The Birth of the Buddha, Peacemaker for the World;                        The Significance of Visakha Puja Day  On behalf ...
painful. House builder; you are seen! You will no longer build my house. All yourrafters are broken. The ridge pole is des...
the temple. When they saw the monks, they paid respect and told their children to payrespect, but they called the monk, “m...
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The significance of visakha puja day


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The significance of visakha puja day

  1. 1. The Birth of the Buddha, Peacemaker for the World; The Significance of Visakha Puja Day On behalf of The Council of Thai Bhikkhus in the U.S.A., as the Secretary of theCouncil, I would like to join in this year’s Visakha Puja celebration. This year Vesak isespecially significant because it is the commemoration of the 2600 th anniversary of theEnlightenment of the Buddha. Under the auspices of the Mission of the Republic of SriLanka to the United Nations and of the United Nations General Assembly, specialevents have been planned in New York to celebrate this auspicious occasion. Today Vesakha Puja is recognized as an international day of celebration of the life ofthe Buddha. This May, 2011, we have the Vesak ceremony in all the Buddhistcountries, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Japan, Korea, China, andothers. In fact, Visakha Puja is celebrated across the globe. It was not always this way. When Anagarika Dharmapala, arguably the greatestpreacher of Buddhism in modern times, was a boy in the 1870s in his native Sri Lanka,then the British colony of Ceylon, he was caned by the headmaster of the Christianschool he attended for taking off to celebrate Vesak. It was the same Dharmapala,however, who in May of 1897, following the World Parliament of Religions four yearsearlier, presided over the first Vesaka Puja celebration in America in San Francisco.Then in 1999, sixty-six years after the death of the great Buddhist preacher, VisakhaPuja received the worldwide recognition it deserves. On December 15 of that year atthe behest of the country of Sri Lanka, Dharmapala’s homeland, the fifty-fourth UnitedNations General Assembly declared Vesak Day, the full-moon day in May, anInternational Day. Buddhism was recognized as one of the oldest religions in theworld, a religion that should be praised for its concerns about the welfare of humanbeings. Visakha Puja commemorates three important events in the life of the Buddha, alloccurring in different years on the full-moon day of May: his birth, his Enlightenment,and his passing away. These events can serve as lessons for us today. I would like to begin with the event of his birth. After the Buddha was born, hewalked seven steps and said, "I am chief in the world, I am best in the world, I am firstin the world. This is my last birth. There will be no further rebirth." This statementexpresses the Buddha’s aim in his life. His words are not just the silly boasting of achild. Rather, they signify that we are all individually responsible for what we make ofour lives. Think about that. Do you take this responsibility seriously? If you do not,you should reflect on this matter today. Let us talk about the second event commemorated on Vesak. After the Buddhaachieved Enlightenment, he said to himself, “Through the round of uncountable births,I wandered without finding the house builder I was seeking. Rebirth again and again is 1
  2. 2. painful. House builder; you are seen! You will no longer build my house. All yourrafters are broken. The ridge pole is destroyed. Mind attains the unconditioned. Mindachieves the end of craving.” The Buddha recognized what causes problems for us. Weshould also recognize that the problems we encounter come from inside the mind. Theproblems start there—with our thoughts. The third event recalled on Vesakha Puja Day is the Buddha’s passing away. Beforehe passed away, he told his disciples, “All component things are subject to decay anddestruction, work out the real freedom with earnestness.” These were the last words ofthe Buddha. We should work hard to understand that nothing in life is permanent, thatnothing can be counted on, so that was can free our minds from greed, hatred, anddelusion and thereby attain peace and freedom. The message of Visakha Puja Day is a message of loving-kindness and compassionthat bring peace. We celebrate Vesak day, or the Buddha’s day, because of his greatloving-kindness and compassion not only to the Buddhist people but also to all thepeople of the world. The Buddha was a great man who walked on the earth andpreached to the people 2,500 years ago about how to live happily and peacefully. Afterhe realized the truth, he did not keep it to himself; he spread the truth for forty-fiveyears of his life. That is why we gather together and celebrate on this day. Visakha Puja Day commemorates the birthday of the Buddha as the arising of theBuddha to bring peace. The Buddha-to-be was born into the Brahmin tradition, but heleft this tradition behind. He tried to get rid of all unwholesome things inside andoutside people, for example, the castes in the society of his time. He traveledthroughout the Middle Area for forty-five years teaching people, and then he passedaway in final Enlightenment. He visited the poor, his enemies (for instance, Devidatta),and kings because of his great compassion and because of his wisdom. The message of Visakah Puja Day is also that of overcoming egoism. The Buddhaworked without egoism, giving people the opportunity to light the inner light in theirhearts and reach their final goal. He found truth and liberation and destroyed egoism.He destroyed all the defilements in his mind and found freedom from the self. As aresult, he can help society today find its freedom and can teach society liberation fromthe self. He can enable society to find peace. At Visakha Puja the birth of the Buddha is celebrated in two senses: the Buddha-to-be’s being born from the womb of his mother, and the Buddha’s being born as theAwakened One, having destroyed the defilements, especially egoism, atta. The Buddhahas the answer to the question of how the people of the world can attain inner peace. In Buddhism, we have two ways of worship and celebration. The first one we callmaterial worship, the worship that uses candles, flowers, incense—material things. Thesecond is practical worship, the way that we apply the Buddha’s teachings to our lives,that we put the teachings into action. The worship or celebration that the Buddhaadmires more is practical worship. Practical worship is truly the way in which egoism is overcome. The Buddha wantsus so to practice so that we can benefit from his teachings and free ourselves fromsuffering. The Buddha’s overcoming of egoism means that he woke up. The word Buddhameans to wake up and to know. Last month a husband and wife took their children to 2
  3. 3. the temple. When they saw the monks, they paid respect and told their children to payrespect, but they called the monk, “my Buddha.” I did not have a chance to explain tothem that they should not call the monk “Buddha.” The more I think about what theysaid, however, the more I realize that they were expressing a great truth. They arereminding us to be the Buddha, that is, the Awakened One, insofar as we wake up fromthe sleep of ignorance, greed, hatred, and delusion. There is a story about the Buddha after he achieved Enlightenment. He decided to go teach at Varanasi. On the way to Varanasi, one Brahmin askedhim, “Are you a god?” “No,” said the Buddha. “An angel?” “No.” “A saint?” “No.” “Then what are you?” The Buddha answered, “I am awake.” The Buddha defined himself as the one who had woken up. As we celebrate this Visakha Puja Day, then, we do not forget the Buddha, but wefollow his advice as his disciples. Learning something from our great teacher, we buildthe Buddha within our minds. It is never too late to change our ways of thinking,speaking, and behaving, ways that cause us problems. Let us spread loving-kindness and compassion. Let us overcome egoism and wakeup. These are the ways to find the Buddha’s peace. Phramaha Thanat Inthisan, Ph.D. The Secretary General of the Council of Thai Bhikkhus in U.S.A. Wat Thai Washington,D.C. April 19, 2011 3