As an expressive compilation of all beliefs of Buddhism, Wesak incorporates all it means to be a Buddhist: the Three Jewels, the Four Noble Truths, and the Eightfold path. The commemorating festival of the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha employs ritual practices to outwardly express and inwardly contemplate their commitment and yearning to reach enlightenment. In expression of the 3 Jewels, adherents kneel and bow 3 times a day, taking the 3 refugees “I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha”.
Puja is the act of showing reverence to a ‘god’ like creature, but because Buddhists do not worship the Buddha himself, concentration goes to connecting to his spiritual wisdom and to one’s self, as communicated in the Dharma: “Without morning meditation each day, I cannot find a sense of contentedness within myself” – Ketut Sandhiartha. As prayer, Puja is portrayed through communal chanting, individual meditation and devotional offerings to a symbol of Buddha.
These offerings themselves also express Buddhist beliefs, with the example of gifts of incense symbolising both the spreading of ‘the fragrance of pure moral conduct’ as well as burning symbolising impermanence.
The ‘Bathing of the Buddha, A Mahayana ritual, whereby Buddhists pour water over a statue of the Buddha, purifies the mind from inner thoughts, allowing internal balance. The four noble truths is the knowledge of the unsatisfactory nature of life, which leads to suffering (dukkha).
Through reflection and prostration before images of Buddha, these truths, that dukkha exists due to impermanence (anicca), with the only release being Nirvana (the overcoming of desire), are comprehended properly, giving purpose and direction in life.
During Wesak, the Eightfold path is reaffirmed as the way to reach Nirvana, with adherents aiming to correct their lives to imitate the 8 laws. By adhering to these guidelines, along with living in accordance with the Middle Way, Buddhists are guaranteed that they are moving towards Nirvana, escaping Samsara, the cycle of rebirth.