Buddha Jayanti: A Tale of Thousand Full Moons

by admin on May 20, 2013

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Buddha PurnimaSix hundred and twenty three years before the birth of Christ, the ‘Light of Asia’ began to rise. Gautama Buddha or ‘The Enlightened One’ was born in 623 BC on a full moon day and attained enlightenment in 588 BC. Though he was born in Lumbini, Nepal, he attained enlightenment in a place called Bodh Gaya, Bihar.  Some Hindu books consider him to be 9th avatar of Lord Vishnu the preserver, Buddha never considered himself to be a God or follow any theism. However, Mahavira, the last tirthankar of Jainism was also spreading the Jain religion at around the same time, and there are some distinct similarities between the two. Some suttas mention Mahivira’s disciples questioning Gautama Buddha on his philosophy. Buddha simply advocated following the eightfold path to Nirvana, or liberation of the soul.  His eightfold tenet included; the right conduct, right motive, right speech, right effort, right resolve, right livelihood, right attention and right meditation. This year, Buddha Purnima falls on May 25, so go ahead and seek some enlightenment and inner peace at any Buddhist sacred place, by joining the worship.

Guatama Buddha was born to King Shuddhona and Queen Maha Maya and known as prince Siddhārtha in his early days. Some holy books mention that the queen dreamt of white elephants during his conception; and hence the elephant is a revered animal wherever Buddhism is practiced, from India to Japan, Thailand to Sri Lanka. The king’s seer had predicted that Siddhārtha would either become a great king or a holy man. The king shielded his son from the miseries of the outside world so that he would not take the path to asceticism. At the age of 29, the prince went out to see the world on his chariot only to renounce the world. He saw suffering and illness, elderly people who could not walk upright, and even a corpse being taken for cremation. He asked his charioteer about this, who replied that everybody becomes old in sometime, and dies.  On this full moon, he bade farewell to his father, his wife Yashodhara and son Rahul, and entered the forests to meditate and find answers to human suffering. He became a wandering monk for some time, begging for alms. At the age of 35, he spent 49 days in meditation and attained ‘Nirvana’ or enlightenment, again on a full moon day. He then earned himself the title of Buddha or the ‘The Enlightened One.’  Budhha Purnima is thus a celebration of three things: his birth, his enlightenment and his passing away at the age of 80, completing 1000 full moons!Buddha Jayanti

For the remaining years of his life, Buddha taught his ways to people of all caste and creed, including fabled murderers like Angulimala, and cannibals like Alavaka. He is thought to have been one of primary forces in removal of animal sacrifices and yagnas in the Hindu religion. He staunchly advocated the principle of non violence and ‘Ahimsa’ and following of the ‘middle path’ in life.  Thus, his preaching soon spread far wide from Syria to Afghanistan, Tibet, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Borneo.  Another proponent of his preaching was Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BC.

Bodh Gaya, where Buddha attained enlightenment has the Mahabodhi Temple in his honour. It has a diamond throne and holy Bodhi tree. Emperor Ashoka is believed to the founder of original Temple, which has undergone many reconstructions and renovations. As Buddhism spread, it took on local hues and became styled like Pagodas and Monasteries in different places.  From Delhi, Bodh Gaya is 1065 kilometers away and takes about 14 hours to reach by car.

Interestingly, Buddha finds reference in other religions too.  Buddha is regarded as a prophet by the Ahmadiyya sect and as manifestation of God by the Bahai’i faith.  Taoist Buddhists also believed that Buddha was a reincarnation of Lao Tzu, a Chinese Saint. An Islamic rendition about Buddha’s life can be found in Bilawhar wa- Yudasaf, which later found its way in the Christian Saint Josephat, in the story Balraam and Josephat. It was found that this Saint’s life was about the life of the Buddha!

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