Tomorrow is Vasant Panchami, a spring festival in Northern India. It is also Saraswati’s birthday, and the day that her puja is held. While Vasant Panchami as a spring festival is pretty much confined to northern India (for reasons of climate, obviously), the Indian government has promoted Saraswati Puja as a Pan-Indian holiday in an effort to boost literacy rates.
The current literacy rate in India is 71.2%; this is well below the global average of 84%. There is also a stark gap between the sexes. In 2011, when the last census was performed (and when the literacy rate was measured at 75%) male literacy rate was 82.14% while the women only came in at 65.46%.
It is a Fire Monkey year, which is special in the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition, as Padmasambhava (aka Guru Rinpoche) was born on a Fire Monkey year. Padmasambhava is an eighth century Tibetan hero. He is known to have founded the first Buddhist monastery in Tibetan, though other other historically verifiable details of his life are scarce. He is especially honored in the Nyingma tradition, as one of their founders.
Guru Rinpoche, from Wikimedia Commons
Blessed is My Lady Benzaiten the goddess
For gamblers, whores, and thieves – Blessed are they
Who will call upon My Lady? Liars, the jealous, and me
Edo period print of a courtesan as Benzaiten-sama. At this time, the goddess was a traditional patroness for courtesans and other sex-workers, as well as “jealous women”, and professional gamblers (the forerunners of today’s yakuza)
I’ve heard complaints from recons that full moon celebrations are a manifestation of Wiccanate privilege. Now, here’s the thing: Wiccan privilege is definitely a thing that exists in the pagan community, but marking observances by the phase of the moon is not necessarily Wiccanate. I can say this with confidence, as I am not Wiccan, and I just realized that I need to check the phase of the moon so I can plan my ritual calendar.
Why am I so confident? Because I’m not Wiccan; I’m Buddhist. Historically, most of Asia used a lunisolar calendar. Time was measured with both the moon and the sun. Festivals were often calculated by the moon phase. In Buddhism and Hinduism, they still are. It is considered auspicious to perform prayers to certain deities and buddhas/bodhisattvas on certain phases of the moon. The 15th day (full moon) for Amitabha, the dark of the moon for certain “wrathful” protector deities, and so on.
In addition, as someone who has taken special vows, I must actually abstain from certain activities on some days of the lunar month. (In my tradition, the 8th and the 15th.) On these special days I must avoid meat and sexual activity, and many practitioners also take the additional “bodhisattva vows” that include wearing only plain clothes, not listening to music, no food after midday, etc.