The Buddha's 2,600th Birthday?
Wisdom Quarterly (COMMENTARY)
Wisdom Quarterly Calculation Committee with Ven. Karunananda, Ph.D., Abbot, Bodhi Vihara, Long Beach, CA (Bangladeshi-Indian Theravada tradition)
This is the year 2554 BE (Buddhist Era) according to the Buddhist Calendar. The Buddha was "born" at the age of 35 on the day of his great enlightenment (maha bodhi, great because he became a supremely enlightened teaching buddha rather than simply an enlightened individual). Prior to that, he was not yet the Buddha but simply the Shakyan Prince Siddhartha Gautama.
The Buddhist Era in Sri Lanka begins from the full moon day of the great enlightenment. Vesak Day (the full moon day of the Indian month of Vesakha) celebrates not only the great enlightenment but the birth of Siddhartha (and usually in Asia children are born at the age of 1 because those previous nine months in the womb, or ten months according to the lunar calendar, are counted into one's age) and the great final nirvana, at the age of 80.
All three events, according to the Buddha in explicit sutra references, occurred on the full moon day of the same month, at least according to the oldest existing Buddhist school (Theravada). Newer schools of various national traditions often calculate their own dates and celebrate these events separately.
The tradition in Thailand, which is Theravada, begins its Buddhist Era from the year of the final passing (maha-pari-nirvana). And that exact date differs from the older Theravada country Sri Lanka, as well as Burma, although the three agree on most other details.
It is according to Sri Lankan calculations -- as reported by the Buddhist scholar, dean, author, and former Sri Lankan ambassador to the US Ananda Guruge at the Southern California Sangha Council -- that the Buddha (or at least Siddhartha who became the Buddha) is turning 2,600 in 2011.
Why? It is because this is 2554 BE (and will be 2555 BE on Vesak Day in May 2011), plus 80 years (how long Siddhartha lived), minus 35 (Siddhartha's age when he became the Buddha) = 2,600.
EDITORIAL NOTE: Committees should never be allowed to explain anything because they only succeed in obscuring the issue they are tasked with clarifying. But as Wisdom Quarterly often likes to say, "Democracy is the worst form of government... except for all the other ones." This is particularly fitting because of the democractic procedures the Buddha established in the Vinaya (monastic discipline) for the Sangha (monastic Order) to govern itself.