Buddha’s birthday

THE local branch of Fo Guang Shan Yuan Thong Monastery in Bacolod actively promotes Buddhist practices through its lay organization, Buddha’s Light International Association.

Fo Guang Shan promotes the four principles initiated by Venerable Master Hsing Yun: “Propagating Dharma through cultural activities, fostering talent through education, benefiting society through philanthropy and purifying human minds.”

I enjoy listening to Dharma talks from time to time at the Yuan Thong Temple. Buddhism may seem to be a totally different religion than Christianity, yet, under its marked exoticism, its tenets have a strong resemblance to Christianity.

Pureness of speech, mind and action is the underlying message of the practice of Buddhism. In fact, love for all creatures is an advocacy of Buddhists and they make fervent environmentalists with their meatless meals.

Vegetarianism calls for eschewing the eating of meat not only for health purposes but also for ethical reasons. Buddhists hate to have an animal undergo suffering for the gustatory pleasure of humans. Consuming plants and plant products spare an animal the agony of death.

I find it logical to eat more vegetables; since cattle and poultry are mostly herbivores, why can’t humans be, too? Carabaos are hefty and hardy, and they only subsist on grass.
It’s the humane treatment of animals that attract me to partaking of an almost vegan lifestyle but it’s the gustatory part that attracts me to Yuan Thong. For really delicious vegetarian meals, Yuan Thong prepares palate-pleasing dishes that one will forget that there is not a slice of real meat in any of these.

This year, Buddha celebrates his birthday on May 6. Yuan Thong Temple is preparing an eat-all-you-can lunch for ticket-holders on that day, so, first-timers to the temple will have a taste of Taiwanese vegetarian cuisine.

It will be a time for joyous celebration in Buddhist countries with parades, floats, lanterns, musicians and communal meals.

Buddha’s birthday is actually the birthday of the Prince Siddhartha Gautama and is traditionally celebrated in Mahayana Buddhism.

One important ceremony during Buddha’s birthday is the washing of the baby Buddha. According to Buddhist legend, when the Buddha was born, he stood straight, took seven steps, and declared "I alone am the World-Honored One." And he pointed up with one hand and down with the other, to indicate he would unite heaven and earth. I am told the seven steps represent seven directions -- north, south, east, west, up, down, and here.

Mahayana Buddhists interpret "I alone am the World-Honored One" in a way that "I" represents all sentient beings throughout space and time— everyone, in other words.

So, the ritual of "washing the baby Buddha" is in memory of this moment. A figure of a standing baby Buddha, with the right hand pointing up and the left hand pointing down, is placed on an elevated stand within a basin on an altar.

People line up toward the altar with reverence, fill a ladle with water (sometimes tea), and pour it over the statue to "wash" the baby.
The word “Buddha” means “enlightened one” or someone who has truly understood.

The Buddhists believe that the Buddha is clean and pure and does not need to wash his body. Yet, the faithful wash the figure of Buddha as a symbol of bathing of the mind and a return to purity and a cleansing from defilements.

This tradition of bathing the baby Buddha came about because it is believed that on the day the Buddha was born, nine dragons spouted water.

The Temple is also inviting people to a Dharma talk today, April 26, at 4 p.m. to be followed by buffet dinner. While you’re there, inquire about the May 6 event.

Visit the temple along Burgos Street (the one near Lopue’s East) or call 432-2733 for inquiries.
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