Tibetan Holy Days

Today is a very important day. Many Buddhists believe today, the fifteenth day of the fourth month, is the day Buddha got enlightenment. It is also the day he was born and passed away. In Tibetan it is known as Saga Dawa. Virtuous deeds are more powerful in this month. In other Buddhist countries the people give up meat and alcohol this month.

Each month has three precious days, the first is the full moon day, which is Amitabha Buddha’s day. The second is the thirtieth day, new moon, which is Shakyamuni Buddha’s day. The third is the eighth day, which is Medicine Buddha’s day. In these days if you do virtuous deeds or some spiritual practice, the merit is multiplied one hundred times. If you offer one butter lamp, it is the same as one hundred lamps. If you do non-virtuous actions, its effect is also multiplied by one hundred. If you recite one full rosary you gain the merit of one hundred rosary recitations. Hindus also believe these are special days and they take the brahmanical vows for the day. On these days Bhutanese and Tibetan families will not eat meat.

Each year there are four special days: They are the day of miracles, the day the Buddha was enlightened, the day the Buddha first taught the four noble truths, and the day he descended from the god realm of Tushita to Jambudvipa. There are six realms and in the human realm there are four great continents and eight subcontinents. The continent we live on is Jambudvipa.

According to the lunar calendar the first month is the miracle month. When Shakyamuni was forty, six great Hindu teachers, who represented the six schools of Hinduism that existed at the time, challenged Shakyamuni to a competition of miracles. At that time great kings and noble families sponsored teachers who could perform miracles. So Buddha accepted the challenge. He accepted because many would be benefited and achieve the arhat state and people of the future would be inspired to practice as a result of his demonstration. The first day to the fifteenth of the first month are precious and the fifteenth is especially great. The competition happened in the Bihar in India at Sravasti. 80,000 Buddhists and 84,000 Hindus attended the competition.

On the first day Buddha held his toothpick, put it on the ground and it turned to the wish fulfilling tree. It was decorated with jewels, like a Christmas tree. On the second day Buddha manifested two wish fulfilling jewels. The third day the king offered to wash Buddha’s feet. When Buddha washed his feet, he threw the water and it became a pool with the eight special qualities of water. Whoever drank or touched it were healed.

Today there is a well there where small amounts of water are offered for sale. It is useful for treating disease. On the fourth day it rained and the rain filled the eight canals. The fifth day Buddha emitted golden light from his mouth and people could see beings of the six realms being liberated. On the sixth day Buddha transformed some energy and everyone became clairvoyant and knew each others minds. On the seventh day Buddha manifested as the wheel turning king and many people converted to Buddhism. Up to that time the Hindu teachers had not shown miracles. On the eighth day the gods from Indra’s palace sponsored the meals. They served Buddha and made offerings to him. Buddha’s hand pressed the side of his seat and a thundering sound was emitted. Five frightening giant cannibals came out of the ground and they went for the seats of the Hindu teachers. Vajrapani also threatened the Hindu teachers. The Hindu teachers ran away. Vajrapani manifested a great storm. It became a tornado which picked up the Hindu teachers and their retinues and tossed them in the water. 60,000 Hindus converted that day and many monks attained the arhat’s state and understanding. The gods showered flowers.

Some believe the eighth of the first month is the Buddha’s birthday. Others believe the fifteenth of the fourth month is Buddha’s birthday. Why do some believe the eighth. When Buddha dwelt at Sravasti, where he was for twenty four years, they were not allowed to build on the land were the monks camped The monks were required to live under a tree or in a small hut or tent. The land in Sravasti had three land owners. The land owner asked when is your birthday. Buddha replied in the first lunar month. Some marked his birthday then, according to the Vedic calendars.

The first to eighth day are the competition days. From the eighth to the fifteenth, Buddha showed miracles without competition. On the eighth day Buddha grew his body until the Brahma realm was under his chin. On the tenth day Buddha’s body grew to the top of Akanishta. On the eleventh day, the Buddha he was not visible but the sound of his voice was heard everywhere. On the twelfth day light from his body radiated to all of samsara and developed loving kindness in all. On the thirteenth day Buddha manifested light from the spot between his eyebrows, filling all space with Buddhas, all who taught the dharma. On the fourteenth day the flowers that were offered by the gods filled all of space and on each flower a Buddha manifested and taught. On the fifteenth day Buddha gave the energy so that all beings could see all the six realms. Many people converted to Buddhism after seeing the lower realms with their own eyes. There are eight great stupas. One is called the miracle stupa and was built to commemorate this event. So that is the first great day., the day of miracles, from the first to the fifteenth of the first month. Tibetans celebrate the new year at this time.

The second great day is the day of the Buddha’s enlightenment. He got enlightenment in Bodhgaya under the Bodhi tree, He taught at Sarnath and then at Vulture Peak. In his life the only time he left India was to teach in Sri Lanka. So Buddha got enlightenment when he was thirty five years old. He took the kusha grass to make a seat that he was offered by Mangala. He thought this is auspicious. He sat in meditation vowing not to move until he attained enlightenment. He sat like that for fourteen days. On the fifteenth day he understood the essence of desire and anger. He vanquished Mara not by wrestling or fighting with a pistol but inquiring into the truth. Our understanding is nothing. We think our name or body is us. It is no answer if you say my mind is me, because if you say my, that is not me. When I was born I had no name. If I had been born in Baltimore, maybe my name would be David. So Buddha got the answer that was true. When he understood, there was nothing left to learn. That is called enlightenment. We have much left to learn. If you become a PhD there is still countless amount to learn. So Buddha became enlightened on the day of Vaishaka. Many people also believe Buddha’s mother became pregnant and the Buddha descended from Tushita on this day. They believe his mother became pregnant, he was born became, enlightened, and died on this same day. There is a stupa that commemorates the Buddha’s enlightenment in Magadha at Bodhgaya.

The third important day Lhabab Duchen, when the Buddha descended from the god realm. He went to the god realm to liberate his mother, who had died six days after his birth. When Buddha became enlightened, he saw his mother had been reborn in the god realm, as a result of her pride. He went there to liberate his mother by teaching her. There are two other times the Buddha descended from heaven. In the prayer it says you descended like an elephant with six tusks when your mother became pregnant. He also went to Indra’s realm to teach the Victory Banner Sutra. So that is in the ninth month on the thirtieth day.

The other great day is when he taught the first teachings. When he became enlightened he remained silent, thinking no one could understand his teaching. The area is named Rishipatna, because rishis who had been meditating there levitated into the sky and immolated themselves. Brahma offered a golden wheel to the Buddha requesting that he teach. He said the Earth’s virtue was decreasing and needed to hear the dharma. Then Indra came and offered a special conch shell. Five people who were Buddha’s cousins were sent to persuade him to come back as king after Buddha had left his palace. Instead they became sadhus with the future Buddha. But when he was offered food and ate it, they thought he was no longer a sadhu and left him. On the day of his enlightenment there was a great earthquake and they checked what was happened, and they found he had become enlightened. They thought they would not pay respects but just visit him. But they were overwhelmed and prostrated ant his feet when they met him. The Buddha taught them the four noble truths and they became arhats. So these are the four great days of the Buddha. The fourth day of the sixth month celebrates Buddha’s teaching.

Q: Could you explain how Buddha taught the Victory Banner Sutra?

A: On the top of Mount Sumeru is Indra’s realm. It has the wish fulfilling tree but its roots are in the demi gods realm. So they were angry that they didn’t get the fruit of the tree. The king of the demigods attacked and damaged Indras palace, like the Pentagon was damaged on September eleventh. Indra was surprised, because this had never happened before. With their divine eye they checked who could help and saw that Shakyamuni could help them. They told Buddha and asked Buddha to come. Buddha agreed. Near the palace there is a white rock where he sat and taught the Victory Banner Sutra, He said to write the sutra around the outside of the palace and also write it on their chariots Wherever they did this, they could not be defeated. Then when Buddha came down from heaven, he taught his disciples this sutra.