The Sermon at Benares- Passages for Comprehension

By | July 16, 2023
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The Sermon at Benares

By Betty Crenshaw


Read the following passages and answer the questions that follow :


Gautama Buddha (563 B.C.-483 B.C.) began life as a prince named Siddhartha Gautama, in northern India. At twelve, he was sent away for schooling in the Hindu sacred scriptures and four years later he returned home to marry a princess. They had a son and lived for ten years as befitted royalty. At about the age of twenty-five, the Prince. Heretofore shielded from the sufferings of the world, while out hunting chanced upon a sick man, then an aged man, then a funeral procession, and finally a monk begging for alms. These sights so moved him that he at once became a beggar and Went out into the world to seek enlightenment concerning the sorrows he had witnessed.[ H.B.S.E. March. 2017 (Set-D)]

Word-meanings: Sacred = pious (पवित्र): scriptures = religious books(धार्मिक पुस्तकें befitted= suited (उचित था); royalty = kingly family (शाही परिवार) ; heretofore = till then (तब तक). shielded = Potected (रक्षा की) ; funeral procession = procession on a dead body for cremation (शव-यात्रा)I

Questions :

(a) What did Siddhartha Gautama study?

(b) When was he married?

(c) When did he see a sick and old man?

(d) What was the effect of these sights on Gautama?

(e) Find a word from the passage which means ‘holy books’.

Answers :

(a) Siddhartha Gautama studied holy books.

(b) He was married at the age of sixteen.

(c) He saw an old and sick man when he went out hunting.

(d) On seeing these sights. he decided to renounce the world and become a beggar.

(e) ‘Scriptures.’


He wandered for seven years and finally sat down under a fig tree, where he vowed to stay until enlightenment came. Enlightened after seven days, he renamed the tree the Bo Tree (Tree of Wisdom) and began to teach and to share his new understandings. At that point, he became known as the Buddha (the Awakened or the Enlightened). The Buddha preached his first sermon at the city of Benares, most holy of the dipping places on the River Ganges.

Word-meanings: Enlightenment = spiritual knowledge (आध्यात्मिक ज्ञान): dipping places = place where people take bath (नहाने के स्थान) I

Questions :

(a) How long did the Buddha wander in search of wisdom?

(b) After how many days of meditation did he get enlightenment?

(c) Why did he name the tree as the ‘free of Wisdom’?

(d) Where did he give his first sermon?

(e) Find a word from the passage which means ‘took a pledge’.

Answers :

(a) He wandered for seven years in search of wisdom.

(b) He got enlightenment after seven days.

(c) He named it as such because under it he got ‘Enlightenment’, i.e., wisdom.

(d) He gave his first sermon at Benares.

(e) ‘Vowed.’


The Buddha answered. “I want a handful of mustard-seed.” And when the girl in her joy promised to procure ii, the Buddha added, “The mustard-seed must be taken from a house where no one has lost a child. husband, parent or friend.”

Poor Kisa Gotami now went from house to house, and the people pitied her and said, “Here is mustard-seed: take it!” But when she asked, “Did a son or daughter, a father or mother, die in your family ?” they answered her. “Alas ! the living are few, but the dead are many. Do not remind us of our deepest grief.” And there was no house but some beloved one had died in it.

Word-meanings : Procure = get (प्राप्त करना) ; grief = sorrow (दुःख) I

Questions :

(a) What did the Buddha ask Kisa Gotami to bring?

(b) What was the condition attached to it?

(c) Why did Gotami go from house to house?

(d) What did the people tell Gotami?

(e) Find a word from the passage which means, ‘sorrow’.

Answers :

(a)  The Buddha asked Kisa Gotami to bring a handful of mustard-seed.

(b)   He said that she must bring the mustard-seed from a house where no one had

died. She went from house to house in search of mustard-seed.

(c)   They told her that someone had died in every home.

(e) ‘Grief.’


Kisa Gotami became weary and hopeless and sat down at the wayside watching the lights of the city, as they flickered up and were extinguished again. At last the darkness of the night reigned everywhere. And she considered the fate of men, that their lives flicker up and are extinguished again. And she thought to herself, “How selfish am I in my grief! Death is common to all, yet in this valley of desolation there is a path that leads him to immortality who has surrendered all selfishness.”

Word-meanings: Extinguished = put out (बुझ गया): desolation = deep sorrow (गहरा दुःख): immortality = deathlessness (अमरत्व)

 Questions :

(a) What happened to Kisa Gotami in the end?

(b) What (lid Kisa Gotami do when she became tired and hopeless?

(c) What happened at last?

(d) When did Kisa realise in the end?

(e) Find a word from the passage that means ‘put out’.

Answers :

(a) She became tired and hopeless.

(b) She sat down at the wayside.

(c) At last the darkness of the night reigned everywhere.

(d) She realised that death is inevitable.

(e) ‘Extinguished.’


And the girl said. “Please tell me, sir, who is it’?” And the man replied. “Go to Sakyamuni the Buddha.” Kisa Gotami repaired to the Buddha and cried. “Lord and Master, give me the medicine that will cure my boy.”

 The Buddha answered, “I want a handful of mustard-seed.” And when the girl in her joy promised to Procure it, the Buddha added. “The mustard-seed must be taken from a house where no one has lost a child, husband, parent or friend.”

Word-meanings : Repaired = went (चली गई); mustard-seed = an oil seed (सरसों) ;procure = get (प्राप्त करना)

Questions :

(a) Name the chapter.

(b)What suggestion did a man give to Gotami?

(c) What request did (Miami make to the Buddha?

 (d) What did Buddha ask the girl to do?

 (e) Had a word from the passage which means the same as ‘to get’.

 Answers :

(a) Chapter: the Sermon at Benares.

(b) A man suggested her to go to Sakyamuni the Buddha.

(c) She requested the Buddha to give her medicine that could cure her son.

(d) Buddha asked her to bring a handful of mustard seed from a house where no one has not lost a family member.

(e) Repaired.



The Buddha said, “The life of mortals in this world is troubled and brief and combined with pain. For there is not any means by which those that have been born can avoid dying; after reaching old age there is death; of such a nature are living beings. As ripe fruits are early in danger of falling, so mortals, when born, are always in danger of death. As all earthen vessels made by the potter end in being broken, so is the life of mortals. Both young and adult, both those who are fools and those who are wise, all fall into the power of death; all are subject to death.

 “Of those who, overcome by death, depart from life, a father cannot save his son, nor kinsmen their relations. Mark ! while relatives are looking on and lamenting deeply, one by one mortal are carried off, like an ox that is led to the slaughter. So the worried is afflicted with death and decay, therefore the wise do not grieve, knowing the terms of the world.

Word-meanings: Mortals = human beings (नश्वर:): earthen vessels = pot made by baked clay (मिट्टी के बर्तन); lamenting = grieving (अफ़सोस करना)

 Questions :

(a) What does the Buddha say about the life of mortals?

(b) What does he compare the life of mortals with?

(c) Why can’t a father save his sun or a kinsman his relations?

(d) Why don’t the wise grieve?

(e) Find a word from the passage which means ‘relatives’.


 “Not from weeping nor from grieving will anyone obtain peace of mind; on the contrary, his pain will be the greater and his body will suffer. He will make himself sick and pale, yet the dead are not saved by his lamentation. He who seeks peace should draw out the arrow of lamentation, and complaint, and grief. He who has drawn out the arrow and has become composed will obtain peace of mind: he who has overcome all sorrow will become free from sorrow, and be blessed.”

Word-meanings: Overcome = controlled by (नियंत्रित होना): lamenting = grieving (अफ़सोस करना)

Questions :

(a) When will one’s pain be greater?

(b) What will happen if a man grieves and weeps?

(c) How can one get peace of mind?

(d) Who will be blessed finally?

(e) Find a phrase from the passage which means ‘as against’.

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