There are many reasons for celebrating religious and
other festivals. They help bring people of all sects and classes together;
they bring fun and laughter and good feeling to people who lives might otherwise
be drab and dull and they remind people, yet after years, of a special event
or happening - something that might otherwise be forgotten as the years go
Buddha Purnima is the most sacred day
in the Buddhist calendar. It is the most important festival of the Buddhists,
and is celebrated with great enthusiasm. Every festival has its own rituals
which provide an insight into the lives and beliefs, customs and culture of
the people observing them.
One may well ask why is Buddha Purnima
observed by the Buddhists. The answer is simple : because it is associated with
the founder of their faith, Lord Buddha. Although Buddhists regard every full
moon as sacred, the moon of the month of Vaisakh (April - May) has special significance
because on this day the Buddha was born, attained enlightenment, and attained
Nirvana when he died. This strange, three - fold coincidence, gives Buddha Purnima
its unique significance.
Whereas followers of others religions
observe the births, deaths, and other important occasions in the lives of their
founders, for Buddhists all these events are combined in one on the full moon
day in Vaisakh. On this day they baths and wear only white clothes. They gather
in their viharas for worship and give alms to monks. Many spend their entire
day at the vihara listening to discourses on the life and teaching of the Buddha
or invite monks to their homes to speak to them. They reaffirm their faith in
the five principles (Panch Sheel) - not to take life, not to steal, not to die,
not to imbibe liquor or other intoxicants and not to commit adultery.
On Buddha Purnima Buddhists refrain from
eating meat and eat kheer which they share with the poor. They set up stalls
in public places which provide clean drinking water. Their special forms of
charity include kindness to animals : they buy caged birds and set them free
and pay butchers to let go animals meant for slaughter.
Just as in some homes paper lanterns
are hung on Diwali, on Buddha Purnima Buddhists make Vaisakh Vakats out of bamboo,
festoon them with starts and decorate their houses with them. Some people also
drape the walls of their homes with paper or cloth depicting incidents from
the Jataka tales which are based on incarnations of the Buddha prior to his
birth as Prince Gautama.
Different Buddhist countries have different
ways of celebrating this great day. In Sri Lanka the celebrations are very similar
to Diwali. All homes are brightly illuminated and even the poorest light at
least one oil-lamp.
In Japan, Buddhists are fixed the eighth
of April as the Buddha's birthday. On this day, they make replicas of shrines
with spring flowers and place a small idol of the Buddha on them. They bathe
and consecrate these idols with great reverence.
In Burma, the Buddhists set a day apart
every month in honour of the Buddha. Since the Buddha attained enlightenment
sitting under a Bodhi tree, special care is taken in watering and tending Bodhi
Celebrations of Buddha Purnima have been
extensively written about in poems and novels and depicted in paintings because
Buddha Purnima is not only a day of rejoicing; it is also a day for reflection
on the life and teaching of one of the greatest teachers the world has ever