The most revered holiday celebrated by Buddhists, especially Theravada Buddhists, is called “Vesak.”
Vesak is the most significant Buddhist festival in Sri Lanka because more than 70% of the population practices Theravada Buddhism.
“If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism” ~ Albert Einstein
The lunar calendar affects the precise day of Vesak. The first full moon day of the fifth lunar month, or the month of May, is referred to as Vesak, which is derived from the Pali or Sanskrit words “Vesakha” or “Vaisakha,” respectively.
The purpose of Vesak Full Moon Day is to commemorate Prince Siddhartha, also known as the Gautama Buddha Shakyamuni, who was born in Lumbini more than 2500 years ago, as well as his enlightenment (Nirvana) under the Bodhi Tree in Buddha Gaya at the age of 35 and his death (Parinirvana) in Kusinagara, India, at the age of 80.
The monks and nuns meditate and chant hymns in honor of the Holy Triple Gem—the Buddha, the Dharma (his teachings), and the Sangha—on every full moon day (his disciples). Additionally, they recite “Sutras,” which are written accounts of the Buddha’s oral teachings, to evoke blessings and happiness for all beings.
To lay at the feet of the Buddha, devotees bring offerings of flowers, candles, and incense sticks.
These symbolic offerings, known as “Puja,” are meant to serve as a reminder to followers that just as lovely flowers eventually wither away and candles and incense sticks eventually burn out, so too is life subject to change, deterioration, and destruction.
All Buddhists in Sri Lanka make a daily commitment to upholding the Five Precepts in order to live honorably according to the “Dharma.”
On a particular day, such as Vesak, they congregate at temples before dawn to observe “Sil,” the Eight Precepts and spend the entire day there.
Devotees take vegetarian meals during breakfast and lunch. During the rest of the day, they take just liquid items such as tea, fruit juices, and infusions till the next morning. They read and meditated throughout the entire night while studying Buddha’s teachings.
In Sri Lanka, the day of the Vesak full moon and the day that follows are designated as public holidays.
During these holidays, all bars and slaughterhouses are closed. Some adherents do what is referred to as a “symbolic act of liberation” for individuals who are held captive by freeing birds and other animals.
All other holidays in Sri Lanka, such as “Perahera,” “Bhakti Gee,” “Dansala,” and “Pandals,” are observed in the evening. Buddhists often decorate their homes with lovely lanterns, bright lights, and the Buddhist flag.
Every street and road would have a uniform design. In the evening, crowds of people swarm the streets to marvel at these displays and glittering Pandals. Typically, these celebrations continue for a week, perhaps longer.
Around the world, there are numerous methods to celebrate Vesak. Buddhism was exported from India and incorporated into a wide range of cultures.
The Sanskrit name of this holiday is how the Mahayana customs refer to it. These three events are observed by Mahayana Buddhists three times a year. The Mahayana’s commemoration of the Buddha’s birthday usually falls during Vesak, though.
According to the Gregorian calendar, April 8 is honored as Buddha’s Birthday every year in Japan.
Vesak in Tibetan Buddhism often occurs one month after Vesak. Sri Lanka observes “Poson,” another Buddhist holiday, on the same June full moon day to commemorate the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka.
A resolution for the international observance of Vesak Day at the UN’s headquarters and operations was approved in 1999.
All are welcome to observe and evaluate the Buddha’s teachings.
There is a place for acceptance and integration of new knowledge within the teachings of the Buddha, regardless of how far increasing scientific understanding can broaden man’s mental perspective.
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