Buddha Purnima is an important festival for followers of Buddhism and is celebrated in India and other countries such as Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, etc. Not only Buddhists, but many others too observe this day and pay their respects to Lord Buddha. It is the day that marks the birth of Lord Buddha and is celebrated on the full moon day of the Baisakh month.
Birth and Early life Of Gautama Buddha
Lord Buddha was born in Lumbini (Nepal) as Prince Siddhartha in about 570 BCE. His father was the King of the Sakya tribe who ruled from Kapilavastu. He was also known as Siddhartha Gautama. He grew as all princes do – in comfort and luxury and protected from the outside world. Prince Siddhartha had no idea about old age, suffering and other troubles of life. One day He happened to step outside the palace gates and saw a few sights which were to put Him on the path to spirituality. He saw an old man, a dead man, an ascetic (Sadhu) and a diseased man. These sights shocked Him and He asked His charioteer about them. The Charioteer explained that men grow old, suffer from disease and die. Some become Sadhus and follow a spiritual path of Godliness. This got Prince Siddhartha thinking about how suffering could end. He decided to seek answers and left home in the middle of the night. He reached the river, where He left His horse. He crossed the river, shaved His hair and became a disciple of a spiritual master. He advanced rapidly under the master’s teachings but was not fully satisfied.
Once again Lord Buddha set out to achieve the ultimate knowledge.He knew meditation (Dhyan) was the only way to achieve that knowledge. He arrived in the place that is now known as Bodh Gaya and sat under the Bodhi tree and began meditating. Such was His determination that He pledged not to get up until that knowledge had been gained. Such efforts always give fruit and the day came when Lord Buddha achieved what He had aimed for. He was now known as ‘The Enlightened One’.
Lord Buddha’s First Sermon
Lord Buddha now arrived in Varanasi (Kashi). He first spent 49 days in meditation and then delivered His first sermon at Sarnath. He preached the ‘Eight Fold Path’ which leads to Moksha. Lord Buddha soon had a massive following and thousands of His disciples were travelling all over India to preach Lord Buddha’s teachings. They were known as the Sangha. Lord Buddha Himself travelled across India to spread His message. Buddhism soon had a considerable following. The Sangha established monasteries and temples in various places. Buddhism flourished in India till the 8th century CE, after which it began to decline but remained a prominent religion nevertheless.
Buddha Jayanti – A Celebration of Love and Compassion
Buddha Jayanti or Vesak is the most important festival of the Buddhists all over the world. It is celebrated on the Full Moon Day of May (Baisakh). This is, in a way, a triple celebration as the three major events in Lord Buddha’s life are celebrated on this day. The three events are – Birth in Lumbini, Enlightenment in Bodh Gaya and Mahaparinirvana in Kushinagar. The word Vesak itself is the Sinhalese language word for Baisakh. Buddha Purnima is known by different names in Malaysia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. This is a day of great religious and spiritual significance for the followers and practitioners of Buddha and His teachings as on this day they go to the Viharas,Temples and Monasteries to take part in prayers and meditation and listen to discourses. They observe Sila (moral vows) and practice meditation, making offerings to the Bhikkhu Sangha. People decorate the Viharas and their homes giving it a festive look on the occasion. Buddhists distribute food, medicines, fruits, milk, etc. to patients in the hospitals, orphanages and old age homes. They make special efforts to bring smiles and happiness to the unfortunate, the old and the infirm and the sick and the needy. Monks recite and chant the sutras uttered by the Buddha himself 2600 years ago to invoke peace. happiness, love, compassion, unity and brotherhood. They pray for the well being and prosperity for all. Buddhists are reminded of their role and responsibility to live in harmony with people of other faiths and to respect the beliefs of other people as the Buddha had Himself taught.
Significance of Buddha Purnima
Buddha Purnima is the most important day and biggest festival for the followers of Buddhism in the world. Though the celebration is accompanied by pomp and grandeur, the air of the festivity remains peaceful. The monasteries, houses and temples are flamboyantly decorated ahead of the festival. The atmosphere of the day is alive with holy chanting and prayers. The Buddhists are divided into several different sects. The idols or effigies of Lord Buddha are not worshipped by all sects. Those who are averse to idol worshiping offer their regards to the Vesak form of Buddha. The Dharma Chakra (wheel), a wooden wheel with eight spokes is the symbol of Vesak. The sacred wheel represents enlightenment and the eight spokes stand for Buddha’s noble eight-fold teaching, the key to salvation of the soul, freedom from life cycle and happiness in life on earth.
The Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, Lumbini and Kushinagar
The Bodhi tree under which Lord Buddha was enlightened still stands today. On Buddha Purnima the tree is decorated with garlands and flags. Devotees sprinkle holy water on its roots and offer prayers. The outer fringe of the tree is encircled by lamps. Besides this, Lumbini – Lord Buddha’s birthplace and Kushinagar are where celebrations are held with great fervour and zeal.
Happy Buddha Purnima Images