Guiding Light: Buddha Purnima —Celebrating ‘the enlightened one’

Born into a wealthy family, Prince Siddhartha Gautama, was a handsome and clever prince. Confined to the walls of his royal residence, he saw no sign of suffering or sorrow. His father, King Suddhodana, who had been foretold Buddha’s real purpose, made sure that there was no dearth of pleasures that a worldly life could offer.

Tormented by curiosity, one night, the young prince set out to explore life outside the palace. Buddha saw at various points on his journey, a sick person, a dead body, an ageing man and an ascetic. These four sights made Buddha turn inwards in search of the truth. With only a white robe and a begging bowl, he set out to seek life’s true meaning.

After several years of living in the company of wise saints, following rigorous practices, some of which nearly made his starve to death, he could not find the truth. After years of deep meditation and mastering the delicate art of letting go, one beautiful moonlit night, under the shade of a peepal tree, Gautama Buddha, realised the highest self and attained enlightenment, came to be called as the ‘The Enlightened one’. Today, the Bodhi tree at the Mahabodhi temple in the south of Patna is visited by many people from all over the world, to pay respects to this great leader and saint.

Buddha Jayanti or Buddha Purnima (26th May) is celebrated to commemorate the birth of The Great Buddha by offering flowers, fruits and incense at the foot of the Bodhi tree, meditation and giving alms. It falls in the month of Vaishaka, when Devotees of Lord Vishnu too observe a fast on Vaishaka Poornima to attain freedom from all the sins. It is said that Gautam Buddha too attained enlightenment on this day. On this auspicious full moon day, the teachings of the ‘awakened one’ are discussed, followed by recitations of ancient scriptures, meditations and prayer meets. Even artefacts of the Buddha are taken out in public processions. People restrain from eating non-vegetarian food and a bowl of milk porridge/ Kheer is offered and relished.

“The purpose of words is to create silence. If words create more noise, then they have not reached their goal. Buddha’s words would definitely create silence, because Buddha is the manifestation of silence,” says Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, spiritual leader and founder of the Art of Living.

(The author is senior writer with The Art of Living Bureau of Communication.)

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