“You’ll not be punished for your anger, you’ll be punished by your anger” - The Buddha
According to the Hindu Calendar, Buddha Purnima/Paurnami is observed on the full-moon night in the Hindu month of Vaisakh, which corresponds to the month of May in the Gregorian calendar. This year this most sanctified festival of the Buddhist community was observed on 21st of May 2016.
This day is also known as Buddha Jayanti, Buddha’s birthday, Vesak,/Wesak and Buddha Vishaka Paurnami, Hana Matsuri and Saga Dawa. It is also the day of Buddha’s journey towards his enlightenment and his day of Enlightenment. Countries all over the world celebrate Vesak, not only in India, but in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, South Vietnam; and in Canada, Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Born as Prince Siddhartha to King Sudhodana, in the city of Kapalivastu on the borders of the Indo-Nepalese region, he derived the title Sakyamuni meaning ‘Sage of the Sakyas’ as he was born into the Sakya clan.
According to tradition, his mother, Queen Maya, dreamt of a beautiful white elephant coming down into her womb, which was interpreted as a sign of a Buddha or a universal emperor, who was about to be born. The baby arrived unexpectedly, when the Queen was taking a walk in the Lumbini Gardens.
After a few days, his mother died and Siddhartha was brought up by his aunt Prajapati.
It is said the Kula-Guru: Family-Teacher, Sage Asita, came down from the Himalayas to meet the newborn prince and foreseeing his greatness, saluted him with clasped hands. When his astrology was consulted by Brahmin priests, it was revealed he would either become a universal ruler or turn to renunciation if he saw old age, sickness, death and a hermit.
His father wanted his son to be a great King, so Siddhartha grew up; leading a privileged life, in a palace surrounded by a guarded triple enclosure, until one day he decided to venture out to visit the town. Despite all precautions, Siddhartha saw an old man, an invalid and encountered a funeral procession. Finally he met a sadhu-hermit.
Soon after, Siddhartha left his beautiful young wife and his infant son, to become the monk Gautama. He studied doctrines for many years and fasted in extreme asceticism, where it is written that he was tempted by Mara (aka Lord of Death), with both sensuous temptresses and torturous demons to no avail.
After accepting a rice-pudding from a village maiden, he taught the 'Middle-way,' for he saw both the luxurious and the intense way, did not lead to the way of liberation.
Siddhartha Gautama attained the awakening passing through various stages as he saw beings live, die and transmigrate. During the night of meditating on human pain, he was enlightened about both its genesis and the means of destroying it. He identified the four noble truths and the eightfold path, which ultimately led to the end of suffering.
Under the Bodhi tree, his enlightenment is said to have shone radiant, and discovered that all beings were all capable of the same realisation. Instead of entering Nirvana, he chose to share his insights, establishing a Sangha of followers who would spread his teachings.
It is said the Buddha went into the jhana stages of meditative absorption's, from one level to another, deeper and deeper, coming out of the ecstasy for the last time only to pass into nirvana leaving nothing behind to cause rebirth. His body was cremated according to the tradition of the culture he was born into. This day which occurred on a full moon day about 483BC, became known in the Indian calendar as Vesak.
In my first year of my Secondary School, we were asked to illustrate a proverb. I chose ‘To err is human; to forgive divine’ – and drew the Buddha forgiving a soldier in medieval fighting attire.
Initially, I wanted to draw the Buddha’s serene encounter with Angulimala, whose name meant Garland of Fingers, for the dacoit had taken a vow to kill a hundred people, and to hack a finger from each to add to his gruesome necklace. Despite warnings, the Buddha had taken the path into the terrorist’s lair. When Angulimala had seen the lonely monk walking quietly, he had rushed forward with his sword, but could not catch up. Although he was fully fit, the monk’s steady paces outdistanced him. Exhausted, he had finally called out, “Stop monk!” The Buddha’s calm reply was “I have stopped, Angulimala.” The Buddha’s mind had stopped dealing in craving, hatred and ignorance and had arrived at a place which Angulimala could not reach with his sword. Angulimala became a disciple of the Buddha and I opted to for the soldier with a sword, for my artwork!
Later, as I took up reading some of our six Hindu philosophies, it struck me that the Buddhist teachings were remarkably similar to the non-dualistic Advaita branch in Vedanta. Now, in the month of Vesak, it is yet again, a reminder for us to follow his exemplary inspiring teachings through the mire of the world, in whatever way we can to find peace of mind, if not Nirvana. Meanwhile, I have decided to a create a picture-story of the Buddha, including his encounter with Angulimala.