Let your light shine

Buddha Purnima is the most important annual Buddhist festival. It is also a unique event as the same day represents three significant milestones in the life of the Buddha. It is a belief that Lord Buddha was born, attained enlightenment and passed away from this world all on this same date.

Buddha Purnima falls on the full moon night in the month of Vaisakhi as per the Hindu calendar, which is usually in the month of April or May as per the Western calendar (May 17 is the date this year). The main sites associated with these historic events witness special prayers and pilgrimages by devotees to mark the occasion. These include the birthplace of Gautam Buddha in Lumbini. The biggest centre of activity is Bodh Gaya with the famed Bodhi tree under which the Buddha is said to have meditated, which led to his enlightenment on Buddha Purnima. And lastly, Kushinagar where the Buddha attained mahaparinirvana when he turned 80 and left his bodily form.
It is interesting to note that like the Buddha, some other well-known saints and Masters were also born on a full moon night like Guru Nanak and Maharishi Valamiki. A metaphoric interpretation may be made of this lunar association to convey the larger message of these spiritual leaders.
The waxing and waning of the moon can be taken to symbolise the personal journey of an individual in the physical and spiritual realm that actually represents a full circle. We can consider it to be a circle of fullness or total emptiness. We begin from nothing at birth, move to fullness at prime of life and then dissolve into nothingness at the time of death.
It refreshes our memory about the impermanent nature of substances and the interchangeability of all matter. What appears as end of one type of existence is only change of form as put forth by scientific explanations of constant flux in the field of energy. Very much like the way we see the moon on a daily basis, which appears different to our naked eyes on different days. The moon seems to be ever increasing or decreasing in size. But in reality, we know its size is fixed. It only appears different due to an optical illusion based on the pattern of solar reflection. Even on a night of first moon, the moon exists but is just out of our vision.
The monthly lunar trajectory is a good periodic reminder of our own evolution from cipher at time of birth to fullness at prime and back to nihility in the end. This realisation comes from deep self-awareness and meditative introspection. It is both a means and an end to experiencing the “Buddha nature” which is the core of our internal being.
On the occasion of Buddha Purnima, let us appreciate this message of completeness or Pooranta which can be discovered by connecting with the seed of Buddha consciousness nascent in each one of us.

— Poonam Srivastava has published a book of Zen poetry titled, A Moment for the Mind, which expounds on the practice of Mindfulness Meditation. She is also involved in popularising new ideas of change in the social sector. She can be contacted at m4moment@gmail.com

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