The first month of the Bhutanese calendar is called Chöthrul Dawa, literally the month of miracles. It is believed to be the month when Buddha performed many miracles.
In the theory of Buddhahood, the Buddha is said to possess a physical presence, which is powerful and charismatic. His speech is said to be melodious and inspiring and his mind composed, compassionate and all knowing. So, whatever the Buddha did through his body, speech and mind are said to be inherently miraculous. The Buddha’s physical comportment, verbal expression and enlightened thoughts are miraculous in converting the ordinary minds of the sentient beings into better and more enlightened forms.
In addition, the Buddha is remembered to have performed many miracles, particularly to impress and convert difficult persons including his rivals who were leading non-Buddhist teachers. The Buddha lived at a time when there were many spiritual men in pursuit of solution to problems of life and some of them were also influential like the Buddha. The Buddha is said to have surpassed all of them in contests of knowledge and spiritual power. One of the most important events in the Buddha’s life is his victory over these rivals, which is said to have occurred in Chöthrul Dawa.
Beside his miracles in contest with his rivals, the Buddha also performed other miracles during this month. On the first day, when the Buddha invited for lunch by King Prasenjit, he planted his toothpick in the ground and it miraculously grew into a large tree. On the second days, he created a precious mountain with grass and fruits for people and animals to enjoy and, on the third, he transformed the water he used to wash his hands into a lake. On the fourth, he created streams flowing into the lake with sounds of dharma. On the fifth day, a golden light emitted from his face and those who were touched by it were filled with bliss.
On the sixth day, he blessed his disciples to be able to read each other’s mind and on the seventh, he appeared as a Universal Monarch in the eyes of the Śākya clan in order to impress them. On the eighth day, he sat on a throne lifted by five lions and flanked by Brahma and Indra. On the ninth and tenth days, he manifested an enormous body with light rays and on the eleventh he remained invisible in a state of meditation on loving kindness but with a melodious speech still audible. On the twelfth, he sent forth golden rays of loving kindness and on the thirteenth, he emitted light from his navel and showed countless Buddhas resting on the light rays. On the fourteenth, he transformed the flower petals thrown on him into chariots and on the fifteenth day, he miraculously filled the containers at King Bimbisara with food and also revealed the hell realm to his audience to help them gain conviction in the law of cause and effect.
In this way, the Buddha is said to have performed different miracles in order to attract sentient beings to his teachings and eventually to the path to enlightenment as this was the main purpose for the Buddha to perform miracles, not to show off his spiritual powers. Because the Buddha has blessed this month with many miracles, the month is believed to be a spiritually powerful one. Bhutanese believe good done in this month will multiply a hundred thousand times. Thus, the month is also called Bumjur Dawa. If one saves one life, one is said to gain the merit of saving a hundred thousand lives. For this reason, people undertake virtuous activities and go on pilgrimage to recollect the Buddha.
Karma Phuntsho is the Director of Shejun Agency for Bhutan’s Cultural Documentation and Research, founder of the Loden Foundation and the author of The History of Bhutan. The piece was initially published in Bhutan’s national newspaper Kuensel in a series called Why we do what we do.