In this country, we celebrate the birthday of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, on April 8.
Born to a royal family between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, he was troubled by witnessing the human suffering his father tried to hide from him, and eventually renounced palace life to live as an ascetic. He found enlightenment at age 35 while sitting under a bodhi tree and began teaching people how to break the cycle of human suffering.
I find it easy relate to and live by Buddha’s principles, expressed through sentiments such as “carpe diem” or Nike’s “Just Do It,” revolving around the idea of living our one life fully by living in and enjoying the present.
His teaching tells me I have the power to make a difference and seize opportunities each day, without making excuses, without waiting to go to heaven or hoping to try again in my next life.
That his teaching has lived on for so many centuries speaks of Buddhism’s relevance as a philosophy and way of life that resonates with people around the world.
Throughout Asia, Buddha’s birthday calls for celebrations that include temple visits, food offerings to monks, the lighting of lanterns and the bathing of Buddha, a tradition with roots in China that in Japan, became the Flower Festival. The Japanese developed a tradition of pouring a beverage prepared from a variety of hydrangeas over small Buddha statues decorated with flowers, as if bathing a newborn baby.
In Malaysia, Buddha’s Birthday is known as Wesak Day, a holiday celebrated with prayers and chants. Temples across the country are decorated and caged animals are set free.
Based on Buddha’s principles, this is how I, Nikolai Tsang, live my life daily.
It’s Up to ME
I wake up every morning with joy in my heart and positive intentions. I go to bed with my heart full of gratitude and love for the life I am given.
Buddhism maintains that we are responsible for our own well-being or suffering. Rather than expecting others to press me to meditate, work hard, or make me happy, it is solely up to me to create the circumstances for my own happiness or release from negativity.
It’s Easy to Be Good
I believe in karma and that the way we treat others will ultimately affect us.
Five precepts are often cited as guides to actions that often lead to beneficial outcomes. They are: do not lie, steal or defraud, kill or injure others, hurt via sexual relationships, and do not cloud your mind with too many intoxicants.
It is always easier to smile and be a good human than to be an angry bad human. While smiling is effortless, being mean floods your body with toxic energy. That’s why I am often the first to smile and offer a kind word or greeting to everyone, including strangers, and why I am able to give a little of myself and what I have to others without expecting anything in return.
Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned.
Compassion is a must!
Compassion is a natural extension of understanding and wisdom. With true wisdom we grow more compassionate for the people we meet, and with compassion we grow wiser. I watch and learn from others daily.
Healing Comes from our Minds
Buddhism suggests that our external circumstances are created by our internal minds. This is also true for our health and the state of our bodies. Keeping your mind clear and open will help your physical and psychological state.
I meditate three times a day, first during my morning drive, while running or swimming, and before I go to bed. This allows me to release stress and clear my mind so I can approach daily tasks with clarity and focus.
You only have One body, don’t take it for granted
Life is precious. To have a long life is a rare, so it’s important to stay healthy. I work out every day to help me achieve my maximum potential.
Keeping the body in good health is a duty that goes hand in hand with keeping our minds strong and clear.
Spiritual Community is Important
You do not need to go to a temple or meditation class to practice Buddhism, but every object, being and concept is interconnected and we cannot escape the circumstances of our surroundings.
Keeping company with positive people and giving back to the community are beneficial for motivation, finding a sense of purpose and deepening one’s understanding of life. I share with and listen to others and bless others with the living stone daily.
I Strive for Balance
Some Buddhists suggest that enlightenment is a quick process that can happen at any moment. Others say it is difficult, and can take many lifetimes. But both sides agree it is never too late to start practicing and thinking about the right way to live. The less ignorance you have, the less you will suffer.
It is never too late to begin seeking Enlightenment. Even if you learn you are going to die tomorrow, be a happy human being today.
If you can learn to be happy, in spite of the difficulties thrown in your path in your life’s journey, you will gain wisdom and experience Enlightenment, just as the Buddha centuries ago.