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What is the significance of the Buddha's Birthday Celebration?
For over two thousand years, Buddhists around the world have celebrated the Buddha's Birthday. It may be celebrated at different dates on the lunar calendar due to differences in historical recordings. However this day is the most significant amongst all have the different Buddhist traditions around the world. Buddhists have been celebrating this auspicious day with appreciation for the past thousands years.
The Buddha was born into the royal family as Prince Siddhartha about two thousand six hundred years ago in Northern India, now known as Nepal. Although Siddhartha was a prince, he was deeply troubled by the unjust caste system and the harsh facts of birth, old age, sickness and death. He left the palace and embarked on a spiritual quest.
After six year of ascetic practice, Siddhartha attained full enlightenment and as a result was known as the Buddha, in another word the awakened one. The Buddha gained insight into the nature of Dependent Origination which states that everything is interdependent. He realised the cycle of life and death is brought about by karma and our life is conditioned by the law of Cause and Effect.
The qualities of wisdom and compassion of the Buddha are captured in Grand Master Hsing Yun's book (The Life of the Buddha) It is said that The Buddha's teaching is like a vessel in a sea of suffering, like water in a house of fire, like a compass like direction, and like the lamp in the darkness of the night. Because of the Buddha's teaching, disguise is transformed into sincerity and the fools have become the wise.
Buddhists celebrate the Buddha's Birthday every year. This celebration is also an opportunity on which we can reflect. Are we following the Buddha's teaching? How much do we know about the Buddha's virtues and his teachings? Are we applying the principles into helping ourselves as well as others? Master Tai Shu once said, Aspire to be the Buddha and practice this in this human life? The merits of the Buddha we may not be able to match, however we can aspire to be like the Buddha and to practice his teachings in this very present life.