September 22 marks the celebration of Buddha’s Return from Heaven Day
Chanted prayers and teachings
The following explanation is an extract from a talk given by Geshe Kelsang on this day in 1991:
‘On this day we celebrate Buddha’s return from the desire god realm called Land of the Thirty-three Heavens, where he had been to visit his mother who had been reborn there.
Traditionally this day also marks the end of the summer retreat. Every year, during the summer months, Buddha did a three-month retreat with his disciples. His reason for doing this was to avoid harming insects and other animals.
If we go out a lot during the summer months we will naturally kill more insects and other animals than at other times of the year. The nature of Buddhadharma is compassion – an unbiased compassion that is not just for human beings but for every living being, including animals.
In fact, we should have stronger compassion for animals than for human beings because animals suffer more. Human beings have better conditions and are more fortunate than animals. Because animals have so much suffering and no freedom, out of compassion Buddhists should try not to kill or disturb them. So, for three months during the summer, Buddha advised his disciples to retreat, staying always inside and living carefully and conscientiously.
One year during the annual summer retreat Buddha went to the Land of the Thirty-three Heavens. After his mother died she had taken rebirth in this god realm, so-called because it has thirty-three different types of god.
The king of this realm is called Indra. The Indra who was king at that time was also Buddha’s disciple and he invited Buddha to go there. So Buddha went to benefit his mother and also, at Indra’s request, to benefit the other gods living there. He stayed three months, and then returned on this day.
This day is therefore very special. It is said that if we engage in any kind of virtuous action on this day it becomes especially powerful and our merit greatly increases. For example, if we offer one single light offering this action is multiplied to become millions of light offerings.