Founding of Buddhism
Leaving what was now the Bodhi Tree, or Tree of Enlightenment, he proceeded to the Deer Park at Sarnath, N of Benares (Varanasi), where he preached his first sermon to five ascetics who had been with him when he practiced austerities. They became his first disciples. The first sermon, known as "the setting into motion of the wheel of the dharma," contained the basic doctrines of the "four noble truths" and the "eightfold path."
For the remainder of his life he traveled and taught in the Gangetic plain, instructing disciples and giving his teaching to all who came to him, regardless of caste or religion. He spent much of his time in monasteries donated to the sangha, or community of monks, by wealthy lay devotees. Tradition says that he died at the age of 80. He appointed no successor but on his deathbed told his disciples to maintain the sangha and achieve their own liberation by relying on his teaching. He was cremated and his relics divided among eight groups, who deposited them in shrines called stupas.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.