The festival celebrates the birthday of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who was to become Sakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. Prince Siddhartha was born on the 8th day of the fourth lunar month or on the day of the full moon in May over 2,550 years ago in Lumbini, Kapilavatsu in Northern India near the present border of Nepal.
According to the legend of Prince Siddhartha’s birth, his mother Queen Maya was travelling home to see her parents and had stopped to rest in the lush Gardens of Lumbini where she went into labour. It is said that auspicious signs herald his birth, the sky was clear with brilliant sunshine, flowers bloomed and birds sang. Soon 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,
After the birth of the Prince, he was examined by holy men who announced that he would become a great religious leader.
His father King Suddhdhana wanterd him to follow in his footsteps and thus set about providing a life of luxury, sheltered the child prince from the world’s miseries.
When Siddhartha was a young man, he was at last allowed to venture from the palace. In the town, he saw four sights: a decrepit old man, a person racked with disease, a corpse and a holy man. Thus he learnt of life’s inevitable sufferings of old age, sickness and death, and the transient nature of all worldly pleasures. Siddhartha also recognised that the holy man had found peace in spite of life’s misery.
Determined to find a way to be free from earthly troubles, not just for himself but for all sentient beings, Prince Siddhartha renounced his crown and left his young wife and son to embark on a journey to seek the ultimate truth.
It was only after years of cultivation that he attained supreme enlightenment and was henceforth known as Sakyamuni Buddha.
With endless compassion, Sakyamuni Buddha shared his teachings with his followers so that they too could discover the Middle Path to end all suffering and become a Buddha one day.
Hence, a Buddha is not a god, but one who, through complete wisdom and compassion, has attained full enlightenment and is thus beyond the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
Buddha Bathing Ritual
Buddhists all over the world continue to celebrate the Buddha’s birthday by the tradition of bathing the little Buddha with fragrant water. A symbol of inner purification, the tradition is said to assist with the purgation of sins. A universal message that: It’s simple to wash away physical dirt but it is much more difficult to cleanse one’s inner dirt of greed, anger and ignorance. For the bathing ceremony the altar is arranged as a flower garden, representing the Garden of Lumbini. In following with tradition, monks and nuns use a special ladle to pour fragrant water steeped with special herbs over the statue of the infant Buddha, afterwards the image is rinsed with purified water.The ritual performed with reverence and a purified mind is said to improve harmony and inner balance, leading to a flourishing, fulfilling, wholesome, blissful and enlightened life.
Steps for Bathing the Buddha
Whilst kneeling before the altar, carefully fill the ladle and pour water over the image of the young Buddha.
At each pour chant the following –
1st wash: May I eliminate all evil thoughts
2nd wash: May I cultivate good deeds
3rd wash: May I help save all living beings
What kind of mind should we have when bathing the Buddha?
1. Faith–we should be joyful and have faith in the merit of bathing the Buddha. In pouring water over the Buddha, we are also cleansing our own minds.
2. Sincerity–When we bathe the statue of the Buddha, we take it as the Buddha is present and we have cultivated the premiere merit in the world. We should transfer this merit to all sentient beings for enhancing wisdom, and making affinity with the holy.
3. Righteousness–We wish to be rid of karmic obstructions and for purification of our minds. We pray for peace and happiness for all humanity.
Benefits of Bathing the Buddha
In the Benefits of Bathing the Buddha Sutra, they are as follows:
1.Wealth and happiness, good health and longevity
2.All wishes fulfilled
3.Peace and harmony for family, relatives, and friends
4.Never to face the Eight Obstacles of learning the Dharma, nor suffering
5.Achieve quick enlightenment