Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Wesak (Vesak)

Today is the Buddhist holiday of WESAK or VESAK. It is also called Visakah Puja; Vaishaka; Buddha Purnima; Visakha Bucha; Saga Dawa; and Buddha's Birthday or Buddha Day. It is celebrated during the first full moon of the Taurus.

Wesak is the most important of the Buddhist festivals and is celebrated on the full moon in May. It commemorates events of significance to Buddhists of all traditions: The birth, enlightenment and the passing away of Gautama Buddha. As Buddhism spread from India it was assimilated into many foreign cultures, and consequently is celebrated in many different ways all over the world.

The celebration of Wesak is a chance to remember the story of how the Buddha gained Enlightenment, and to reflect on what it might mean for individual Buddhists to move towards Enlightenment themselves. The Buddha himself instructed his followers on how to pay him homage: by truly and sincerely striving to follow his teachings.

The festival is celebrated with color and gaiety. Homes may be cleaned and decorated. Buddhists will visit their local temple for services and teaching, give offerings to the monks of food, candles and flowers, chant and pray.

The 'Bathing the Buddha' ceremony is also often included. Water is poured over the shoulders of the Buddha and serves as a reminder to purify the mind from greed, hatred and ignorance.

Gifts are taken to an altar to be offered to the Buddha statues. This shows respect and gratitude to the Buddha for his life and teachings.

Devotees are enjoined to make a special effort to refrain from killing of any kind. They are encouraged to partake of vegetarian food for the day. Birds, insects and animals are released by the thousands in what is known as a 'symbolic act to liberation'; of giving freedom to those who are in captivity, imprisoned, or tortured against their will.

Celebrating Vesak also means making special efforts to bring happiness to the unfortunate like the aged, the handicapped and the sick.


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1 comment:

  1. I really enjoy reading these things from you Jaime. I hope that you keep it up. :-)