Vaishakh Purnima (Buddha’s Birthday)

May 21 2016 Lord Buddha’s Birthday -month of daily flower & buddha photos – Day 21

shiny white head

white pink

Below is an anonymous article from India regarding today’s holy day, the traditional annual observance of the birthday of Lord Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama Shakyamuni.

Vaishakh is  a springtime lunar month in the ancient annual Vedic lunar-solar calendar; Purnima means the full moon day. Buddha is traditionally believed to have been born on the full moon day of this month. The day also is traditionally celebrated as the day of His enlightenment, and the day of His death – His entering into mahasamadhi, or mahaparinirvana. I have not edited the Indian English or content of the article. But I might add some notes [in brackets].

Buddha Purnima 2016

Buddha Purnima 2016 would be celebrated worldwide by the people on 21st of May, at Saturday. It would be celebrated as 2578th Birth Anniversary of Gautama Buddha.

Also known as:

  • Buddha’s Birthday
  • Buddha Jayanti [jayanti=birthday]
  • Vaishakh Purnima
  • Vesak Day

Buddha Purnima Festival

Buddha Purnima festival is celebrated every year in the Hindi month of Vaishakha to commemorate the birth anniversary, Enlightenment and Mahaparinirvana (death anniversary) of the Gautama Buddha. The birth name of the Gautama Buddha was Siddhartha Gautama who later became a great Buddha and called as Gautama Buddha. He became a great spiritual teacher and founded Buddhism. Although, the real date of his birth and death is unknown however, it is estimated by many historians between 563-483 BC. [Some traditional Buddhist communities and some modern scholars put the dates as early as c700, even c800 BC/BCE (ie Before Common/Christian Era).]  He was born in the Lumbini, Nepal to the King Shuddhodana (King of Kapilvastu) and Queen Maya Devi and died at his 80 in the Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh. [Many traditional Buddhist communities hold that He lived till 90, rather than 80. The kingdom into which Buddha was born as crown prince was Indian by culture and Vedic-Hindu religion, though its territory was in what is now Nepal.]

Bodh Gaya, Lumbini, Kushinagar and Sarnath has become the most important pilgrimage sites for the Buddhists as these places are deeply attached to the life of Gautama Buddha. Bodh Gaya is the place where Gautama Buddha obtained the Enlightenment after many years of Tapa [tapas: self-disciplined “austerities” for spiritual purification], Sarnath is the place where he first taught the Dharma [teaching, way of life, means/path of spiritual evolution], Lumbini is his birth place and Kushinagar is death place.

The day of celebration of Buddha Purnima varies from year to year. According to the Gregorian calendar, Buddha Purnima falls every year from the end of April to the end of May. [It is the full moon day in the springtime Vedic lunar month of Vaishakh or Wesak, equivalent to mid-April-to-mid-May].Buddha’s birthday celebration date has been declared by the Taiwanese government on 2nd Sunday of the May

Buddha Purnima Celebration

It is celebrated every year on the full moon day in the month of April or May to celebrate the birth anniversary, death anniversary (Nirvana) and enlightenment of the Lord Buddha. Buddha Purnima celebration has special significance for the Buddhists people as the founder of the Buddhism was born.

Variety of social, cultural and religious events and ceremonies like prayer meetings (including Panchasheel, Sutrapath, Ashtasheel, Sutrasraban), fair, Bodhidroom Mela and lots of activities are arranged by the Buddhists for three or more days to specially celebrate this event. Holy books, magazines and other reading materials are distributed by the Buddhist organizations among people.

At this day, special programmes and messages are distributed by the radio channels, TV channels and newspapers to give the real message of celebration among common people. Religious people came from all the corners of the world to the Bodh Gaya to get participated in the Buddha Purnima celebrations. People participate in the celebration ceremonies like prayer reciting, lectures on the Gautam Buddha life history, religious speeches about the Buddhist scriptures, meditation, Lord Buddha statue worship [most Buddhists would say, veneration or reverence for the universal qualities of enlightened existence represented by Buddha and statues or pictures made in his outward image]  and processions.

People came to the temple and offer holy water to the statue of Buddha and then worship by offering flowers, incense, candles and fruits. [ie the traditional symbolic thanksgiving offerings made in Vedic puja, or ceremonial greetings used to welcome and/or remember any honored guest or person of respect, living or dead, especially on their birthday and/or death anniversary. Such Vedic puja celebratory ritual forms the basis and center of daily Hindu and Buddhist ritual life for individuals, communities, temples, monasteries, and businesses, schools, nations]. Buddhist people help poor people by offering money, food and other necessary goods. Caged animals are freed at this day to distribute the message of; freeness is the basic rights of each and every living creature according to the Buddha.

On the day of Buddha Purnima celebration, Mahabodhi temple is decorated by the religious people using beautiful flowers, flags and other things. At this unique day, Buddhist people perform special rituals like followers bathe, wearing white clothes after holy bath, get together to pray, preaching teachings of Lord Buddha, eat and distribute the kheer [sweetened rice and milk porridge with which Buddha broke his fast after attaining enlightenment] and etc. They serve common public at this day by setting up the clean drinking water stalls in the public places. Some of the particular activities which are carried out at this day by different countries such as:

  • Buddhists in the Burma specially take care of the Bodhi trees through continuous watering and nursing to commemorate the enlightenment attained by the Lord Buddha.
  • In the Sri Lanka, people decorate and enlighten their houses with the oil-lamps. They decorate bamboo sticks with the stars and arrange to their houses.
  • A special procession of the monks is carried out with the sacred scriptures in the Gangtok, India.
  • Buddhists in the Japan, decorate the small statue of the Buddha [ie images of Buddha as an infant] with spring flowers after performing the ritual of bathe.

Places of Buddha Purnima Celebration

It is celebrated every year at the various Buddhist pilgrimage sites all over the world such as Bodhgaya and Sarnath as well as other Buddhist regions like Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Buddha Jayanti Park, Delhi and etc.

Importance of Buddha Purnima

Buddha Purnima is celebrated to commemorate the Lord Buddha and his religious achievements during his life time. He was a Prince by birth however he never chose to live very easy and prosperous life of the palace. At his sixteen he got married to the beautiful woman and got a nice son. At his 29, a big turning point came in his life, he left the palace and went outside in the search of truth about old age, death, sickness and etc. He started wandering like an ascetic after lefting his son, wife and rich life of the palace for searching the enlightenment. [According to tradition, however, his wife and son, stepmother-aunt, and cousins — his entire family, after the early death of his parents — all became his close followers and monastic students after his enlightenment. Weirdly, this part of the legend is always left out of non-Buddhist retellings.] He reached to the Bodh Gaya at his 35 and sat beneath the Bodhi tree for the deep meditation until he got enlightenment. He attained nirvana after 49 days of the deep meditation and became a Buddha.

From then, it was started celebrating as Buddha Purnima to commemorate his Jayanti, nirvana and enlightenment. Dharmachakra means Dharma wheel (having 8 spokes and path to enlightenment) represents the symbol of Buddhism during the celebration of Buddha Purnima. It has been declared as an official holiday in India and all the government offices, banks, post offices including businesses and other private organizations are closed. It is celebrated in different countries with different names such as Swanyapunhi in the Nepal, Vesak Day in the Singapore, Hari Waisak in the Indonesia, Visakha Bucha Day in the Thailand and etc.

Rituals at Buddha Purnima

People celebrate Buddha Purnima every year by organizing some important events and performing several rituals to honour his exemplary life. Devotees gets involved in the celebration, visits monasteries, listens sermons, stories, stanzas, etc from the Buddhist scriptures. They offer foods, clothes, money, gifts or other useful things to the priests and poor.

Devotees of the Lord Buddha pay tribute to the statue with the offerings of flowers, incense, candles, prashad [consecrated food gifts, somewhat similar to eucharistic food and drink], music, devotional songs, Buddhist Holy Scriptures recitation, religious speech and discussion, prayer, religious parade, meditation, aarti [offering of sacred camphor oil lamp lights, candle lights], etc. People celebrate this festival very peacefully and show their faith to the five principles of Lord Buddha called Panchsheel [five basic moral precepts, ethical self-disciplines or ideals: to abstain from life-damaging actions, all that which contributes to killing or harming other beings; to refrain from “theft” including (mis-)appropriating, exploiting, consuming, wasting, hoarding, or unjustly refusing to share objects and resources as if by natural moral right their ownership or use belongs solely to oneself as personal property rather than gifts of nature provided for the welfare of all beings; to refrain from speech that is untruthful, harmful or hurtful to others; to abstain from sexual behavior that harms, exploits, or disadvantages others and their existing relations with others; to abstain from imbibing or providing intoxicating substances that obscure or obstruct clear-mindedness and compassion, that may lead to careless or harmful thought, speech or action. The purpose is to cultivate consciousness, thought, speech, and action that is attuned to and furthers spiritual or conscious evolution — life-supporting, life-enhancing growth, the lessening or absence of life-damaging or devolutionary influences and results to oneself and to others.]  People become involved in many religious activities all through the day. People also perform ritual of Abhishek [consecrated ablution, or bathing of an object] through milk and scented water on the Bodhi tree and place clay or artificial diyas [ie small vessels for holding water, oil, rice, etc] around it.

[The day’s celebrations are in some ways equivalent to what would be the case in Christian communities if Christmas, the Transfiguration, Good Friday, Easter, and the Ascension were all celebrated on the same one day of the year, but without any mourning associated with Good Friday, etc. Some Buddhist communities do celebrate additional separate days annually for Buddha’s enlightenment and death respectively, but all celebrate the full moon spring day in Vaishakh as his birthday.  Most Buddhist and Vedic-Hindu traditions hold that meditation and other spiritual practices are 1,000 times more effective when engaged on the full moon day, and 10,000 times more effective on the full moon in Vaishakh.  

Sarvamagalam! – greatest good fortune to all beings! May prosperity and enlightenment be enjoyed by all.]