The festival of Buddha Purnima marks the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautam Buddha. Learn its significance, meaning, and celebration.
In any aspiring yogi and spiritualist’s life, Buddha Purnima holds a special significance. The eightfold path introduced by Buddhism includes purposeful elements for a yogi. One of the most significant gifts of Buddhism is mindfulness and meditation. They hold equal significance in today’s world.
Want to know more about Buddhism’s contribution to modern yoga and meditation practice? Check our blog on Ancient History Of Yoga.
Buddha was radical in his views to emphasize the importance of meditation and taking responsibility for our spiritual progress. We already have within us the embodied wisdom to attain enlightenment and the path to Enlightenment entails practising meditation and observing morality, virtue and compassion.
If you would like to try simple calming mindfulness meditation, play the audio below
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What Is Buddha Purnima?
Buddha Purnima or Buddha Jayanti is the birthday of Gautama Buddha — founder of Buddhism. It’s the biggest Buddhist festival celebrated all around the world, mostly in South-East Asia. In many places, Buddha Purnima is celebrated in the name of Vesak, as this full moon day falls in the month of Vaishak in Buddhist Calendar and Bikram Sambat Hindu Calendar. As per Gregorian Calendar, Buddha Purnima falls in April or May. In leap years, the day shifts to June.
According to Theraveda belief, Buddha was born, attained enlightenment (Nirvana) and died (Maha Parinirvana) on this same day. Thus, in some countries, this day is celebrated to mark both Buddha’s birth and death. In other countries, it’s only celebrated as Buddha’s birthday and enlightenment.
Lord Gautama Buddha was born in Lumbini (present-day Nepal.) to Queen Maya Devi and King Suddhodhana of Kapilavastu. Although there are different opinions about his birth time, the time period: 563 - 483 BCE is widely accepted. His maiden name was Prince Siddhartha Gautama. Before setting in for a journey to be Lord Buddha, he spent three decades of his life in Lumbini.
Why Is Buddha Purnima Celebrated?
Buddha Purnima is observed to monumentalize the birth, enlightenment, and death of Lord Buddha. On this very full moon day, after eight years of assiduous, devotional persuasion of Sadhana, he attained full knowledge and awakened as Lord Buddha.
He roamed places on foot without seeking food for eight long years. His body was emancipated and had no strength. This is regarded as Samana. In this weakest state of body, he came to realise the significance of self-enlightenment: that what he was seeking, was inside him. He needed none or nothing to look outside for. He needed to look within.
Thus he crossed the river Niranjana and seated himself in the famous meditative posture under the Bodhi Tree. He didn’t wake up until he attained what he was searching for. During his meditative contemplation, many tried to lure him, distract him but he didn’t move an inch and stayed still.
In the seventh week of his meditation, appeared two merchants: Tapussa and Bhallike who offered him food to break his fast. Lord Buddha expressed what divinity he had experienced in his dhyana. They became fascinated. This fascination turned them to be first followers of Lord Buddha.
Read the book 'Seven Weeks after the Buddha’s Enlightenment: Contradictions in Text, Confusions in Art’ by Osmund Bopearachchi to know more about Buddha's enlightenment.
Today after almost 2500 years, the enlightenment of Buddha is widely celebrated among Buddhist communities and spiritual yoga communities. His divine realisations set the foundation for Buddhism and shaped Buddhist philosophy. He introduced the eightfold path to enlightenment. The eight spokes of the dharma chakra or dharma wheel of Buddhism reflect these eight paths. Four truths of suffering also originated from Lord Buddha.
In Vedic yogic culture, Lord Buddha has another identity. He is regarded as the 9th incarnation of Lord Vishnu in Hinduism. Thus, he holds a special sentimental and religious place in Hinduism as well.
Eightfold Path Of Buddhism:
Four Truths Of Suffering:
Dukkha-Samudaya (arising of suffering)
Dukkha-Nirodha (Cessation of suffering)
How Is Buddha Purnima Celebrated?
Buddha Jayanti or Buddha’s Birthday is celebrated by the Buddhist community with great fervour around the world. It is a public holiday in Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, South Korea, Singapore, and other east-Asian countries.
Usually, devotees pay visits to the monasteries, pagodas, take out processions, chant Buddhist sermons, listen to priests and offer their prayers in the shrine. People wear white clothes and refrain from eating non-vegetarian food on this holy full moon day in many countries.
In Nepal where Buddha was born, the festival is observed with grandeur. Buddhist disciples from all over the world come to Nepal to honour the great Stupas. Worship activities began from the wee hours of the day in two great stupas: Swyambhunath, Boudhanath; it continues till the evening.
In India’s Bodhgaya where Buddha attained enlightenment, festive decoration begins from long before the Buddha Purnima. Mahabodhi temple is decorated with colourful flags, lightings and prayers are uttered under the sacred Bodhi Tree. Many devotees pour water in the Bodhi tree (the sacred tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment).
Tibet House, the cultural center of the Dalai Lama, organises a ceremony to offer prayers and profess ancient Buddhist verses in New Delhi. The International Buddhist Confederation arranges the annual celebration in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture. Prime Minister of India, Buddhist Monks, devotees, guests from the international Buddhist community attend the event.
In the northeastern part of India, people take out yatra which includes the beating of drums, blowing horns, burning incense sticks. Buddha Purnima is known as Saga Dawa in Sikkim.
Holy Buddhist pagodas, monasteries organise meditation, mindfulness events in some countries. Priests recite the significance of Buddhism, beliefs, symbols to the disciples who come to shrines to observe this holy event. There’s a ritual of eating rice pudding on Budhha Jayanti. It is believed that a lady named Sujata offered Lord Budhha rice porridge (kheer) on his birthday. Hence, rice porridge is distributed among disciples.
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