Richard Jones from London Buddhist Vihara writes about the true meaning of the festival and explains its significance to the Buddhist community.

The Esala (Dhammacakka) Festival marks the Buddha’s delivery of his First Sermon known as Setting in Motion the Wheel of Truth (Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta) in the Deer Park at Isipatana, near Benares in India.

He delivered his first sermon to the five men with whom he had practiced severe austerities for five years.

Some months previously, when he had concluded that these ascetic practices did not produce the results he was seeking, these men decided to leave him because they felt he was abandoning their principles.

Left alone, the Buddha decided to follow a middle path between indulgence in sense pleasures and the practice of self-mortification.

This resulted in his attainment of Enlightenment and his discovery of the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.

The celebration ends with the chanting of the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. Credit: LondonBuddhistVihara

At first he hesitated to teach, but he decided to deliver his first sermon to his five former companions. This was a momentous event because it was the start of his ministry which lasted for 45 years.

In this sermon the Buddha sets out all the essential teachings which his followers need for the attainment of enlightenment, spreading his message of peace, compassion and love.

All of his later teachings can be traced back to this first sermon. This sermon is greatly loved and frequently recited by Buddhists.

London Buddhist Vihara will be celebrating on Sunday July 31. Credit: LondonBuddhistVihara

Countless millions in the past and today over 300 million people world-wide follow the path laid down by the Buddha in this sermon.

The event falls on the full moon day of the lunar month of Esala, which usually falls in July according to the Gregorian calendar- this year the 26th.

We will be holding special events to mark the celebration this Sunday at the Vihara.

The festival is celebrated with a varied programme of talks and ends with the chanting of the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta.