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Let us worship the Prince who wouldn’t be King

Buddha Purnima, Jayanti, Birthday on May 8

Staff Reporter
info@indiannewslink.co.nz

Buddhists all over the world will mark the Birthday of the Founder of Buddhism on May 8, 2016. There would be reverence, peace of mind and thought and simplicity at Buddhist temples and other places of congregation as Buddha is worshipped with inexplicable piety.

Fo Guang Shan

Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple, located in East Auckland (at 16 Stancombe Road, Flatbush) will wear a festive look on Sunday, May 8, 2016 as thousands of people visit the place of worship between 10 am and 4 pm.

The event will commence with a prayer for world peace, followed by ‘Bathe the Buddha’ ceremony, Buddhist Artefacts and a Vegetarian Food Fair.

Cultural performances, ‘Prince Siddhartha Wonderland’ and ‘Baby Blessing’ will be special attractions on Buddha’s Birthday.

Lunar Fixture

In many east Asian countries Buddha’s Birth is celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar (in Japan, since 1873 on April 8 of the Gregorian calendar).

Buddha Day is a public holiday in many countries. In India, the festival is observed as ‘Buddha Purnima’ and ‘Buddha Jayanti.’

Buddha’s Day is the birthday of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, traditionally celebrated in Mahayana Buddhism. According to the Theravada Tripitaka scriptures (from Pali, meaning ‘Three baskets’), Gautama was born in Lumbini in modern-day Nepal, around the year 563 BCE, and raised in Kapilavastu.

The Prophesy

According to this legend, briefly after the birth of young prince Gautama, an astrologer named Asita visited the young prince’s father, King Śuddhodana, and prophesied that Siddhartha would either become a great king or renounce the material world to become a holy man, depending on how he saw what life was outside the palace walls.

Śuddhodana was determined to see his son become a king, and hence prevented him from leaving the palace grounds. But at age 29, despite his father’s efforts, Gautama ventured beyond the palace several times.

Four Sights

In a series of encounters, known in Buddhist literature as the ‘Four Sights,’ he learned of the suffering of ordinary people, encountering an old man, a sick man, a corpse and, finally, an ascetic holy man, apparently content and at peace with the world.

These experiences prompted Gautama to abandon royal life and take up a spiritual quest.

The exact date of Buddha’s Birthday is based on the Asian lunisolar calendars and is primarily celebrated in Baisakh month of the Buddhist calendar and the Bikram Sambat Hindu calendar, and hence it is also called Vesak.

In Nepal, which is considered the birth-country of Buddha, it is celebrated on the Full Moon day of the Vaisakha month of the Buddhist calendar.

Differing observance

In Theravada countries following the Buddhist calendar, it falls on a Full Moon Uposatha day, typically in the 5th or 6th Lunar month. In China and Korea, it is celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth month in the Chinese lunar calendar. The date varies from year to year in the Western Gregorian calendar, but usually falls in April or May. In leap years it may be celebrated in June.

In 1999 the Taiwanese government set Buddha’s birthday as the second Sunday of May, the same date as Mother’s Day.

In Cambodia, Buddha’s birthday known as Visak Bochea is a public holiday and monks around the country carry flags, lotus flowers, incense and candles to acknowledge Vesak. People also take part in alms giving to the monks.

In China, celebrations often occur in Buddhist temples where people light incense and bring food offerings for the monks. In Hong Kong, Buddha’s birthday is a public holiday. Lanterns are lit to symbolise the Buddha’s enlightenment and many people visit the temple to pay their respects. They also pour a medicine liquid onto statues of Buddha. The bathing of the Buddha is a major feature of Buddha’s birthday.

Indian connection

In India, Buddha Purnima or Tathagata is celebrated especially in Sikkim, Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, Bodh Gaya, various parts of North Bengal such as Kalimpong, Darjeeling, and Kurseong, and Maharashtra (where 73% of total Indian Buddhists live) and other parts of India as per Indian calendar.

Buddhists go to common Viharas to observe a rather longer-than-usual, full-length Buddhist sutra, like a service. The usual dress is pure white.

Non-vegetarian food is normally avoided. Kheer, a sweet rice porridge is commonly served to recall the story of Sujata, a maiden who, in Gautama Buddha’s life, offered the Buddha a bowl of milk porridge.

Buddha Day actually commemorates the birth, enlightenment (nirvāna), and death (Parinirvāna) of Gautama Buddha in the Theravada tradition.

In Indonesia, Buddha’s birthday known as Waisak is a public holiday. A large procession beginning in Mendut in Java ends at Borobudur – the largest Buddhist temple in the word.

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