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Thread: Celebrate Buddha's Birthday (April 8th in Japan)

  1. #1

    Celebrate Buddha's Birthday (April 8th in Japan)

    Dear All,

    April 8th is traditionally celebrated as Buddha's Birthday in Japan!

    Our Zazenkai this coming Friday/Saturday will dedicated to the celebration, in the best way possible ... Zazen ... so please sit with us when you can ...

    A little more information on Buddha's Birthday ....

    A funny thing about Vesak (Buddha's Birthday) in Japanese Buddhism ... it is on a different day from the day in most of the rest of Asian Buddhism, where the date varies year by year. Vesak (also known in Japan as Hana Matsuri ... Flower Festival) in Japan is celebrated on April 8th each year ... although he was born in late April or May in most other countries (having two or more birthdays is no problem for a Buddha. Truly, his birthday is your birthday, plus he is born every moment). It is not a public holiday in Japan, and is barely noticed by the general population, unlike many other places in Asia. Even in temples, it is usually celebrated rather quietly.

    In some descriptions, the story goes like this ...

    Vesak, or Visakha (pronounced way-sak), is a celebration that commemorates the Buddha's birth .... It is named for the month of May and is celebrated on the full moon, when the Buddha's mother is said to have given birth to him in a garden in the Himalayan foothills while en route to her parents' home. (for different schools of Zen, which is a tradition of the Mahayana school of Buddhism, the Buddha's birthday is celebrated according to a different calendar and falls on April 8th [Jundo, in Japan, where it is called "Hana Matsuri" ... the Flower Festival]; his enlightenment and death are also assigned to different days). According to most Buddhist calendars, he would be 2,548 years old this month.

    Vesak is the most important holiday in the Theravada Buddhist countries of Southeast Asia, though its observance varies from culture to culture. In the United States, it has become the occasion for a common celebration that unites different Buddhist traditions and schools, Asian and non-Asian, immigrant and convert, Theravadin and Mahayana .

    Vesak celebrations are a time for the rededication of one's commitment to the Buddha's teachings and to practice. At temples all over Southeast Asia and in the West, lay devotees clean the building and festoon it with lights and lanterns. Sometimes, a special pavilion is built for monks to sit on as they meditate and chant through the night. At Metta Forest Monastery outside San Diego, a monastery in the Thai Forest tradition, lay practioners come for a candle-lit procession, to make offerings, to chant, and to sit through the night in meditation. The celebration ends the following morning with a communal meal served to the monks by dozens of laypeople. "It is a time to honor the Buddha, the dharma and the sangha, and to recommit to practice," says Thanissaro Bhikkhu, the monastery's abbot. "Something like a New Year's resolution."

    No account of the Buddha's birth was recorded at the time, but Buddhist legend describes how the baby sprang miraculously from his mother's side, in what is today Nepal. Recent archeological research claims to pinpoint the exact location. In Thich Nhat Hanh's elegant telling of the life of the Buddha, "Old Path, White Clouds," he describes the birth like this:

    "Mahamaya, Siddhartha's mother [the wife of a great king of the Indian Sakyan clan], had a premonitory dream before giving birth to him: A magnificent white elephant with six tusks descended from the heavens surrounded by a chorus of beatific praises. The elephant approached her, its skin white as mountain snow. It held a brilliant pink lotus flower in its trunk, and placed the flower within the queen's body. Then the elephant, too, entered her effortlessly, and all at once she was filled with deep ease and joy.

    "The king summoned all the local holy men to divine the meaning of this dream. Their conclusion: 'Your majesty, the queen will give birth to a son who will be a great leader. He is destined to become either a mighty emperor who rules throughout the four directions, or a great Teacher who will show the Way of Truth to all beings in Heaven and Earth.'

    "It was the custom in those days for a woman to return to her parents' home to give birth there. Mahamaya...set out for Ramagama, the capital of Koliya. Along the way she stopped to rest in the garden of Lumbini. The forest there was filled with flowers and singing birds. Peacocks fanned their splendid tails in the morning light. Admiring an ashok tree in full bloom, the queen walked toward it, when suddenly feeling unsteady, she grabbed a branch of the ashok tree to support her. Just a moment later, still holding the branch, Queen Mahamaya gave birth to a radiant son."

    The story goes that sages arrived at the scene and washed the baby in perfumed water (which is why practitioners of Zen and other Mahayana schools celebrate the birthday by pouring water over a figure of the baby Buddha). Then Mahamaya's attendants wrapped him in silk and carried him to the palace. But seven days after the birth, Mahamaya died (there is no account of how or why), and her sister, Mahapajapati, who was also married to the Buddha's father, became his surrogate mother. After the Buddha's awakening, when he began to teach, Mahapajapati became his first woman disciple and led the order of bhikshunis, or ordained nuns.

    http://www.beliefnet.com/story/25/story_2530_1.html
    Anyway, that is one version of the story ... and it leaves out the part where he was said to be walking and talking at birth ...

    ... It is said that auspicious signs herald his birth, the sky was clear with brilliant sunshine, flowers bloomed and birds sang. Directly after his birth nine heavenly dragons appeared and emitted two steams, one cool and one warm, of the purest fragrant rain from their mouths that gently cascaded to bathe the newly born Prince. The baby Prince immediately took seven steps and seven lotus flowers sprang from beneath his feet.

    Flowers drifted down from the heavens. The young Prince purified in body and mind from the rain, pointed one hand towards the heavens and one towards the earth and he said,

    "Heaven above and earth beneath, I am the Honoured One, the One who liberates all who suffer in the Three Realms."
    But whether with or without magic elephants, heavenly dragons and talking babies, we will be celebrating together a truly monumental event!!

    Gassho, Jundo

    By the way, we also have some suggestions for "At Home" family events to celebrate the holiday sometime this week when you are all together ...

    VESAK HOLIDAY IDEAS
    https://sites.google.com/site/buddhistfamilyholidays/

    Some of the family ideas there include ...

    Bathing The Baby Buddha On the day of Vesak, participate in a ceremony (at home with your family) in which all participants bathe a figure of baby Buddha ...

    Celebrating Nature Vesak is a holiday of birth and Spring and ever new beginnings and hope for this world. Go outside with your family, if weather permits, and touch nature.

    Practice of Dana (Giving) As a family, make a donation of money, food, clothes, etc. to a foodbank, shelter, or other charitable organizations.

    Lighting Vesak Lanterns Make Vesak lanterns with the kids! INSTRUCTIONS ARE AT LINK ABOVE. Each family member should make one to symbolize both the Buddha's light and the light within each of us ...

    A Birthday Party For Baby Buddha! Celebrate the holiday with a typical child's birthday party, but with the Baby Buddha as the Birthday Boy! Invite other, especially Buddhist children. Cake and ice cream (in moderation) ...

    Read To Kids The story of Buddha's birth, early life and continue up to and slightly after, his enlightenment. This story can be found in a few different versions like "Becoming Buddha" ...

    Elephant Hunt Much like an egg hunt, families with small children could enjoy an "ELEPHANT HUNT" - elephants because Siddhartha's mother dreamt of a white elephant while she was pregnant with him ...

    Of course, a little family Zazen is always good too!
    Last edited by Jundo; 04-07-2017 at 02:27 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Mp
    Guest
    Wonderful, thank you Jundo. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen

    SatToday

  3. #3
    Joyo
    Guest
    Thank you, Jundo. I like some of the ideas that you posted.

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today
    Last edited by Joyo; 04-09-2015 at 02:55 PM.

  4. #4

    Celebrate Buddha's Birthday (April 8th in Japan)

    Thank you Jundo. I am the only Buddhist in my family and out of respect of my wife and me not wanting to cause confusion I don't "push" it on our children. It makes me a little sad. I have not really found a way to discuss it that is met with an open heart and mind. I do like the idea of touching nature and dana. That is something all religious traditions can agree on


    ..sat2day•
    Last edited by Troy; 04-09-2015 at 05:19 PM.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    ... It is said that auspicious signs herald his birth, the sky was clear with brilliant sunshine, flowers bloomed and birds sang. Directly after his birth nine heavenly dragons appeared and emitted two steams, one cool and one warm, of the purest fragrant rain from their mouths that gently cascaded to bathe the newly born Prince. The baby Prince immediately took seven steps and seven lotus flowers sprang from beneath his feet.

    Flowers drifted down from the heavens. The young Prince purified in body and mind from the rain, pointed one hand towards the heavens and one towards the earth and he said,

    "Heaven above and earth beneath, I am the Honoured One, the One who liberates all who suffer in the Three Realms."
    Thank you Jundo,

    I just love that story. It's a good thing Mahamaya had that dream with the elephant and knew what to expect, otherwise I can imagine the look on her face when all that happened. Happy Birthday to us all!

    Gassho
    Lisa
    sat today

  6. #6
    Thank you, Jundo! A most wonderful time for all!



    Gassho,

    Hotetsu

    #SatToday
    Forever is so very temporary...

  7. #7
    This is how Vesak (konwn here as Waisak) Day is celebrated by the Buddhist community here in Indonesia at Borobudur temple... People come from all over the world to attend these celebrations...

    hari-raya-waisak-606x350.jpg

    Gassho,
    Anshu

    sat today

  8. #8
    Dear All,

    I would like to "bump" this little thread in Celebration of Buddha's Birthday, celebrated traditionally this week in Japanese Buddhism ...

    Happy Birthday to each and all.

    Gassho, Jundo

    SatToday
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  9. #9
    Thanks Jundo,
    I've decided to celebrate with a long walk in a local park. I often spoil walks by thinking or talking too much, so I'll make an extra effort to walk mindfully instead.
    Gassho,
    Enjaku
    Sat
    援若

  10. #10
    Thank you, Jundo. I'll celebrate it with sitting the weekly zazenkai live
    as well as leading the Sunday sit (while Shugen is off). Besides I'll try
    to be more mindful along my usual multi-tasking weekend

    Gassho,
    Washin
    sat

  11. #11
    Member Seishin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Location
    La Croix-Avranchin, Basse Normandie, France
    A most appreciated bump. I always thought the flower festival and the cherry blossoms falling was just a celebration of spring and did not know the relevance in respect of Japanese Buddhism. Many thanks for this teaching. A lantern in my half built zen garden / outdoor zendo will be nice.


    Seishin

    Sei - Meticulous
    Shin - Heart

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Seishin-Do View Post
    A lantern in my half built zen garden / outdoor zendo will be nice.
    Just be careful with the paper lantern, and don't burn down that half!

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  13. #13
    Something for the little ones ...... A song celebrating the Birth of the Buddha, from an album specifically for young children:



    Gassho
    Kim
    Sat today
    優婆塞 | Ubasoku
    迷安 | Meian
    ------------------------------------
    Please do not take anything I say as teaching or advice.
    I've lived and practiced with chronic illness/pain for years, but am not a Dharma teacher.

  14. #14
    Mp
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Washin View Post
    as well as leading the Sunday sit (while Shugen is off)
    Thank you for doing this Washin. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen

    s@today

  15. #15
    Thank you, Jundo.
    It is interesting to look at the story of the Buddha in a cultural context as well. Many of the divinities of Ancient India have fantastic, and fantastical, birth stories.
    The Zazenkai dedicated to Vesak sounds brilliant!

    Gassho,
    Marie,
    sattoday

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Shingen View Post
    Thank you for doing this Washin. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen

    s@today
    I am honoured to practise with you all, Shingen
    Last edited by Washin; 04-07-2017 at 07:40 PM.

  17. #17
    A few years ago I had the opportunity to observe the celebration of an open house at a Theravada temple, not native speakers, of what I must assume was the birth of the Buddha in the spring, a grand feast of Asian delights, music, flowers, open testimonials from visiting monks and priests, all near me at the opening of a new Temple (very small). What fun, and near my home. The public was encouraged to pour water over a statue of a small Buddha. Since then, as we drive by the temple often I see very little activity, sadly, but the ceremony, when I had more ignorance than now, was good.

    Tai Shi
    std
    Gassho
    Kind Ubasoku, calm poetry, I seek to support; to be supportive.

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