‘Vaishakhi Pournima’, an auspicious day for Hindus and Buddhists

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 10 May 2017 09:43:59

By Rajendra Diwe,

Buddha Pournima today

‘Vesak’ or ‘Vaishakhi Pournima’, the second ‘pournima’ or full moon day as per Hindu lunar calendar has been considered as very auspicious day among Hindus and among Buddhists across the world. For, Hindus it is ‘Kurma Jayanti’ and for Buddhists it is ‘Buddha Pournima’ Day. Now, many Hindus have forgotten the importance of the day and they even do not remember it as a ‘Kurma Jayanti’. Still, there are some Hindu people who observe fast throughout the day. They spend whole day in praying, doing charity work and greeting each other for their prosperity and health.

Buddha Pournima: A day of introspection

Buddhists across the world celebrate Buddha ‘Pournima’ with zeal and enthusiasm. According to Buddhist scriptures, ‘Buddha Pournima’ or ‘Vesak’ is the day when Bhagwan Gautama Buddha was born, got enlightenment and passed away.

The three major incidences in the life of Gautama Buddha were happened on the full moon day of Vaishah month. Though the time of Gautam Buddha’s birth and death is uncertain, most of the historians date his lifetime between 563-483 BC. Most of the historians consider Lumbini in Nepal as a birth place of Gautam Buddha. It is also believed that Gautama Buddha had obtained an enlightenment at Bodhgaya in Bihar and he first delivered a discourse on Dharma at Sarnath. At the age of 80 years, Gautama Buddha died at Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh.

As all these incidences happened on Vaishakhi Pournima, these places have become important pilgrimage centres for Buddhists.In North India Buddha is considered as the 9th incarnation and Lord Krishna as the 8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

However Buddha is never considered as an Avatar of Vishnu in South Indian belief. In South India Balarama is considered as the 8th incarnation and Krishna as the 9th incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Balarama is counted as an incarnation of Vishnu by the majority of Vaishnava movements. Even Buddhists do not consider Buddha as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

How the celebrations started:
Gautama Buddha, the influential enlightened spiritual teacher, has been known as ‘Supreme Buddha.’ Festivals to pay respect to Gautama Buddha were held for many centuries. The decision to celebrate ‘Vesak’ as birth anniversary of Gautama Buddha was formalized at the first conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists held in Colombo, Sri Lanka in May 1950. The date was fixed as full moon day in May.

Different Buddhist communities may celebrate Vesak on different dates in years when there are two full moons in May.

This is because the Buddhist lunar calendar can be interpreted in different ways.
People visit Buddha Viharas on Vesak to listen discourses of monks and recite ancient verses. Some Buddhist temples display small statues of Buddha as a baby. The statue is placed in a basin filled with water and decorated with flowers. Visitors to the temple pour water over the statue.
This symbolises a pure and new beginning. Many Buddhists pay special attention to Buddha’s teachings during Vesak.

They may wear white robes and only eat vegetarian food on and around Vesak. Many people also give money, food or goods to organizations that help the poor, the elderly and those who are sick. Caged animals are bought and set free to display care for all living creatures, as preached by Buddha.

The dharmacakra or dharma wheel is a symbol often seen during Vesak. It is a wooden wheel with eight spokes.
The wheel represents Buddha’s teaching on the path to enlightenment.
The eight spokes symbolise the noble eight fold path of Buddhism.