On the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month, we celebrate the Original Teacher Shākyamuni’s Enlightenment Day. On this day, we make an offering to the Buddha with incense, candles, varied grains, dried dates, nuts, fruits, fresh water, and flowers.
As recorded in the Buddhist scriptures, Shākyamuni Buddha spent six years for ascetic practice before attaining enlightenment, which caused him to be reduced to skin and bones. One day, he fainted and fell at the bank of Niranjana but was able to regain strength after having the rice gruel made from milk offered by a shepherd girl. After this, he sat under a bodhi tree, entered samadhi, and awakened to the Way and attained supreme enlightenment.
The “Chapter of Attaining Unsurpassed Enlightenment” of the Abhiniṣkramaṇa Sūtra states, “The night was silent before a bright star was about to emerge. All sentient beings, practicing and not practicing, were not awakened. At that very moment, the bhagavat developed insight and attained the supreme, perfect enlightenment.” In that evening 2,500 years ago, under a bodhi tree that was about to be known all over the world, Prince Siddhārtha Gautama, who would soon be respectfully referred to as Shākyamuni Buddha, tamed all afflictions in meditative concentration and realized the ultimate truth of everything.
The daylight was about to break, and a morning star was shining in the east sky. The Buddha exclaimed, “Strange indeed! All living beings have the same wisdom as what I just realized, yet they could not perceive this truth because their minds are clouded by the darkness of delusion and attachments.”
From that day on, the great and compassionate Buddha started to teach all sentient beings and share his knowledge on the ultimate truth of the universe and life. He teaches 84,000 dharma gates to sentient beings who are trapped in the ocean of suffering in the hope that all beings, rich or poor, wise or unwise, holy or mundane, are all able to overcome and transform the afflictions brought about by craving, hatred, and ignorance, obtain the joy of tranquility, compassion, and wisdom, and embark on the great path towards elimination of sufferings, attainment of happiness, and realization of ultimate liberation.
Namo Shākyamuni Buddha!