Vesak 2016 – Buddhist Holiday
Vesak (also known as Vesakha, Visaikh Puja, Buddha Purnima, and Buddha Day) is a Buddhist holiday that celebrates Siddhartha Gautama’s birth, enlightenment (nirvana), and death (parinirvana). This festival typically falls on the full moon in May which falls on May 21, 2016 this year.
This holiday is typically observed by Buddhist practitioners of the Theravada tradition and is celebrated widely across Southeast Asia (e.g. India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Indonesia, Phillipines, Singapore, Vietnam, and many others).
In contrast, many Mahayana Buddhists particularly in East Asia (i.e. Japan) tend to celebrate the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and death on separate days.
On this day, Buddhist go to their temple or monastery and offer incense offerings and offerings of flowers and candles as well. These flower offerings remind us that like flowers our lives wither away quickly, the candles and incense sticks remind us that our lives could burn out at any moment. In other words, it reminds us of the impermanence of all phenomena including our lives.
Monks and nuns also recite sutras and conduct Dharma talks which lay people are encouraged to help others and show tolerance and respect for the beliefs of others who may be of a different religion/faith.
Typically, birds or insects are released in great numbers are released which is essentially a symbolic act of liberation from suffering. Buddhists also affirm their commitment to follow the Five Precepts and follow the Eightfold Path.
Another symbolic act that is performed on Vesak is the ritual washing of a statue of the Buddha in front of the altar in a temple or monastery which washes away the person’s bad karma. Each person comes up to the statue and pours water over it while Buddhist monks chant. This symbolizes the events of the Buddha’s birth when the devas and spirits made offerings to him after his birth.
In these ways, we re-enact the events of the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and death which helps to connect us closer to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
On the holiday of Vesak we use this opportunity to reiterate their commitment to following the path of the Buddha’s teachings (Dharma). In this way, we honor the Buddha as a great teacher and do our best to follow his teachings.
Thanks for reading this article on the Buddhist holiday of Vesak (or Vesakha). Please take a look at my Amazon picks below for further reading on Buddhism.