How wonderful to celebrate and remember the Buddha whose blessings lift us up and support us.
Most Buddhists in the UK will be celebrating Enlightenment Day this coming weekend (including our Birmingham Sangha who are taking part in the ceremony at the Sultanganj Buddha at Birmingham museum). But according to the lunar calendar that was followed by ancient Buddhists and is still followed by Theravaden Buddhists, today – the full moon day – is Buddha day.
At this time we remember the birth, enlightenment and death of Shakyamuni Buddha who set the wheel of Dharma in motion 2500 years ago.
Siddhartha Gautama was born into a noble family; his birth was celebrated but surrounded by tragic circumstances – his mother dying during childbirth. In the Feeling Buddha Dharmavidya suggests this death cast a long shadow over the life of the Buddha. We can see how it led to the cosseting of the young Siddharta by his father who kept him away from anything that might cause suffering or distress. It may also have played a part in driving Siddharta from the Palace and into the world, and ultimately to the ascetic spiritual practices he went on to reject before becoming enlightened.
The enlightenment of the Buddha was an other power experience. Siddharta practiced intensely with different spiritual teachers reaching the limits of what was possible though his own power and still felt dissatisfied. In the giving up of this, through receiving the kindness of Sujata, and through the grace of Buddhas throughout the ten directions he became awakened.
The support of other power allowed Siddharta to look deeply into the circumstances of his own life, and into the suffering of all beings, and to become liberated in the midst of this difficult world: to become the Buddha.
Later the Buddha would talk about rediscovering something that had been lost, like finding an over grown path to an abandoned city. He said that he was not the first Buddha, but simply the Buddha of this age, and that there had been a whole host of awakened beings before him.
When we look deeply into our own lives we not only see the suffering and difficulty of life, but we also see how we are supported: physically by the earth, and spiritually by all the teachings that we have received, the kindness of our communities and by the still available presence and spirit of the Buddha in the form of Amdia Buddha, Quan Shi Yin and all the other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
So today let us give thanks for the grace and blessings we have already received, and particularly to those blessings flowing from the life and enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha.
Namo Shakyamuni Buddha!