The Birth of the Buddha
Buddha’s Day celebrates the birthday of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who was to become Sakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.
Prince Siddhartha was born on the 8th day of the fourth lunar month or on the day of the full moon in 623 B.C. in Lumbini.
His family name was Gautama and he was the crown prince of a small feudal kingdom of the Sakya Clan.
According to the legend of Prince Siddhartha’s birth, his mother Queen Maya was traveling home to see her parents and had stopped to rest in the lush Gardens of Lumbini where she went into labour.
It is said that auspicious signs herald his birth, the sky was clear with brilliant sunshine, flowers bloomed and birds sang.
Directly after his birth nine heavenly dragons appeared and emitted two steams, one cool and one warm, of the purest fragrant rain from their mouths that gently cascaded to bathe the newly born Prince. The baby Prince immediately took seven steps and seven lotus flowers sprang from beneath his feet.
Flowers drifted down from the heavens. The young Prince purified in body and mind from the rain, pointed one hand towards the heavens and one towards the earth and he said,
“Heaven above and earth beneath, I am the Honoured One, the One who liberates all who suffer in the Three Realms.”
Prince Siddhartha’s Journey to become Buddha
After the birth of the Prince, he was examined by holy men who announced that he would become either a great political leader or a great religious leader. King Suddodhana, his father wanted his son to follow in his footsteps and thus set about providing a life of luxury, sheltered from the world’s miseries for the child prince.
When Siddhartha was a young man, he was at last allowed to venture from the palace. In the town he saw four sights: a decrepit old man; a person racked with disease; a corpse and a monk.
Thus he learnt of life’s inevitable sufferings (old age, sickness and death) and the transience of all worldly pleasures. Siddhartha also recognised that the wise monastic had found peace in spite of all life’s ills.
Determined to also find a way to be free from earthly troubles, Prince Siddhartha eventually renounced his crown and left his young wife to embark on a journey to seek the truth.
It was only after years of cultivation that he attained supreme enlightenment and was hence forth known as Sakyamuni (meaning sage of the Sakya clan) Buddha.
With endless compassion, Sakyamuni shared his teachings with many, so that they too could discover the Middle Path to end all suffering and become a Buddha.
Hence a Buddha is not a god, but rather one who, through complete wisdom and compassion, has attained full enlightenment and is thus beyond the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.