Buddha Purnima

Kerala Online, May 3, 2007

Kerala, India -- Buddha Purnima or Buddha Jayanti  is the most sacred day in the Buddhist calendar. It is the most important festival of the Buddhists, and is celebrated with great enthusiasm.

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.

Remembering the Buddha is best done by recalling his teachings and treading the path he showed. He gave us a complete solution to the problems we come across on the journey of life. His teachings unfold a way of life that can lead to happiness and salvation.

One such fascinating way is the Buddha's Middle Path. It shuns the insanity of going too much on either side of the scale. It consists of right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right efforts, right mindfulness and right concentration. This, the Buddha felt, was a way to keep one away from any kind of extremism that can lead to the path of insanity.

(GAD)Let's note that the Middle Path means an upright and neutral stand. It's a weapon to penetrate the core of life and sift the good from the bad and get at the truth. It lays emphasis on human thought and behaviour in dealing with the world. It deals with action and reaction.

From the principles of human behaviour, the Buddha came out with two outstanding characteristics of the Middle Path: The Law of Dependent Origination and the Noble Eightfold Path. While the former explains the process of cause and affect, the latter shows one the way to uplift oneself. From the former, the Buddha expanded the truth of emptiness and articulated the three universal characteristics: "All volitional actions are empty/ there is no law that is permanent and unchangeable/ there is no I nor mine".

Read also: What is Vesak?

According to the Buddhism, sorrow and desire are the main cause of all the evil and suffering of this world. Lord Buddha advocated the Eightfold Path consisting of precepts like right conduct, right motive, right speech, right effort, right resolve, right livelihood, right attention and right meditation to gain mastery over suffering. It is only after following this path one can reach the ultimate aim of Nirvana. Nirvana is the transcendental state of complete liberation. Gautama Buddha lived and taught in northern Inda in the 6th Century B.C.

Buddha travelled far and wide teaching hundreds of followers. Even after death his disciples continued to spread his teachings.

Rich and poor alike were attracted by the simplicity of Buddha’s teaching and his emphasis on complete equality of all, a notion antithetical to the existing Hindu caste system. The Mauryan Emperor Ashoka espoused the Buddhist religion in the 3rd century B.C. and helped in spreading it far and wide. Sarnath and Bodhgaya are two of the most important pilgrimage centres for the Buddhists.

Though Buddhism originated in India and the religion has gained tremendous popularity throughout the Far East in Asia, there are very few practising Buddhists in the country. The number of Buddhists in the world ranges "from less than two hundred million, to more than five hundred million, with the lower number closer to reality."

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