December 8 of the lunar calendar fell on a Sunday this year, and Hsi Lai Temple had over 3,000 visitors, including some who brought their own containers to take the Laba Porridge home to share with their families. Over the course of the day, the temple served 7,400 bowls of porridge with hopes that the recipients experience the Buddha’s enlightenment and increase their blessings and wisdom.
Abbot Venerable Huidong explained that in commemoration of Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment, Fo Guang Shan branch temples provide Laba Porridge to community members each year. On January 17, the temple provided free porridge and BLIA held a Dharma Day celebration, with Buddhism class students sharing their relationship with the Buddha’s teachings.
Venerable Yishan explained that there are ten ingredients in Laba Porridge, including various kinds of rice, taro, mushrooms, peanuts, soy beans, carrots, and tofu, which are slowly cooked and then offered to the community.
Each year, Xu Xiulian, a volunteer, makes sure to announce that the temple also prepares a peanut-free porridge for those who have peanut allergies, which is available upon request.
Laba Porridge comes from when the Buddha underwent ascetic practices and was unable to attain enlightenment. He decided to abandon these austerities and a shepherd girl gave him a bowl of porridge as an offering, and the Buddha regained enough strength to continue practicing—this time using the middle way. On December 8 of the lunar calendar, the Buddha attained enlightenment and that day was designated as Buddha’s Enlightenment Day. Buddhist temples celebrate this day by preparing porridge to recognize the shepherd girl’s offering.