The Buddha advised his followers that if they were to thrive they should ‘meet together regularly and in large numbers.’ So festivals are central to the life of the Triratna Buddhist community. They provide an opportunity for celebration and the expression of devotion and gratitude to the Buddha and his teachings.
Buddha Day: the celebration of the Buddha’s Enlightenment (the full moon of May/June)
The Buddha’s Enlightenment is the central event in Buddhism and we mark this event on Buddha Day (sometimes called Wesak), the most important festival in our calendar. Many of the Buddha’s disciples also attained Enlightenment, and in the centuries that have followed there have been many other Enlightened masters. They too are recalled at Buddha Day with readings of accounts of their lives or from works they wrote themselves. But Enlightenment is also an ideal to which all Buddhists aspire. So Buddha Day is a chance to reflect on what it might
mean for individual Buddhists.
Read Who Is The Buddha? by Sangharakshita.
Dharma Day: the celebration of the Buddha’s teaching (the full moon of July)
Soon after his Enlightenment the Buddha rose from where he had been sitting, went to find his former disciples and shared his experience with them. This event, which happened at a place called Sarnath in northern India, might be called the start of the Buddhist religion and it is this that Dharma Day celebrates. On Dharma Day there are often readings from the Buddhist scriptures and a chance to reflect deeply on their contents. Above all, on Dharma Day Buddhists feel profoundly grateful that the Buddha and other Enlightened masters did share their teachings with other people.
Listen to evocations of Dharma Day.
Read What Is The Dharma? by Sangharakshita.
Sangha Day: the celebration of spiritual community (the full moon of November)
All of us need other people to learn from. If we are to practise the Dharma we need the example and teaching of others who have done so before us, especially those who have gained insight into the nature of reality themselves. It’s a joyous thing to mark the fact that we don’t have to go it alone – to rejoice in our friends and those who inspire us every day. So on Sangha Day we celebrate both the ideal of creating a spiritual community, and also the actual spiritual community which we are trying to build.
Parinirvana Day: the death of the Buddha (the full moon of February)
Strange as it may seem, Buddhists celebrate the death of the Buddha. His death came when he was eighty years old and had spent some forty years teaching after his Enlightenment. What is more, the notion that all things are impermanent is central to Buddhist teaching and, for Buddhists, loss and impermanence are things to be accepted rather than just being causes of pain and grief. The Maha-parinibbana Sutta gives a moving and dignified account of the Buddha’s last days and passages from it are often read on Parinirvana Day.
The day is used as an opportunity to reflect on the fact of one’s own future death and on people whom one has known who have recently died. Meditations are done for the recently deceased to give them help and support wherever they might be now.
The Buddhist Center: building community online