Stupa of Many Doors

Stupa of Many Doors commemorating the Buddhas first turning of the wheel of Dharma at the deer park in Sarnath near Varanasi.

Also known as the Stupa of Many Gates or Stupa of Wisdom. After reaching enlightenment, Buddha taught his first students in a deer park in Sarnath when he was 35 years old. The series of doors on each side of the steps also represent the first teachings. Moreover, the teachings are the Four Noble Truths, the Six Perfections, the Noble Eightfold Path and the Twelve Links in the Chain of Dependent Origination.

Dimensions:

Total height      37,5 cm

Base width      18,2 cm

Internal volume        1,25 litters

Weight:

Without filling approx.   4,4 kg

Material:

Ceramic mass - artificial stone

Sarnath - the place of Buddha's first teaching

Sarnath, located about six miles due north of the ancient city of Varanasi, is renowned as the place where the Buddha gave his first teaching. The name Sarnath derives from Saranganatha, which means Lord of the Deer. Once, in a previous life, the Buddha lived here as the leader of a herd of deer and offered his life to the king in return for his release of a pregnant doe. The king, amazed and humbled by this selfless action, created the Deer Park (Mrgadava) as a sanctuary for the deer.

The Deer Park, renowned for its peaceful qualities, became a favorite meditation place of the powerful sages, or rsis, of ancient India. Shortly before the birth of Prince Gautama, the devas descended from the heaven realms to announce to the five hundred sages dwelling in the Deer Park the imminent arrival of the future Buddha. Hearing this, all five hundred sages rose in the air and entered nirvana. Their relics fell to earth, consecrating the field known thereafter as Rsipatana (Pali, Isipatana), the Place Where the Rsis Fell.  

 

As the Sutras record, the Buddha went to the Deer Park of Sarnath to teach the Dharma to his five former companions: Kaundinya, Vaspa, Bhadrika, Mahanaman, and Asvajit. Seeing him from afar, the five ascetics determined to ignore him, considering that the Buddha had abandoned the path to knowledge. But when the Enlightened One drew near, so radiant was his presence that the five ascetics rose up to pay him homage. Perceiving that he had indeed attained success, the five ascetics asked that he share his knowledge with them.

In the great action known as Dharmacakrapravartana, Turning the Wheel of the Dharma, the Buddha conveyed to his first five disciples the four noble truths, the eightfold path, and the twelve links of dependent origination. First Kaundinya, then each of his four companions, perceived the full significance of the Buddha's teaching, and through their realization established the Arya Sangha, the community of enlightened beings that manifest the efficacy of the Dharma. In this way the Three Jewels-the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha-came into full view at this holy place. Since that time, Sarnath and the Deer Park have symbolized teaching and transmission of the Dharma. With the conversion of Yasas, his friends Vimala, Subahu, Purnajit, and Gavampati, and fifty young men of Varanasi's leading families, the Sangha grew to sixty, and all became Arhats. The Buddha sent these first sixty Arhats out two by two to transmit the Dharma widely.

In later years, the Buddha returned to Sarnath, where he taught the Buddhapitaka-duhsilanigraha-sutra, a teaching on the morality of monks, to an assembly of five hundred bhiksus. Varanasi, a short distance from Sarnath, was the site of the Srivasu-pariprccha, a teaching for the benefit of the merchant Srivasu, and the Adhyasayasamodana-sutra, a teaching on karma for the benefit of sixty Bodhisattvas whose minds were distracted by worldly pleasures. On this occasion the assembly consisted of one thousand bhiksus and five hundred fully accomplished Bodhisattvas. 

 

After the Buddha's Parinirvana, Sarnath's proximity to Varanasi, a major city and the spiritual heart of India, made it a natural place not only for pilgrimage but also for large monastic centers. Buddhism prospered at Sarnath under the support of kings and the wealthy middle class; soon the peaceful park developed into a center for art and education as well as religious activities. From the time of King Asoka, Buddhist patrons through the centuries built stupas, monasteries, temples, and shrines, which were well maintained up to the Muslim invasion. Sarnath was a flourishing Dharma center by the second century B.C.E., when the Mahavamsa relates that the elder Dhammasena led a delegation of twelve thousand monks from Sarnath to Sri Lanka to attend the consecration of the Mahathupa in Anuradhapura.

 

~ Holy places of the Buddha

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