Buddha Jayanti is celebrated on the day of full moon in the month of Baishakh (April-May) according to lunar calendar. This particular day has a great significance as it is not only the day Buddha was born but it also happens to be the day he was able to attain enlightenment and nirvana. Buddha Jayanti is on 31 Baishakh, 2071 i.e. 14th May, 2014. This year he will be of 2556 years in human age.
Buddha Jayanti is one of the significant festivals of Nepal and in Buddhism. This day is celebrated all over the world especially in south-east Asia where there are people who follow the teachings of Gautam Buddha like India, Burma, China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, Vietnam and Tibet. Buddha Jayanti is known by various other names such as Swanyapunhi in Nepal Bhasa, Buddha Purnima or Baisakha Purnima in India, Vesak in Sri Lanka, Puspa Purnima in Bangladesh, Visakha Bucha in Thailand and Full Moon Day of Kason in Burma.
LIFE OF BUDDHA
Buddha was born in 543 B.C. in Kapilvastu, Lumbini, Nepal as the son of King Suddhodhana and Queen Maya Devi. He went on to achieve enlightenment at the age of 35 in 588 BC and attained nirvana at the age of 80. Gautam Buddha is another name given to him, though his birth name is Prince Siddhartha Gautam. Buddha means Awakened One and he is also goes by the name Shakyamuni.
It is said in the Buddhist scriptures that when Buddha was born he took seven steps (on his each step, it is said that a lotus flower appeared for him to stand on) immediately after his birth, raised a finger in the air saying he was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and that this will be his final birth. After his birth he and his mother bathed in the nearby Pushkarni Pond.
There is a statue of Maya Devi built where she gave birth to Buddha which is now enclosed into a temple called Maya Devi Temple. She died seven days after giving birth to Siddhartha Gautam.
As a Prince of an affluent kingdom, he grew up in a very luxurious and protected environment. He was married to Yashodhara at the age of 16 and had a son Rahul. Prince Siddhartha had a loving and kind in nature and was loved by all. He was not allowed to go outside the palace but one day he managed to get his charioteer to take him outside the palace and when he took a tour of his kingdom, he witnessed all the suffering of his people, a person suffering from sickness, a man struggling because of old age and even saw a procession of a dead person.
He also met a monk and inquired about him upon which, he found out about the life without anything to do with the materials of the world and searching for answers of life and salvation from all the suffering of the living. After witnessing what mankind was going through, he now wanted to know why there was so much suffering in the world and what the purpose of life was and how to get salvation for the people from all that misery.
To find what he was looking for, he decided to follow the ways of a monk and one night at the age of 29 he slipped out of the palace in search for answers and started his meditation under the Bodhi Tree (Fig Tree). After sometime, he found the answer to all the suffering of the people was their own desires and human greed. Once you leave those behind a person’s suffering will end and he will find peace.
When he achieved enlightenment (Buddhatto) he didn’t return to the palace but went on to share his knowledge and wisdom with the world, so they could find peace in life too.
BUDDHA JAYANTI CELEBRATIONS
Jagatman Man Vaidya also known as Dharmaditya Dharmacharya reintroduce the tradition of celebrating Gautam Buddha’s birthday aka Buddha Jayanti in the year 1926 A.D. in Nepal which had been forgotten and lost for several years for various reasons.
Buddha Jayanti is celebrated as the birthday of Gautam Buddha everywhere there are Buddhists communities but after the first ever conference of World Fellowship of Buddhists in 1950, it was declared by all involved that they would celebrate the day as a national holiday and Buddha’s birthday would be celebrated worldwide in his honor and for his contribution to the humanity.
This day holds an important place in the hearts of all Buddhists in the world. Buddha Jayanti is not celebrated only people of Buddhism but by Hindus too as they regard Buddha to be one of the many incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
Lumbini, the place where he was born is visited by thousands of pilgrims on this day. There are also lots of programs and events held on this day to commemorate Buddha Jayanti and visitors and devotees alike take a tour of all beautifully made stupas by different countries in honor of Gautam Buddha. UNESCO has designated the area where he was born as World Heritage Site including Maya Devi Temple and Ashoka Pillar (This pillar was built by Mauryan Emperor Ashoka on his visit in Lumbini in 249 B.C.) People also visit the Mahabodhi tree under which he reached the state of enlightenment and Kushinagar where he entered nirvana both situated in India.
On this day various stupas (memorial shrines), gompas/viharas (monasteries) in Nepal hold different religious and cultural programs such as sermons, meditation, reading Buddhists scriptures and sutras, worshiping Buddha, retelling of his life story and why he is the greatest benefactor of humanity, circling prayer wheels etc. There are also other activities like processions, doing noble deeds like helping the poor with food and aid, handing out medicines to the sick and blood donations in memory of Buddha.
On this day every year Buddhists devotees put up a colorful flag with red, yellow, blue and white colors on their rooftops. While for the prayers they also offer some fruits and butter lamps and light incense in front of the statue of Buddha.
Buddha Jayanti is not celebrated exclusively because it’s his birthday but to remember his virtues, his teachings and what he did for humanity. Buddha led his teachings by example and not with just words. This is how so called spiritual leaders of today need to remember and embrace his teachings so they could steer their followers onto the right path to seek salvation from the sufferings that comes from the living.
As Buddha said in his teachings that are viewed as the Four Noble Truths:
- Life itself is suffering (suffering starts from birth till death).
- Suffering comes from attachments to worldly things and human desires.
- To end one’s sufferings and find peace, one needs to let go of his own desires and severe the attachments from materials of the world.
- The path to end the suffering is to follow the right way of living the Noble Eight Fold Path.
The Noble Eight Fold Path as taught by Buddha to his disciples for ending suffering is:
- Right View
- Right Intention
- Right Speech
- Right Conduct
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Meditation
All Buddhists reinforce the knowledge of Panchasheel on this day which is said to be the following:
- Not kill any living creatures
- Not to steal
- Not to lie
- Not to get intoxicated
- Not to commit adultery
There are hundreds of lights lit up at both Bouddhanath and Swayambhunath on this day in Kathmandu and sight is amazing to watch as lights glow and shower in every direction as if spreading the teachings of Buddha on his behalf. Anyone who sees this will feel peace within him and gets a chance to reflect on his life and the way he has lived it thus far. One should embrace the teachings of Buddha even if he isn’t a follower of this religion. The least one can do is carry out a good deed to commemorate this day.