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The Sermon at Benares - CBSE Class 10 NCERT English First Flight Lesson 10 Explanation, Summary, Difficult words
By Ruchika Gupta
CBSE Class 10 English Lesson 10 Explanation Notes
The Sermon at Benares Class 10 English First Flight Lesson - Detailed explanation of the lesson along with meanings of difficult words. Also, the explanation is followed by a Summary of the lesson. All the exercises and Question and Answers given at the back of the lesson has been covered.
Class 10 English (First Flight) Chapter 10 - Sermon at Benaras
The key to enlightenment is the way of the Buddha
The Sermon at Benares- Introduction
The Sermon at Benares throws light upon the early life of Lord Buddha who was originally born as a prince in the royal family. On being exposed to the sufferings of the world which he was earlier shielded from, he left his princehood and went in search of salvation thus leaving all the worldly pleasures behind. Upon attaining spiritual awakening, he gave his first sermon in the city of Benares hereby making a lady named Kisa Gotami realise that men are mortal and a wise person should not grieve at what is bound to happen for it only enhances pain and suffering.
See Video for Explanation and Summary of the Lesson
The Sermon at Benares- Summary
Gautama Buddha was born to a North Indian royal family as a prince and was named Siddhartha Gautama. When he was twelve years old, he was sent to a far away place to study Hindu sacred scriptures and upon returning four years later, he got married to a princess. Soon, they both had a son and they continued to live the royal life for about ten years. The royals were shielded from all the unpleasant experiences of the world until one day, on his way to hunt, the Prince met a sick man, an aged man, a funeral procession and a monk begging for alms. These experiences acted as eye-openers for him and thus, he left all the royalty behind to seek a higher sense of spiritual knowledge. Upon attaining salvation, he began preaching. He gave his first sermon in the city of Benares. There was a lady named Kisa Gotami whose son had died. Suffering with unending pain, she went from house to house looking for a medicine to bring her son back to life. People started thinking that the lady had lost her senses. One day, she met a man who directed her towards Lord Buddha who could possibly have a solution for her problem. Buddha asked her to look for mustard seeds and the seeds must be procured from a house that had seen no death. Reinstated with hope, Kisa Gotami once again went on a search from house to house but to her dismay, she could not find mustard seeds from a house that would fulfill Buddha’s condition. Disheartened, she sat at the edge of the road thus realising how selfish she had been. She became conscious to the fact that men were mortal and no one could escape the cycle of life. This was exactly what Buddha wanted her to understand. According to Lord Buddha, feelings of grief and sorrow only increases man’s pain and suffering thus, deteriorating his health. Therefore, a wise person fully aware about nature’s functioning must not grieve at something bound to happen and only then he can be happy and blessed.
The Sermon at Benares- Lesson & Explanation
GAUTAMA Buddha (563 B.C. – 483 B.C.) began life as a prince named Siddhartha Gautama, in northern India. At twelve, he was sent away for schooling in the Hindu sacred scriptures and four years later he returned home to marry a princess. They had a son and lived for ten years as befitted royalty. At about the age of twenty-five, the Prince, heretofore shielded from the sufferings of the world, while out hunting chanced upon a sick man, then an aged man, then a funeral procession, and finally a monk begging for alms. These sights so moved him that he at once went out into the world to seek enlightenment concerning the sorrows he had witnessed.
Sacred- embodying the laws or doctrines of a religion
Scriptures- the sacred writings of a religion
Befitted- be appropriate for; suit
Chanced upon- came across by chance
Alms- money or food given to poor people; charity
Enlightenment- a state of high spiritual knowledge
Gautama Buddha was born to a North Indian royal family as a prince and was named Siddhartha Gautama. He was sent to a far away place when he was twelve years old to study Hindu sacred scriptures and upon returning four years later, he got married to a princess. Soon, they both had a son and they continued to live the royal life for about ten years. The royals were shielded from all the unpleasant experiences of the world until the Prince met a sick man, an aged man, a funeral procession and a monk looking for alms. These experiences acted as eye-openers for him and thus, he left all the royalty behind to seek a higher sense of spiritual knowledge.
The Sermon at Benares - See Video:
He wandered for seven years and finally sat down under a peepal tree, where he vowed to stay until enlightenment came. Enlightened after seven days, he renamed the tree the Bodhi Tree (Tree of Wisdom) and began to teach and to share his new understandings. At that point he became known as the Buddha (the Awakened or the Enlightened). The Buddha preached his first sermon at the city of Benares, most holy of the dipping places on the River Ganges; that sermon has been preserved and is given here. It reflects the Buddha’s wisdom about one inscrutable kind of suffering.
Wandered- to move without a fixed course
Vowed- solemnly promise to do a specified thing
Preached- deliver a religious address to an assembled group of people
Sermon- a talk on religious or moral subject
Dipping places- bathing
Inscrutable- something which cannot be understood
Gautama Buddha went in search of enlightenment for about seven years before he finally came across a peepal tree and chose to sit under it till he became awakened. When he finally attained salvation after 7 days, he decided to retitle the tree as the ‘Bodhi tree’ (which means the Tree of Wisdom) and he himself came to be known as ‘Buddha’ (which means The Awakened). He even began preaching his new realizations and his first sermon was given in the city of Benares. The city of Benares is known to be sacred as it resides on the banks of the river Ganges. The first sermon he gave was preserved and is famous till date (It is given below as well). It gives a new perspective to man’s unending sufferings.
Kisa Gotami had an only son, and he died. In her grief she carried the dead child to all her neighbours, asking them for medicine, and the people said, “She has lost her senses. The boy is dead.” At length, Kisa Gotami met a man who replied to her request, “I cannot give thee medicine for thy child, but I know a physician who can.” And the girl said, “Pray tell me, sir; who is it?” And the man replied, "Go to Sakyamuni, the Buddha.” Kisa Gotami repaired to the Buddha and cried, “Lord and Master, give me the medicine that will cure my boy.”
It talks about a lady named Kisa Gotami whose son had recently died. Struck with unending pain and sorrow, she took her son door to door requesting for a wonder drug that could bring his son back to life. Quite obviously, everyone thought that the lady had lost her ability to think clearly. Going on from door to door, she finally came across a man who couldn’t offer any medicine but led her to Sakyamuni, the Buddha. Filled with hope, the lady visited Gautama Budhha and begged him for a cure for her child.
The Buddha answered, “I want a handful of mustardseed.” And when the girl in her joy promised to procure it, the Buddha added, “The mustard-seed must be taken from a house where no one has lost a child, husband, parent or friend.”
Just as the man said, Gautama Buddha had a solution. He asked Kisa Gotami to get a handful of mustard seeds. Restored with hope, Kisa Gotami thought it to be a very simple task until Lord Buddha instilled a condition that “The mustard-seed must be taken from a house where no one has lost a child, husband, parent or friend.”
Poor Kisa Gotami now went from house to house, and the people pitied her and said, “Here is mustardseed; take it!” But when she asked, “Did a son or daughter, a father or mother, die in your family?” they answered her, “Alas! the living are few, but the dead are many. Do not remind us of our deepest grief.” And there was no house but some beloved one had died in it.
Once again, Kisa Gotami went from door to door, but this time, she was looking for mustard seeds. Many had mustard seeds to offer but none of them could fulfill Lord Buddha’s condition of having seen no deaths in the family. Upon being asked, people requested her not to remind them of their deepest griefs. Unfortunately, she couldn’t find a suitable home to get mustard seeds for his son.
Kisa Gotami became weary and hopeless, and sat down at the wayside watching the lights of the city, as they flickered up and were extinguished again. At last the darkness of the night reigned everywhere. And she considered the fate of men, that their lives flicker up and are extinguished again. And she thought to herself, “How selfish am I in my grief! Death is common to all; yet in this valley of desolation there is a path that leads him to immortality who has surrendered all selfishness.”
All hope was lost for Kisa Gotami and thus, in extreme anguish and pain, she found herself a place to ponder at the edge of the road. She continuously watched city lights blinking and observed them till there was just darkness all around. After deep reflection, she realised that man’s fate was just like these city lights that flicker and extinguish repeatedly. The cycle of birth and death is nature’s way of working. Suddenly, she became conscious as to how selfish she had been in her sorrow and that one who was born must rest eternally. Men are mortal and the ones that are immortals have covered a path free from all worldly pleasures.
The Buddha said, ‘‘The life of mortals in this world is troubled and brief and combined with pain. For there is not any means by which those that have been born can avoid dying; after reaching old age there is death; of such a nature are living beings. As ripe fruits are early in danger of falling, so mortals when born are always in danger of death. As all earthen vessels made by the potter end in being broken, so is the life of mortals. Both young and adult, both those who are fools and those who are wise, all fall into the power of death; all are subject to death.
According to Lord Buddha, the life of mortals is troubled because they have not made peace with the fact that the one who is born, must rest eternally. There is no way a living being can avoid facing death. Just like a ripe fruit is more prone to falling, an aged mortal is bound to die. Just like all earthen vessels break at some point, so do men. Whether old or young, foolish or wise, death leaves none.
“Of those who, overcome by death, depart from life, a father cannot save his son, nor kinsmen their relations. Mark! while relatives are looking on and lamenting deeply, one by one mortals are carried off, like an ox that is led to the slaughter. So the world is afflicted with death and decay, therefore the wise do not grieve, knowing the terms of the world.
Kinsmen- a man who is one of a person’s blood relations
Lamenting- express regret or disappointment about something
Slaughter- killing of animals for food
Afflicted- affect adversely
The only way death works is by withdrawing the person from the living world i.e, the person ceases to exist. No one has control over death, neither a father can save his son nor a kinsmen his relative. Just like an ox is taken to the slaughter house to be killed, so does death do with mortals, leaving none behind. Thus, the one who knows this truth and doesn’t grieve at his loss is the one who has been called wise by Lord Buddha.
“Not from weeping nor from grieving will anyone obtain peace of mind; on the contrary, his pain will be the greater and his body will suffer. He will make himself sick and pale, yet the dead are not saved by his lamentation. He who seeks peace should draw out the arrow of lamentation, and complaint, and grief. He who has drawn out the arrow and has become composed will obtain peace of mind; he who has overcome all sorrow will become free from sorrow, and be blessed.”
According to Lord Buddha, one should not grieve, weep or be miserable at something which is bound to happen for it will keep man away from obtaining peace of mind. It will only multiply the pain and suffering thus leading to physical weakness and moreover, no amount of grief would bring back the dead. It is very important to understand that one must move past feelings like sorrow and grief as it is the only way that leads to the path of salvation.
The Sermon at Benares- Question and Answers
1. hen her son dies, Kisa Gotami goes from house to house. What does she ask for? Does she get it? Why not?
When her son dies, Kisa Gotami goes from house to house requesting for a wonder drug that could bring her son back to life. No, she could not get it because there is no medicine that can bring a dead man back to life.
2. Kisa Gotami again goes from house to house after she speaks with the Buddha. What does she ask for, the second time around? Does she get it? Why not?
Upon seeing the Buddha, Kisa Gotami is refilled with hope and thus, she goes again from house to house looking for mustard seeds just as Lord Buddha had asked her. Many had mustard seeds to offer but none of them could fulfill Lord Buddha’s condition of having seen no deaths in the family. Therefore, she couldn’t find mustard seed for her son.
3. What does Kisa Gotami understand the second time that she failed to understand the first time? Was this what the Buddha wanted her to understand?
When Kisa Gotami failed to find mustard seeds that could fulfill Lord Buddha’s condition of having seen no deaths in the family, she became disheartened. After deep reflection, she realised that the man’s fate was just like the city lights that flickered and extinguished repeatedly. The cycle of birth and death was nature’s way of working. Suddenly, she became conscious as to how selfish she had been in her sorrow and that one who was born must rest eternally. Men are mortal. Yes, this is exactly what Lord Buddha wanted her to understand.
4. Why do you think Kisa Gotami understood this only the second time? In what way did the Buddha change her understanding?
Kisa Gotami was too overwhelmed with sorrow and pain that her ability to think clearly got clouded. She couldn’t realise that no one can escape the cycle of death. When Kisa Gotami failed to find mustard seeds that could fulfill Lord Buddha’s condition of having seen no deaths in the family, she became disheartened. After deep reflection, she made peace with the terms of the world. Lord Buddha played a major role in facilitating the shift in her understanding by teaching her a lesson that one must not grieve for what is bound to happen for it will only deepen the pain and suffering.