What on earth will happen?!’ Attendant A timidly opened his eyes, which were closed unintentionally for an instant, and saw an unbelievable scene. Behransha, who Attendant A had respected as his master for a long time, was prostrating himself where he was standing, and making the most respectful bow to Shakyamuni Buddha! In his panicked mind, he thought ‘I cannot believe my lord Behransha is doing such a thing…’ However, the young Buddha certainly had something special, and Behransha could not help but demonstrate respect. It looked as if every single part of Shakya’s body, from the top of his head to the tips of his toes, embodied the truth.
This was crystal clear to Attendant A. Finally, Shakyamuni Buddha appeared on the stage in front of everyone. Behransha, as though overwhelmed by the dignity and virtue of a buddha, followed behind him, hanging his head.
When Attendant A came in a bit later, many of the attendees were stirring. They must have thought Shakya would come in after the elder. However, they all saw the attitude of Behransha, who they respected. Some of them looked up at the sky in despair, others worshipped intently with their palms together, while some muttered in confusion. The reactions varied from one another, but everyone’s attitude toward Shakyamuni Buddha changed significantly. The gloomy atmosphere in the hall quickly faded away.
Attendant A wondered if, by chance, Shakya intentionally did not appear at the given time in order to address our arrogant minds. Simultaneously, the audience’s hearts were filled with great awe. Attendant A thought he must open his mind and listen intently to Shakyamuni Buddha’s sermon. As he gave his sermon, the Buddha’s enlightenment became obvious. His message was profound and difficult for the attendees to understand. Still, no one left their seat in the middle of the sermon. All the participants were moved and struck with awe and took refuge in the Buddha.