Skybound Lights: the Buddhist festival of Prabāraṇā Pūrnīmā in Bangladesh

- through Francois Leclercq

Published on

Bangladesh Fanus Festival, by high school student Moumita Barua. The Fanus festival is usually observed during Prabāraṇā Pūrnīmā. Image courtesy of Moumita Barua

Prabāraṇā Pūrnīmā, also known as Aśbinī Pūrnīmā, is one of the most important events in the South Asian Buddhist community. The term " prabāraṇā» implies the abandonment of evils, while “purnima»means the day of the full moon. From the Buddhist perspective, Prabāraṇā Pūrnīmā refers to a full moon day auspicious for remembering one's mistakes and engaging in good deeds for all sentient beings.

This day is recognized as a blessed day, commemorating the occasion when the historical Buddha intervened in a major monastic conflict and reaffirmed peace and harmony within the community. Buddhist monks observe this bright full moon day to successfully complete their three months of religious retreat during the monsoon season (vassa). As a cultural mark beyond Buddhism, Aśbinī Pūrnīmā is celebrated by Bengalis of all races, religions and communities through the magnificent sight of flying sky lanterns, or lanternin the air.

On the eve of Prabāraṇā Pūrnīmā, Bengali Buddhists faithfully observe the lantern festival. Every year, the Buddhist Solidarity Association flies colorfully lantern (lamps from heaven). Image courtesy of the Buddhist Solidarity Association

About 2 years ago, while the historical Buddha was residing in Kosambi (present-day Prayagraj, India), he ended a quarrel between two groups of monks on the eve of Prabāraṇā Pūrnīmā. Due to misunderstanding of minor monastic rules, the monks began to disagree with each other, which gradually developed into a serious quarrel over the vinaya, which is essential in guiding the monastic lifestyle. Initially, the Buddha strove to bring monastic communities together by preventing them from dividing and fighting. When the Buddha discovered that the disciples had not resolved their disagreements, he left the monastery for a deep jungle called Parileyyaka Forest. Subsequently, the disciples realized their misdeeds and went to the Buddha for forgiveness, asking him to return to his former residence. After arriving at the monastery, the Buddha pointed out to his fellow monks and told them that people who understand the reality of the impermanence of phenomena should not quarrel among themselves and live in harmony, peace and compassion with each other. others.

Buddhist devotee Ruma Barua Chowdhury and her son Sanjoy with a celestial lamp on the eve of Prabāraṇā Pūrnīmā. Image courtesy of the author

Prabāraṇā Pūrnīmā also marks the conclusion of the three-month rainy retreat (vassa) for Buddhist monks. For monks, the purpose of retreat is to seek isolation and reflect on their usual rules and duties while reflecting deeply on the path to ultimate liberation. Similar to Buddhist monks, lay devotees also sincerely observe the eight precepts for the duration of the three-month retreat period. Following the Buddha's subtle and profound teachings, monastic members and lay practitioners recall their path of abstaining from all evil and wrongdoing, cultivating wholesome and good deeds, and guiding their minds toward inner rapture with a heart of joy and compassion. Successful retreats of monks and adherents during the monsoon season are honored on the day of Prabāraṇā Pūrnīmā.

Bengali Buddhists commemorate the auspicious Prabāraṇā Pūrnīmā in various ways, including launching sky lanterns, or lantern, in the air. Due to the large number of sky lanterns blowing in the night sky, this festival is also known as "day"lantern festivals” in communities. Make a lantern, you must first shape a cylinder out of waxed paper which will serve as a frame for the outer casing of the lantern. Then people glue a piece of wax paper to one end of the paper cylinder. After the papers treated with glue have dried, it is necessary to bend a metal wire into a circle, which will serve as a frame holding the fuel source for a certain time. lantern. Buddhists believe that the sacred hair relics of the Buddha are restored to heaven. Launch of the Faithful lantern in the air as an expression of respect for the hair relics of the Buddha.

Buddhist devotee Sukanta Barua (Remon), with a celestial lamp on the eve of Prabāraṇā Pūrnīmā at Unainpūrā Laṅkārāma. Image courtesy of Sukanta Barua (Remon)

In addition to Buddhist carnivals, non-Buddhist communities in Bangladesh – Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and other ethnic religions – also join the carnival. lantern celebration in monasteries throughout the country. For Bangladeshis, Prabāraṇā Pūrnīmā is a day of communal harmony and celebration of the nation's rich diversity. The auspicious Prabāraṇā Pūrnīmā is a remarkable festival dedicated to fostering love, compassion, harmony and peace from person to person, community to community, society to society and ethnicity to ethnicity. In addition to commemorating a Buddhist religious observance, it is a reflection of universal compassion, just as the Buddha taught seekers to offer to all living beings.

Sabbe Sattā Sukhi Hontu (May all living beings be happy).

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

Leave comments