Written by, Ratnasiri Mutukumara
President- WFBY Sri Lanka | Secretary – WFB Sri Lanka Centre Former Assistant Secretary-General, Vice President,& Advisor –WFBYInternational Relations officer- Malalasekera Foundation
February 8th, 2020. Thailand — Over 500,000 people from all over the world, including 100,000 Bhikkhu Sangha from all Buddhist fraternities will converge at the Dhammakaya Cetiya in Pathumthani Province on Nawam Full Moon day to light lamps of Peace. This unique event symbolises the ‘World Light of Peace Programme’ or ‘Magha Puja’ Day.
This year’s event also marks the 50th Anniversary of the Dhammakaya Foundation which was established on April 08th 1970.
During the day, people engage in acts of mindfulness and merit such as meditation, offering food and offering alms to the Bhikkhu Sangha among other religious activities. Towards the evening, everyone gathers around the Dhammakaya Cetiya – the gigantic stupa built as the international monument of world peace, to circumambulate and light more than 100,000 lanterns as a homage to the Sakyamuni Buddha and make a resolute wish for world peace. This annual religious celebration in Thailand is the biggest religious festival of the Dhammakaya Foundation and flatform for the international Buddhist leaders around the world to participate. Students who won the national and international Dhamma Quiz contests will also receive their awards at this ceremony.
Why is Magha Puja important for Buddhists?
Buddhists have stayed true to this Puja for over 2500 years. It marks the four auspicious occasions that happened nine months after the Enlightenment of the Sakyamuni Buddha near Rajagaha in Northern India.
1. It was the full moon day of the third lunar month.
2. 1250 Arahants (the Enlightened disciple monks) visited the Sakyamuni Buddha that same evening without any prior arrangements.
3. All of them were ordained by the Buddha himself.
4. The Sakyamuni Buddha delivered a sermon called the ‘Ovada patimokka’ which includes the fundamental ideology, the moral standards and the conducts of Buddhism.
The Buddhist ideology is the ultimate objective of the spiritual journey of the Buddhists. As outlined in Gautama Buddha’s sermon, the Buddhist ideology comprises the following;
1. Be patient until you reach achievement. As our life may be burdened by suffering, we should be patient. Furthermore, patience towards sensual desire can prevent us from sensual indulgence.
2. All the Buddhas have taught that Nirvana is the state of supreme bliss.
3. Monks who kill or harm other living beings do not deserve to be monks.
Subsequently, Gautama Buddha suggested the following moral standards.
- Abstaining from misdeeds because the Law of Karma still controls us. If we break precepts or commit bad deeds, karmic retribution will return to us either in this lifetime or during a future lifetime.
- Doing only good deeds. When the karma from good deeds bears fruit, our life will be joyful, prosperous and successful.
- Purify our mind by practising mindfulness through meditation. This is the only way that we are able to attain true happiness and Nirvana.
Finally, the Gautama Buddha recommends how disciples should behave,
- Buddhism should propagate without insulting or making slanderous allegations against each other.
- Buddhism should prosper without assaulting or harming each other.
- Buddhists should observe the precepts. In particular, Buddhist monks must observe all 227 precepts.
- One should be content in consuming food.
- One should live in a tranquil place that is suitable for meditation practice.
- One should practice mindfulness when standing, walking, sitting or sleeping.
Lighting Lanterns to Cultivate Faith and Wisdom:
Buddhists light lamps to pay homage to the Triple Gem represents our faithful heart with realization in the Sakyamuni Buddha’s virtues. We humbly offer the light to worship his compassion, purity and wisdom as he knew the truth of life thoroughly. Nothing could conceal his insight power. As we worship him with respect, we will receive merit in return. The merit from paying homage to the wholesome one will enable us to be prosperous and successful in our lives. The gift of life will allow us to have beautiful eyes, superb vision, beautiful radiance, a bright mind, luminous wisdom and ultimately, attain the Buddhahood or Dhammakaya inside ourselves. According to the Buddhist scripture, There was a lady who faithfully lit lanterns to pay homage to the Buddha. Later on, her good karma caused her to be reborn as a beautiful lady with a golden subtle complexion. Radiance glowed from her body constantly. Even when she was in the dark, she was able to see things because of her own radiance. After she ordained to become a Bhikkhuni, she managed to attain
Enlightenment quickly and went to become a female disciple monk, who was recognized by the Tathagata, as the one who was excellent in recalling as lifetimes. From the story, we can conclude that the act of worship to the Triple Gem into our own heart, similar to opening the lid of the crystal jar to receive drops of clean rain from the sky. We do not only believe in what we do, but we also understand why we do it. This is why the act of worshipping allows us to cultivate both faith and wisdom simultaneously.