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彌勒菩薩聖誕日(農曆五月八日)
2018年6月21日

  每年農曆的一月一日是彌勒菩薩的聖誕日;不知始於何時,僧團中不滿足於釋迦佛的聖誕,於是搜尋安立其他佛菩薩的聖誕,如以北宋初年永明延壽禪師的誕辰作為阿彌陀佛的聖誕,而將每年的正月初一定為彌勒佛的聖誕。但彌勒菩薩上生至兜率天後,要到第十小劫人壽八萬四千歲時方才下生,因此,哪來的菩薩聖誕呢?

  彌勒菩薩是生於釋迦佛世時的真實人物,但已無從考證菩薩的真實誕生日期;中國人以新年正月初一作為菩薩誕辰,是取意祈求彌勒早日下生,化人間為淨土。雖勉強得理,但是,彌勒菩薩曾經二度化身降生中國,一為布袋和尚;一為傅翕大士。布袋和尚降生日不詳,傅翕大士則生於五月八日(兜率龜鏡集記載)。因此,理當以此日為菩薩的誕辰之日。如同傳聞之彌陀佛化身的永明大師生於十一月十七日,後人將此日定為彌陀聖誕;大勢至菩薩的化身印光大師生於七月十三日,後人亦以此為大士的誕辰聖日。故傅翕大士的降生之日,亦當為彌勒菩薩的正確聖誕日也。而二月十五日則為菩薩上生兜率的日子,四月八日則是彌勒成佛日。

  中國佛教將正月初一列為彌勒菩薩的誕辰;又於道場第一重殿——天王殿的正中塑造了彌勒佛化身形像——布袋和尚。每年的頭一天讓所有佛子們就與彌勒結下良好的因緣,也讓進入寺院者首先見到彌勒佛,有意無意地亦與彌勒佛結上了歡喜緣。這些不為您所在意的因緣,都是彌勒菩薩慈心的攝受,接引我們步向解脫啊。

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CiZFZ 4 CZDH p40 BMaitreya s Birthday

Bodhisattva Maitreya’s Birthday

by Upasaka Ci De

The first day of the first month of every Chinese Lunar Calendar New Year is the birthday of Bodhisattva Maitreya. I do not know when this began. The Sangha Community must not have been satisfied with having only one birthday to celebrate, namely that of Buddha Shakyamuni, so they instituted days on which to position the birth dates of other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The birthday of Buddha Amitabha, for example, is actually the birth date of Chan [Zen] Master Yongming Yanshou of the early Song Dynasty.

For Buddha Maitreya’s birthday, the first day of the first month of the Lunar New Year was chosen. But Bodhisattva Maitreya has been reborn up into Tusita Heaven, and he will not be reborn back down until the Decreasing Kalpas of the tenth small Kalpas when the human lifespan is 80,000 years old. Therefore, where does his birthday come from?

Bodhisattva Maitreya was in fact a true-life human being who was born when Buddha Shakyamuni was alive in the world. Nothing from textual research verifies the Bodhisattva’s authentic date of birth. Chinese people have made the first day of the first month of the Chinese New Year the Bodhisattva’s birthday intending to entreat Maitreya to be reborn soon to transform the human realm into a Pure Land, although this is pushing it a bit.

The Bodhisattva Maitreya had already twice incarnated in China, once as the sack-toting monk and once as Upasaka Fuxi. There are no particulars about the sack-toting monk’s date of birth, but Upasaka Fuxi was born on the 8th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar (as recorded in the 兜 率 龜 鏡 集 doushuai4 gui jing4 ji4 Tusita Turtle Mirror Collection). Therefore, we ought to make this the birthday of the Bodhisattva. This would be the same as Amitabha Buddha incarnating as Chan Master Yongming who was born on the 17th day of the 11th lunar month, which later became the birthday for Amitabha. The incarnation of Bodhisattva Mahasthama (Mahasthamaprapta) was Grand Master Yinguang who was born on the 13th day of the 7th lunar month and again people later designated this day as this great being’s birthday. Therefore, the date of Upasaka Fuxi’s birth into the world should also be the true birthday of Bodhisattva Maitreya. Moreover, the 15th day of the 2nd lunar month should consequently be the Bodhisattva’s birth up to Tusita and the 8th day of the 4th month the day Maitreya attains Buddhahood.

Be that as it may, Chinese Buddhism has designated the first day of the first lunar month as Bodhisattva Maitreya’s birthday. Also, the first shrine in a temple – The Celestial King Shrine has in its exact center an image of the incarnation of Buddha Maitreya – the bag-toting monk. On the very first day of the Lunar New Year all Buddhist Disciples are permitted to come and create wonderful karmic bonds with Maitreya. This position also lets those who enter the temple see Buddha Maitreya foremost, making a happy karmic bond with Buddha Maitreya as well, whether intentionally or unintentionally. These conditions, which are not deliberate causes and conditions, are all created by the compassionate mind of Bodhisattva Maitreya to receive us as we take our step toward liberation.

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