VISAKHA PUJA DAY

Birth - Enlightenment - Nibbana

Visakha Puja Day or Vesak Day is one of the most important days in Buddhism and for all Buddhists. It is the day Buddhists assemble to commemorate the life of the Lord Buddha, and to revere his purity, profound wisdom and immense compassion for all humankind and living beings by reflecting and applying his teachings as guidelines for their lives. Visakha Puja Day also marks the anniversary of three significant events in the life of the Buddha – His Birth, Enlightenment, and Attainment of Complete Nirvana – that occurred on the 15th day of the 6th lunar month.

Who is the Lord Buddha?

Siddhattha was the birth name of the Lord Buddha which means “the one whose purpose has been attained.”  He was a prince of the king Suddhodana who ruled the kingdom of Kapilavastu of Shakya clan, and his mother was queen Sirimahamaya who was from the Koliyan clan.

As Prince Siddhattha grew older, he detached from material wealth for he felt that it’s not life’s ultimate goal. His heart was moved by a desire to acquire wisdom, the truth about life in a world of sorrow and suffering. Also, he would rather go in search of true and lasting happiness.

All of us see birth, aging, sickness and death as natural occurrences but not so with Prince Siddhattha. He realized that one day he also would be aging, getting sick, and finally dead. These sufferings were inherent in every life and he wanted to find the way to end it. Having seen an ascetic, he knew that it was the lifestyle led to the way to end suffering. Therefore, he decided to ordain to find the truth. After years of searching for truth, he attained Self-Enlightenment and became Lord Buddha.

The Lord Buddha is the true role model. He possessed endless willpower. His great self-sacrifice has enormously benefited humanity. For 45 years after his attainment of Self-Enlightenment, He had spent time teaching and helping living beings to find true happiness, put an end to suffering and the round of rebirth.

 

His Birth

When Queen Sirimahamaya, King Suddhodana’s Royal Consort, was due to give birth, she returned to her home in Devadaha City for the childbirth as it was a royal tradition.  Along the journey, she stopped to rest under the sala trees in Lumbini Park.  As she was standing and holding on to a tree branch, she gave birth to a prince. The birth occurred on a full moon day of the sixth lunar month eighty years before the beginning of the Buddhist Era.  When the prince was five days old, he was named “Siddhattha” – meaning ‘fulfillment’.

News of Prince Siddhattha’s birth spread quickly, eventually reaching Hermit Asitha, an acquaintance of King Suddhodana residing in the Himalayas.  Hermit Asitha requested a visitation to see the newborn prince. When he saw the prince, he predicted that the prince would be self-enlightened and discover the path to Nirvana, and eventually become the Buddha. The prince would teach the people the way to end suffering and spread love and kindness to all humankind. After presenting his prediction, Hermit Asitha bowed respectfully at the prince’s feet.  Witnessing the act, King Suddhodana was overjoyed and bowed to the prince as well.  Later, the King invited eight Brahmin scholars specializing in astrology to examine and predict Prince Siddhattha’s destiny.  Seven of them predicted that the prince would become a Supreme Emperor if he assumed the throne; however, if he decided to ordain, he would become the Buddha.

However, Konddanya, the youngest of the Brahmins, prophesied that the prince would choose the latter path and became the Buddha.

His Enlightenment

King Suddhodana wished for Prince Siddhattha to continue the reign of the kingdom and to eventually become the Supreme Emperor. He provided all luxurious possessions his son could ever want in the three palaces (for seasonal occupation) that were filled with beautiful royal consorts in an effort to shield the prince from witnessing any forms of suffering and sadness that would lead to apathy and a desire to ordain. The opulent life of the prince was filled with beauty, wealth, royal attendants, prestige, fame, and bliss.

One day, when Prince Siddhattha was 29 years old, he rode his horse outside the palace and encountered an aging person, a sick person, a corpse and an ascetic. The sight of the aged, diseased and the dead caused him to reflect on the uncertainties and suffering in the lives of human beings. But upon seeing the ascetic, an individual seeking escape from the suffering, Prince Siddhattha was moved by that lifestyle and aspired to become ordained one day.

Six years after departing the palace to ordain and spending time searching arduously, Prince Siddhattha attained Self-Enlightenment under the Bodhi tree along the banks of Neranjara River on the full moon night of the sixth lunar month, and became the Buddha at the age of thirty-five.  During the first meditative stage, he attained the ability to recount every past lifetime that he was ever born; in the middle stage he attained what is called ‘the divine eye’ and acquired the ability to see past lives of all living creatures in the cycle of existence, or Samsara.  In the final meditative stage, he was able to eliminate all his defilements through the wisdom he gained; Prince Siddhattha was now fully enlightened and became the Buddha.  At the present day, the place where he attained Self-Enlightenment is in the town of Bodh Gaya, located in Gaya City in the Indian state of Bihar.

His Attainment of Complete Nirvana

After attaining Enlightenment, the Lord Buddha taught about the nature of the world and life, or Dhamma, to people for the next 45 years until he was 80. On the full moon night of the sixth month, as the Lord Buddha rested in Kusinara City of the Malla Kingdom, he delivered his final discourse as follows: “Behold monks, naturally all conditioned things must undergo changesStrive to work hard to benefit yourself and humankind, and by not being reckless.”  He then entered Complete Nirvana on the full moon night of the sixth lunar month. The location where the Lord Buddha attained Complete Nirvana is in Kushinagar District in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.