Children, Buddha Purnima or Buddha Jayanti is the greatest festival of the Buddhists all over the world. Buddha Purnima celebrates the birth, enlightenment and nirvana of Lord Buddha. It is believed that Lord Buddha was born and left the world on the same date after living for eighty years. It is celebrated on the full moon day of the Vaishakha, a month in the Hindu calendar. Buddha was given the name of Siddhartha by his parents. His father’s name was Shuddhodhan who was the king of Kapilvastu. Siddhartha's father had kept him unaware of the tragedies of life for a long time . It was only when one day Siddhartha insisted his chariot driver to take him out of the palace that he became aware of the problems and tragedies of life and people.
Soon after this one day he left the palace at night and set out to learn the real meaning of life. He sacrificed his life of luxury and wandered many places in search of truth. Finally, under a banyan tree he is said to have meditated for years and was enlightened there. What Buddha realised, while meditating under the banyan tree, is that life is ruled by four truths. He called these truth as the Four Noble Truths. These truths are:
- Life is filled with suffering
- Suffering is caused by people's wants.
- Suffering can be ended if people stop wanting things, like more pleasure or more power.
- To stop wanting things, people must follow 8 basic laws, called the Eightfold Path.
This tree is in Bodh Gaya, India. Only after this he was given the name of Gautam Buddha.
Celebration of Buddha Purnima
Buddha Purnima is celebrated throughout the world . In Bodh Gaya, pilgrims from all around the world come on this occasion. Prayers and sermons are held and processions are taken out on this day. Group meditation is done and people worshipping Buddha fill in the environment with complete devotion and dedication. The temples are decorated with flags and flowers and the Mahabodhi temple wears a festive and elegant look on this day. People recite the preaching of Lord Buddha and try to make resolutions to follow them as much as they can. People reaffirm their belief in the five principles which is called Panchsheel. These are: Not to take life, not to steal, not to tell lie, not to consume liquor or any other intoxicants and not to be disloyal.
People find that Lord Buddha's teachings are more relevant today than they were at the time he preached people and his followers. Buddha tried to explain people that all the sufferings of this world are simply because of our attachment to the material things. It is our desires that lead us to the sufferings and so he gave the Eight Fold Path for people to follow.
The Eight Fold Path comprises of: Right belief, right intention, right living, right conduct, right word, right thinking, right efforts and right meditation. The rules of the Eightfold Path are simple to list, but difficult for people to follow. To help people better understand and remember the rules, Buddha's teachings were written down as proverbs many years ago. Here are two proverbs written down around 2,000 years ago:
As a solid rock is not shaken by the wind,
even so the wise are not ruffled by praise or blame.
Hatreds never cease by hatred in this world; by love alone they cease.
This is an ancient law. Buddha said if one follows this path, he will be away from the common sufferings of life and living. He made people understand the real balance between extravagance and asceticism as well as luxury and simplicity. Buddha delivered his first sermon at Sarnath. In this sermon he shared the knowledge he had gained through meditation and set the Wheel of the Law in motion. For the rest of his life, Buddha travelled around sharing his teachings with many people. After his body was cremated, his ashes were divided and taken to eight different sites. At each of these sites, a mound-like structure called a stupa was built to contain the ashes. Over the time, many stupas were built and rebuilt, serving as centres of worship for the Buddha's followers.
The Laughing Buddha
Many statues of the Buddha show him laughing. The Buddha is laughing to remind us that we need to greet each day with joy.