Sunday, 3 May 2015


Vesak commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death
of the Buddha
Vesak (Vesakha) is a holiday observed by Buddhists in countries such as Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Tibet, Bhutan, Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia. Vesak is also known as "Buddha Purnima," "Buddha Day," "Buddha's Birthday," or "Buddha Jayanthi day." Furthermore, Vesak commemorates the birth, enlightenment (Nibbhana), and death (Parinibbhana) of Gautama Buddha.

Vesak is celebrated on the full moon day on the 5th or 6th lunar month based on the Buddhist calendar and according to the Therevada Tradition. This year, the full moon Uposatha day falls on the 3rd of May.

On Vesak, Buddhist devotees will assemble at temples to recite, and pay homage to the triple-gems. In addition, Buddhist practitioners, would take oil lamps (symbolising the dispelling the darkness of ignorance), flowers (knowing that the flowers will fade like our bodies and other conditioned phenomena), and incense sticks (made of fragrant substances in respect of the Master who dispelled the darkness of ignorance). In some temples with a Bodhi tree (ficus religiosa), devotees would pour a cup-full of fresh water on the trunk of the tree not to think about helping the tree grow, but most importantly, to contemplate on the tree that represents the Buddha and his enlightenment under the tree where the Dhamma eventually spread all over the world for the happiness of all beings. 

Vesak by Gangarama
In many countries where Buddhism is practiced, homes would be decorated with illuminated lanterns and buddhist flags posted as well. Streets would be decorated with strips of colours that represent the buddhist flag. Many charitable homes would have long tables with offerings (dansal) of food and beverages to any devotee the aged, the handicapped, the sick, and the impoverished. Alcoholic establishments are supposed to be closed on Vesak as devout Buddhists will nourish themselves with vegetarian meals. 

Moreover, on Vesak, Buddhists would not just pay homage to the Buddha by offering flowers, oil lamps, or incense sticks, but also to meditate, live peacefully, learn the Dhamma, practice the Dhamma, follow the eight precepts, and strive to ensure that young individuals are able to follow the teachings of the Buddha, as the Dhamma is the eternal law that is unconditioned.

Thorana (pandal) in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Vesak isn't a public holiday in certain countries and the way Vesak is celebrated is different but harbour the same principles pertaining to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. From the holy temple at Swayambhu in Nepal to the Borobudur temple in Indonesia, many Buddhists and non-Buddhists will assemble at the temple and contemplate on the Buddha's birth, enlightenment and passing away. However in Sri Lanka, Vesak is celebrated for one week. The sale of meat and alcohol is usually prohibited. One of the differences among other countries is how well-lit pandals (thoranas) are structured and placed at various religious places or major intersections in cities, illustrating a story from one of the past lives of the Buddha (jathaka katha). Buddhist devotional songs are also heard from loudspeakers set up in various areas. 

On this Vesak Day, the 3rd of May, I wish all my Dhamma friends from around the world, peace, and prosperity on our stream through this mass suffering of samsara to the end (Nibbhana). I wish for the happiness, and tranquility of all beings in all corners of the universe be it dark or bright from the support of beings from celestial realms, protection from illnesses, nightmares, corrupt authorities, thieves, fire, flood, evil spirits planetary influences, quarantines, wrong views and misconceptions, uncivilised people, ferocious animals, ghosts and other evil beings. I wish for all beings to be free from harm and danger, free from mental suffering, free from physical suffering, and taking care of themselves blissfully.

Namo Buddhaya!


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