Traditionally, Buddha's birthday is known as Vesak Day (Buddha's Birthday Celebration). It is the major Buddhist festival of the year, as it commemorates the birth, the enlightenment, and death of Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha), all in one day. It is usually observed in the month of May, on the day of the full moon. This is when Buddha's mother is said to have given birth to him in a garden in the Himalayan foothills. This year it fell on May 13th- although it sometimes varies in different Asian countries.
I was fortunate enough to have been invited to this year's ceremony at the Guang Ming Temple, located in Orlando.
I'd never been to an event like this before, so I was curious and excited to see how Buddhist celebrated Buddha's life.
I was first introduced to Buddhism last year, while researching about meditation. The more I read about it, the more it resonated with my personal beliefs. Since it sparked my interest, I decided to take Buddhism 101 classes at the temple, in order to learn and comprehend more about this practice.
It quickly opened my eyes and heart to a new way of thinking and observing my surroundings.
Buddhism is not necessarily a religion, but more a way of life. It's a practice and spiritual development that leads you to a path of happiness through the awareness of your actions towards yourself and others.
The great thing about Buddhism, is that anybody can practice it.
The ceremony starts off by devout Buddhists and followers alike congregating at the temple before the procession begins. The day is filled with rituals and offerings.
Devotees bring simple gifts of flowers, joss sticks (incense) and candles, to lay at the feet of the spiritual teacher. This is done to remind us that, just as flowers wither and die, and joss sticks and candles burn away, so does life- its temporary.
"Everything in life is temporary. So if things are going good, enjoy it because it won't last forever. If things are going bad, don't worry, it can't last forever either."- Buddha
A display of a small image of the baby Prince Siddhartha in a small basin filled with water and decorated with flowers is used for the bathing offering.
The "Bathing of the Buddha" is an important part of the celebration. It is where water is poured over the shoulders of the Buddha and serves to remind fellow Buddhists to purify the mind from greed, lead noble lives and practice morality and kindness.
After the ceremony, everybody gathered outside to feast on vegetarian meals and to watch the live musical performance.
What a nice way to end the day. But before leaving, you know I just had to sneak in a little meditation session.
I had a great time discovering new traditions and experiencing first hand the celebration of Buddha's life. I look forward to attending next year as well.
Although there are about two Buddhist temples that are closer to my house, I prefer making the drive to this one. Everybody is always so welcoming and friendly. That is one of the many reasons why I love coming to the Guang Ming Temple- there is always an event or a class going on for the community.
If you're interested in learning how to implement Buddhism in your daily routine, click here to view an excerpt from the book, The Path to Happiness by Thubten Chodron. It provides a great guide on practicing Buddhism in your everyday life.
I love exploring and discovering new ways to bring happiness and peace into my life.
And I hope to always continue to do so.
"When you come upon a path that brings benefit and happiness to all, follow this course as the moon journeys through the stars."- Buddha.