Festivals are an integral part of every religion. These days are intended to symbolize and celebrate a certain event, heroic person, or a special story. They help communities with shared beliefs and faith come together, allowing disciples to remember their roots and strengthen their convictions. Jonah Engler explains that for Buddhists as well, festivals act as a reminder of the Buddha’s life and his teachings. There are numerous Buddhist festivals celebrated all over the world, each with its own special significance.
Jonah Engler‘s Guide to Buddhist Festivals
According to Jonah Engler, one of the most popular Buddhist festivals is Wesak, also known as Buddha Day. It commemorates the three most important events in Buddha’s life – his birth, enlightenment, and death. Wesak is usually celebrated in May or June, depending on the lunar calendar. Disciples gather at temples or monasteries to offer prayers, listen to sermons, and participate in religious rituals. Many also fast during this time as a sign of respect for the Buddha.
Magha or Puja Day
Magha or Puja Day is celebrated on the full moon day of the third month in the Chinese lunar calendar. It commemorates the day when Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath, India after he achieved enlightenment. On this day, disciples offer prayers and make donations to monks as a sign of respect.
Asalha Puja Day
Asalha Puja Day, also known as Dhamma Day, falls on the full moon day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunar calendar. It marks the occasion when Buddha delivered his first sermon at Deer Park in India, setting out the principles of Buddhism – known as the Four Noble Truths. Buddhists worldwide use this day to reflect on these principles and recommit themselves to the Buddhist path.
Buddhist New Year
Buddhist New Year, also known as Songkran, is celebrated in April and marks the start of the traditional Thai New Year. It is a time for family and friends to come together, exchange gifts, and offer prayers. Water plays an important role in the festivities, with people spraying water on statues of Buddha as a sign of respect. The holiday lasts for three days and is a time for Buddhists to reflect on the past year and set goals for the year ahead.
Another significant festival is Parinirvana, which marks the day of the Buddha’s death. It is observed on the 15th day of the 4th month of the lunar calendar and usually falls in February or March. During this time, Buddhists reflect on the transitory nature of life and meditate on the Buddha’s teachings. Many also take part in special rituals and make offerings to monks.
Kathina is a festival that takes place at the end of the three-month rain retreat, during which monks stay in one place and do not travel. It is a time for Buddhists to show their appreciation for the monks by offering them gifts of food, clothing, and other necessities. Kathina usually takes place in October or November.
Jonah Engler emphasizes that these are just some of the many Buddhist festivals celebrated throughout the year. Each one has its own special meaning and significance, providing Buddhists with an opportunity to remember the Buddha’s life and teachings.