Bathing of the Lord Buddha
Poi Tai Un Monastery 10 am
The Bathing of the Lord Buddha celebrates the birthday of the royal prince Siddhartha, born sometime around 563 BCE in Nepal. Truly one of the most influential men in history, the early years of his life were spent in luxury, where he was given everything he could possibly want. By the age of 30 however, Siddharta had grown restless and unhappy with his life as a Prince. He left his palace and became a beggar, believing the path to true fulfilment lay in the rejection of all material goods. He even conceived of food as an evil construct, and started eating only one leaf or nut per day. After collapsing and nearly dying of starvation while bathing in a river though, he realized that self deprivation wasn’t the correct path, and turned to meditation instead.
At the age of 35, he took refuge under a Bodhi tree and meditated intensely for 49 days, vowing not to rise until he found the truth. It was during this experience that Siddhartha finally attained the enlightenment he sought. He changed his name to the “Enlightened One”, or the Buddha, and spent the rest of his life – 45 years – traveling around teaching others about the Middle Way, the Four Noble Truths and Nirvana, which form the core tenets of the Buddhist religion that is still going strong today.
Poi Tai Un Monastery in Taipa is the center of the Bathing of the Lord Buddha festivities in Macau.
Not surprisingly, the birth of a low key spiritual leader is celebrated in a very simple way. The Buddha’s only birthday present is that he gets to take a bath – his image is cleaned in every temple in the city.
Poi Tai Un Monastery is a beautiful temple complex, quite possibly Macau’s largest, but most of it was deserted when we arrived at 10 am. The only signs of life were centered around the main temple, where a small crowd of about 25 people had gathered.
Some had brought gifts and birthday offerings for their leader in non woven bags, and we saw many filled with food placed in front of the temple doors.
A monk occasionally led followers in prayer and everyone knelt full bodied to the ground in front of the Buddha’s image. During our time there we didn’t see any Buddhas getting bathed or any water or cleaning cloth around. The actual washing part had probably happened earlier in the morning.
Not wanting to interfere too much, A Ping, Qi Meng and I didn’t stay too long. We deliberately kept our distance, fearful of intruding upon the sanctity of the event and others prayer. We spent most of our time in other parts of monastery, where we snapped the following pics.
By the time we reached the back gate of the temple it was about 10:30, and time to head down to Coloane Village to see the Tam Kong Festival.