Vesākha (Pali; Sanskrit: Vaiśākha, Devanagari: वैशाख) or Vesak is a holiday observed traditionally by Buddhists in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, andthe South East Asian countries of Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, and Indonesia. Sometimes informally called "Buddha's Birthday", it actually encompassesthe birth, enlightenment (nirvāna), and passing away (Parinirvāna) of Gautama Buddha.
The exact date of Vesākha varies according tothe various lunar calendars used in different traditions. InTheravada countries followingthe Buddhist calendar, it falls on a full moon Uposatha day, typically inthe 5th or 6th lunar month. Vesākha Day in China is onthe eighth ofthe fourth month inthe Chinese lunar calendar.The date varies from year to year inthe Western Gregorian calendar, but usually falls in April or May.
The name ofthe observance is derived fromthe Pali term vesākha or Sanskrit vaiśākha, which isthe name ofthe lunar month falling on April to May (see Vaisakha). In MahayanaBuddhist traditions,the holiday is known by its Sanskrit name and derived variants of it. Local renditions ofthe name varies by country, including:
- Bangladesh: Bud-dho Purnyima (বুদ্ধ পূর্ণিমা) or Bud-dho Joyonti (বুদ্ধ জয়ন্তী)
- Cambodia: Vesak Bochea
- Chinese-speaking areas: Fó Dàn (佛誕) or Fāt Dàahn
- India and Nepal: Buddha Purnima (बुद्ध पुर्णिमा) or Buddha Jayanti (बुद्ध जयंती)
- Indonesia: Waisak
- Japan: Hanamatsuri (花祭)
- Korea: Seokka Tanshin-il (석가 탄신일, 釋迦誕身日)
- Laos: Vixakha Bouxa
- Malaysia: Hari Wesak
- Myanmar (Burma): Kason Full Moon Day
- Sri Lanka: Wesak (වෙසක්)
- Thailand: Wisakha Bucha or Visakah Puja (วิสาขบูชา)
- Tibet: Saga Dawa (*ས་ག་ཟླ་བ། )
- Vietnam: Phật Đản
|“||That this Conference ofthe World Fellowship of Buddhists, while recording its appreciation ofthe gracious act of His Majesty,the Maharaja of Nepalin makingthe full-moon day of Vesak a Public Holiday in Nepal, earnestly requeststhe Heads of Governments of all countries in which large or small number of Buddhists are to be found, to take steps to makethe full-moon day inthe month of May a Public Holiday in honour ofthe Buddha, who is universally acclaimed as one ofthe greatest benefactors of Humanity.||”|
In 1999,the United Nations resolved to internationally observethe day of Vesak at its headquarters and offices.
The celebration of Vesākha
On Vesākha day, devout Buddhists and followers alike are expected and requested to assemble intheir various temples before dawn forthe ceremonial, and honorable, hoisting ofthe Buddhist flagandthe singing of hymns in praise ofthe holy triple gem:The Buddha,The Dharma(his teachings), andThe Sangha(his disciples). Devotees may bring simple offerings of flowers, candles and joss-sticks to lay atthe feet oftheir teacher.These symbolic offerings are to remind followers that just asthe beautiful flowers would wither away after a short while andthe candles and joss-sticks would soon burn out, so too is life subject to decay and destruction. Devotees are enjoined to make a special effort to refrain from killing of any kind.They are encouraged to partake of vegetarian food forthe day. In some countries, notably Sri Lanka, two days are set aside forthe celebration of Vesākha and all liquor shops and slaughter houses are closed by government decree duringthe two days. Also birds, insects and animals are released bythe thousands in what is known as a 'symbolic act to liberation'; of giving freedom to those who are in captivity, imprisoned, or tortured againsttheir will. Some devout Buddhists will wear a simple white dress and spendthe whole day in temples with renewed determination to observethe eight Precepts.
Some temples also display a small image ofthe baby Buddha in front ofthe altar in a small basin filled with water and decorated with flowers, allowing devotees to pour water overthe statue; it is symbolic ofthe cleansing of a practitioners bad karma, and to reenactthe events followingthe Buddha's birth, when devas and spirits made heavenly offerings to him.
Devotees are expected to listen to talks given by monks. On this day monks will recite verses uttered bythe Buddha twenty-five centuries ago, to invoke peace and happiness forthe Government andthe people. Buddhists are reminded to live in harmony with people of other faiths and to respectthe beliefs of other people asthe Buddha had taught.
Bringing happiness to others
Celebrating Vesākha also means making special efforts to bring happiness tothe unfortunate likethe aged,the handicapped andthe sick. To this day, Buddhists will distribute gifts in cash and kind to various charitable homes throughoutthe country. Vesākha is also a time for great joy and happiness, expressed not by pandering to one’s appetites but by concentrating on useful activities such as decorating and illuminating temples, painting and creating exquisite scenes fromthe life ofthe Buddha for public dissemination. Devout Buddhists also vie with one another to provide refreshments and vegetarian food to followers who visitthe temple to pay homage tothe Enlightened One.
Paying homage tothe Buddha
Tradition ascribes tothe Buddha himself instruction on how to pay him homage. Just before he died, he saw his faithful attendant Ananda, weeping.The Buddha advised him not to weep, but to understandthe universal law that all compounded things(including even his own body) must disintegrate. He advised everyone not to cry overthe disintegration ofthe physical body but to regard his teachings (The Dhamma) astheir teacher fromthen on, because onlythe Dhamma truth is eternal and not subject tothe law of change. He also stressed thatthe way to pay homage to him was not merely by offering flowers, incense, and lights, but by truly and sincerely striving to follow his teachings. This is how buddhists are expected to celebrate Vesak: to usethe opportunity to reiteratetheir determination to lead noble lives, to developtheir minds, to practise loving-kindness and to bring peace and harmony to humanity.
In Japan, Vesākha or hanamatsuri (花祭) is also known as: Kanbutsu-e (灌仏会), Goutan-e (降誕会), Busshou-e (仏生会), Yokubutsu-e (浴仏会), Ryuge-e (龍華会), Hana-eshiki(花会式). It is not a public holiday. It is based on a legend that a dragon appeared inthe sky on his birthday and poured soma over him.
It used to be celebrated onthe 8th day ofthe fourth month inthe Chinese Lunar Calendar, based on one ofthe legends that proclaimsthe day as Buddha's birthday. At present,the celebration is observed on April 8 ofthe Solar Calendar sincethe Meiji governmentadoptedthe western solar calendar asthe official calendar. Sincethe 8th day ofthe fourth month inthe lunar calendar commonly falls in May ofthe current solar calendar, it is now celebrated about a month earlier.
In Japan, Shinbutsu shugo is common so Buddhist temples celebrate Buddha's birthday by pouring ama cha, a sweet tea made of Hydrangea on statues. In Buddhist temples, monasteries and nunneries, more involved ceremonies are conducted for practicing Buddhists, priests, monks and nuns.
Vesak in Sri Lanka
In 1963,the South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, a Catholic, andthe younger brother of Archbishop Ngo Dinh Thucbannedthe flying ofthe Buddhist flag. This led to a demonstration and flag-waving in defiance ofthe ban. Diem's forces opened fire onthe Buddhist crowd, killing nine, sparkingthe Buddhist crisis, a period of civil disobedience against religious discrimination.
Wesak In Malaysia
- ^ Fowler, Jeaneane D. (1997). World Religions: An Introduction for Students. Sussex Academic Press. ISBN 1898723486.
- ^ http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/lee/visakha.html
- ^ "Vesākha". The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary. http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/getobject.pl?c.3:1:2353.pali. Retrieved 7 February 2012.
- ^ "RESOLUTION ADOPTED BYTHE GENERAL ASSEMBLY: 54/115. International recognition ofthe Day of Vesak at United Nations Headquarters and other United Nations offices". United Nations. http://www.worldlii.org/int/other/UNGARsn/1999/192.pdf. Retrieved 6 February 2012.
- ^ http://www.lanka.com/sri-lanka/vesak-festival-sri-lanka-918.html