Buddhist tradition tells us that the Buddha rose from the seat of his awakening and walked to a deer park in Sarnath, outside the city of Banaras, where he gave his first sermon. This event is called the first “turning of the wheel of dharma [teaching].”
Accounts of the Buddha’s teaching begin with the simple claim that “All is suffering.” People who come to the Buddhist tradition for the first time often interpret this to mean that the Buddha was pessimistic and devalued human life.
Buddhists say that he was not pessimistic but realistic. To see the world through Buddhist eyes, the first and most important step is to understand how this simple claim about suffering leads not to pessimism but to a realistic assessment of life’s difficulties and to a sense of liberation and peace.