Spread of buddhism in India & Buddha’s Early Disciples
Conversion of 5 Ascetic Friends
On the 50th day of his enlightenment, Buddha proceeded to Benares and he found his 5 ascetic friends. Buddha delivered the first discourse at Kasi's Isipatana (Deer Park) which is the Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta (Discourse on turning the wheel of the Dhamma). Then after the 2nd discourse, Anattalakkhana Sutta, all 5 monks ( Kondanna, Vappa, Bhaddiya, Mahanama, Assaji) became Arahants. This was 5 days after the first discourse. Then there was a total of 6 arahants in the world and the first sangha was formed.
Conversion of Yasa and 54 friends
At Benares, there was a millionaire’s son named Yasa who had abundant material wealth. One night, he fell asleep during a musical performance by his female dancers and musicians. He woke up in the early hours of the morning to the sight of his sleeping performers in unbecoming postures. The entire scene before him was one that resembled that in a cemetery. He left home feeling distressed and oppressed and walked in the direction of Isipatana, where Buddha was residing. When Yasa moaned his distress upon seeing the Buddha, He assured Yasa that there was neither distress nor oppression there.
First, the Buddha spoke on generosity (dana), morality (sila), heavenly states (sagga), dangers of sensual pleasures (kamadinava), blessings of renunciation (nekkhammanivamsa). When Yasa’s mind was calm and pliable, Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths. Yasa attained the first stage of enlightenment.
Meanwhile, Yasa was noticed to be missing from home. While searching for Yasa, his father met the Buddha instead. Buddha preached to Yasa’s father who became his first lay disciple. Yasa became fully enlightened on listening to the Dhamma talk given to his father. He then requested for ordination and higher ordination, which he received from the Buddha by the pronouncement of “Come, O Bhikkhu” (Ehi, Bhikkhu)
Yasa’s father gained first stage of enlightenment after the Dhamma talk. Yasa became the first layman in the world to have taken refuge in the Triple Gem consisting of Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Yasa was the 7th arahant in the world. Overjoyed to learn of his son’s spiritual attainment, he invited the Buddha and Sangha for a meal on the following day.
After the meal, the Buddha preached a sermon to the family. Yasa’s mother and former wife gained the first stage of enlightenment and were the Buddha’s first female lay followers.
4 of Yasa’s close friends; Vimala, Subahu, Punnaji and Gavampati also became monks. After listening to the Dhamma, they also became arahants. Later, another fifty of Yasa’s friends joined the order and attained arahantship shortly afterwards.
Together with the initial 5 ascetics, Yasa, his 54 friends and Buddha made up 61 arahants within 2 months of Buddha’s enlightenment.
The first messengers of Truth
At this stage, Buddha summoned his 60 disciples and exhorted them to spread the dhamma as they are all freed of human or divine shackles: “Caratha bhikkhave carikam bahujanahitaya bahujanasukhaya lokanukampaya atthaya hitaya sukhaya devamanussanam. Ma ekena dve agamittha. Desetha bhikkhave dhammam adikalyanam majjhekalyanam pariyosanakalyanam sattham savyanjanam kevalaparipunnam parisuddham brahmacariyam pakasetha.”
“Go forth, O monks, for the welfare of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the good, benefit and happiness of gods and men. Two should not take the same path. Teach the dhamma which is excellent in the beginning, excellent in the middle and excellent in the end, both in spirit and letter. Proclaim the holy life, perfect and pure. Vinaya Pitaka (Mahavagga)
Buddha instructed the monks to go about for the welfare of people who has little dust in their eyes, who would understand the dhamma. Go individually and preach the doctrine which will benefiy mankind.
Conversion of Thirty Young Men Uruvela
Buddha left Isipatana for Uruvela and settled at the foot of a tree in a grove. At the same grove, there were 30 young men with their wives. As one of them was without wife, he was accompanied by a courtesan. While they were enjoying themselves, the courtesan absconded with their valuables. While searching for her, they chanced upon the Buddha. He asked them whether searching for a woman or seeking oneself is better? As they all answered that it was better to seek oneself, he spoke the Dhamma, taught them the 4 noble truths and they realized the truth.
Conversion of three Kassapa brothers and 1000 Jatilas
At Uruvela, Buddha converted the Kassapa brothers who were the Jatilas, matted hair ascetics. They were Uruvela Kassapa, Nadi Kassapa, and Gaya Kassapa living separately with 1000 disciples along the River Neranjara. The story of their conversion was replete with accounts of miracles, which Buddha performed.
Buddha impressed Uruvela Kassapa by his ability to subdue the serpent staying in his fire chamber. But he did not believe that the Buddha was a saint like himself. Buddha had to shock him by saying that Kassapa was neither a saint nor was he on the path of achieving that eminence. This gave rise to a discussion about the nature of enlightenment and the correct way leading to it. Together with his 500 disciples, Uruvela Kassapa became disciples of the Buddha.
The other 2 Kassapa brothers and their followers were similarly ordained. Mounting the hill at Gaya, Buddha preached the Fire Sermon, Adittapariyaya Sutta to all of them. It explained that the conditioned world was subject to the influence of fires of lust, hatred, ignorance, birth, decay, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair. Hearing which, they were inspired and attained arahantship.
Conversion of king Bimbisara at Rajagaha
Rajagaha was the capital of Magadha Kingdom. Here, Buddha preached the Maha Arada Kassapa Jataka followed by a graduated discourse on the Dhamma. at the end of the teachings, 110,000 Brahmins headed by King Bimbisara attained stream entry (first stage of enlightenment).
Then King Bimbisara offered his garden Veluvana (Bamboo grove) for the use of Buddha and his disciples. This was the first gift of residence for the sangha. Buddha advised that the monks' residence should not be too near (monks will be distracted) or too far from the town so that it won't be difficult for monks to go on alms while accessible to lay followers. It should not be too crowded as it will be distracting and hinders meditation.
Conversion ofSariputta and Moggallana (The two chief disciples) There were 2 Brahmin youths, Sariputta and Moggallana who were dissatisfied with sensual pleasures and became sramanas in search for path of release. Sariputta chanced upon Venerable Assaji at Rajagaha and realized the first fruit of Sainthood upon hearing the 4 line stanza:
Ye dhamma hetuppabhava tesam hetum tathagato aha Tesam ca yo nirodho Evam vadi mahasamano
Of things that proceed from a cause, Their cause the Tathagata has told, And also their cessation: Thus teaches the great ascetic.
Moggallana also realized the first fruit of enlightenment when Sariputta repeated the stanza to him. With 250 disciples, they left Sanjaya(their former teacher) to seek ordination under the Buddha. They became his 1st and 2nd chief disciples and they were instrumental in helping the Buddha spread the Dhamma.
Ordination of Maha Kassapa
Buddha was residing at bamboo grove when he saw the future of the young brahmin youth called Pipphali. Pipphali was attracted to the Buddha's radiant look and approached him for his teachings. After which he was ordained by Buddha and received the name of Maha kassapa. He became one of the chief disciples of Buddha who helped in the monks disciplinary.
Conversion of his father and clansmen in Kapilavatthu
Buddha's father King Suddhodana sent out 10 messengers to ask for Buddha to return to his hometown. All 9 went and were converted and joined the sangha. The last one Minister Kaludayi converted, ordained but did his part to conveyed his message to Buddha. So Buddha went to Kapilavatthu in the company of 20,000 monks.
After listening to the discourse, Buddha converted his father, Queen Mahapajapati Gotami (his step mother) and his relatives.
Ordination of Nanda (his half-brother): Buddha went for alms round at the house of Nanda one day before the latter's wedding date. He left the alms bowl behind at the house so nanda followed him to return the alms bowl. When nanda reached the monastery, Buddha asked if he would like to join the monkshood. Out of respect, Nanda was ordained on the 3rd day when Buddha entered Kapilavatthu.
Ordination of Rahula (son of buddha before he became a monk): Princess Yasodhara asked her son Rahula to go ask Buddha (his father) for inheritance. Buddha then asked Venerable Sariputta to ordain young Rahula by letting him take refuge in the triple gem which is better than any inheritance.
Conversion of Koliyas
A dispute broke out between the people of Kapilavatthu and people of koliya over River Rohini. When Buddha saw the imminence of the war between the 2 royal families, he stepped in. He asked whether the life of thei royal clan members were more valuable or the water. After Buddha preached the Attadanda Sutta, 250 members from each side became Buddha's followers ad followed him to Mahavana.
Establishment of the Nuns order in Vesali
After the death of King Suddhodana, Queen Maha Pajapati pleaded with Buddha 3 times to let her and 500 other royal women join the Order. Buddha said : "No" . To show her determination, all the women shaved their heads and put on robes, walked from to Vesali to find Buddha. Venerable Ananda tried to help her and discussed with Buddha. Then Buddha said that he would give permission for women to enter the order if they accept 8 important rules (Garudhamma).
Buddha was initially hesitant on accepting women into order for several reasons: - These are royal women and some are elderly. It may be difficult for them to walk to villagers to ask for alms food. - They have to dwell under trees and in caves as monasteries were not established. It maybe dangerous for women to live in the wild - Need to organize a teaching system for the nuns as nuns order has not been established before - To accept 500 women into the nuns order means that buddha was going to disrupt 500 family structures.
The famous Nalanda university was a famous buddhist university located near Rajagaha. Buddha had many disciples here.
Savatthi (Capital of Kosala)
Buddha spent the last 25 years of his life here and delivered most of the suttas here. It is also here that most vinaya rules were formulated. At the Jetavana Monastery, donated by a millionaire called Anathapindika: Buddha spent 19 rainy retreats here and delivered 844 suttas. Under the patronage of King Pasenadi, Anathapindika and Visakha, Buddha and his Sangha were supported and hence in Savatthi , it is a very important center for Buddha's missionary work.
Avanti Mahakaccayana, son of a royal priest of King Canda Pajjota and nephew of Asita brought Buddhism from Benares to Avanti. Avanti is a very famous sea port, from here there are links with other regions in India to aid spread of Buddhism.