Hanamatsuri, Birthday of the Buddha
Siddhartha-Gautama-Shaka, commonly called the Buddha, which in Sanskrit means “the enlightened one,” was born on this day around 563 B.C. In his youth, Siddhartha lived a life of sheltered luxury. At the age of 29 he left his palace home and for the first time encountered the poverty, suffering, and death of the common people. From that moment forward he dedicated his life to the pursuit of enlightenment. At 35 he achieved enlightenment, becoming a Buddha. For the next 45 years he traveled teaching Buddha’s Dharmas-a way of life patterned after his own path of enlightenment.
Among the Buddhist holidays, the celebration of April 8 is the most important. To commemorate his birthday, Buddhist temples in Japan and America alike construct a platform that is covered with flowers. On the platform, an image of the infant Buddha is placed in a tub filled with licorice tea. The members of the temple then take part in pouring licorice tea over the figure of the Buddha to signify the act of bathing him. They will then drink some of the sweet tea themselves, an act that is supposed to effect the purification of their spirits and make them Buddha-like.