Vesak Day: How is it celebrated?
There are a few holidays in a year dedicated to honoring Buddha but none more important than the Day of Vesak, which celebrates his birth, enlightenment, and death. All of these three events occurred many years apart on the same day. It’s always held during the full moon of May but events across different regions where it’s largely observed may occur on varying dates.
The Buddha’s life began with wonder. His mother, Queen Mahumaya, dreamt of a big, white elephant entering her womb in the early hours of dawn, signaling she was pregnant with a pure being. Wanting to honor the tradition of giving birth in her parents home, she made the journey, carried by servants on a palanquin.
In the middle of her trip, she decided to stop and take a walk. She reached a tree that held out its branch like a hand to her and immediately, the labor began while she stood. When the child was born, he instantly took seven steps. After each step, a lotus flower bloomed. ThereinThere, in Lumbini, Nepal, the Buddha was born.
The baby pointed to the heavens with one hand and the ground with the other, declaring that this would be his last rebirth and that he would become enlightened. They returned home to King Shuddhodana right after and named him Siddhartha, which meant, “wish fulfilled.”
A monk heard of the child’s birth and paid a visit to bless the child but realized he was not ordinary. He began to tell the king of how the child would either be the greatest king or an even greater teacher of life. To ensure the child would ascend to the throne, King Shuddhodana kept him from the world.
Eventually, Siddhartha grew into a man and had his own son. It was then he decided to travel. On his excursions, he saw old age, illness, and death, all explained to him by his guide, but it was his encounter with the monk that decided his fate. Moved by his peacefulness despite suffering, Siddhartha set out to reach enlightenment.
After years of fasting, sitting under a pipal tree, and fighting against an evil spirit, Siddhartha achieved his goal at 35 years of age, becoming fully content. He then went on to teach the four basic doctrines of Buddhism at a deer park in India.
The Buddha lived teaching his disciples, encouraging more to join him in his way of life as a monk. On the same day of his birth and enlightenment, he died at 80 years old. Before his death, the Buddha encouraged his followers to continue finding true freedom, using his teachings as their guide. Today, Buddhism is practiced all over the world by 350 million people.
Temples are usually cleaned and adorned with lights. In South Korea, they use lotus lanterns. Commonly, monks and others chant and meditate, through the lighting and as a Buddhist flag is raised. Flowers, candles and burning incense are offered. Each country has its own customs for what follows. In Indonesia, they release paper lanterns while in Taiwan, they pour scented water over Buddha statues to signify “a fresh start.”
For Vesak, we’re throwing our own celebration. We’re holding a special sale on May 19! Keep a look out for our email to get the special coupon code.