Tag: celebration

Ploughing Festival – Incident in Buddha’s life and its legacy

The Ploughing Festival originates from the times when Prince Gautama seven years old. It is also known as Royal Ploughing Ceremony. It was the premise of an ordeal which would later assist him in his search for Enlightenment.
The King  Sudhodana organized a ploughing festival to promote agriculture. It was for sure a merry event for all, as the both nobles and average citizens partook in the function.

The King went to the field on the designated day, joined by his squires. He brought along with him the young child along with the caretakers. The King took part in the furrowing celebration too. He seated young Siddhartha at a place under the cool shade of a singular rose-apple tree to be taken care of by the nurses. The attendants too wandered off from the young prince to get a look at the exhibition when the celebration was at its peak.

It was quiet and calm under the rose-apple tree, contrasting the cheerfulness of the celebration. The conditions were right for meditation, the thoughtful prince, sat with folded legs and grabbed the chance to start the extremely critical routine with regards to purpose : fixation on the breath – on exhalations and inward breaths – which picked up for him without further ado that one sharpness of mind known as Samādhi.

He, in this way, built up the First Jhāna (Ecstasy). His attendants hurried to the child when they understood their obligation, and were astounded to see him sitting leg over leg dove in profound meditation. The King, knowing about it, rushed to the spot and saw the youngster in reflective stance, saluted him, saying – “This child is my second homage”.

The Ploughing Festival in Theravada Countries

The Ploughing Festival is an ancient royal custom held in many South East Asian countries, signifying the traditional beginning of the rice growing season. The royal ploughing ceremony was also a custom in Myanmar before colonization until the monarchy was abolished in 1885.

As of now, the festival is practiced in Thailand, Cambodia and Sri Lanka.

Royal Ploughing Festival

The Ritual

It is usually held in the month of May. Buddhist monks sit with folded legs near a Buddha statue looking down on the rice ploughing. White oxen pull decorated plough as they are followed by people playing music and bearing banners. Then the Lord of the Festival digs three short furrows rice is sown in them.

The oxen are offered food after the ploughing, including rice, green beans, sesame, corn, fresh-cut grass, water and rice whisky.

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The Elephant Dream and the story of the Buddha’s Birth

Elephant Dream

Buddha’s Birth itself is preceded by an event with a lot of symbolism. The queen Mahā Māyā, Buddha’s mother, dreamt on a full moon night that she was carried by four devas (spirits) to the Anotatta Lake in the Himalayas. The devas clothed her with heavenly robes after bathing in the lake, and then perfumed her and covered her with flowers. Shortly after, a white elephant holding a white lotus flower, appeared and circled her three times, and went to her belly through her right. Eventually the elephant disappeared and the queen woke up and knew that she had received a vital message because the elephant symbolises greatness. Sages were called to interpret this dream and they considered it to be auspicious.

The elephant dream
The elephant dream foretelling Buddha’s Birth

Buddha’s Birth as a young prince

According to tradition, Buddha was born as a Shakya noble prince on a full-moon day in May in 623 BCE at Lumbini in Kapilavastu at the borders of present day Nepal and India. His parents were King Suddhodana and Queen Mahā Māyā. Queen Mahā Māyā died seven days after his birth, he was then adopted by her younger sister Mahā Pajāpati, who was married to the king, too. She gave the task of taking care of her own son Nanda to the the nurses.

People rejoiced at his birth. A ascetic, named Asita was especially satisfied to hear this cheerful news, and being a mentor of the King, went by the royal residence to see the Royal prince. The King carried the baby prince up to him, however, surprisingly, the kid’s legs turned and laid on the tangled locks of Asita. Asita instantly got up from his seat and, used his vision to foresee the child’s fate, he saluted him with caught hands. The Royal father did in like manner.

Asita smiled at first and then became unhappy. When asked about his mixed feelings, he replied that he smiled because the prince would ultimately become a buddha, an Enlightened one, and he became unhappy due to the fact he could no longer be able to witness the his achievements because of his early death.

The day of the Buddha’s birth is celebrated as Vesak in Theravada countries and as Buddha Purnima in India and Nepal.

 

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