Buddha Purnima, Buddha Jayanti or Buddha’s birthday is one of the most valued Buddhist festivals that celebrate the birth of Buddha (also known as Siddhartha Gautama / Gautama Buddha). He was a philosopher and a great spiritual teacher.
The Buddha Purnima Festival is based on the Asian Luni-solar Calendar and may fall on any full moon day of April or May. In Southern countries and Southeast Asia, it is popularly called “Vesak”. This is because it falls in the month of Vaishaka and is recognised as a very sacred day around the globe.
Buddha Purnima reminds us of the day when Buddha attained enlightenment. He paid tribute as he was the founder of the religion of Buddhism. It’s also known that Gautama Buddha passed away on this day and was further regarded as the “Awakened One” or the “Enlightened One”.
This day is also symbolized by the wheel of dharma or dharmachakra. It is a wheel which is made of wood with eight spokes and can be very often seen during Vesak.
History of Buddha Purnima
As mentioned in the traditional scriptures of Buddhism, known as Theravada Tripitaka scriptures the story of Buddha is 2,600 years old and can be cited back to the 563–480 BCE range of years. Buddha was born in the city of Lumbini situated in Nepal close to the border of India.
Soon after birth he was named Siddhartha and was raised in the capital of Kapilavastu, Nepal. Siddhartha was born in a royal and rich family of the Warrior caste ‘Shakya’ He was extremely compassionate and intelligent. Growing up his parents expected him to be the future of their kingdom so they raised him without letting him observe the misery and pain of the world.
It was already predicted that he would become a great leader and spiritual being so they gave him everything from sports to any kind of pleasure. He was exceptional in combat and won his wife, Yasodhara, during an archery contest. He literally had everything a prince could ask for, but suddenly during his 29th year, he saw someone suffering and in desperate help.
This confrontation showed him the impermanence and misery of life. The very next day he saw a dilapidated man due to his old age and further a dead person. Seeing all this for the first time he realized that death is inevitable and he cannot safeguard the people he loves or cared for.
The following morning while passing a meditator he realized that every perfection he desires in the world can be obtained from within through the mind itself after getting the enticing taste of his mind he decided that he needed to follow this path for his and everyone’s betterment.
Thus, he left every royal responsibility behind and secretly set off on his journey of enlightenment alone in the forest. He learned from many teachers and mastered his techniques over a course of 6 years.
Finally, he stopped at a place called ‘Bodhgaya’ and after spending 6 days and nights meditating he cut through his mind’s most subtle obstacles. He reached enlightenment on the full moon morning of May just a week before he turned thirty-five.
Significance of Buddha Purnima
On the day of Buddha Purnima, three of the prime life stages are cherished. These were given by Buddha as Birth, Enlightenment and Death. All these stages are traditionally known to have happened on the same day of the calendar throughout his life.
This day holds a strong significance for Buddhists and also followers of Buddhism from all over the globe. The festival basically tells us about how much power our mind holds which we try to seek through materialistic assets. It signifies all the teachings given by Buddha over the span of forty-five years.
While his teachings he travelled barefoot throughout the cities of Northern India. Buddha was indiscriminate and that is why people from all castes religions and professions were drawn to him. All his answers pointed toward the ultimate truth and reality which made his followers realize the power of their own minds.
He in fact welcomed any student who would question his teachings and made them attain the truth through their own experience. Even today this approach is followed in Buddhism.
All his teachings are actually very significant to us for unlocking the answers to our questions and doubts.
Buddha Purnima Celebrations
On the day of the Buddha Purnima Festival, people visit temples and listen contently to the monks while they recite the beautiful verses from traditional scriptures. The monks also always happily guide any lost and confused mind. In some Buddhist temples, Buddha statues are displayed in the form of a baby.
This statue is kept in a basin filled with water and adorned beautifully with flowers. The statue is kept in a basin so that visitors can bath the baby Buddha. This bathing or pouring of water symbolizes a pure or divine new beginning. Many Buddhists follow the teachings preached by Buddha during Buddha Purnima.
They dress in white clean robes and only have vegetarian food around the whole day. During the celebrations, many organizations take part in arranging food, money and shelter for the old, poor and sick people. People also buy caged animals and set them free to show care for all living creatures as taught by Buddha himself.
Therefore, the teachings of Buddha play an important role during the celebrations.