Boudhanath Stupa for Kora

Saka Dawa 2024: Honoring Buddha's Birth, Enlightenment, and Parinirvana

Saka Dawa (the month of Saka star) is the lunar month honoring the Buddha's Life events. It is the most sacred Buddhist holiday. It is celebrated with utmost and purest devotion to remembering and cherishing his birth, attainment of enlightenment, and the death of his physical body (Maha parinirvana). It is annually on the fourth month of the Tibetan lunar calendar. In 2024, Saga Dawa will be observed from May 9 to June 6, with May 23, the full moon day, being the most auspicious day of the month.

Why Saka Dawa 2024 is the Most Auspicious Time for Tibetan Buddhists

It is referred to as the month of merit. Practitioners believe that any deed you do at this time, good or evil, will be magnified by as many as one hundred million times. In the month of Saka Dawa, one must be careful and thoughtful about their each and every actions. Merits are the fruits of good karma that lead to a path of enlightenment. According to Buddhist teachings, there are three bases for a meritorious deed, generosity (dana), morality (sila), and meditation (bhavana).

Shechen Monastery Nepal

How to Earn Merit During Saka Dawa 2024: Activities and Rituals

  • Avoiding consumption of any animal product or its byproducts.
  • Donating to monasteries, nunneries, individual monks, and nuns.
  • Mantra recitation and prayer (for example, Shakyamuni Buddha mantra or widely known mantra- "Om Mani Padme Hum")
  • Financial assistance to the less fortunate one
  • Visiting religious sites on pilgrimages like Lumbini (Birthplace of Shakyamuni Buddha), Swayambhunath Stupa, Namo Buddha, Boudhanath Stupa  
  • Purchasing and releasing a variety of animals that would otherwise be put away.
  • Praying or chanting mantras while going clockwise (Doing Kora) around a sacred spot like Mount Kailash. (Like in Nepal, Namo Buddha, Boudha Stupa, and Swayambhunath Stupa)

Practitioners worldwide put additional dedication to practicing Dharma, generosity, and compassion to achieve more significant merits in life. It will further cleanse all negative karma as well. Alongside commemorating Buddha's deed, praying is also the central theme of this auspicious festival. Practitioners pray for peaceful and long lives for all Gurus of all traditions who spread the teachings of Buddha.

Everyone visits monasteries, stupa, holy-mountain, lakes, and caves, offering lamps and burning incense, and reciting mantras. The Potala Palace is one of the places in Lhasa where Tibetans assemble to worship. Hundreds of people kneel or stand in front of it to pray. 

Key Events of Saka Dawa 2024: Buddha's Birth, Enlightenment, and Parinirvana

As per Tibetan astrological calculations, Saka means 'fourth,' and Dawa means 'month.' Saka is one of the 28 known significant stars. It is celebrated annually on the fourth month of the Tibetan lunar calendar and lasts for a month. It is believed that the three most important phases of Shakyamuni Buddha's life took place on the whole moon night. The full moon night is given the highest priority and is termed Saka Dawa Duchen.

For the year 2024, it falls on Thursday, May 23.

Celebration of Saka Dawa finds the ultimate significance with the ceremony of three important events of Shakyamuni Buddha's life, his birth, enlightenment, and death (parinirvana).

The Saga Dawa, also called "months of merits," is the month during which the five important life events of Lord Buddha took place. It is believed that Lord Buddha was conceived, born, defeated evil forces, attained enlightenment, and passed away into maha parinrivana on the 15th day of this month. Therefore this month is the most auspicious time for Buddhists.

1. Birth of Shakyamuni Buddha:

    Shakyamuni Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal. He is the most renowned Buddha to everyone worldwide and is often referred to as the founder of Buddhism. Only when he became the Buddha he was given the name Shakyamuni.

    Buddha means "awakened one" in Sanskrit. The date of birth of Buddha from scripture contradicts the one from traditional belief. The day he was conceived in his mother's womb is considered the day of his birth than the day he was born. It is why the full moon day of Vesak month is cherished as the birth of Buddha Shakyamuni. In Buddhist philosophy, the initial moment of consciousness with the touch of the parent's cells in the mother's womb is regarded as true birth.

    2. Attainment of Enlightenment:

      Buddha attained enlightenment at age 35 under the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya on a full moon night. He is often depicted on a moon disc on a lotus throne, serenely illuminating his glorious enlightenment, holding an alms bowl in his left hand that rests on his lap facing up while his right hand is in Bhumisparsha mudra (Earth-touching gesture). The alms bowl filled with three priceless nectars, signifying his victory over the three demons of uncontrollable death, polluted aggregates, and delusion. Earth Touching mudra of shakyamuni buddha

      Click here to view our collection of Shakyamuni Buddha Statue.

      3. The Final Death (Maha Parinirvana):

        The passing of Buddha Shakyamuni is marked as one of the 12 miraculous deeds of his life. He completed his last deeds at 80 and attained Parinirvana in Kushinagar.

        This event was attended by many of his disciples, the royals and their attendants, the pantheons of celestial deities, and other birds and animals. In the midst of the woods, as Shakyamuni rested, many heavenly gods and goddesses offered flowers and performed songs and dances to bid him goodbye. The whole forest was covered beautifully with the raining blossoms from the sky. The group of monks, kings, and their attendants, ministers were weeping and bowing down in prostration. They all were making offerings of corals, jewels, flowers, perfumes, and silk to Shakyamuni, pleading to him to not leave the world. And in response, he said:

        “Now monks, I declare you:
        All conditioned things are of a nature to decay
        Strive on untiringly”

        Observing the Eight Mahayana Precepts During Saka Dawa 2024

        The day of the full moon is more vital for accumulating merit. It is also the primary day of Saka Dawa. On this day, monks do a special ceremony at the monasteries early in the morning. Tibetan and other Practitioners take an oath of Eight Mahayana precepts with the motive to become enlightened and lead others to the path of enlightenment.  

        • Do not harm or take away anyone's life, directly or indirectly.
        • Do not take other's belonging without their permission.
        • Be Truthful and honest.
        • Do not engage in coitus activity.
        • Avoid the consumption of intoxicant substances.
        • Just have one meal that day. (The meal is taken before noon, and once one has stopped eating for thirty minutes, the meal is considered finished. At other times of the day, one can take light drinks, but not undiluted whole milk or fruit juice with pulp.)
        • Be grounded, and avoid sitting on expensive beds.
        • Be free of materialism (jewelry, make-up, and perfumes).   

        Learn More about  the Eight Mahayan precepts.

        These eight Mahayana precepts are a fundamental approach to giving meaning to one's existence. It allows us to build, sustain and enhance our deep inclination for spiritual practice and fulfillment, to live in the essence of the pure moral conduct of infinite worth. Practicing these principles is a reliable and efficient means to develop, sustain, and strengthen deep proclivities for spiritual practice and fulfillment. Therefore, a meaningful approach for giving significance to our existence.

        Here we have some guidelines for you on taking eight Mahayana,

        • Your guru is whoever you initially adopt the eight Mahayana precepts. As a result, Lama Zopa Rinpoche recommends that if a student is not ready (or confident) to commit to that person, they should take the precepts from the altar until they are prepared to receive them from them, someone they are prepared to accept as their guru.
        • One can take principles from the altar. It is wonderful; however, having the lineage strengthens it.
        • You can adopt the eight Mahayana precepts before taking refuge — in fact, following the eight Mahayana precepts with faith is taking refuge in the heart sense. Whoever has confidence and is honest is, in truth, seeking refuge in the heart.

        Saka Dawa is believed to have officially formalized at the first conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists held in Sri Lanka in 1950. As of now, it is widely celebrated.

        It is known as Saga Dawa in Sikkimese and Tibetan cultures. This festival is taken as Vesak Day in numerous Asian countries like Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia. It is referred to as Buddha Purnima through Nepal, India (expect north-eastern districts).

        Wishing everyone you an auspicious Saga Dawa, 2024!

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