Significance of Bathing the Buddha Ceremony
Sakyamuni Buddha was born in the Garden of Lumbini, located near the present day of Kapilavastu , Nepal. His mother was Queen Maya and young Siddhartha was the crown prince of the Sakya tribe. At the time of his birth, his mother was traveling home to see her parents and had stopped in the lush garden to rest. After his birth, Siddhartha took seven steps, each treading on a lotus flower. He said he had come into the world to become the Buddha. At this the heavens offered flowers and the nine celestial dragons washed him with fragrant rain that sprang from their mouths. After the bath, the young prince was purified in body and mind.
This story is the origin of the Bathing the Buddha ceremony. For the ceremony the altar is designated a flower garden, as was the Garden of Lumbini. In the ceremony, bhikshus followed by bhikshunis and lay devotees use a ladle to pour fragrant water three times over a statue of the infant Buddha. While bathing the statue, devotees chant the Bathing Buddha Gatha:
“ We are now coming to bathe Tathagatas,
For purity, wisdom, dignity, merit, and virtue.
May the five-fold polluted sentient beings be rid of impurities
And all realise the pure entity of Tathagatas .”
Water is poured over the shoulders of the Buddha and serves as a reminder to purify the mind from greed, hatred and ignorance. The ceremony symbolizes the washing away of greed, hatred and ignorance and purification of one's heart and mind.