Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Calendar Entry #8: Visakha Puja

We continue our journey through the Cauldrons Calendar feast/festival/holidays - this time we've got a Buddhist celebration.  

Statue of Buddha, Roberto Orgera
Visakha Puja or Vesakha Day is an annual Buddhist holiday also colloquially referred to as 'Buddha's Birthday'.  This day, however, isn't just a celebration of the Buddha's birth, but of a Buddhist Trinity, three important events that occurred in the life of Lord Buddha on the same day - the full moon of the sixth lunar month, typically May or June each year.  These three significant and separate events were the birth of Buddha, the day he achieved enlightenment (NIRVANA) and the day he passed away, at age eighty.

Today Buddhists will traditionally visit their temples where they will participate in activities that may include singing hymns in praise of The Buddha, The Dharma (his teachings) and The Sangha (his disciples), or listen to the Buddha's teachings by attending the reading of the Holy Scriptures ceremony or taking part in a candle lighting ceremony or procession in the evening.  Some temples may have a small statue of the baby Buddha in front of the altar, in a basin of water.  This allows devotees to pour water over the statue, a symbolic cleansing of one's bad karma.

The Buddha gave instruction on how homage was to be paid to him before he died.  It is not enough for devotees to merely leave offerings of flowers, incense and lights (to symbolise the decay that life, even the Buddha's, is subject to) when observing this day. Things die, and wither, but The Dharma is eternal.  Devotees will best pay homage by truly and sincerely striving to follow his teachings, using this day to reaffirm their determination in leading noble lives and practising loving kindness that will bring peace and harmony to humanity.  

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