Buddha Purnima marks the birthday of Gautam Buddha, who later became the founder of Buddhism. According to the Vedic literature, Lord Buddha is an incarnation of Lord Krishna (Vishnu) and thus, he appeared on this earth some 2500 years ago to teach the message of mercy and non-violence towards all living beings.
A sacred day, the festival is celebrated all around the world across various countries in different ways. People visit the holy shrines of Lord Buddha and offer him prayers on this day. In some countries, people also release birds, insects and animals as an act of “liberation” to spread Buddha’s message as a ritual. This year, the festival of Buddha Purnima falls on April 30.
History associated with Buddha Purnima
The supreme lord descended as Buddha in Lumbini (Nepal). He appeared at the house of King Shuddhodhana and Queen Anjana (Maya Devi). The exact year in which he appeared is a subject of discussion. As per the Theravada tradition, they accept his lifetime to be in between 563-483 BC. On the night of the divine conception, his mother dreamt that a white elephant with tusks entered her right side and after ten months, Lord Buddha was born. His name was Siddharth and he grew up in the kingdom of Kapilavastu, which was ruled by his father.
In his childhood, an astrologer predicted about the future renunciation of child Siddhartha and also told his parents that their son would become a saint. Afraid of losing their son, they tried to confine him in material entrapments and kept away all sorts of items which would let his internal renunciation manifest.
But since everything in this material creation happens by supreme will, Lord Buddha manifested his past time of renunciation by walking out of the palace. While strolling, he came across a sick person, a poor person and a dead person being carried away in a bier, and couldn’t get it out of his mind. Attracted towards the harsh realities of life, he started to look for the reason of existence and ended up going to the forest. There, he practised the method of meditation and manifested the achievement of Nirvana or Enlightenment under the Mahabodhi tree of Gaya.
After that, he taught the message of the eightfold path. He preached people to heal them from their troubles and soon, people started worshipping him as God. His first sermon was delivered in Sarnath. After training his disciples to spread the message further, he ascended back to Vaikuntha in 483 BC, after living a life of 80 years.
Purpose of his incarnation
The purpose of God’s incarnation as Lord Buddha is quite interesting. The way the supreme lord asked people to be an atheist is meant to be learnt from his life and past times. The instructions of the shastras are difficult to comprehend as they are variegated in nature (çrutayo vibhinnä Mahabharata Vana Parva 313.117) for a common person and hence, there is a tendency to misinterpret them and follow them in a wrong way.
5000 years ago, when Kaliyuga started, people were degraded and started following the Vedic injunctions whimsically and resorted to all sorts of irreligious paths and practices. The Brahmanas, being polluted with the desire to taste meat, which is forbidden for them (Manu Smriti 5.49), continued to perform animal sacrifices, which were all forbidden for Kaliyuga (Brahma Vaivarta Puran Krishna Janma Khand 185.180) due to unavailability of qualified Brahmanas to perform them.
As a result of disgrace towards the scriptural injunctions, they became envious of the pious people and lost all their spiritual understanding. The people were afflicted with various types of miseries. As a result, there was chaos all over and no one was able to understand the real purpose of life and hence, they resorted to atheism.
The festival of Buddha Purnima is of great significance for the entire world as the message of Buddha reached various parts of the world. The message of Lord Buddha was spread to many countries like China, Burma and Japan and people started adopting his teachings. On the day of Buddha Purnima, pilgrims from various countries visit the holy shrines of Buddha, his Birth Place and the Mahabodhi Tree.
People generally gather and offer their prayers and offerings. People also absorb themselves in meditation, chant mantras and scriptures associated with various sects of Buddhism. Some people observe a fast as it is combined with the full moon day (Purnima) and offer fruits and sweets to the deities of Lord Buddha. They light some incense and lamp before him and sit down to pray to him for peace, serenity and tranquility.
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