Today, 3 August 2011, is Chökhor Düchen, the ‘Festival of Turning the Wheel of Dharma’ — one of the four major Tibetan Buddhist holidays. It occurs on the fourth day of the sixth Tibetan lunar month.
For seven weeks after his enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, the Buddha did not give teachings, even though one attains buddhahood in order to help all sentient beings. The ordinary explanation is that during that time there were no beings present who had the good karma to receive teachings from the Buddha. The extraordinary explanation states that during that time Buddha gave secret tantric teachings, for example the Hevajra Tantra. After these seven weeks, the gods Indra and Brahma requested that he teach. Brahma offered a golden wheel and said the Earth’s virtue was decreasing and beings needed to hear the Dharma. Then Indra came and offered a special conch shell. So the Buddha turned the Wheel of Dharma for the first time, at Sarnath, near Varanasi, by teaching the ‘Four Noble Truths’.
At the Deer Park in Sarnath, the Buddha gave his first teaching to five companions from his time practicing asceticism. They had previously left the Buddha on the banks of the Niranjana river, after becoming disillusioned with him for giving up his practice of austerities. When they saw him once again at first they decided to avoid him, but were overwhelmed by his presence and their curiosity was such that they could not resist asking him to explain what had happened. The Buddha taught them the Four Noble Truths which have remained the basis of all traditions of Buddhism. The Buddha talked all through the night and when morning came, these first five students took refuge in the Three Jewels; the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. Together with the Buddha, they became the first members of the Sangha, the community of practitioners who follow the teachings of the Buddha, and they became arhats.
The Stupa of Many Doors is one of the eight main types of Tibetan stupas, it represents the Buddha’s first teaching in the Deer Park at Sarnath. The stupa pictured here, built by the great Lopön Tsechu Rinpoche, is at the Diamond Way Buddhist Centre in Graz, Austria – the city where in 1972 Lama Ole Nydahl gave Buddhist refuge for the first time after he and his wife Hannah returned from years in the Himalayas learning from the 16th Karmapa.
“Düchen” means “great occasion” and like Saga Dawa Duchen, Chotrul Düchen and Lhabab Düchen, this is a “ten million multiplier” day, multiplying the effects of all positive and negative actions 10 million times! We encourage those of you who support the development of Buddhism in the UK to especially make wishes at this time for the success of the New London Buddhist Centre project!