The Festival of the Buddha’s Birth is the biggest and most important throughout the buddhist world. It is also seen seen as a celebration of the enlightenment and death of the Buddha as well. What is it in this that is significant to us as practitioners. In other words what is it pointing to that can be helpful for us in this moment.
Shayamuni’s offering to the world was to show a way out of the cyclical nature of suffering by awakening to how things are and not clinging to the mind creations which obscure our vision. By showing us in the Jatakamala stories his past existences, we are shown that through many acts of letting go and selfless behaviour we can see that as we let go moment by moment it is possible to live from a lighter place which is less cluttered with the consequences of clinging. Through this regular practice we also come to see that what we are really isn’t just the surface appearance of a human being as normally seen by the world. As we do this there is the rebirth of a less encumbered person. Karma is converted and transformed. It is gently cleansed, and past obstructions, which hitherto we couldn’t see past, no longer hinder our freedom.
In Buddhism there is the world of no birth and no death. What is it that truly lives and doesn’t die?. What can truly be relied upon that is much than this body which will perish soon enough? To connect with that which sits. That which returns home in meditation, and resides in it’s natural place. I believe a key to this is to see the beginngless and endless nature of life. In the Kyojukaimon it says, ‘Enlightenment is Eternal and is even now‘. By coming to realise the interconnectedness of all things we know that to divide is a harmful act which turns away from an understanding of what is a natural wisdom.
Looking at the Ancestral Line,( the succession of Masters who have transmitted theTruth), we see six Buddhas before Shakyamuni. After the last name there is the empty red line which winds it’s way back to the empty circle from which all appears. There is an obvious linearity in this in a way but what it’s showing is that teaching finds it’s particularilty in the time it’s taught so that it can be heard, yet what is taught is not restricted by boundaries and exists at one and the same time. Beyond the three existences. Each moment is complete and undivided.
The offering of the Buddhas, as we celebrate the birth of the Buddha is to acknowledge the potential of all beings to awaken to the Truth.The significance of the children to the ceremony is to show the potential of all beings to awaken. They hold their lotus buds and place them in the water before ladling the baby buddha with water. These buds if allowed to grow will become full grown lotus flowers, a symbol of enlightenment, which will still have their roots in the mud. Something we can’t escape, and nor should we try.
What Buddha is isn’t born and doesn’t die or become enlightened. It is expressed through forms which are empty of any permanat or substantial self. To come to know this dissolving through meditation practice we see that what is left is the natural arising of love, compassion and wisdom which transcends any particular view. It just is. So let us all drop what we think we are and take seven steps, like the baby buddha, and trust our potential, otherwise how can we awaken to the undivided nature.