BUDDHA'S BIRTHDAY

Most Buddhists observe the birthday of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha (circa 563-483 BC) in May, except for Japanese Buddhists, whose tradition says April 8 was Buddha's birthday. Other ethnic Buddhist groups regard either May 16 or the day of the full moon in May (May 23 this year) as the birthday, although local Buddhist communities are holding celebrations on different weekends.

HISTORY: Tradition says that Siddhartha Gautama, son of a wealthy member of the Sakya clan, was born at Lumbini near the border of India and Nepal. Protected in his youth from suffering, the young prince later did see the troubling side of life and left his family to seek the right spiritual path, eventually becoming a Buddha, or "Enlightened One."

CELEBRATIONS: Southern California observances began last Sunday with an evening service at MacArthur Park arranged by a Korean Buddhist group. This weekend or next there will be services and celebrations at Tibetan, Laotian, Vietnamese, Thai, Sri Lankan, Cambodian, Chinese and Korean temples. For example, the Wat Thai Temple in North Hollywood will recall the life of Buddha in services this Sunday while the Tibetan Dharmadhatu in Los Angeles will hold late afternoon services May 24.

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