Buddha Purnima is the most important festival amongst the Buddhist people. Buddhism is the non theistic religion that encompassed the teachings, beliefs and practices of Gautama Buddha who founded the religion of Buddhism.
The word Buddhism comes from the word Budhi, which means to awaken, to be enlightened.
This day is the birth anniversary of Gautama Buddha and falls on the purnima or full moon of the month of Vaisakha according to the traditional Hindu calendar or the month of April May according to Gregorian calendar.
- What does Buddha Purnima observe?
Buddha Purnima actually observes the three most important events of Buddhism together. It commemorates his birth in 623 BC, his enlightenment or Niravana in the year 588 BC and finally his Pari-Nirvana or complete extinction at the age of 80 in the Theravada or the southern tradition. This occasion, because of the spread of Buddhism in great many south-eastern Asian countries, is known by many different names. In Chinese this day is known as Fódàn, Birthday of the Buddha, in Japanese it is known as Hanamatsuri or the Day of Flowers, in Burmese it is known as the Full Moon Day, in Tibetan it is known as the Sa Ga Dawa, in Vietnamese this day is called the Phật Đản or the Birthday of the Buddha amongst many other languages.
- Dates of Buddha Purnima or Vesak in the next five years according to the modern day calendar:
- In 2014, the Buddha Purnima or Vesak date is Wednesday, May 14.
- In 2015, the Buddha Purnima or Vesak date is on Monday, May 4.
- In 2016, the Buddha Purnima or Vesak date is on Saturday, May 21.
- In 2017, the Buddha Purnima or Vesak date is on Wednesday, May 10.
- In 2018, the Buddha Purnima or Vesak date is Monday, April 30.
This event is however, observed in different countries on different date. it is observed on a full moon day of the month of Vaisakha, thus different countries like Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Indonesia, Sri Lanka etc have different dates for observing this great incident in the month of Vaisakha.
- Life of Gautama Buddha
Gautama Buddha was the sage who founded Buddhism. His earlier life name was Siddhartha. He was born to King Suddhodana and queen Maya. He was born in the Shakya clan in the 5th century BCE. He was born in a place called Lumbini. He was married to Yasodhara and till 29 years of life, he was secluded and unaware of human sufferings. When he was 29 years of age, Siddhartha went out to meet his subjects, and met a diseased man, a decaying dead body and an ascetic. He wanted to leave the luxuries of palace and lead the life of a mendicant and attain the ultimate truth or Nirvana. Buddha taught and preached a middle way between self indulgence and self mortification. This middle way is called the Ashtangik Marga or the 8 fold path. Buddha sat under a peepal tree, and after a severe and undivided meditation of 49 days attained enlightenment. He attained his enlightenment under a peepal or Bodhi tree, in a place called Bodh Gaya and post enlightenment gave his first sermon in Sarnath. It was post his enlightenment only that he came to be known as Buddha, one who had attained Bodhi. At his time of achieving enlightenment, he realized the cause of human sufferings and the path to eliminate that. This came to be known as the Four Noble Truths. When one masters the four noble truths, then one has attained Nirvana, as in Nirvana, nothing of self remains and all personal realms are melted away.
After his enlightenment Buddha met Taphussa and Bhallika, who became his first disciples and together they formed the Sangha or the group or order of the Buddhist religious monks. He in the next years preached Buddhism in numerous places, also going to his erstwhile birth place Kapilavastu. His father Suddhodana also became a disciple. 5 years after the formation of the sangha, Buddha took female members in the Sangha.
At the age of 80 Buddha attained Pari Nirvana or the final deathless state of giving up his physical body.
- Observance of the Buddha Purnima in various parts of India and beyond
On the Buddha Purnima day, devotees awaken early and attend various temples before dawn with flowers, joss sticks and candles. The early morning sees the Buddhist flag being hoisted and hymns on triple gems namely, Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha being sung. Devotees take vegetarian food on that day as killing an animal is strictly prohibited. In some countries as Sri Lanka, all slaughter houses and liquor shops are closed. Birds, animals and variety of animals are set free in a symbolic gesture of emancipation or liberation. Some disciples wear white on this day.
Some temples display a small Buddha idol in a basin full of flowers and water, so that the devotees can bathe Buddha, thereby washing their own sins away and cleansing their bad karma.
Monks read out from the Tripitaka, or the Buddhist religious book for the devotees to set them in the right path.
A huge fair is held in Sarnath, where Buddha had given his first sermon. People from all over the country visit Sarnath and relics of Buddha are taken out in a procession. Gaya and Kushinagar and many other parts of India having Buddhist monasteries celebrate this day with utmost devotion and worship the teaching of Lord Gautama Buddha.
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