Who Were the Buddha’s First Followers? 

statue of ananda or buddha in sri lanka

A statue of the reclining Buddha with a figure some scholars believe to be the Buddha’s cousin and attendant, Ananda, at Gal Viharaya, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. | Travel Wild / Alamy Stock Photo

Shortly after his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, the Buddha began sharing what he had learned. His first sermon, delivered at Deer Park in Sarnath, set out the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths, addressing the reality of suffering and the path to its cessation. Through this teaching, it is said, the Buddha “set the wheel of the dharma in motion.” 

His teachings soon began to attract followers, and over the course of his forty-five-year teaching career, the Buddha had many students and disciples, including members of his family. The Buddha’s first disciples played a critical role in recording and preserving his teachings, so much so that the significance of the Buddha’s teachings often depends on whom he was talking to. 

Get to know some of his disciples who appear throughout Buddhist texts. 

Discover Level 2, Deck 8: 

Who was the Buddha’s family? Siddhartha Gautama was the son of Suddhodana and Maya, the king and queen of the Shakya clan, but he was largely raised by his aunt Prajapati. 

Who was Ananda? One of the Buddha’s first disciples, Ananda, the Buddha’s cousin and personal attendant, played an important role in preserving the teachings for future generations. 

Who were Sariputra and Maudgalyayana? These two important disciples are often pictured at the Buddha’s right and left side, and are prominent figures in Mahayana texts, including the Heart Sutra

Other Notable Disciples of the Buddha From Kasyapa to Ksema, these are some of the most notable of the Buddha’s disciples over his forty-five-year teaching career.  

Why do Buddhists talk about many buddhas? There are many awakened ones of the past, present, and future in Buddhist tradition. 


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