The celebration of Wesak which is the annual ritual celebrating the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death (parinirvana), provides an opportunity for adherents to reflect on the Buddha’s life and teaching. The Wesak festival is extremely important to the Buddhist adherent and the Buddhist community. The Wesak festival or Buddha’s Day celebrates the birthday of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who was to become Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. The Wesak festival is a time for devotion and remembering the important aspects of the teachings of Buddhism.
Wesak is a holy day for Buddhists in many countries such as Tibet, Cambodia, Malaysia Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Bhutan. Wesak, Buddha day or Buddha’s birthday is the most sacred holy day for those apart of Theravada Buddhism and also important for the insight meditation movement. Wesak is the celebration of the three days significant to the Buddha’s life first was his birth, the second his enlightenment (nirvana) and the third his death (Parinirvana).
The date of Wesak varies and is very important and significant as it relies on the lunar calendar, it is usually falls on a full moon of the 5th or 6th lunar month. Wesak on the Gregorian calendar usually falls in April or May. Prince Siddhartha was born on the 8th day of the fourth lunar month or on the day of the full moon in 623 B. C. in Lumbini, Rupandehi District, West Terai, Nepal. Wesak celebrates the Three Jewels. Wesak is important to the adherents to reflect on Buddha’s life and teachings as is acknowledging the ongoing living religious tradition that remains strongly for followers.
The main objective of Buddhism is to one day reach enlightenment and this is exactly what Wesak celebrates and reinforces the ultimate goal of Buddhism that Buddha was a human who became enlightened. This is important as it reinstates the fact that it is possible for humans to reach enlightenment. To reach closer to Nirvana and the chance of a better life in the cycle of samara you must perform good acts to receive good karma, through the act of washing and cleaning the hands of Buddhists and monks this symbolises the karma of certain actions.
The festival of Wesak, with its emphasis on accepting the responsibilities of the ethical life, is also a celebration of the human spirit. ’ An important part of Wesak to the adherents is Sangha. And a part of this acknowledgement of the Sangha is listening to the wisdom and the teaching of the Dharma from the members of their community. As karma is a central belief of Buddhism there is a strong will for adherents are to donate and show generosity to the less fortunate at this time. “First of all, Buddhism is neither pessimistic nor optimistic. If anything at all, it is realistic, for it takes a realistic view of life and the world.
It looks at things objectively (yathabhutam). It does not falsely lull you into living in a fool’s paradise, nor does it frighten and agonize you with all kinds of imaginary fears and sins. ” The middle path what Buddha had preached is important to Wesak as it gives the adherents a time to reflect on his preaching’s of in a world full of suffering there is place for celebration. On the day of Wesak devout Buddhists are to come together in temples before dawn before they have ceremonial hoisting of the Buddhist Flag and do their mantras in praise of the three jewels; Dharma, Sangha, Buddha.
Those who attend the festivals may bring flowers and candles as offerings to lay at the feet of their teachers. The symbolism of these offerings are that beautiful flowers eventually wither away, and candles once bright burn out, such as what life it is subject to. The adherents that attend receive good karma for themselves and for their communities. Although there is some parts of Wesak that involve acknowledging then destroying the wrong doings and bad karma of the previous year the Wesak festival is a time of celebrations and coming together. The community play games, listen to music, attend drama performances.
Decorations are put up around houses and villages and their neighbours are encouraged to join in on the festivities. An important ritual that happens during the Wesak festival is the bathing of the Buddha. The bathing of the Buddha in fragrant water has been important since the legend of the Buddha’s birth has been told. It is a symbol of inner purification, the ritual is said to help get rid of sins. This ritual highlights the universal message that “it is simple to wash away physical dirt but it is much more difficult to cleanse one’s inner dirt of greed, anger and ignorance. ”