Vesak is one of the most important Buddhist festivals worldwide and is a very special day for Buddhists. Vesak is celebrated once a year, with this year the day falling on Thursday, May 7th. The exact date changes year to year, as Vesak takes place at the time of the first full moon of the ancient lunar month. Vesak is a celebration of Buddhas birthday and, for some Buddhists the day marks his enlightenment – when he discovered life’s meaning.
‘In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.’ - Buddha
Born in Nepal to a tribal leader in 567 BC, Prince Siddhartha Guatama – later known as Buddha, started his journey. After six years of travelling consisting of daily meditation and studying, Prince Siddhartha Guatama became spiritually aware and achieved his lifelong objective of finding meaning in life. He called this enlightenment. It was at this moment that the Prince became Buddha and spent the rest of his time teaching others about his experiences. The word “Buddha” is not a name, more a title meaning the enlightened or awakened one.
Vesak is celebrated in many ways around the world with each Buddhist culture having its own traditions. Many Buddhists will visit their local temple, do good deeds, take part in meditation and most importantly reflect on Buddhist teachings. The energy from Vesak Day is thought to enhance peace, health and harmony for the remainder of the year.
An insight into Vesak Day around the world
Indonesia- In Indonesia, thousands of Monks will gather at the Borobudur Temple, the worlds largest Buddhist temple located in Java, Indonesia. People will gather to meditate together and finally release a sea of white lanterns into the sky. This beautiful sight of the lanterns has sparked interests of travellers around the world and many come to witness this amazing ritual.
Singapore- Vesak Day celebrations begin at the crack of dawn in Singapore as thousands of Buddhists congregate at the many wonderful temples around the country for a ceremony. The Buddhist flag is hoisted, and hymns are sung in praise of the day. Offerings of flowers and candles are brought to the temple and vegetarian meals are served.
South Korea- In South Korea, the birthday of Buddha is celebrated according to the Luna Calendar and called “Seokga Tansinil”, which means Buddha’s birthday. This day is not only a day of celebration for the millions of people who pray at Buddhist temples on a daily basis, but a public holiday which can be enjoyed by everyone. The entire country is illuminated with colourful lanterns and cultural performances and parades can be seen throughout the country.
Sri Lanka- In Sri Lanka, Vesak day is a time for prayer and meditation. Over 70% of the Sri Lankan population practice Buddhism, meaning Vesak day is widely celebrated country wide. Buddhists prepare bamboo framed lanterns decorated in coloured paper to display outside their homes, street parades are abundant and many Sri Lankans assemble at temples, spending the day praying from sunrise to sunset.
Vesak Day should be a time for us to appreciate all that is in front of us and do good to others. The teachings of Buddha and his widespread message of compassion, peace and goodwill have touched millions and will continue to do so in the years to come.
Written by: Lizzy Moran