Saka Dawa is Today
Today is Saka Dawa, which is the day of the historical Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and paranirvana (passing from this world).
In Tibet, this is a holy day and a day of remembering of the Buddha. For Tibetans, this is the most important of the holy days of the year.
It is also an important day to remember the freedoms that we have in the West and how precious that these are in history. As has been reported, Chinese authorities have clamped down on religious activities during the month around Saka Dawa:
Religious ceremonies are restricted in Tibet. Prohibitions continue to be in place for important day like Saka Dawa and Gaden Ngyamchoe, birthday of the Dalai Lama and the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. Last year, a joint notice issued on 12 December by the Lhasa City Party Secretary Office and the Lhasa Governor Office which clearly prohibited the Party members, civil servants, staff, public institutions such as schools and banks etc, vocational centres, students and retired civil servants to participate or even see the activities of Gaden Nyamchoe anniversary. It was warned that those failing to abide by the official notice would be served with salary cut, demotion etc. For the retired Tibetans this is especially difficult because of their faith in religion yet their faith restricted by official strictures and dictums. In the past, cadres were unofficially allowed to believe in and practice religion privately, but are now being subjected to closer scrutiny and are liable to punishments and demotions. Severe religious restrictions were put in place especially in Lhasa City. Plain clothed Public Security Bureau officials were known to have stationed around the city and surveillance video cameras were installed around the major public routes and alleys in the city. In order to screen the incoming people into the city, major security check posts were installed on the roads leading into Lhasa City from surrounding counties of Phenpo Lhundrup, Taktse, Toelung Dechen, Meldrogungkar. Reports from Tibet confirm that small farmers engaged in petty businesses like selling incense and juniper leaves for religious purposes are banned from selling these items on religious days.
The Dalai Lama had this to say about Saka Dawa back in 1996:
The Buddha Shakyamuni took birth as a prince of the Shakya clan in India. He achieved enlightenment at the age of thirty-six and entered Mahaparinirvana at the age of eighty-one. These three great events took place on the same day of the year, over 2500 years ago, which we celebrate at the season of Wesak. As you know, Buddhahood is a state free from all obstructions to knowledge and disturbing emotions. It is the state in which the mind is fully evolved. The Buddha's declaration, based on his personal experience, was that all beings experience suffering even though they do not wish to do so. At the same time all beings also have the innate potential to achieve the joy of liberation. This realization formed the basis for all his teachings. Because his teachings are profound in insights and skilled in means, the Buddha is referred as a supreme guide. Although our world has changed substantially since the time of the Buddha, the essence of his teachings remains as relevant today as it was 2500 years ago. Many different schools of Buddhism have evolved in different lands. All possess methods for attaining liberation from ignorance and suffering. The Buddha's advice, simply stated, was to avoid harming others and if possible to help them. We can begin to do this by recognizing that everyone is just like us in that they want happiness and dislike suffering. Seeking joy and freedom from suffering is the birthright of all beings. But personal happiness very much depends on how we relate to others. By developing a sense of respect for others and a concern for their welfare, we can reduce our own self-centeredness, which is the source of all our problems, and enhance our feelings of kindness, which are a natural source of joy. The achievements of our modern age are great. We have put much effort into technological and material development. Such progress is important, but by itself it cannot bring lasting satisfaction. Obsessed with economic and political strength, we lose sight of the effect our actions have on others. Our narrow and self-centered focus results in widespread suffering and destruction of the environment. We need to reassess our motivation and our behavior in the light of a greater sense of universal responsibility. From the Buddhist point of view all things originate in the mind. Actions and events depend heavily on motivation. A real sense of appreciation of humanity, compassion and love, are the key points. If we develop a good heart, then whether the field is science, agriculture or politics, since the motivation is so very important, the result will be more beneficial. With proper motivation these activities can help humanity; without it they go the other way. This is why the compassionate thought is so very important for humankind. Although it is difficult to bring about the inner change that gives rise to it, it is absolutely worthwhile to try. I offer my greetings to all our Buddhist brothers and sisters participating in the Wesak celebrations.... And I pray that each of us, by putting the Buddha's teachings into practice in our own daily lives, may contribute to creating a happier and more peaceful world.