The Buddha’s Cremation Commemorative Day, which is eight days after the Buddha’s Parinirvana and corresponds to the 8th day of the waning moon of the 6th lunar month, this year falls on May 23, 2022.
The cremation of the Buddha took place on the 8th day after his Parinirvana under the Sal trees in the full moon night of the 6th lunar month. The ceremony was held by the King of Malla, fully decorated with all kinds of fragrance and flowers along with an ensemble of musical instruments available in Kusinara through all seven days. On the 8th day, the eight Malla royalties took bath, wore new clothes to carry the Buddha’s body to the cremation site on the east side of the city.
The Malla royalties asked Venerable Ananda for the best arrangement for the Buddha’s body. Venerable Ananda suggested wrapping the Buddha’s body in new cloth with cotton lining, layer by layer in a total of 500 pairs of cloth and placing the body on the oil-filled metal rail. The funeral pile was decorated with sandalwood flowers and perfumes. But when the four Malla royalties tried to light the fire at the funeral pile, they could not make it. Therefore, they asked Venerable Anuruddha about the cause. The Venerable said, “It’s because the deities want to wait for Venerable Maha Kassapa and the group of 500 monks who are on their way to pay homage to the Buddha. Then the fire will start.” Those deities used to be attendants of those senior disciples before, thus, they were not happy if Venerable Maha Kassapa would not present in the ceremony. And when they all arrived, the fire started on its own without being lit by anyone.
After the fire burned the Buddha’s remains, the King of Malla put all the relics in a gold chest and brought it to Kusinara. As for the Buddha’s utensils, they were enshrined at various places; the set of his robe was at Gandhara Kingdom, his alms-bowl was at Patna, etc.
When the king of various kingdoms knew about the Buddha’s passing, they sent their ambassadors to Kusinara to ask for the share of his relics to be reverenced on their own land. But their request was refused by King of Malla, causing the conflict among them and they were about to wage wars. In the end, the dispute was settled by the Brahmin Dona who came to be a mediator to end the conflict. By dividing the relics into eight equal parts, each kingdom built a stupa to respectfully enshrine the Buddha’s relics in different cities as follows:
1. The Licchavis of Vesali erected a stupa over the relics of the Blessed One in Vesali.
2. The Sakyas of Kapilavasthu erected a stupa over the relics of the Blessed One in Kapilavastu.
3. The Bulis of Allakappa erected a stupa over the relics of the Blessed One in Allakappa.
4. The Kolis of Ramagamma erected a stupa over the relics of the Blessed One in Ramagamma.
5. The Vethadipa Brahmin erected a stupa over the relics of the Blessed One in Vethadipa.
6. The Mallas of Pava erected a stupa over the relics of the Blessed One in Pava.
7. The King of Magadha, Ajatasattu erected a stupa over the relics of the Blessed One in Rajagaha.
8. The Mallas of Kusinara erected a stupa over the relics of the Blessed One in Kusinara.
9. The Moriyas of Pipphalivana erected a stupa over the ashes in Pipphalivana.
10. The Brahmin Dona erected a stupa over the urn in Kusinara.
As for the King of Moriyas who sent an ambassador after the Brahmin Dona had already divided the relics to eight cities, he received the ashes instead. And the Brahmin Dona himself received the urn.
Dhamma principles related to Atthami Bucha Day for Buddhists to bring into consideration are the Three Characteristics of Existence which are impermanence, suffering and non-self. These are the characteristics of all mental formation (sankhara) in accordance with the natural law as follows:
1. Impermanence is the transiency, inconstancy. It is the nature of things that arises and passes away. It lasts momentarily. So we should wisely see the decline as it really is.
2. Suffering is the state of painfulness from an inability to stay in the original condition. It is a state of pressure, resistance and conflict because of the change in the factors. Thus, things cannot remain in the same condition.
3. Non-self is the state of egolessness, not being under any commands and not being owned by anyone.
The Three Characteristics of Existence allows us to see clearly the 8 worldly conditions (gain – loss, honor – dishonor, praise – blame, happiness – suffering) that are inevitably changing. All illusions in the world are not sustainable. One day we will lose them, even our lives. Therefore, we should always maintain our consciousness without recklessness according to the last words of the Buddha, which is the most important principle in living our life until the last breath.
Compiled by: Boonyaporn Khempanya
Sources: dhammajak.net.wikipedia.org and trueplookpanya.com
Translation: Samroeng Thongrong, Mathuros Saengvijit