Buddha Day ∼ Buddha Jayanti ∼ Buddha Purnima ∼ Vesākha ∼ Vaiśākha ∼ Wesak
Worshipping the birth, the enlightenment, and the death of the father and founder of Buddhism
Vesak is probably the most important festival in the Buddhist world since it celebrates the birth, the enlightenment, and the death of the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama, the father and major teacher of Buddhism. Vesak is not only a movable celebration that based on the lunisolar movements changes dates through the years but it is also observed in different periods among the Buddhist communities and cultures of Southeast Asia. Thus, depending on the followed calendar, the holiday is observed between the end of April and the beginning of June.
The life of Buddha
Lord Buddha who is the epicenter of worshiping during Vesak was born in 563 BC in Nepal and his original name was Siddhartha Gautama. Being the son of an Indian King he grew up in a palace sheltered from the sad and evils parts of life. At the age of 29, he decided to leave the life of comfort and wandered around India for 6 years dedicating his life to finding a way to end human suffering. A series of realizations about life came to him through his interaction with humans and nature as well as via the practice of meditating. One day, at the age of 35 and when he was meditating under a Bodhi tree Siddharta Gautama experienced nirvana (enlightenment) and became a Buddha. From that day and until his death at 80 years old, Buddha shared his insights through his teaching (Dharmas) that became the fundamentals of Buddhism. According to the tradition, the birth, the enlightenment and the death of Buddha occurred on the date when Vesak is celebrated.
Rituals during Vesak
There is a great variation on the followed rituals during Vesak among Buddhists from different countries and cultural backgrounds. Families are cleaning and decorating their homes with lanterns and flowers. The faithful take part in processions and visit local temples bringing food, candles, incense, and flowers as offerings to the monks. Meditating, praying and chanting are common worshipping practices, while special ceremonies like “Bathing the Buddha” (pouring water over a Buddha statue) and “three steps on bow” (walking and bowing at the perimeter of a temple) are taking place in numerous Buddhist temples in the Asia-Pacific region.
Visiting a Buddhist temple in Nepal, Bangladesh, and India during Vesak offers the unique opportunity to experience some identical rites of the Buddhist traditions. There, the holiday falls on the full moon of the ancient lunisolar month Vesakha (May) and attracts many worshipers and visitors from all over the world. Major Vesak celebrations are also taking place in many Asian countries like Sri Lanka, Singapore, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, China, and Japan.