Myths around Vesak Pornima

By Bhante Suniti Bhikkhuni

Vesak Pornima (Buddh Poornima) is known for three important incidences in the life of Siddharth Gautama – The Buddha. According to the Vedic tradition, the Hindu sages (Brahmins) declared his future to become a universal monarch or a fully enlightened Buddha. It's well-known history, that on a Vesak full moon, Siddharth was born to Queen Mahamaya in Lumbini van, Jumbodweep (currently in Nepal).

The second important incidence in Siddhartha's life is when he got enlightenment and became Budhha in Bodhgaya, Bihar on a Vesak full moon day and the third is, Mahaparinirvana (death) of Buddha which again took place on the Vesak full moon day at Kushinara, Uttar Pradesh.

I would like to elaborate on these important three incidences in Buddha's life. Let us begin with the first incident ie Siddhartha's birth.

When we read about the birth of Siddhartha, and see the picture printed along, Where we could see the scenario of queen Mahamaya standing and holding the branch of a Saal tree, surrounded with the women helpers, holding a cloth on three sides and there are lotuses on the ground and the newborn Siddhartha wrapped with a piece of cloth is walking on these lotus flowers, rather it is shown how lotus blossoms where Siddharta puts his feet. This is a very commonly seen portrayal of the birth scene and this story is also well known by the common laypeople.

After reading the whole scene along with the visual representation, some logical questions arise in mind; 1. Can a newborn child be born with a wrapped cloth? 2. Can a newborn child walk?

Does the child had supernatural powers? or instead of giving birth to a child later named Siddharth, Mahamaya gave birth to Buddha? It is very confusing when we learn the life history of Siddhartha and Buddha and his teachings, many times Buddha said that he is a man born to his mother and father just like other beings. What might be the reason behind promoting Buddha born with supernatural power!!! I find the reason in those Brahmanical minds who say that Buddha is the incarnation of Vishnu and so Buddha has the power of Vishnu which are supernatural.

Siddhartha's father, King Shuddhodhan arranged for his education. He got an education on manners and discipline, languages and grammar from Vedas and Upanishads and the teacher was Sabbamitta. He learned concentration and meditation from Bhardwaj. Being a prince, coming from a kshatriya family, he was also trained in military science for using weapons and archery. He grew up as a normal child but was very intelligent.

He lived a happy family life after marrying Yashodhara at the age of 16 years. He was a good politician too, as he became a member of Sakya sangha at the age of 20 years. He was such a nationalist who went against the war to protect the economy of the country and life of the people which might be affected by such war but was declared anti-national by the Sakya sangha. A person who lived a happy family life cannot think of being homeless or leave home. This is enough to prove how cunningly the Brahmins while writing the text after 400 years of his death twisted the story of fortune teller sages because Siddharth was punished and had to leave the state for not supporting the war which was the order of the state. Many stories had been created to support the Brahmins and said that he always wanted to live a life of sanyasi.

Now, let's focus back on the story of the birth of 'Buddha'. After leaving the state as a Parivrvajyak, for 6 years Siddhartha worked hard and reached enlightenment. He followed different gurus and learned all the stages of meditation and yoga but he could not get the answers to his question of the way out of suffering. He also experienced the extreme ways as not to eat for 6 months (written or told like 6 years, which is impractical) doesn't give him his answers.

His body became skeleton without food is proof that he was a normal man who got weak and weak day by day and became skeleton and lastly falls unconscious as a human being. Then he declares that food is very much important for a healthy body and a healthy body is indeed important for a healthy mind. If the body is healthy, one can use his/her mind to think and focus on the questions and problems. He ate food that was provided to him daily by the children of Urvela village including Sujata till he becomes enlightened. He was called Buddha, because he got enlightened by his effort, not because the Brahmins told his fortune. He said he is enlightened and can give his teachings to the people to come out of the sufferings. Still, he was very much worried after enlightenment that who will listen to him as all are superstitious and do not use logic and mind. They are dependent on the unnatural, unseen "eeshwar" who will come to save them from any situation. The conflict in the mind of Buddha also proves that he was concerned for the human being, for humanity, like a very responsible social person. This means that Buddha is not at all a god or eeshwar or any incarnation with supernatural powers.

His teachings were very natural, logical, practical, rational and scientific. He never believed in superstitions and gave Vinaya rules to bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis (monks and nuns) that any of them showing their supernatural powers would be punished and disrobed, this is called Parajika. He gave his teachings in a simple language known by the laypeople for almost 45 years walking from one place to another. He especially avoided giving his discourse in Sanskrit and asked Bhikkhu-Bhikkhunis too to avoid Sanskrit, as Sanskrit was not to be spoken by people other than Brahmins or so-called high caste people of according to the varna system.

Coming to the final incidence of Mahaparinirvana of Buddha. Buddha's one of the important, fundamental teachings is 'impermanency'. He taught that where there is birth there is death. Every moment the cells of the body originate and decay. This process is continuous from birth to death. Still, his dead body was kept for seven days saying that it is not burning and is waiting for bhikkhu Mahakassapa. How can a dead body wait for someone to burn/ isn't it unnatural, impractical??

Looking at these major incidences of Buddha's life and his teachings there seems to be some contradiction in it.

We being followers of Buddha, must give tribute to him in a correct way by understanding and following his teachings correctly. As per the Kalama sutta which is one of the most important teachings Buddha gave, we must evaluate anything rationally and logically before accepting and propagating it. Thus today on the Triguni Pornima, we pledge to follow Buddha and his Dhamma and stay away from superstitions.

अत्त दीप भव:

Author: Bhante Suniti Bhikkhuni

Contact: 8055060937

Reference- Buddha and his Dhamma by Dr. B R Ambedkar.

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