On April 8, 2539 years ago, Queen Maya of Kapilavastu, India, gave birth to Prince Siddhartha under the asoka tree in Lumbini Park. He was to become the Buddha. After his birth, with one hand pointing to the heavens and the other to the earth, the prince exclaimed, “I am the supreme of all heaven and earth.” The meaning of which is, “In all of the universe, only realizing our own Buddha nature is the most noble and supreme.” Subsequently, the Four Heavenly Kings and nine dragons rained down fragrant water to bathe the young prince.
Hence, Buddhists conduct “Bathing the Buddha Ceremony” and prepare a tonic with fragrant herbs and spices to bathe Buddha statues for celebration of the Buddha’s birthday.
The meaning of bathing the Buddha: When we bathe the Buddha statue, we should sincerely pray for purification of our own defilements of greed, hatred, and anger. We should pray for peace and harmony everywhere, so that there is no more violence, deceit, and evil in the world. We should wish for our troubled world be transformed into a pure land and all minds be guided onto the bodhi path. This is the true meaning of bathing the Buddha.
Sakyamuni Buddha was born into the human world to help alleviate the sufferings of all beings. His mother was Queen Mahamaya, the wife of King Suddhodana of Kapilavastu, the ancient city of the Shakya kingdom, located at the foot of the Himalayas.
One night, Queen Mahamaya dreamt of a white six-tusked elephant appeared, holding a lotus flower in its trunk and going around her three times before entering her womb on her right side. She felt joyful when she awake and later discovered she was pregnant with a child.
On the eighth day of the fourth month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, which was the full moon of May in the 6th century BC, Queen Mahamaya gave birth to Prince Siddhartha Gautama under on Ashoka tree in Lumbini Garden. According to legend, after the prince was born, he took seven steps on the ground and with every step he took, a lotus sprung beneath his feet. He said, “I am the most honoured One in the world, for I will be the One who will find the way to end all sufferings in life”. Following his birth, fragrant flowers fell from the sky; nine dragons appeared and showered him with water.
Prince Siddhartha grew up to be on intelligent scholar and a skillful sportsman. He was kind and compassionate and thought deeply about what he saw around him. He learned that although he was happy, there was a lot of suffering in life. On his visits to the town. He saw old age, sickness and death, and it troubled him deeply. Finally, seeing a sage who looked so serene and peaceful, he decided to leave the palace to become a monk, in search of the truth to life and an end to suffering.
As Prince Siddhartha sat under the Bodhi tree in deep meditation, the evil demon, Mara used all means to tempt him with gentle persuasion, beautiful women, and even violence to disturb his concentration but he sat firm as a mountain and was able to overcome all these evil obstacles to attain enlightenment.
Upon enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, Buddha said, “All sentient beings have the true awakening nature, but because they are bonded by various vexations and thoughts, they are not aware that they have a pure Buddha nature”. He had become the enlightened one! He was called Sakyamuni Buddha.
Buddha met five monks whom he previously knew and delivered his first sermon to them at Deer park in Sarnath. For over forty years, Buddha travelled all over India to share his teachings to people regardless of their status, class or race and saved countless beings.
Finally, at the age of 80, Buddha knew his end was fast drawing near. He went to Kushalnagara and entered Mahaparinirvana (the ultimate state of everlasting peace and happiness by an Awakened Being) beneath two sala trees. He said to his disciples, “All conditioned things are subject to decay, strive with diligence for your liberation.”
Buddha’s teachings spread from India to China, Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Tibet, various countries in Asia, and the rest of the world. His blessings on all sentient beings are the light of wisdom for all humanity. In the 21st century of today, Humanistic Buddhism is the guidance to this world of suffering that we live in, Buddha’s teachings are to be practiced daily so as to realize the truth, goodness, and beauty of human life.