The Sermon at Benares: Summary and Analysis

The Sermon at Benares is written by Betty Renshaw and is a part of her book, ‘Values and Voices.’ She depicts how a royal prince leaves his family back at the palace and goes on to find the truth behind life. This story describes the revelations made by Lord Buddha. He came across people who helped him understand the true meaning and achieve enlightenment.  

The Sermon at Benares Summary

Gautam Buddha was a prince in a North Indian royal family, and his childhood name was Siddhartha Gautama. He was sent far away to study Hindu sacred scriptures when he was twelve years old. He returned four years later and got married to a princess. Soon, they were blessed with a son and continued to live the privileged royal life for the next decade. Naturally, the Royals were not exposed to the unpleasant experiences of the world.

One day, when the Prince was on his way to hunt, he met a sick man, an aged man, a monk who was begging and saw a funeral procession. These experiences opened his eyes,, and he left the royalty to seek a higher sense of spiritual knowledge. After he attained salvation, he started preaching and gave his first sermon in Benares. Kisa Gotami was a mourning lady and her son had just died. She was going through incessant pain. She was going to every house, in search of medicine that would make her son live again. This resulted in people thinking that she had lost her senses.

One day, a man directed Kisa Gotami to Lord Buddha, for he thought that Buddha would probably give a solution for her problem. Buddha asked Gotami to look for mustard seeds. However, these seeds must be procured from a house that had seen no deaths. This filled her with hope and she went on a search and went from house to house but could not find the seeds according to the conditions of Buddha. She was disheartened and sat on the edge of the road. She understood that she was being very selfish and realized that humans are mortal. No one can run away from the cycle of life. This is what Buddha was hoping she would understand.

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Buddha thinks that grief and sorrow only expand on one’s pain and suffering and have no other purpose. Other than that, it deteriorates health. So, any wise person who has an understanding of how nature functions must not grieve at something that is bound to happen. This way, they can lead a happy and blessed life. 

The Sermon at Benares Analysis

The story Sermon at Benares is a beautiful illustration of the valuable preachings of Lord Buddha. Initially, Buddha was a prince, Siddhartha, and reigned from a royal family in North India. At a young age, he was sent far away to study sacred scriptures. On returning four years later, he married a princess. Soon, they had a son and led the royal life for over a decade. As a royal, they were naturally protected from the sufferings of the world.

When the prince went on a hunt, he witnessed an ailing man, an old man, a funeral procession, and a monk begging for alms. These moved him, and he left the royalty behind to attain enlightenment. He attained salvation seven years later, under a Bodhi tree, and started to preach his understandings. He gave his first sermon in Benaras. Here, he came to know about Kisa Gotami, whose son had died. She was going from one house to another, asking for help and medicine to bring her son back. People thought that grief caused her to lose her mind.

 A man directed her to Buddha in hopes that he could help her. She begged Buddha to cure her son. Lord Buddha asked her to get mustard seeds from a family that never lost a member, relative, or friend. She was disheartened on not finding anything despite her desperate search. She realized that men are mortal and they have to leave behind everything when they die. This is what Lord Buddha wanted her to understand. No one can escape the cycle of life and death.

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The Sermon at Benares Theme

The story throws light on the early life that Lord Buddha led. He was originally a prince and was protected from all the sufferings of the world. He was suddenly introduced to the sad realities, and it caused him to lead the royalty and go on a search for salvation. He attained enlightenment and gave his first sermon in Benaras, where he met a lady, Kisa Gotami. Lord Buddha made her realize that men are mortal, and no one wise would grieve at what is bound to happen because it will only increase pain and suffering.

The Sermon at Benares Character Sketch

Gautama Buddha was initially a prince. He left royalty when he saw the life behind the shields and became a spiritual teacher who had gained enlightenment. He preached that human life is short and has a lot of sorrows and pains. No one can not die.

Kisa Gotami was a young mother whose only son had died. She could not accept her son’s loss and was trying her best to bring him back. Lord Buddha helped her relieve her sufferings.

The Sermon at Benares Analysis Key Points

Lord Buddha was originally a prince and was once exposed to the sufferings of the world. On that experience, he left the palace and went on a search for salvation. He left all the worldly pleasures behind and got his spiritual awakening. He delivered his first sermon in Benares. He helped Gotami realize that men are mortal and that no one wise would grieve at something that cannot be avoided and would only increase pain and suffering. 

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