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Lord Buddha’s birthday is called as Buddha Jayanthi or Buddha Purnima. Buddha Purnima is the most sacred festival of Buddhists. Buddha was a spiritual teacher. From ancient scriptures, many Hindus believe that, Buddha is the ninth incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
Buddha Purnima is celebrated at various Buddhist sites across India, mainly at Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, Sikkim, Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh and north Bengal. It is believed that Buddha first taught the Dharma at Sarnath (near Varanasi). Devotees from across the globe visit these temples in Sarnath, Bodh Gaya and various other places on the day of Buddha Purnima.Buddhists, the disciples of Lord Buddha, believers of Ahimsa (non-violence) and Karuna (compassion) come together on this day to educate others on the teachings and life experiences of Lord Buddha.
Life of Gautama Buddha:
Siddhartha Gautama is the original name of Lord Buddha. Lumbini is the birth place of Buddha that is located in Nepal. The exact time of Gautama Buddha’s birth was uncertain. But most of the historical writings show that lifetime of Buddha was around 5th or 6th century BC that is in between 563-483 B.C. It is believed that Buddha was born as a prince in a royal family.
Maya Devi, the Queen of Shakya King Suddhodana of Kapilvastu, gave birth to the Prince Siddhartha while passing through the Lumbini garden, on the day of Vaishakha Purnima. His mother passed away when he was a child. Gautama Siddhartha spent his childhood luxuriously. His father expected that Siddhartha would become a renowned king.
One day, Buddha was travelling in his chariot outside the walls of his palace. Suddenly he came across an old man, a sick person, a dead body and a holy man. It was the first time Buddha witnessed pain and suffering of humans so closely. The immense sufferings and pain of humanity that he witnessed struck deeply into his heart. This made him take a drastic step in his life. At the age of 29, he left his family, kingdom and all the worldly pleasures to find the true meaning of life.
He began his quest for enlightenment and started practicing ‘Dharmakaya’. ‘Dharmakaya’ is a kind of meditation where we focus on a single-pointed nature of all phenomena. He then went to Bodh Gaya that is located in the state of Bihar in India. He sat under a fig tree and started meditating vowing not to move unless he had attained the right knowledge of life and its purpose. While meditating, he became enlightened.
After that, Gautama Buddha undertook the initiative to help others realizing the truth in their lives. His sermon (speech) generally consists of 'The Four Noble Truths' and 'The Eight Fold Path' of life. Buddha includes non-violence and compassion in his teachings. Based on the teachings of Gautama Buddha, Buddhism was founded.
Samudaya – The truth of origin of Suffering. Here we determine the cause for suffering. The thirsts for pleasure, power, long life, etc are the causes for suffering.
Nirodha – The truth of end of Suffering. It suggests either to end the suffering completely before it comes or to wait to release from sorrow.
Marga – The truth of the path to the end of Suffering. This refers to the way leading to the cessation of suffering. It contains a thorough training of our body, speech and mind. It is outlined as the noble eightfold path.
The Eight Fold Path that are included in Gautama Buddha’s Sermon are to have Right View, Right thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.
Many men and women undertake the path of Buddha to achieve peace of mind. All his followers are called as Buddhists.
Gautama Buddha has lived mostly in the eastern part of India and taught. It is believed that, Buddha passed away at the age of 80, at Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh. So on the day of Buddha Purnima, Kheer or Sweet rice porridge is served among Buddhists to recall the story of a maiden Sujatha who offered Buddha a bowl of milk porridge.
There was a village called Senani village near Uruvela. A landowner has a daughter named Sujatha. Once she prayed to God that she would offer milk-rice to the spirit of the tree if she gives birth to a boy. Her wish was fulfilled. So she asked her maid to visit the tree and prepare that place for offering. When her maid visited that place she saw Gautama Buddha sitting under the tree. She thought Buddha as tree god and told this matter to Sujatha. Then Sujatha was delighted and reached the tree to offer milk-rice to Buddha in a golden bowl.
Buddha accepted the milk-rice bowl and walked to the river bank, took a bath and ate the food. After the fasting of forty nine nights, he took this meal. After this Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment.
Sujatha belongs to a rich family. She didn't respect others. She disobeys her parents and her husband. Because of her attitude there was much trouble in her family. One day, Buddha visited Anathapindika (father-in-law of Sujatha). He heard some unusual sounds at their house and asked the reason for the sound.
Then Anathapindika replied that it was his daughter-in-law. He also said that she doesn't listen to her parents, in-laws and even her husband. So Buddha called Sujatha and told her that there are seven types of wives a man might have and asked her which one was she? By hearing this Sujatha wanted to know what those types are.
The first type of wife is bad and undesirable to her husband. She is very troublesome, wicked, short-tempered and not faithful.
The second type of wife is like a thief who wastes all the money of her husband.
The third type of wife is lazy and thinks only about her. She is cruel. She has no sense of compassion, always scolds her husband and like gossiping.
The fourth type of wife is good and praiseworthy. This type of wife is like a mother. She is kind and compassionate. She takes care of her husband like her son. She is very careful with the money.
The fifth type of wife is like a sister. She shows respect and is obedient to her husband.
There is a type of wife, who is like a friend to her husband. She is very noble, virtuous and faithful to her husband.
The last type of wife is like a maid of the house and her family. She is very calm and obedient. She does not show any sign of anger even if her husband is harsh towards her.
After telling this Lord Buddha asked her which kind of wife she was and which type of wife she wanted to be. By hearing this Sujatha was ashamed of her past conduct. Then she said she would change her behavior and would be a good and understanding wife. After that she changed her behavior accordingly and became helper to her husband and both of them worked together.
Celebrations of Buddha Purnima includes activities like prayer meets, sermons and religious discourses, recitation of Buddhist scriptures, group meditation, processions and worship of the Buddha Statue. The Mahabodhi temple at Bodh Gaya gives a festive look. It is decorated with colorful flags and flowers and special prayers are organized under the Bodhi tree.
On the day of Buddha Jayanthi, some of the bones and ashes of Buddha are brought out for public viewing at the National Museum in Delhi. At the Tibet House in Delhi, the cultural center of the Dalai Lama, special ceremony and exhibition are held. International Buddhist Confederation in conjunction with the Indian Ministry of Culture celebrates an annual celebratory event in New Delhi. This event is attended by various international guests, monks and the Prime Minister of India.
We observe that on the day of Buddha Jayanthi, many Buddhists visit temples to listen to monks, give talks. The statue of Buddha is worshipped by offerings of incense, flowers, candles and fruits. In some temples, a small statue of Buddha as a baby is placed in a basin filled with water and decorated with flowers. The visitors to the temple pour water over the statue of Buddha. This indicates a pure and new beginning.
We often see a Dharmachakra or Dharma Wheel during Vesak (Buddha Purnima) which represents Buddha’s teachings on the path to enlightenment. Dharma Wheel is a wooden wheel with eight spokes. These eight spokes of Dharma wheel symbolizes the noble eightfold path of Buddhism.
On this day, Buddhists pay special attention to Buddha’s teachings. They donate goods, money and food to the organizations that help the poor, sick and elderly people. As preached by Buddha, caged animals are brought and set free to show care for all living creatures. Mostly Buddhists wear white clothes on this day. Non-vegetarian food is avoided on this day.
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