A special Buddhist holiday is coming up soon, Buddha’s Enlightenment Day! Each year on April 15th Kadampa Buddhists around the world commemorate the day when Buddha Shakyamuni demonstrated the attainment of enlightenment (in the year 589 BCE).
The story of Buddha Shakyamuni’s life leading up to his enlightenment is quite remarkable, as he had to face enormous challenges. When he was born in Lumbini, Buddha Shakyamuni was a prince and was given the name Siddhartha. Prince Siddhartha was naturally kind to everyone, and he realized that the best way to help others is to attain enlightenment. However, to pursue enlightenment meant Siddhartha would have to leave the palace and his royal life behind, something almost no one wanted him to do.
The people of the kingdom attempted to distract Siddhartha with lavish enjoyments, hoping he would find his royal life too pleasurable to leave. When the comforts of royalty were no longer enough, guards were placed at the palace gates to keep him inside like a prisoner. But the prince escaped the palace, ordained himself as a monk, and trained diligently in meditation for the next six years. When he was close to attaining enlightenment, all of the demons of the world seduced him with worldly pleasures and threatened him with violence, but Siddhartha only deepened his concentration and continued his meditation until finally he became an enlightened Buddha.
This is wonderful because, not long after his attainment of enlightenment, Buddha Shakyamuni began to teach about the stages of the path to enlightenment, making it possible for many thousands of people to follow in his footsteps and accomplish the very same state of bliss and happiness. Due to Buddha’s kindness, even today we still have exactly the same opportunity to learn and practice the path to enlightenment.
In Kadampa Buddhist Centers throughout the world, Buddha’s Enlightenment Day is celebrated with a special fasting and purification retreat, known as Nyungne, based on a practice called Drop of Essential Nectar. This practice is a powerful method for purifying negative karma and pacifying negative minds, such as anger and desirous attachment. Our own celebration here at Kalpa Bhadra will take place on April 16th. Please check out our event page for more details. Everyone is invited to participate.
A more detailed account of Buddha Shakyamuni’s life story is available on the NKT website.