Dear Dharma Protectors and Friends:
The eighth day of the 12th lunar month (December) is an important day in which the Buddha attained enlightenment in this universe and realized the truth in life on the Vajra seat, under the Bodhi Tree. Typically, on this day, the monastery will prepare the Laba Porridge to develop affinities with the general public or use various activities to celebrate the so-called “Dharma Day.”
In response to the compassionate vow of Venerable Master Hsing Yun, founder of Fo Guang Shan, all branches of Fo Guan Shan including those overseas, conduct various activities to commemorate this important Dharma Day in Buddhism. Activities include, but are not limited to, Buddhist forums, charity, affinity-building events, chanting, and prayers. Abbotts/abbesses and all venerables from all temples simultaneously echo Venerable Master’s vow by offering porridge instead of tea. According to the Buddhist sutra, “one who obtains the taste of the Dharma achieves the greatest satisfaction.” Venerable Master hopes that the Dharma joy generated from the Buddha’s enlightenment can be shared with everyone and that everyone receives blessings from the Buddha with an increase in wisdom.
Sakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, also called the Buddha, was born over 2,600 years ago in Kapilavastu - a small kingdom in ancient India (today’s Nepal). His father, King Suddhaodana named him Siddhartha Gautama. His mother died when he was born, and his aunt Mahaprajapati raised him to maturity.
Having lost his mother since childhood, Siddhartha witnessed the suffering of old age, sickness, and death. He decided to give up the luxurious royal life and the throne that he would have soon succeed to, and renounced his family life. He left his palace and started the quest for truth.
Siddhartha went to the forest, following two spiritual masters, Alara-kalama and Udraka Ramputra to practice six years of meditation and asceticism, but found neither of them could lead him to liberation. Finally, he came to sit under a Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya and vowed, “I’d rather die on this seat and not rise from it unless I attain awakening.” He then entered into deep contemplation.
Fearing Siddhartha would find the way to liberation, Mara, the Demon King sent his beautiful maidens to seduce Siddhatha off his seat and stop his cultivation. Unmoved by worldly temptations – wealth, lust, fame, food, and sleep – he persisted in his practice.
With his wisdom and fortitude, Siddhatha finally realized the truth – all phenomena are impermanent, no phenomenon has a substantial existence, and Nirvana is the ultimate peace. Having awakened to the great wisdom and no longer subject to worries and fear, he became the Buddha (the enlightened one) of the human world.
Being enlightened to the truth, the Buddha decided to return to society and spread his teachings to help others attain liberation from suffering. At Deer Park, he gave his first teaching to his five former attendants who had followed him to the forest. This was the initial founding of the Triple Gem – Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
After his awakening, during the 49 years of his life, the Buddha traveled everywhere in ancient India to teach the Dharma. He equally taught the truth to all people regardless of their social status and established the Sangha – Buddhist communities, which ensured his teachings were passed down till today, spreading around the world.
To all the human beings, the Buddha established the model of awakening. He showed people the path to the perfection of life. The Buddha’s life and the truth that he found are like a bright lamp which shows people the direction in the dark, allows the fearful to become fearless, comforts the unstable to be peaceful, and even more so, gives life endless hope.