Düchen Ngazom, the Buddha's day of five great acts
Saga Dawa, the fourth Bhutanese month and equivalent of Vaiṣakha month in Indian calendar, is a duezang. Düzang, literally means, auspicious time. Dü refers to time and zang means auspicious or good.
An auspicious time is when all the right circumstances are present and when the internal and external causes and conditions for a good outcome have converged. As an external cosmological or astrological condition, the stars and planets are positioned in the most positive and powerful alignment. When the external astrological settings are right, the internal energies in a sentient being also flow smoothly in the right direction due the interconnection of the external and internal worlds. So, a düzang, in an astrological and spiritual sense, is a time when the external and internal forces are in the most wholesome and positive relationship. Such situation then helps good things happen more swiftly, easily and effectively. The action carried out during such powerful times also reap better and greater results. Thus, there are many cases of successes, great achievements and spiritual enlightenment which occur at such times. A lot of holy days associated with spiritual accomplishments took place during such powerful times.
Saga Dawa is one such düzang or powerful auspicious time. Because the external and internal conditions are right, the historical Buddha, according to the Bhutanese calendar, is said to have experienced the five major events in his life on the full moon day of Saga Dawa. The Buddha is believed to have been conceived, born, to have defeated evil forces, attained enlightenment and passed away into Mahāparinirvāṇa on this day.
Thus, the power of this month is not only in the astrological auspices, which contributed to the five great acts of the Buddha. Because the Buddha experienced these life events on this day, the sanctity and power of the month has been enhanced through his association and blessings. Just as visiting a pilgrimage site which is associated with the Buddha would benefit the pilgrims, commemorating the time in which the Buddha have manifested his great acts also will benefit the devotee in overcoming obstacles and obtaining happiness. The Buddha has invested a great deal power of prayers and aspiration in this particular time. He made prayers that whosoever remembers him on this day and carries out a meritorious act on this day be liberated from suffering and cause of suffering and reach enlightenment and happiness. Because the Buddha made such intense prayers, any good act one does in the month of Saga Dawa is multiplied a 100000 times and thus Saga Dawa is also known as Bumjur Dawa, the month in which one's good work become 100,000 times stronger or better.
Not all calendars agree that the Buddha was conceived on the 15th of Saga Dawa, because many scholars argue that Buddha was in the mother's womb for 10 months and not 12 months. Most other Tibetan calendars would normally only associate the day with the birth of the Buddha, his victory over evil forces, enlightenment and Mahāparinirvāṇa. However, Bhutanese calendar has the theory that the Buddha entered the womb of his mother in the form of an ash-white elephant on this day. Thus, for the Bhutanese, the full moon of Saga Dawa is blessed by the Buddha through his five major acts.
Subjects Tibet and Himalayas
To capitalise on the power of the month, it is important to avoid non-virtuous and harmful activities and to engage in virtuous and positive actions during the month. Remembering the Buddha and his enlightened activities, it is important to benefit others and wish all sentient beings to be free from suffering and to be enlightened. One must, in the constant awareness of the Buddha, also strive to live up to his noble ideals, principles and wishes.
Karma Phuntsho is the Director of Shejun Agency for Bhutan’s Cultural Documentation and Research, founder of the Loden Foundation and the author of The History of Bhutan. The piece was initially published in Bhutan’s national newspaper Kuensel in a series called Why we do what we do.