Preached in Sāvatthi in the hermitage of the brahmin Rammaka. Some monks expressed to Ananda their desire to hear a discourse from the Buddha, as it was so long since they had heard one. He advised them to go to the hermitage of Rammaka where their wishes might be fulfilled. The noontide of that same day Amanda spent with the Buddha at the Pubbārāma in the Migāramātupāsāda and in the evening, after the Buddha had bathed in the Pubbakotthaka, Ananda suggested to him that he might go to Rammaka's hermitage. The Buddha assenting, they went together. The Buddha, finding the monks engaged in discussing the Doctrine, waited till their discussion was over. Having inquired the topic thereof, he praised them and proceeded to tell them of the two quests in the world-the noble and the ignoble.
He described how he, too, before his Enlightenment, had followed the quest, apprenticing himself to various teachers, such as Ālāra-Kālāma and Uddaka Rāmaputta, and how, on discovering that they could not give him what he sought, he went to Uruvelā and there found the consummate peace of Nibbāna. This biographical account is also found in the Mahā-Saccaka, Bodhirājakumāra and Sangārava-Suttas. It is in part repeated in the Vinaya and the Digha Nikāya.
The Sutta then proceeds to give an account of the Buddha's first reluctance to preach, of Sahampati's intervention, of the meeting with the Ājivaka Upaka and the first sermon preached to the Pañcavaggiyas. Finally the sutta expounds the pleasures of the senses, the dangers there from and the freedom and confidence which ensue when one has overcome desire (M.i.160-75).
In the Commentary (MA.i.369ff) the sutta is called Pāsarāsi, evidently because of the simile found at the end of the discourse where the pleasures of the senses are compared to baited traps.
The Atthasālinī quotes it (p.35).