Vesak Day - Buddha Purnima
18th May 2019
Vesak day is also known as Buddha Jayanti (Buddha's birthday) in Nepal. His first name was Siddhartha Gautama. Siddhartha Gautama was born in 563 BCE in Lumbini which is now part of Modern Nepal.
Birth and birthplace of Lord Buddha
Siddhartha was the son of King Suddhodhan and Queen Maya Devi, the ruler of Kapilavastu. Siddhartha was born in Lumbini, in a forest of Sal trees - Latin name; Shorea Robusta. Lumbini now lies in Rupendehi district, Province number 5 of modern Nepal. Lumbini was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.
Buddha was born on a full moon day, achieved enlightenment on the same day of the same month 35 years later and gained Nirvana on the same full moon day of the same month at the ripe old age of eighty. This day is also known as Buddha Purnima (full moon). Buddha means the enlightened one. Buddha was also known as Shakyamuni.
Buddha left his physical body and attained Pari Nirvana at the age of eighty. Nirvana is a state when one gets out of the circle of life and death.
The Life of Buddha
It is said that soon after his birth, Siddhartha took seven steps and before each foot touched the ground, a lotus flower bloomed for each of the seven steps. He took the seven steps towards the north immediately after birth, looked around for supreme beings around in this universe. He raised a finger in the air to announce in Pali language.
* "Ako hamasmi natho" I am the senior most.
* " Ako hamasmi loko" I am the first and foremost.
* "Ako hamasmi shresth" I am the supreme one.
* These words are phonetically spelled and roughly interpreted in layman's terms so the majority of us can understand it.
Maya Devi gave birth to Buddha near a pond at Lumbini Garden while on her way to her parental home. He was given a bath in the garden pond at Lumbini. That very pond is now known as Siddhartha Kunda. Kunda means either a pond or a lake in Sanskrit. Maya Devi's idol has been built at the very spot where Siddhartha was given birth.
Maya Devi passed away a week after giving birth to Siddhartha. A holy man prophesized that Siddhartha would either be the greatest Ruler or the most exceptional spiritual leader. His father the king obviously desired his son to be the greatest emperor ever. The king brought up young Siddhartha in opulence and sheltered him from the realities of life and hardships.
Siddhartha lived his life as a perfect prince. He loved all the luxuries of life as a young man. He was married to Yasodhara at the age of sixteen and had a son called Rahul. His princely lifestyle continued on to the age of 29.
Quest for the remedy of suffering.
It was not too long before Siddharta's life changed drastically. One day he and his good friend snuck out of the palatial quarters to wander around the city. It was not too long before he started observing various types of sufferings humanity faced. The sufferings began to be felt within him. Siddhartha saw diseases, old age, and death. He also came across a monk who had donated all his belongings on his quest for the welfare of the humankind. Siddhartha was deeply moved by this outing and made him restless with questions on how to find the way out of this circle of life and death.
He wanted to find a way to end all these sufferings. One day he quietly sneaked out of the palace to search for the answers/way to alleviate the sufferings.
The Ascetic Life before Enlightenment
Siddhartha lived as an ascetic for the next six years. He studied and meditated using verses from various religious teachers as his guide.
He joined a group of five ascetics to practice his new way of life. His devotion to his quest was so dedicated that the five ascetics soon became Siddhartha's followers. He redoubled his efforts when the answers he sought did not appear while enduring pain, refusing water and fasting to near starvation.
However hard Siddhartha tried, he could not reach the level of achievement he sought. He got up from his meditation, took a bath in a nearby river. A young village girl saw the starving sage, offered him a bowl of rice pudding. He suddenly realized that physically punishing the body was not the way to achieve personal liberation. He found the answer to be the middle path.
He ate the rice pudding, drank water after bathing in the river. The five ascetics were furious with Siddhartha for 'giving up' the ascetic life and what they considered 'following the ways of the flesh and they immediately left him.
Siddhartha encouraged people to walk on the path of balance instead of on that symbolized extremism, the well renowned - Middle path.
The Buddha Surfaces
One night, Siddhartha sat under a Bodhi tree, vowed not to get up until the truths he pursued was found, and he meditated until the sun rose the next morning. He remained in the same spot for several days, observing his whole lives along with previous lives while purifying his mind in meditation.
During this period, he overcame the threats of Mara, an evil demon who had challenged his right to become a Buddha. Siddhartha touched the ground with his hand and asked the Earth to bear witness to his enlightenment when Mara tried to claim the enlightened state as his own, which Earth did and banished Mara.
Furthermore, a vision formed in his mind of all that took place in the universe, and Siddhartha found the answers to the questions he had been searching for over so many years. On that moment of pure enlightenment, Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha - 'he who is awake.'
Equipped with his new wisdom, the Buddha was hesitant to teach at the beginning, because what he knew could not get through to the others in words. Legend has it that it was the king of gods, Brahma was the one who convinced Buddha to teach. That is when he got up from under the Bodhi tree and set out just to do that.
He came across the very five ascetics with whom he had practiced for so long but had shunned him on the eve of his enlightenment about one hundred miles away. He gave his first sermon to the five ascetics and others who had gathered; this is also known as Setting the wheel of Dhamma in motion, in which he explained the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, which have become the pillars of Buddhism.
The five ascetics then became his first disciples and formed the base of the Sangha or a community of monks. Women were also admitted to the Sangha; all barriers of race, class, sex and previous background were ignored. It only required the desire to reach enlightenment through the removal of suffering and spiritual emptiness considered.
Buddha traveled, teaching Dhamma (Universal law of Nature that applies to all beings) for the remainder of his 80 years. He told his followers to walk the path he has discovered, and the journey will be different for each, not to believe what he says but to walk the path and see for themselves. He told them that he was not a god but a man who had found the path - the middle way.
Buddha is one of the most influential figures in world history without a doubt. His teachings have touched everything from a variety of other religions to literature to philosophy from the region to the furthest reaches of the Western world.
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