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Origin of Buddha’s Birthday

Origin of Buddha's Birthday

This April is a very special month for every Buddhist monk and nun, the month of a very important holiday – Buddha’s Birthday. However, for non-Buddhists, there may be little to learn about the origin of Buddha’s birthday. In the article below, Hapi goes back to its roots and introduces readers to the origin and meaning of this great holiday.

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Origin of Buddha’s Birthday

What is Buddha’s Birthday?

Buddha’s Birthday is one of the three major holidays of the Buddha next to Vu Lan’s filial piety (July 15) and Buddha’s Enlightenment (December 8), which is the anniversary of the birth of the Buddha.

According to the history of Buddhism, Buddha Shakyamuni as a child was Prince Siddhartha, born in Lumbini garden, in the land of Kapilavat, present-day Nepal. He is the son of King Tinh San and Queen Ma Gia, from a young age living in the palace. When he grew up, he obeyed his father, married Princess Gia Du Da La, and gave birth to Crown Prince Rahula. During his travels into the human world, he witnessed all the birth, old age, sickness, death, sufferings and pain of the world. Since then, in his mind, the Prince was always anxious to find a way to save sentient beings from this world of hardship. Therefore, he decided to leave the palace, determined to find the truth to save.

The Origin of Buddha's Birthday
Ancient Sri Lankan painting – Queen Maya holding a tree branch while giving birth to Siddhartha

After many years of ascetic practice, especially after 49 days and nights of meditating non-stop under the Bodhi tree, not caring around, his mind was pure, he was truly enlightened and found a way to be liberated from worldly sufferings. , to become a Buddha, to become an unsurpassed state of perfect enlightenment.

For 50 years, the Buddha went around preaching the essence of enlightenment, saving sentient beings from his own ocean of suffering. Finally, at the age of 80, the Buddha passed away and entered Nirvana in the forest of ta la song life.

Origin of Buddha’s Birthday

Previously, there was a difference in the observance of Vesak Day between the two schools of Mahayana Buddhism and Hinayana Buddhism. According to the ancient Indian calendar, Prince Siddhartha was born on April 15, 624 BC. A more special thing, according to this calendar, the full moon day of Vesak month (Buddha’s Birthday in Pali) is the birthday of the Buddha, also the day on which he became enlightened and at the same time the day the Buddha passed into nirvana. This coincidence really makes something special and irreplaceable. Countries that follow the Theravada or Theravada Buddhism school have held three festivals in one day, known as the Great Threefold Festival or the Great Vesak Festival.

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Pictures of the 2011 Vesak Festival held in Thailand – Collected

For the other school, Mahayana Buddhism, also known as Northern Buddhism, there is a difference. Due to the influence of Chinese Buddhism, the Buddha’s birth date was changed from the ancient Indian calendar to the Chinese calendar, that is, April 8 of the lunar calendar. That’s why countries like China, Japan, Korea, etc. often celebrate Buddha’s Birthday on the 8th day of the fourth lunar month. Vietnam is also one of the countries heavily influenced by Chinese Buddhism, so it is also celebrated on this day.

So what is the origin of the current Buddha’s birthday?

This difference was resolved at the First World Buddhist Congress in Colombia from 25 May to 8 June 1950. At this Congress, after much discussion, representatives of the 26 participating countries were agreed to choose the full moon day of the fourth lunar month every year to organize the Buddha’s birthday celebration.

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Himage of Vesak Day 2013 held at United Nations headquarters

On December 15, 1999, the United Nations General Assembly at its 54th session, item 174 of the agenda officially recognized Vesak Day or Buddha’s Birthday as a national religious and cultural festival. economic. Commemorative activities will be held annually at United Nations headquarters and centers around the world from 2000 onwards, held on the first full moon day of May.

The Meaning of Buddha’s Birthday

Buddha’s Birthday is an occasion for Buddhists from all directions to wholeheartedly and respectfully turn to the compassionate, joyful and equanimous Buddha, who gave birth to a special religion with the desire to save sentient beings from suffering. human life. This is also an opportunity to let go of all the worries and fatigue to return to the temple with peace and with the inner soul of each child of Buddha. The Buddha taught “Life is suffering”, suffering can be physical suffering but also mental suffering. Peace of mind is the only way to live a good, healthy and happy life.

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A peaceful corner at Jizhong Phi Lai Temple, Ha Nam – Collected

Buddha’s Birthday is a big holiday for Buddhists in particular and everyone in general. For countries like Thailand, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, etc., this is both a great holiday and a holiday to be able to wholeheartedly turn to the compassionate Buddha. In Vietnam, this is not an officially recognized holiday, but Vesak or Buddha’s Birthday is of great interest to both the people and the government. Vietnam is fortunate to be the host to organize 3 Vesak celebrations in 2008 in Hanoi, 2014 at Bai Dinh Temple in Ninh Binh and 2019 at the world’s largest temple in Vietnam, Tam Chuc Pagoda, Ha Nam.

Tam Chuc Pagoda shimmering in the night of Vesak Celebration 2019

Buddha’s Birthday is also an occasion to promote religious activities to take place in a more favorable and developed way. The thousands of years of our nation’s history have recorded many great kings and generals who were enlightened and turned to the Buddha, which can especially mention a king, a Buddha emperor of our own Vietnam, Buddha Emperor Tran Nhan Tong is not only the founder of the Truc Lam Yen Tu Zen lineage, a Zen line imbued with Vietnamese cultural identity.

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The world’s largest temple in Vietnam – Tam Chuc pagoda, Ha Nam

This year’s Buddha’s Birthday celebration is somewhat special because the situation of the Covid-19 epidemic is extremely complicated. Therefore, to ensure a safe and healthy holiday season for yourself and the community, please strictly follow the regulations of the Ministry of Health recommended by the Ministry of Health. Despite Covid, we can still celebrate at home, adapting is the best way to survive. And Buddha is in our mind.

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Photo collection

Wishing you and your family a happy Buddha’s birthday season!



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