Question: How should Buddhists view birthday celebrations?
Answer: The term ‘birthday celebration’ viewed with the spiritual perspective is most ironic, as they are actually ‘rebirthdays’, occasions for repentance and reflection; not celebration. Only great ones like enlightened beings’ birthdays (when they manifest rebirths to guide more beings) and our Pure Land rebirthdays (when we reach Pure Land) are truly worth celebrating.
Our birthdays are anniversary days of when we were reborn, of when we returned to Samsara due to the Three Poisons (as the causes of rebirth). Thus, they offer no cause for congratulation, but for regret. With the coming of another (re)birthday, it also means we are one year closer to our death and next rebirth. It is a reminder to be more diligent in Dharma learning and practice. It is a time to have stronger spiritual resolution.
Our birthdays are also the days we returned to this world reluctantly with great pain and suffering, personally and with our Mothers, when being born. Thus are birthdays also called the ‘Days Of Our Mothers’ Difficulties’ (母难日). They are reminders to be more filial to our Mothers (and Fathers), to share the Dharma with them in time, as it was through them as crucial conditions, that we received this precious human rebirth for learning and practising the Dharma – to progress towards liberation from rebirth.