Stargazers are in for a treat as the May 2022 full moon co-incides with a total lunar eclipse.
In contrast to its usual milky white sheen, the moon will appear a scarlet red colour during the year’s first total lunar eclipse.
According to NASA, a lunar eclipse occurs when the moon, Earth and sun fall into alignment, with the moon passing through Earth’s shadow. When the moon passes through the darkest part of the Earth’s shadow, called the umbra, it’s known as a total lunar eclipse, the space agency said.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac explains that much of the blue and green light is scattered when the sun’s rays reach the Earth, while the colours of orange and red remain visible, which is why the moon turns a reddish hue and is often referred to as the “blood moon”.
The total lunar eclipse will have been visible in much of the world with people in South America and the eastern part of North America getting the best view.
Also nicknamed the ‘Flower Moon’, in an article in Bustle.com on 9 May, Nina Khan says “the spiritual meaning of May’s lunar climax reminds that going from seed to bloom requires a full transformation, and that kind of rebirth isn’t always easy.”
She adds “Full moons are known for bringing a surge of energy, tensions, and heightened emotions. But being a lunar eclipse the climactic power of the May full moon will likely feel even more intense than usual. Lunar eclipses in astrology are associated with rapid growth spurts, major changes, and surprising revelations. Peaking as it does in the transformative sign of Scorpio, the May 2022 full moon lunar eclipse is about facing the truths that lie beneath the surface of our lives — and thus allowing our true selves to come into full bloom.”
At this time, the sun and moon will be aspecting many other planets, piling on even more intensity and drama to the lunar eclipse’s energy which should help us align with our fate and prepare for the next step in our journey.
At the time of the full moon, Jupiter, the planet of prosperity will be at 0 degrees of Aries – a point bursting with the potential for fresh beginnings. However with Mercury retrograde in effect, we should proceed with caution and thoughtfulness.
The May full moon is also the occasion when Wesak is celebrated – the most important of the Buddhist festivals. Sometimes called “Buddha’s Birthday”, it commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha.
In Malaysia, where Buddhism is the second largest religion after Islam, Wesak Day is one of the country’s major festivals. At the Vihara Temple in Kuala Lumpur, the celebrations start at sunrise when devotees gather at the temples to meditate. In the evening, a candlelight procession from the temple to Kuala Lumpur city takes place. Thousands of Buddhists and spectators line the route of the procession, at the front of which is a decorated float containing a statue of the Buddha.
A special open-air blessing service follows at the temple with a sermon on the significance of Wesak Day. Keeping with tradition the rest of the night is spent by monks in saffron robes meditating, chanting and offering prayers to Lord Buddha.
Also known as Siddhartha and Shakyamuni, Gautama Buddha was not the first Buddha but is probably the best known as the religion of Buddhism was founded in his honour.
Not a god, a prophet or any kind of supernatural being, he was one who was born, lived and died a human being. He ‘rediscovered an ancient way to an ancient city’ that had been covered up and forgotten. Through his own efforts he was able to find the way out of suffering to liberation.
Buddha pointed to a great Law or Dharma running through everything that exists. It is by living in accordance with this Law that true Wisdom and Compassion and hence true freedom from misery may be achieved.
He was born in the First Millennium BCE in Lumbini (present day Nepal) in the Shakya clan. He spent most of his adult life in modern day Nepal and India, attaining enlightenment under the Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya. Gautama preached his first sermon on the Four Noble Truths in Sarnath. This is where the Buddhist community or ‘sangha’ also came into being. He is believed to have passed away from earthly existence by achieving nirvana or enlightenment in Kushinagar.
While there are variations in interpretation of scripture between the different Buddhist groups what unites them is the wish ‘not to do any evil; to cultivate good; and to purify one’s heart.’
Such virtues as loving kindness, patience and giving are valued highly by Buddhists but wisdom and compassion most of all. Closely aligned with compassion is the concept of harmlessness or ‘ahimsa’ and the idea that we should embrace the desire to not cause harm to any living being.
Self-reliance is highly stressed in Buddhism. The Buddha told his followers to test everything for themselves – to not believe without questioning. More a ‘way of life’ than a religion, Buddhism aims to help people live in a peaceful way.
All Buddhist practice has one goal in mind – to bring about the same awakening that Gautama realised through an active transformation of the heart and passions and letting go of the ‘I’.
7 per cent of the global population or roughly 500 million persons are followers of Buddhism.
The following well known figures have embraced Buddhism.
The American poet Allen Ginsberg was a Buddhist as was the British singer/songwriter, David Bowie, and the former head of Apple Corporation, Steve Jobs
American film director George Lucas and American actress Goldie Hawn are Buddhists as is the legendary Jazz pianist Herbie Hancock.
The Swiss author of Steppenwolf and Siddhartha, Herman Hesse, was a Buddhist.
The Canadian pop singer/songwriter, k. d. Lang, is a Buddhist, as was the other Canadian singer/songwriter, Leonard Cohen.
The British actor, Orlando Bloom and American film director, Oliver Stone are Buddhists. Another American – actress Sharon Stone is also a Buddhist.
Perhaps less well known but equally significant is the fact that Co-Founders of the Theosophical Society, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott were Buddhists. On 25 May 1880 they took ‘Pansil’ – a formal acceptance of the Five chief Precepts of the Buddha.
Olcott was careful to write “Our Buddhism was that of the Master Adept Gautama Buddha, which was identically the Wisdom Religion of the Aryan Upanishads, and the soul of all the ancient world-faiths. Our Buddhism was, in a word, a philosophy, not a creed”.
Through her writings, Blavatsky popularised in the West the message of the Buddha and her compatriot, Henry Steel Olcott travelled widely speaking on the religion’s eternal verities. His subsequent actions as president of the Theosophical Society helped create a renaissance in the study of Buddhism.
Olcott was a major revivalist of Buddhism in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). He secured for Ceylon Buddhists freedom from religious persecution and established Wesak as a public holiday in that country. Olcott is thought of so highly there that a statue was erected outside Colombo rail station in his memory. In recent years, Sri Lanka has issued postage stamps in his honour.
During his time there in 1881, he compiled the tenets of Buddhism for the education of Westerners which resulted in the much read Buddhist Catechism which is still used today.
As President he championed in India, Ceylon, Japan and other oriental countries the revival of Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Islam and other faiths.
In 1882 with a delegation of Buddhists in a Hindu temple at Tinnevelly, he planted a ‘Tree of Friendship’ as the first act of fraternisation for hundreds of years between Buddhists and Hindus.
Olcott was responsible for founding of the world famous Adyar Library on the grounds of the Theosophical Society in 1886 at which for the first time in history religious teachers of Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and Islam united to bless a common cause.
A Canadian by birth, Colyn Boyce is a former radio journalist, who worked in central British Columbia in the 1970s. From 1981 until 2018, he was Publicist for the English Section of the Theosophical Society – arranging an ambitious programme of lectures, seminars and courses. For about 25 years he was assistant editor of the house magazine, ‘Insight‘, which he typeset and illustrated – showcasing many of his own photographs. He is a National Lecturer for the TS in England and has spoken on numerous occasions in London and at various other locations throughout the UK, Canada and the USA. During 2021 he gave zoom lectures on his favourite subject – Atlantis – for the European School of Theosophy and the Philippines Section of the Society.