by Jetwing · Published · Updated
Vesak is celebrated once a year and is one of the most important days among the Theravada Buddhists. A religious festival where devotees commemorate the three glorious milestones of the life of Gautama Buddha, which are believed to have happened on a Vesak Full Moon Poya day – the birth of Gautama Buddha as Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who renounced all worldly pleasures to seek the true meaning of life; his enlightenment, ending his search and becoming the Buddha or the enlightened one; and his passing away into nirvana, thus ending samsara (the cycle of rebirth). The event is observed on the full-moon day of the lunar month Vesakha, which falls in April or May. This year, it falls on Thursday the 7th of May.
Vesak is significant in the modern-day as it reminds all Buddhists of the importance of the life of the Buddha. While it is a time of festivity, it is also a time for reflection. An opportunity to ruminate on the knowledge and insight Lord Buddha believed to have gained on the night of his enlightenment. Reflecting on his teachings with reverence, such as the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, and the Five Precepts.
The day is marked by special devotional services and numerous endeavours intended to be meritorious, such as the presentation of alms to monks or the release of captive birds. Many Buddhists will visit temples to take part in chanting and meditation, bring offerings to the temple and take part in colossal dansal stalls to share food with people.
Families decorate their homes with lanterns, take part in processions, and wear special white clothes to mark the occasion. Temples and streets are adorned with vibrant pandols portraying the countless Jathaka stories (tales of Gautama Buddha’s past lives) and melodious bakthi gee (carols) sung venerating Lord Buddha.
The light and wisdom that radiated beneath the legendary Bodhi Tree at Buddha Gaya over 2500 years ago, is now of utmost significance to human life. It illuminated the path by which mankind could cross, from a world of fallacy, abhorrence, and fear, to a new world of light, of true love and contentment.