Dharma Day is a Buddhist celebration which marks the day when the Buddha began teaching.
‘Dharma’ can be translated as ‘truth’, and the day is seen as a time to reflect on the qualities of the Buddha and his teachings; and to express gratitude for those teachings.
Celebrated by Buddhists worldwide, the date moves according to the lunar calendar (in common with many world faith festivals). Dharma Day falls on the day of the July full moon each year. This is when the Buddha’s first sermon day is commemorated. This is believed to have taken place in the Deer Park in Benares (Varanasi), India.
In his life, before he achieved enlightenment, Buddha was a wealthy prince named Siddhartha Gautama. He became dissatisfied with his material existence and wanted to experience life outside the palace walls. So he decided to become an ascetic, leaving behind his family name and wealth. However, he is reported to have found the ascetic life disappointing, so he left that too, and went to meditate under a tree. It was there that, after many trials and tribulations, he finally achieved enlightenment. He found that his heart was filled with a deep peace, something he wanted to pass on and share with others.
Dharma Day is seen as an opportunity for Buddhists to show their gratitude to the Buddha and to other enlightened teachers who have shared their knowledge. It is usually celebrated with readings from the Buddhist scriptures, with time being taken to reflect deeply on their content and on how the teachings ought to apply to their own lives.
Those who practise Buddhism within a monastic tradition, usually celebrate within their temple, monastery, or Buddhist centre, in the company of other monks or nuns. The temple is also the focus for those living as Buddhists within the world. Here, they will listen to sermons telling of the great beginnings of their faith. Candles and incense are lit before or during the sermons; and, as they leave, money will be tithed to the monks.