The eighth day of the fourth month on the lunar calendar is the day we commemorate the birth of Shakyamuni Buddha, the compassionate teachings of whom are like a boat that can guide us to safety in the sea of suffering. As disciples of the Buddha, we commemorate his birth on this special day every year to repay our debt of gratitude.
It is said that when the Buddha was born in India, nine celestial dragons rained fragrant water from the sky to bathe the Prince Siddhartha. According to the Sutra on Bathing the Statues of a Buddha, “Good men and good women, after the passing of the Buddha, you should be wholeheartedly mindful of the power of his boundless meritorious virtues. Bathe the Buddha statue as if the Buddha was here in this world. By doing so, you will receive countless blessings.”
The Merits of Bathing the Buddha Sutra states that if people, with pure intentions, offer incense, flowers, necklaces of precious stones, banners, canopies, and robes before the Buddha statue, and use the most superior fragrant water to bathe the Buddha, light incense and visualize the incense permeating the Dharma Realm, make offerings of food, drum music and singing with stringed instruments in praise of the Buddha, and dedicate these merits to attaining the perfect wisdom of a Buddha, then these people will receive boundless blessings and virtues, and their wisdom will continuously increase. The blessings and virtues generated from bathing the Buddha are the most extraordinary of all forms of offerings. They exceed the merits from making as many offerings of the seven treasures as the sands in the Ganges River.
For this reason, every year on this special day, the temple sets up a gazebo with flowers, fragrant water, and statues of the baby Buddha. As we bathe the statues, we will recite the Verse of Bathing the Buddha in praise of the Buddha’s merits and virtues. Today, let us also make a vow to attain the perfect wisdom of a Buddha. Bathing the Buddha is especially auspicious, as it can bring immeasurable blessings, virtues, and wisdom.
By bathing the Buddha with fragrant water, we will bring forth our wisdom and compassion, and purify our Three Karma: our body, mouth and mind. At the sight of the pure and innocent baby Buddha, our mind will immediately return to its most genuine, original state. We hope to realize where we came from before we came into this world, and restore our pure and undefiled Buddha nature.
The Merits of Bathing the Buddha
Bathing the Buddha generates seven kinds of blessings:
- Lack of illnesses.
- Purity in body and mind.
- Constant fragrance emitted from the body.
- Plump, soft and delicate body.
- Good affinities with other people.
- Fresh, fragrant breath.
- Naturally having clean clothes to wear as desired.
The Buddha said, “Those who can sincerely bathe the statue of a Buddha, as if the Buddha was present, will have all of their wishes fulfilled.”
- Those who seek the unconditioned, transcendental Way will be free from the cycle of birth and death.
- Those who wish to be as diligent and vigorous as Shakyamuni Buddha will have their wish fulfilled.
- Those who wish to have wisdom as vast and great as Manjusri Bodhisattva will have their wish fulfilled.
- Those who wish to be able to fly to different places to teach and transform others will have their wish fulfilled.
- Those who wish to become a Pratyekabuddha or an Arhat will have their wish fulfilled.
- Those who wish to forever be away from the Three Lower Realms will have their wish fulfilled.
- Those who wish to enjoy wealth and happiness in the human or heavenly realm will have their wish fulfilled.
- Those who wish to have many children and grandchildren will have their wish fulfilled.
- Those who wish to have a long life and not suffer from illness will have their wish fulfilled.
- They will receive the protection of virtuous deities from all the heavens, and always be reborn in a pure place. These conditions will facilitate their attainment of Buddhahood.