The thrice blessed Vesak Poya Day falls on Monday:
‘He who conquers himself is the greatest of conquerors’
The birth of Prince
Siddartha at the Lumbini Sal grove
Through out history human beings have gone on yielding to their
worldly passions undergoing immense suffering, not knowing a way out of
it. Only a Buddha can explain to the world the truth related to the
world phenomenon-the causes for suffering and the way to get out of it.
A Buddha is born to dispel the darkness of ignorance and to show the
world how to be free from suffering. It is only a Buddha who could give
human beings the power to think for themselves and show that man can
attain supreme enlightenment through his own efforts. “Sukho Buddhanan
Uppado” The birth of a Buddha is a bliss)
The Gauthama Bodisatta dwelled in Thusitha heaven prior to his final
birth until the appropriate time arrived for him to descend to the earth
in attainment of the initiation to become a Buddha. In fact it is
believed that the birth of a Buddha which is an extremely rare incident,
takes place when the Gods invite the Bodisatta to be born on the earth.
A mission that lasted
It is said that Bodisattas are reborn in Thusitha heaven, before
their last birth on earth. When the gods invited the Bodisatta to be
born as a human being, the Bodisatta told them that the five
factors-time, country, continent, family and mother being considered, he
will descend to the earth.
As the appropriate period arrived the Bodisatta decided to be born in
India. He chose the Middle country as the best country. The best family
was the Sakyas and the best mother was Queen Mahamaya.
The Buddhist literature finely describes the birth of Prince
Siddartha which took place in Lumbini Sal grove about 2610 years ago on
a Vesak Full Moon poya day. Amidst the thunderous ovation of millions of
people and the gods the newly born prince walked seven steps to the
North and uttered thus;
“Aggo Hamasmi Lokassa,
Jetto hamasmi lokassa,
Setto hamasmi lokassa,
Ayamanthi Maathi Naththi dhani Punabbavo”
(I am the great, I am the senior, This is my last birth.)
It was on the same Vesak day that ascetic Asitha, an advisor to King
Suddhodana who was well known for his supernormal vision, came to see
The king who held him in high esteem carried the baby up to the old
ascetic in order to make the baby pay him due veneration. But to the
utter amazement of everyone present, the baby’s legs turned and rested
on the matted hair of the ascetic.
The ascetic who foresaw that the child would definitely attain
Buddhahood, soon got up and worshipped the prince. Both amazed and
thrilled at the sight, the King Suddhodana too followed his advisor thus
marking his first worship on a Vesak Full Moon Poya day.
On the fifth day after his birth 108 hermits were invited to the
palace and was asked to give him a proper name. He was named as
“Siddartha” as the hermits knew for sure that this birth would bring
immense relief to entire mankind (In Sanskrit books the name is given as
The Sal grove of Mallas at Kusinara where the Buddha passed away
As Queen Mahamaya passed away on the seventh day after his birth, it
was Queen Prajapathi, (queen Maya’s sister who became the chief queen
after her death), who looked after the prince.
The prince spent an extremely luxurious life surrounded by peers like
Prince Nanda and Kaludai and aides to look into his each and every need.
As he reached the proper age, Sarvamiththa was invited to the palace to
give him the necessary education.
The king took every possible measure to stop the young prince coming
across any incident that would disrupt his mental stability. Three
palaces were constructed for three seasons - summer, winter and rainy
At the age of sixteen he entered into matrimony with Princess
Yasodara (also known as Badra Kanchana), the daughter of King
Suppabuddha. But no one could prevent him from seeing the stark
realities of life.
During his tours outside the palace, the young prince came across
four sights-an old man, a sick man, a dead body and an ascetic on four
different days. The prince was deeply moved by the first three sights,
but the sight of the ascetic gave him immense relief. Determined to find
the way out of suffering, the young prince decided to leave the palace
at the age of twenty nine.
Once Channa, his favourite charioteer saddled the horse Kanthaka, the
prince renounced the palace bidding a silent farewell to his sleeping
wife, and the baby who was born on the same day.
He crossed the River Anoma and became an ascetic commencing his
extremely difficult mission- the quest for the truth.
Having followed the teaching patterns of many teachers of the era
like Alara Kalama and Uddaka Rama Putta, and also the methods practised
by the ascetics like Kondangna, Vappa, Baddiya, Assaji and Mahanama,
Siddartha Gauthama understood that he had been groping in the dark.
He finally understood that either practising extreme austerity or
engaging in extreme comforts would not let him find out what the truth
So he switched over to the Middle path. He too would not have
certainly died, had he not realized the futility of self mortification.
Analysing the five dreams that he saw on the day prior to the Vesak
Full Moon poya day (Usually known as Vesak Pura Thuduswaka day), the
Bodisatta came to the conclusion that he would surely attain
enlightenment on the following day.
As he was meditating under the Banyan tree the following morning (Vesak
Full Moon Poya day), a rich land lady called Sujatha offered him a bowl
of milk rice. Having had a bath on the bank of the river Neranjana, the
Bodisatta consumed the milk rice after making 49 pellets. As he finished
his meal he let the golden bowl float on the river making a solemn wish.
“If I were to become a Buddha today, let the bowl go upstream.”
As he wished it did go upstream for a considerable distance!
Thus on the Vesak Full Moon Poya day, the Bodisatta spent the day at
the Sal grove near by. In the evening as he headed his way towards the
Bo tree in Gaya (which is known as Buddha Gaya today) a grass cutter
named Swasthika gave him eight handfuls of grass. After laying the grass
under the tree, the Bodisatta had sat down under the tree facing East of
course with a solemn promise.
“Never will I get up from the place till I attain the supreme
The Buddhist literature finely describes how much the Maras have
tried to disturb the Bodisatta’s concentration, conjuring up many
fearful apparitions. (It is also believed that Devaputhra Mara
symbolises the remaining desires in the mind of the Bodisatta that were
struggling to come to the fore despite his attempt to silence them.) As
he was deeply engaged in meditation, his mind ‘burst the bubble of the
Universe and he could realize the true nature of everything.’
It was an extremely difficult achievement which was gradually
fulfilled step by step. In the early part of the morning he achieved
“Pubbe Niwasanussathi Gnana” (The reminiscence of past births.) Next as
he could gain “Dibba Chakkurabhi Gnana” (“The perception of the
disappearing and reappearing of beings”), he perceived beings
disappearing from one state of existence and reappearing in another.
Towards dawn the Bodisatta could achieve “Asawakkaya Gnana”. His effort
was a success as he could understand the truth he so fervently sought -
the Four Noble Truths.
More than 2598 years ago, the Bodisatta could attain the supreme
enlightenment conquering all the desires and defilement on a Vesak Full
Moon Poya day. That is why the Buddha is normally referred to as the
greatest of all the conquerors. As the Buddha has said ‘even though a
man conquers ten thousand men in battle, he who conquers but himself is
the greatest of conquerors.”
It was not only the Buddha who ‘won’, but entire man kind.
This is how the Buddha explained to the world the battle he had won.
“Through out the Sansara, I ran through not finding the builder of
the house, searching for (him). It is a suffering to be born again and
O! builder of the house, you art seen (now).
You cannot not make a house, all the ribes are broken, the ridge
ofthe pole is destroyed, the mind is divested of all material things,
the extinction of craving is attained.”
After spending seven weeks, paying his gratitude to the Bo tree in
Gaya that sheltered him, responding to the invitation of Sahampathi
Brahma the Buddha headed his way towards Isipathana in Benares to preach
the Dhamma to the five ascetics.
He preached to them pattichcha samuppada - the essentials of his
teachings. (Four Noble Truths - Suffering, causes for suffering, the way
out of suffering, cessation of suffering). His sublime mission which
thus started continued for 45 years till his demise.
He walked on the paths of India, many a thousand years ago to preach
to them, so that they could be ennobled and free from suffering. In fact
his tours were of two types namely Thuritha Charikha and Athuritha
After rendering a great service and leaving behind a noble doctrine
and a set of disciples, the Buddha passed away in the Sal grove of
Mallas at Kusinara at the age of eighty , about 2552 years ago again on
a Vesak Full Moon Poya day. Even a few minutes before his demise, he
displayed extreme benevolence and was ready to dispel the doubts of
those who sought clarification.
As mentioned in the Maha Parinibbana Sutta, when a hermit called
Subadda, (his last disciple) approached him to criticise other teachers
(Shat Sastruwaru), the Buddha explained to him that what is more
important is to listen to the Dhamma. The Buddha’s advice benefitted
Channa, the charioteer who was with Prince Siddartha on the day of
his Renunciation, could not attain even one stage of the path to Nibbana
(Marga Pala). Though he entered the Order, he tried to stay aloof from
the others out of sheer arrogance.
The Buddha who knew that his life would be wasted if he did not shed
his arrogance, told Ananda thera to impose “Brahma Danda” on Channa
after his demise. As a result Channa could enter the first stage of the
path to Nibbana
“Handadani Bikkawe amanthayami,
Vaya dhamma sankara,
(I address you, all components are subject to decay, engage in
meritorious deeds. These are the last words of the Thathagatha.) To
celebrate this thrice blessed Vesak day even the ancient kings of Sri
Lanka had conducted festivals. Also it was on a Vesak day that the
Buddha preached the Dhamma to his father, King Suddhodana in
The Buddha’s third visit to Kelaniya too took place on Vesak poya
day. His foot print was marked on the Samanala mountain on a Vesak day.
According to the Chronicles the coronation of Devanampiyatissa too had
taken place on a Vesak day. It was also on a Vesak day that King
Dutugemunu had commenced on constructing Ruwanveli Seya.