Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Buddha Purnima Celebrated Across the World

Rabin Man Shakya

According to news reports, Buddha Jayanti or Buddha Purnima  was celebrated on Wednesday,  May 10 with various programs not only in Nepal, but in countries like India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, China (Tibet),  Bhutan, South Korea, Thailand, Mongolia, Russia (Buryatia), Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan and so on. Besides, Buddhists scattered across the world celebrated Buddha Purnima as a very important festival.

Therefore, celebration of Buddha Purnima in so many countries across the world underscores the significance of Buddhism as a major religious force of the world. This is again a testimony that Shakya Muni Siddhartha Gautam Buddha is adored and respected worldwide as the apostle of peace and light of Asia, and his teachings about peace and non-violence are, pretty much, relevant today more than ever when so many nations are mired in violence, civil wars and wars. Buddhism, in fact, is not just a religion, it is a philosophy, a realism of non-violence and peaceful co-existence, a trail-blazer for millions to lead a blissful life.

My family in Portland, USA especially my spouse Naveena Shakya is going to celebrate Buddha Purnima as usual by offering candle lights, flowers and by chanting prayers to Lord Buddha and by eating Kheer (rice cooked in milk with sugar, cashews, cloves, cardamoms, raisins, coconuts etc). After all, why do Buddhists all over the world celebrate Buddha Purnima?  As a matter of fact, Purnima means full moon day. For Buddhists, every full moon day every month is sacred and pious. The full moon day in the month of Baisakh has an additional and special significance. That is because on this day Siddhartha Gautam Shakya was born, attained enlightenment and Nirvana.

I think it will not be out of context to mention some of my personal events in the past. I had the opportunity to greet and be blessed by prominent and renowned late Bhantes of Nepal like Bhichhu Amritananda and Bhichhu Sudarshan at some programs. But I also had an opportunity to be blessed by Lama Bhante Hambo Dorje Gamboyev from Soviet Buryatia when he was in Kathmandu on a friendly visit. Likewise, I fondly remember meeting Bernardo Bertolucci, director of the movie "Little Buddha" at a press conference in Kathmandu when I was still working as a journalist  with The Rising Nepal.

Nearly half of my life was spent in countries like the former USSR and the USA. For about a decade, I was in the former USSR. The Soviet authorities always vainly strived to promote atheism. Nevertheless, Buddhism was the third most prominent religion in the ex-USSR after the Christians and Muslims, it still is in Russia. Buddhism has deep roots in the lives of the people in Buryat, Kalmik and Tuva autonomous republics. and in Russian cities like Irkutsk and Chita.

Buddhism is one of the prominent religions here in the United States too. There are millions of people who believe in Buddhism here. Broadly, there are two categories of  US Buddhists: the Asian Americans and the Whites. In Portland, I have personally confronted with many Whites who have become Buddhists. Hollywood celeb Richard Gere is one of the prominent Buddhists in the US.

Though Shakya Muni was born in Lumbini, Nepal, the ideas and messages of peace and harmony spread by Buddha are reaching nook and corner of the world. And yes, it will be hard to find a country today in the world without Buddhists living on it thanks to the globalization and rapid pace of migration.

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