Happy May 17th, 2011! Do you know what today is? Buddha’s Birthday! We are so thrilled to have the incomparable yoga crone Cora Wen give us the lowdown.
Today is Buddha’s Birthday. The full moon in May is one of the most auspicious and signiﬁcant days In the Buddhist tradition. On the night of the full moon, people all over the world honour the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha. It is known as Buddha Day or Buddhas Birthday. In 2011 the full moon is on May 17.
This celebration is called Vesak for the month name in the Indian calendar. Vesak,Visakha or Wesak Puja is a sacred day of rededication to Dhamma and the Eightfold Path.Vesākha/Vaiśākha व”शाख is celebrated in Nepal, Singapore,Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangledesh, Indonesia and India. Tibetan is Saga Dawa Duchen – ས་ག་$་བ། Saga Dawa sa ga zla ba dus chen which fell on May 15, 2011.
Buddha Day celebrates Siddhartha Gautama sitting under the bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, India and attaining enlightenment over 2,500 years ago. After 49 days of sitting, Gautama awoke and saw the world and began sharing with others. He became Buddha, the awakened one.
I’ve always thought Buddhists create an easy way to celebrate – we only have to remember one day a year and it encompasses the triple gem of the Buddhas journey, encompassing the birth, enlightenment-Nirvana and ascent-Parinirvana of Gautama Buddha.
Though schools of Buddhism may differ in calendars, another day to celebrate enlightenment might be a good thought for the day. As we celebrate the enlightenment of the Buddha, remember the message of wisdom and compassion. Love and acceptance. As the moon rises over the horizon, throwing white light onto us, let us respect all religions, and celebrate all beings and beliefs.
Buddhist Cosmos and Waisak
One of the biggest celebrations is in my Fathers home country of Java, in Borobudor, a large Buddhist sanctuary hidden in the jungles of central Java. Having witnessed the full moon on this celebration at this monument, it is as though the essence of the Buddha could be felt under the moonlight, deep in these jungles.
People from different religions from all over Asia come to the Waisak Festival at Borobudur, carrying candles and ﬂower offerings. Monks walk from Mendut to Borobudur, with an evening procession, and as the soft white light of the moon illuminates the temple, they light candles and chant under the moon. This ceremony is marked by the tranquility and stillness of the surrounding countryside. I will always remember the moon on the Waisak nights I witnessed in these jungles.
Borobudur represents the Buddhist cosmos – the lowest level has intricate stone carvings that depicts the vast humankind. We are shown our suffering, enslaved to desire and imprisoned by ego. As one ascends, it is a walk through life. Winding upwards, the path circles around the monument, with gorgeous stone carvings of Buddha’s teachings and reincarnations of higher forms of life. The lives of warriors and kings, holy men, dancers, elephants processions and ships are elegantly carved in detailed precision into the stone. The winding path leads to Nirvana, where the absence of suffering exists in a pure land of enlightenment.
Some believe that touching the enshrined statues of Buddha brings luck, and followers of Javanese mysticism meditate to obtain divine messages and inspiration.Waisak is the Tri Suci Waisak or Three Holy Events, with prayers and thanks given to Sang Tri Ratna for creating and maintaining the earth and its resources in harmony.
However you determine the date, Buddhas Birthday is a good time to plant emotional, mental and spiritual intentions as seeds. We can nurture and reap these blessings in years ahead. Celebrate by giving thanks to the earth and a wish for all beings living in harmony.
All our actions, our karma and merit obtained for good deed or practices is multiplied one million times every day. Intention is very important, and this is a “multiplication day” so actions are multiplied 10 million times this day! It may be a good time to take time to meditate or practice stillness.
Lantern Lighting is a tradition which symbolises renewed commitment to help ourselves and others, to gain spiritual strength, and for peace and happiness of all beings past, present and future. A dedication is written on a piece of paper which is attached to a lantern or candle. Dedicate the light to loved ones, partner, family, yourself, or to deceased, ill or those suffering. Dedicate light and ease to those who live in hatred or to helping all needy and poor. Express gratitude, goodwill, prayers and good wishes of love and care to all. Reconcile, forgive or send hope with words of kindness and compassion. Remember those who have helped and inspired you on your journey and send them thanks and love. Open your heart wide and celebrate living. Make a dedication prayer and offer “My mind is Buddha”.
Be lamps unto yourselves.
Be refuges unto yourselves.
Take yourself no external refuge.
Hold fast to the truth as a lamp.
Hold fast to the truth as a refuge.
Look not for a refuge in anyone besides yourselves.
Happy Buddha Day!
Do no harm.
Work toward the beneﬁt of all.
Maintain a pure outlook on all things.
All beings are potential Buddhas, all sounds are sacred as Mantra, all thoughts as clear as
wisdom, and all phenomena as whole and full as the Buddha ﬁeld…
OM MANI PADME HUM
All of the Buddha’s teachings are contained within this mantra.
CORA WEN grew up in a traditional Chinese family in Asia and the West, and took refuge in the Buddha as a teen. An international childhood growing up in Hong Kong and Indonesia, Switzerland, Australia and the US, has instilled the spirit of a travelling adventurer. After sowing wild oats in New York City in the 70s with rockers Deborah Harry and Patti Smith, she had careers in fashion and banking. Since 1994, Cora has taught Yoga, mentored by America’s most influential Yoga lineage. She has been dedicated since 2002 in support of indigenous culture for exiled Tibetan people and land mine victims.
Read more at corawen.com