From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Magha Puja: Paying it forward

To many, enlightenment seems like the be-all and end-all of human existence.  Those stereotypic images of blissed-out cave-meditators are hard to shake.

Enlightened beings, however, often see things differently.  For them, enlightenment is instead a new beginning.  It is the first step of a very long journey that they intend to share with others.  Such an Enlightened One was the Buddha.  He practically went straight from the Bodhi tree to Sarnath, where he immediately began sharing his awakening with
five holy men.  He and his disciples then taught the Dharma throughout India for the next 45 years.

Magha Puja celebrates the sharing of this Buddhist wisdom.  According to Wikipedia, it marks the four auspicious occasions that occurred nine months after the Buddha’s enlightenment.  These “four auspicious occasions” were as follows:  the unscheduled synchronistic arrival of 1250 Sangha visitors; the fact that – unbeknownst to one another - they were all Arhantas ordained by the Buddha himself; the giving to them by the Buddha of the three ovadhapatimokha principles (cease from all evil, do what is good, and cleanse the mind); and the occurrence of all this on a full-moon day.

In Thailand, these ovadhapatimokha teachings have been deemed so important that they are referred to as the “Heart of Buddhism.”  On the full-moon evening of the third lunar month of Makha (Magha), Thailand temples hold candlelight processions.  Monks and congregants walk three times around in a circle – once for the Buddha, once for the Dharma, and once for the Sangha.  Renunciation and meditation is also practiced.  Buddhist precepts are emphasized.

Magha Puja is officially celebrated in Laos and Cambodia, as well. Buddhists there also go to temple and perform “merit-making activites.”  The beauty of this holiday is that it not only honors enlightenment – but especially honors the compassionate sharing of it.


Copyright March 19, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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