The birth anniversary of Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, is celebrated as Buddha Purnima or Buddha Jayanti. It falls on a full moon day in the month of Vaishakha (April/May) according to the Hindu calendar. It is also observed as the day when Buddha, born as Prince Siddhartha Gautama (563 BCE) attained Nirvana (salvation) under the Mahabodhi tree at Bodh Gaya in state of Bihar in India and as well as his death anniversary. The Vaishakka full moon day is the most important day in the Buddhist calendar.
Buddha Purnima is a major festival celebrated countries like Sri Lanka (where it is called Vesak), Bhutan, Burma, Thailand, Tibet, China, Korea, Laos, Vietnam, Mongolia, Cambodia, Singapore, Indonesia, India and Nepal, though celebrations vary from country to country.
Devotees of Buddha visit temples, light candles and incense sticks, pray and offer sweets and fruits before the statue of Lord Buddha. Sermons on the life and teachings of Buddha are held and attended by followers all over. People usually dress in white, do not consume non-vegetarian food and distribute kheer.
Many followers also free caged birds on this day as a symbol of empathy and compassion for all living beings, one of the most important teachings of Lord Buddha.
In India, a large fair takes place in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, a major Buddhist pilgrimage site where Buddha is said to have delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. The relics of Buddha are taken out for public display in a procession. Many Hindus also believe Buddha to be the ninth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. This year, with coronavirus pandemic and nationwide lockdown, now in phase 3, the celebrations are likely to look different.
Some of Gautam Buddha’s teachings that we all can use in our daily life:
“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you.”
“If you knew what I know about the power of giving you would not let a single meal pass without sharing it in some way.”
“Learn this from water: loud splashes the brook but the oceans depth are calm.”
“Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.”
“Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.”
“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”