Friday, May 28, 2010

Happy Buddha Day!

How will you mark Wesak today?

Today is Buddha Day, or, to give it its Pali name Visakha Puja, also known as Wesak. This is the day when Buddhists across the globe celebrate the birth, enlightenment, and death of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni. Not all Buddhist traditions celebrate Buddha Day today, but many do, and here in Thailand it is the main Buddhist festival of the year (and there are lots!). But why bother to commemorate the Buddha's life and enlightenment in this way? Well, it is an occasion that we can use skillfully to encourage reflection on his life and teachings in relation to our own existence. And, what's more, it is an opportunity to consider the debt that we owe him for showing us the way to liberation from suffering.

The Buddha's birth is a special event, of course, as it is not often that a fully-awakened one is born into the world. If Shakyamuni Buddha was never born, then the Buddhadharma would never have been established for us to use to awaken with.Similarly, if the Buddha had not realized the cessation of suffering under the Bodhi Tree, then we too would not know how to do the same. Furthermore, his apparent demise shows us that rebirth and continual suffering of these separated selves can be transcended, allowing the spacious awareness that we truly are to shine forth. Homage to the Blessed, Noble, and Perfectly Awakened One, indeed!

To mark this day of days, we need not go to a temple and take part in rituals if we cannot or would rather not. It's up to us to find appropriate ways to express our recognition and gratitude to the Buddha for what he has done for us. Perhaps this might be a simple ceremony conducted in front of a small shrine at home, or maybe a brief reflection on his qualities and teachings coupled with meditation will suffice. Of course, if we do decide to attend a full-blown public ritual with all the trimmings, then that can be wonderful too. As long as it's respectful and from the heart, go for it!

Another way to mark Buddha Day is to recognize the Buddha within. This, again, is best attempted with a modicum of decorum and a certain sincerity. Quietly looking home at where you are looking from, you might notice that where others see your face, and where you feel it, there is also an awareness that although empty in itself, is nevertheless full of all that you experience. This knowing is not your knowing as so-and-so, nor does it belong to somebody else, such as a god. It is what it is: clarity gazing upon the world. Staying with this unconditioned wakefulness, every conditioned thing or process can be observed to arise, exist, and end, including all these thoughts, memories, emotions, and sensations that we normally take to be 'me.' What better way than this, whether we take part in ceremonies or not, to acknowledge the Buddha. Happy Buddha Day!

14 comments:

pinoybuddhist said...

Happy Vesak! _/|\_

G said...

Thanks, Rafael. And the same to you!

Was Once said...

I celebrated with the Buddhist Nuns on Friday(full moon) and today....a full Vihara!

G said...

Wow, those lucky nuns...Seriously, good to read of your marking Wesak appropriately, Was Once.

Was Once said...

I will drive three of them to see Amma and receive Darshan. They have seen her before in England, so she will be surprised they are now in US.

G said...

Does Amma get surprised, then? (Is this Mata Amritanandamayi you're writing of, Was Once, or someone else called 'Mother'?)

If it is her, it's interesting that Buddhist nuns are visiting her, as she is a Hindu saint, not a Buddhist teacher. I think it's good that monks and nuns can look outside the Buddhist teachings and seek out other expressions of compassion and wisdom.

If it isn't her that the nuns are visiting, which 'Amma' is it, Was Once? Have a pleasant time with Amma and the nuns, anyhow, and let me know how the trip went.

Was Once said...

Amma(amma.org) may be hindu but most of her work and teachings are Buddhist. She inspires me as well as the nuns, which is why they have already seen her before. It is funny that after I saw her for the first time, it helped launched my path into Buddhism as opposed to being her disciple.

G said...

Hi Was Once.

Checked out the weblink you gave me, but couldn't find much that was particularly Buddhist, unless it is implicit rather than explicit. For example, Amma is quoted as saying:

"There are many organizations, such as the United Nations, working for peace around the world, and their efforts are very valuable. However, Amma feels that over and above all these efforts, divine help is essential. Through our sincere prayers and earnest effort, we can invoke the grace of God, the Universal Consciousness, which will bring some relief to the present situation." (Apparently, she refers to herself as 'Amma', in the third person. Which could be a teaching in itself, of course.)

References to 'divine help', 'the grace of God', and 'Universal Consciousness' don't appear that Buddhist, Was Once. She also extols reading the Hindu scriptures and practicing 'karma yoga' elsewhere on the site. There may well be convergences between her practices and teachings and Buddhism, but her official blog does not explicitly reveal many. So, she is a Hindu 'saint' more than a pseudo Buddhist.

Having written this, it can still be beneficial for Buddhists to interact and reflect on Amma's Way. Where her Way converges with the Middle Way, we may acquire fresh ways to experience and express the Way of the Buddha. A lot of ways there!

Was Once said...

Buddhist-like would be more appropriate.
I wrote that fast. What she does and what she believes may be two different things...but she still inspires by her action which seem to me to be more along the lines of buddhism.

G said...

Ah, Buddhist-like. Doing one thing and believing another...sounds interesting, Was Once. Inspiration can come in many forms, no doubt.

Ron said...

Is Buddha Day celebrated on May
28th each year ?

G said...

No, Ron, it is celebrated on the fifth full moon of the year, which falls on a different day each year. (In Thailand and some other countries that is. Various other sects celebrate their equivalent of 'Buddha Day' on different days.)

Anonymous said...

I am a Buddhist nun and have recently spent 4 days and nights with Amma, working in her kitchen. I know nothing but my experience is simply that She is not a Buddhist. She is Buddha, a fully enlightened being. The Guru is Buddha, the Guru is Dharma, The Guru is also Sangha, The Guru is the source of all joys. To all Gurus I make this offering.

G said...

Thanks for your point-of-view, anonymous nun. We're all 'Buddha,' by the way, we just have to look and see the fact!