A HOLY DAY OBSERVED TRADITIONALLY BY BUDDHISTS
SIGNIFICANCE AND HISTORY:
In India and Nepal, according to the Buddhist and Hindu calendar, Vesak is celebrated on the full moon day in the month of ‘Vaisakha’.
Vesak is a holiday traditionally observed by the Buddhists of Nepal, Srilanka and other parts of the world on different dates in different ways and is known by different names. The festival being a centuries-old tradition was formalised to decide to agree to the celebration as the Buddha’s birthday at the first conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists in Sri Lanka in 1950 and to resolve the observation internationally at the headquarters and offices in the United Nations in 1990.
The festival of Vesak celebrates the birth, enlightenment (nirvana), and death (parinirvana) of Gautama Buddha the son born to King Suddhodana and Queen Mahamaya on the full moon day of May, in the year 623 B.C. in Lumbini Park at Kapilavatthu in Nepal. At the age of 29 years, he renounced his palaces, kingdom and the worldly pleasures in search of the truth that’s free from Jara, Vyadhi, and Marana as mentioned in the ‘Ariya Pariyeshana Sutta’. At the age of 35 years on his birthday, he attained Buddha hood (nirvana) and was known as Lord Buddha, at a place which was later named after him as Bodha Gaya under the tree named as Bodhi Tree in Bihar in India. At the age of 80 years, on his 80th birthday he died in the Sala Grove of the Mallas between the twin Sala trees. Today His teaching is named Buddhism. He advised that the way to pay homage to him was by truly and sincerely following his teachings because only the truth being eternal is not subject to the law of change.
The ten Paramitas or Perfections fulfilled by Lord Buddha to attain Buddha hood are Generosity, Morality, Renunciation, Wisdom, Energy, Patience, Truthfulness, Determination, Loving-kindness, and Equanimity. He preached the doctrine to show the way to get rid of birth and death circle of Samara. He taught the Four Noble Truths, namely, The Noble Truth of Dukkha or suffering, The Origin or Cause of suffering, The End or Cessation of suffering and the Path which leads to the cessation of all sufferings known as the Noble Eightfold Path. These path factors summarises into 3 stages of morality, mental culture and wisdom. The universality of the teachings of the Buddha is open to all to see and judge for themselves appealing to reason, think freely, and recognise the dignity and potentiality of humans and inviting equality, fraternity and understanding. His teachings of the Satipatthana or the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, is the path for the purification of mankind for overcoming sorrows and lamentation, for the destruction of all mental and physical sufferings, for attaining insight and knowledge and for realising Nibbana and which may be followed by all irrespective of caste, colour or creed.
The design of the Buddhist flag is based on six colours of the aura that are Blue: Compassion; Yellow: The Middle Path; Red: Blessings; White: Purity; and Orange: Wisdom that symbolises the unity of Buddhists.
RITUALS AND FEAST:
In Nepal, Vesak is celebrated in Swayambhu, the holy temple for Buddhists, whose main door opens this day of a public holiday.
During the Vesak celebration, in the shrine room an image of the new-born Buddha in the gesture of pointing ‘Truth’ is displayed. In temples, statue of the Buddha is displayed in front of the altar in a water filled basin, decorated with flowers to offer bath. A bodhi tree is found in the grounds of temples or monasteries decorated with the Buddhist flags to symbolize the unity of Buddhists; and lamps and lanterns symbolising enlightenment. Devotees offer gold leaf, oil lamps, candles and flowers to the Buddha, reciting holy sutras and mantras and circumambulating holy objects.
On Vesak day, Buddhists assemble in temples before dawn for the ceremonial hoisting of the Buddhist flag and the singing of hymns in praise of the holy triple gem: The Buddha, The Dharma, and The Sangha. Devotees bring flowers and candles to offer at the feet of their teacher, listen to talks given by monks, refrain from killing of any kind and dress in white to observe the Eight Precepts. Buddhist countries gift a picture of Buddha painted on leaves from a Bodhi tree.
Lord Buddha is payed homage by truly and sincerely following his teachings. The festival of Vesak marks the end with a grand feast of vegetarian food.