Celebrating Buddha Purnima Across Asia: A Festival of Enlightenment and Compassion

by Suraj Pandey, Malaysia

Buddha Purnima, also known as Buddha Jayanti or Vesak, is a significant festival celebrated by the Buddhist community in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, and other countries. This festival marks the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautam Buddha, observed on the full moon day of the Vaishakha month according to Buddhist tradition.

The celebration of Buddha Purnima holds special religious significance. Devotees participate in rituals such as bathing in holy rivers, which is believed to have purifying effects. Gautam Buddha, revered as the first world teacher whose teachings were meant solely for humans, emphasized the importance of spiritual needs. He encouraged his followers to rise above ordinary human limitations through wisdom and compassion.

In Buddhism, it is believed that life is a continuous challenge and struggle. Buddha’s teachings highlight the importance of maintaining a positive outlook and sharing happiness with others. He advocated for a life of simplicity, wisdom, and love, discarding all forms of pretense and superstition. His teachings were delivered in the common language, making them accessible to everyone, irrespective of their social status.

Historically, Buddhist society has been characterized by mutual respect among its members, equal access to education, freedom to pursue any profession, and equal rights for women. This inclusive and egalitarian approach set Buddhist society apart from others bound by rigid social hierarchies.

Buddha’s teachings stress self-control and mental purification as pathways to liberation from worldly sufferings. Meditation and purposeful living are central to achieving this freedom. In Buddhist tradition, Gautam Buddha is also considered the ninth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, underscoring his divine significance in Hinduism as well.

King Shuddhodana of the Shakya dynasty and Queen Mayadevi are revered as the parents of Gautam Buddha. The Buddhist triad of Buddha, Dhamma (teachings), and Sangha (community) are the three jewels that form the foundation of Buddhism.

As communities across Asia celebrate Buddha Purnima, they honor the life and teachings of Gautam Buddha, reflecting on the profound impact of his message of peace, wisdom, and compassion.

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