The Origin of Bathing the Buddha

Why do Buddhists perform the ritual of bathing the Buddha on Shakyamuni Buddha’s holy birthday, and why is it called the “Bathing the Buddha Festival”?

Legend has it that over 2600 years ago Queen Maya of Kapilavastu gave birth to Prince Siddhartha, who later became Shakyamuni Buddha, under a sala tree in the Lumbini garden.

Upon his birth, there were nine dragons pouring fragrant water to bathe the infant prince’s body. Then he took seven steps, with one hand pointing towards the sky and the other towards the earth, and said, “In heavens and on the earth, only I am singularly supreme.”

This indicates that, having gone through three great incalculable eons of practice and about to attain Buddhahood in the human realm, he was the most superior among all the heavenly and human beings. Since then, Buddhists have been celebrating the Buddha’s birthday as a tradition by performing the Buddha bathing ceremony.

The Buddha’s Birthday, also known as the Bathing the Buddha Festival, is a holiday observed by Buddhists to commemorate the birth of Shakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. Chinese Buddhists celebrate the festival on April 8th in the Chinese lunar calendar, while in countries such as Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Thailand, the festival, known as Vesak, is celebrated on the full-moon day in May. In the Tibetan tradition, Buddha’s birthday is celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth month in the Tibetan calendar. The date to celebrate Buddha’s birthday varies from country to country.

As 2017 is year 2560 on the Buddhist calendar, the Bathing the Buddha Festival falls on May 3 according to the Chinese Buddhist tradition. To celebrate the Buddha’s birthday, Dharma Drum Mountain will hold the bathing the Buddha ritual at its monasteries and practice centers, both in Taiwan and abroad. People are welcome to join the ritual to bathe the Buddha at our monasteries and centers. For details, please visit the following links:

Translation: Kate Huang (黃婉琪)
Editor: Chang ChiaCheng (張家誠)

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