Saturday, March 12, 2011

Commemoration Day of Shakyamuni Buddha’s Renunciation

Lord Buddha
also known as Shakyamuni Buddha, or Siddhartha Gautama
(Image: Source unknown)

According to the Chinese Buddhist tradition, the Commemoration Day of Shakyamuni Buddha’s Renunciation (釋迦牟尼佛出家紀念日 Shijia Mouni Fo Chujia Jinian Ri) is observed on the 8th day of the 2nd Chinese lunar month. Shakyamuni Buddha (釋迦牟尼佛 Shijia Mouni Fo) (c.563 to c.483 BCE) refers to the historical Buddha. He was also known as Siddhartha Gautama (悉達多·喬達摩) before his attainment of supreme enlightenment. He spent his early life in the kingdom of Kapilavastu (Kapilavatthu) as a prince, oblivious of all worldly suffering. His father, Shuddhodana, was king of Kapilavastu. As a youngster, Prince Siddhartha exceeded all his teachers and surpassed everyone in every field of knowledge and sport that he was taught. He mastered all the worldly arts, both academic and physical. He was heir to his father’s kingdom and was suppose to become its next king. One day however, he ventured outside his palace and saw the Four Great Signs of an old person, a sick person, a dead person, and an ascetic spiritual practitioner.

Prince Siddhartha sees the Four Great Signs:
An old person, a sick person, a dead person, and an ascetic spiritual practitioner
(Image: Source unknown)

Prince Siddhartha kneels upon seeing an ascetic spiritual practitioner for the first time after
witnessing the sights of an old person, a sick person, and a dead person. The sight of the spiritual
practitioner awakens a deep respect within Prince Siddhartha for the life of spiritual pursuit.
(Image: Life of the Buddha-Burmese Edition)

After seeing the Four Great Signs, Prince Siddhartha deeply pondered the problems of birth, aging, sickness, and death that eventually occurs to all living beings without exception. At age 29, after much burning thought and consideration, he decided to leave his home to go forward for the homeless life as a spiritual practitioner in quest of answers as to why such pain and suffering existed. At midnight, Siddhartha quietly left his family and slipped out of his room. His charioteer, Chana, saddled Siddhartha’s horse, Kanthaka, and took him to the bank of the Anoma River. There, Siddhartha cut off his own hair and exchanged his royal garments for the robes of a wandering ascetic. This event in the Buddha’s life is called the Great Renunciation.

Siddhartha leaves his palace riding on his horse Kanthaka
and accompanied by his charioteer Chana
(Image: Source unknown)

The demon Mara attempts to stop Siddhartha from his renunciation but is unsuccessful.
The gods in the heaven realms above witness the great event.
(Image: Life of the Buddha-Burmese Edition)

In this painting, Siddhartha (the future Buddha) cuts off his hair and throws it in the air as a sign of his renunciation of worldly life. Sakra (left), king of gods and ruler of the Trayastrimsa Heaven, appears
kneeling next to Siddhartha. Siddhartha’s charioteer, Chana, and his favorite white horse, Kanthaka (right)
at first refused to leave, but were eventually convinced to return to the palace.
(Image: Life of the Buddha-Burmese Edition)
Siddhartha then spent 6 years learning from many different spiritual teachers and practiced extreme asceticism in the forests. However, none of those teachings led him to enlightenment and he eventually abandoned them. He then decided to go alone and practiced mental introspection by himself. He eventually achieved supreme enlightenment at age 35 and became the Buddha known as Shakyamuni.

Homage to the Root Teacher, Shakyamuni Buddha (南無本師釋迦牟尼佛 Namo Benshi Shijia Mouni Fo).

Text © 2011 Harry Leong

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