Lhabab Duechen, literally meaning “Most Auspicious Day of Descending God” and popularly rendered as Descending Day of Lord Buddha, is a very important religious festival that is celebrated in all Buddhist cultures, especially in Bhutan.
What is the background, though? Here it is – in street English.
So like, Buddha was enlightened, and Shiva* (Lha Chenpo in Bhutanese) found him to be more knowledgeable than his colleague-gods. A cool guy to hang out with or to listen to. He suggests to Brahma (Dz: ལྷ་ཚངས་པ་, Lha Tsangpa) and to the King of gods, Indra (Dz: ལྷའི་རྒྱལ་པོ་བརྒྱ་སྦྱིན་; Lhayi Gyalpo Gya Jin) to invite Buddha to Trayastrimsa heaven to give some talks and teachings.
Buddha accepted the offer and went up, as he could also meet his mother, Mayadevi**, who was on her way to hell from there. She also needed to receive the teaching that would liberate her.
After three months in the realm of thirty-three gods, his mortal disciples were missing him and messaged him to return to earth. Buddha, in the beginning, debated if he should come back. Ultimately he did after a week.
And on his descent from heaven they laid out a special ladder built by Viswakarma, the deity of metal artisans. This “descent” is celebrated as one of the Four Great Deeds (because no one has ever descended down from heaven), and as one of the 12 Great Deeds in Buddha’s life. Maybe because they thought they lost him to the Hindu gods.
After that trip, his disciples refused to let him go to other realms. Those realms were later served by his emanations such as Guru Padmasambhava, Ling Gesar, Milarepa and Nagarjuna (he taught the naga-serpent realm).
Lhabab Duechen is a very holy day and any sin you commit is multiplied by ten million times. On the other hand, any good you do multiplies by ten million times. It is big reason to accumulate good merits on this day.
Photo 1 – Brahma and Indra inviting the Buddha. Both of them appear as dharmapala (protector of dharma) in Buddhism
*Shiva is considered an emanation of Avalokiteshvara in Nyingma tradition and referred to as Lha Wangchuk Chenpo)
**Because he saves his mother, the Day is now declared as Mother’s Day in Bhutan by His Holiness Je Khenpo).