Buddha's first teaching

While studying the Dharma I came across some information that reminds me a lot of a mosquito. I can’t remember where, but I saw, heard, or read that The Four Noble Truths was not the Buddha’s first teaching after his enlightenment. Know I cannot say that the statement is true or false and would like to know if anyone can help me figure this out.

Is there any controversy surrounding what was the Buddha’s first teaching or perhaps who it may have been too? Or perhaps just an alternative interpretation of what the first teaching was?

This is really annoying, please help.



Fire sermon, widely understood to be the Buddha’s first teaching.


That is right I belive …

On his way to meet his fellow ascetics and setting the wheel in motion, Lord Buddha met with a lone wandering Sadhu, and presented himself with a statement about his attainments.

And the Sadhu politely listened, before he choose to take another direction.

I guess Lord Buddha got himself a nice little teaching for his own benefit, because when he delivered the four Noble Truth’s, everybody stayed and “got it” during the first two sermons

Hopefully some more skilled in the written teachings will show up and give you the specifics



The story is in the Mahakhandhaka of the Vinaya. (Scroll down a bit to the heading “On the group of five”.)

Then it occurred to the Lord: “Now, to whom should I first teach dhamma? Who will understand this dhamma quickly?” Then it occurred to the Lord: “That group of five monks who waited on me when I was self-resolute in striving were very helpful. Suppose I were to teach dhamma first to the group of five monks?”
Then it occurred to the Lord: “But where is this group of five monks staying at present? Then the Lord with deva-vision, purified and surpassing that of men, saw the group of five monks staying near Benares at Isipatana in the deer-park. Then the Lord, having stayed at Uruvelā for as long as he found suiting, set out on tour for Benares.
Upaka, a Naked Ascetic, saw the Lord going along the highroad between Gayā and the (Tree of) Awakening; seeing him, he spoke thus to the Lord: “Your reverence, your sense-organs are quite pure, your complexion very bright, very clear. On account of whom have you, your reverence, gone forth, or who is your teacher, or whose dhamma do you profess?”
When this had been said, the Lord addressed Upaka, the Naked Ascetic, in verses:
“Victorious over all, omniscient am I,
Among all things undefiled,
Leaving all, through death of craving freed,
By knowing for myself, whom should I follow?
“For me there is no teacher,
One like me does not exist,
In the world with its devas
No one equals me.
“For I am perfected in the world,
The teacher supreme am I,
I alone am all-awakened,
Become cool am I, nibbāna-attained.
“To turn the dhamma-wheel
I go to Kasi’s city,
Beating the drum of deathlessness
In a world that’s blind become.”
“According to what you claim, your reverence, you ought to be victor of the unending” (Upaka said).
“Like me, they are victors indeed,
Who have won to destruction of the cankers;
Vanquished by me are evil things,
Therefore am I, Upaka, a victor.”
When this had been said, Upaka, the Naked Ascetic, having said, “It may be (so), your reverence,” having shaken his head, went off taking a different road.
Then the Lord, walking on tour, in due course approached Benares, the deer-park of Isipatana, the group of five monks.


Yes, these text are what I believe to be the truth and teaching.

This information I came across and now can’t find still bothers me. Hopefully someone will see this and know of what I saw.

At least I’ve learned to be more diligent with the information I come across. I must keep notes on my studies, even if I am just wondering through the teachings.

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Just to make absolutely certain, you’re referring to something other than the bit about the Buddha’s encounter with Upaka in the Vinay account Ayya Kathrin Vimalanyani quotes above (also given in MN26)?

I have on a few occasions heard people, in a very light-hearted way, refer to this meeting with Upaka as the Buddha’s (not especially successful) first attempt at teaching.


No it was neither of the instances put forth above.

I do remember why,“sorta” these were purposed to not be the first teaching. The logic behind the thought process presented was that the chronological order of the teachings was manipulated later on in Buddhist writing to create a more “story-like-arch” to the teachings.

That’s a really simplified version of what was purposed. This is pretty frustrating, hopefully this will get worked out. I am certainly not trying to confuse or raise doubt in anyone.

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