Ashadha Purnima Event Highlights Buddhist Heritage of India
Prominent figures from the Buddhist community including patriarchs, respected teachers, scholars, as well as diplomatic envoys graced the occasion. The location, the National Museum, was chosen due to its rich cultural significance pertaining to the Buddha and his initial teachings.
The event was represented by Khenpo Chimed, the IBC Secretary, who released a statement highlighting the importance of Asadha Purnima. “It memorializes Buddha’s first discourse to his initial five ascetic followers in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, after achieving enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, Bihar. The day is widely recognized as the First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma. This inaugural sermon included the revelation of the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.”
A special message was recorded for the event by Droupadi Murmu, the President of India. She used the occasion to encourage young people to internalize the teachings of the Buddha for personal growth and societal betterment.
The President stated, “On Asadha Purnima, we were introduced to Lord Buddha’s Dhamma. This is not only a part of our rich cultural legacy, but it also has a vital role in our everyday life.” She further emphasized the need to comprehend the first sermon by Shakyamuni in Sarnath to truly understand Buddhadharma.
According to the All India Radio report, the Minister of Culture of Nepal, Sushila Sirpali Thakuri, emphasized the shared Buddhist heritage between India and Nepal in her address. The IBC secretary from Nepal underlined the Buddha’s teachings as a roadmap to global peace and harmony.
For the IBC, the event serves as a major celebration, considered the second holiest day for Buddhists following Buddha Purnima or Vaishakha Purnima – the day celebrating Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and demise. The festivities also featured a screening of a film on the IBC’s landmark project in Lumbini, Nepal, namely the India International Centre for Buddhist Culture and Heritage. The foundation stone for the center was laid by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Buddha Purnima, May 8, last year.
His Holiness the 12th Chamgon Kenting Tai Situpa enlightened the attendees with a Dharma talk on the significance of Ashadha Purnima. India’s Minister of Culture and External Affairs, Meenakashi Lekhi, also delivered a speech.
Ashadha Purnima, celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Ashadha as per the Indian lunar calendar—usually June/July on the Gregorian calendar—goes by different names in various Buddhist regions. Sri Lanka calls it Esala Poya while in Thailand it is known as Asanha Bucha and will be celebrated on 1 August this year.
The day also marks the commencement of the rains retreat (Vassa) for Buddhist monks, a period of intense seclusion lasting three lunar months. The observance of the day is not limited to the Buddhist community as it coincides with Guru Purnima, a day of honor for spiritual guides, observed by both Buddhists and Hindus.