“However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act upon them?” ~ The Buddha
Buddhism: Among the many practicing Buddhists in the United States, Buddha’s Birthday (Hana Matsuri) is widely celebrated on April 8.
The Lunar New Year (or Spring Festival) falls on the first day of the first month in the ancient Chinese lunisolar calendar, between January 21 and February 20 on the Gregorian calendar. While the festival is the longest and most important annual celebration in Chinese communities and is often called Chinese New Year, it’s also celebrated in Korean, Vietnamese, Laotian, Singaporean and other Asian communities.
The holiday’s traditions are rooted in ancient Chinese religions and astrology, including Buddhism and Daoism. Many are well known all over the world, such as the Chinese zodiac, based on 12 animals important to Chinese culture. The color red abounds in decorations, lanterns, and envelopes for giving money to children. Other important customs include paying respects to household gods, ancestors and elders; gathering with family for a special feast, including sugary treats to bring sweetness in the new year; and community festivals with a performance of the traditional lion dance to bring prosperity and good luck in the year ahead.
Wesak (Vesak) is the most important day of the year for Buddhists.
The significance of Vesak lies with the Buddha and his universal peace message to mankind.
As we recall the Buddha and his Enlightenment, we are immediately reminded of the unique and most profound knowledge and insight which arose in him on the night of his Enlightenment. This coincided with three important events which took place, corresponding to the three watches or periods of the night.
During the first watch of the night, when his mind was calm, clear and purified, light arose in him, knowledge and insight arose. He saw his previous lives, at first one, then two, three up to five, then multiples of them .. . ten, twenty, thirty to fifty. Then 100, 1000 and so on…. As he went on with his practice, during the second watch of the night, he saw how beings die and are reborn, depending on their Karma, how they disappear and reappear from one form to another, from one plane of existence to another. Then during the final watch of the night, he saw the arising and cessation of all phenomena, mental and physical. He saw how things arose dependent on causes and conditions. This led him to perceive the arising and cessation of suffering and all forms of unsatisfactoriness paving the way for the eradication of all taints of cravings. With the complete cessation of craving, his mind was completely liberated. He attained to Full Enlightenment. The realisation dawned in him together with all psychic powers.
This wisdom and light that flashed and radiated under the historic Bodhi Tree at Buddha Gaya in the district of Bihar in Northern India, more than 2500 years ago, is of great significance to human destiny. It illuminated the way by which mankind could cross, from a world of superstition, or hatred and fear, to a new world of light, of true love and happiness.
One of the most important festivities for Buddhists around the world is Asalha Puja. Asalha Puja, otherwise known as Dharma Day, commemorates the day when Buddha made his first sermon or religious teachings after his enlightenment. Since the core teachings of Buddha were made on that day and it resulted to the eventual spread of the religion, Asalha Puja also marks the establishment of Buddhism. The festivity falls on the full moon of the eight month of the lunar calendar (Asalha).
Read more at World Religion News: “Dharma Day Celebrates the Beginning of Buddhism” http://www.worldreligionnews.com/?p=29145
Jizō Bon, or the Festival of Jizō (or Kṣitigarbha) Bodhisattva, usually held in August, celebrates the deity who protects those in hell, animals, travelers, and children, including the unborn. Primarily revered in East Asian Buddhism, Kṣitigarbha is known for vowing not to achieve Buddhahood until all are rescued from hell.
In Japan, Jizō (or Ojizō-sama) is one of the most loved divinities and statues of him are widespread. Since the end of World War II, he has been worshipped as the guardian of mizuko (“water children”), the souls of stillborn, miscarried, or aborted fetuses. According to Japanese legend, the souls of children who die before their parents cannot cross over to the afterlife because they haven’t been able to accumulate good deeds and have caused their parents grief. Jizō is said to save these children by hiding them from demons in his robe sleeves.
Parents often pile stones and pebbles by Jizō statues with the hope of shortening their children’s penance in hell, and put tiny children’s clothing, red hats, or bibs on the statues so he will specially protect them.
Many Buddhist traditions and sects commemorate the day that the historical Buddha reached enlightenment. Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 BC), an Indian prince, is believed to have left royal life at age 29 to seek spiritual awakening. After several years of effort, one day Gautama sat under a tree in what is now Bodhgaya, India, and resolved to meditate without rising until he gained enlightenment. Forty-nine days later, he finally attained total awakening and the bliss of nirvana, the spiritual state beyond individual desire and suffering. The title Buddha translates to “awakened one” or “enlightened one.”
Different traditions and sects celebrate Bodhi Day at various times in the year. In Japanese Zen Buddhism, it is called Rōhatsu (“eighth day of the twelfth month”) and observed on December 8 of the Gregorian calendar. Tibetan Buddhists typically observe the festival in June and Theravada Buddhists in May. The Chinese celebration, Laba, falls on the eighth day of the twelfth month in the Chinese lunar calendar, usually in the first half of January. Observances may include chanting sutras (Buddhist texts), special meditation and acts of kindness.