Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Full-Moon Honey Offering

The Buddha receives a honeycomb from elated monkey in Parileyya forest (

KOSAMBI, Ancient India - The Buddha once retreated into Parileyya Forest to reunite two monastic factions who were locked in a heated debate about rules. (Should water pots be left unemptied?) The intransigent disciples could not be reasoned with. So the Buddha went into solitary retreat as subtle encouragement for them to work out their differences.

While in the wilderness, a monkey offered him a honeycomb. The monkey was so elated that the Buddha had accepted the offering, it jumped around and, falling on a tree stump, accidentally passed away. He was immediately reborn in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three (Tavatimsa) as a fruit of his generous sharing. (Such is the power of karma that its fruit depends not only on the gift, and the state of mind of the giver, but also the virtue of the recipient).

The Buddha was also offered fruit and attended to by an elephant who, tired of communal life, had left his herd. The monastics settled their differences and together with Ananda came to the forest to ask the Buddha to return. The elephant (named Parileyyaka) is said to have died of a broken heart when the Buddha left the forest and was reborn in Tavatimsa. Interestingly Siddhartha's horse, Kanthaka, also died of heartbreak when Siddhartha renounced the world.

Honey Offering Celebrations
Buddhists from India and Bangladesh (which up until 1947 was part of India) celebrate a special full-moon observance, Madhu Purnima, in honor of these events. Celebrations occur in West Bengal, India (particularly Calcutta) and Chittagong (Barua Buddhists) and the Hill Tracts (Chakma Buddhists) in Bangladesh (formerly the Indian state of East Bengal).

Buddhists from these parts trace their original homeland to the area surrounding the Buddha's enlightenment place: Bodh Gaya, India. The Honey Offering Full-Moon observance is held in of the month of August/September (Bhadro on the Asian lunar calendar). It is celebrated as a joyous day of unity and charity to temples with the giving of honey and fruit.

Wisdom Quarterly was present as Bangladeshi-American Buddhists observed the full-moon day today. Ten monks assembled and led celebrants through ancient Buddhist chants, while in a distant land Indian Buddhists flooded temples to offer sweets such as honey. Honey is symbolic of love (metta), amity, compassion, and affection, reminding us of our interdependence with the animal world.

One monk is attempting to establish the first Indian Buddhist temple in Los Angeles. A temporary location, a rental in a somewhat seedy area in suburban Long Beach, houses California Bodhi Vihara. A permanent home is now in escrow at 1023 E. 21st St., Long Beach, CA 90806.

Ven. Dr. Karunananda, who resided in Pasadena's Los Angeles Buddhist Vihara (a Sri Lankan monastery) for many years, was pressed by expats and devotees in Los Angeles to open a temple/monastic residence (vihara) for the unique expression of Bengali traditions -- such as the Full-Moon Honey Offering.

To help establish the first Indian-Buddhist temple in Los Angeles by volunteering or sending donations ($31,923 is still needed), contact:

Los Angeles is unique in that it is home to Buddhist temples from nearly every originally Buddhist country in the world except Bangladesh (ancient Vanga), which became Buddhist during the time of the Buddha.

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