Buddhists around the globe will be lighting Chinese lanterns, incense and candles today.
The celebrations are part of Vesak – one of the most important festivals in the Buddhist calendar.
Vesak, or Buddha Day, is all about celebrating the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha, Siddhattha Gotama.
What is Vesak?
Vesak is marked on a different day each year, based on the Asian lunisolar calendar.
It is called ‘Vesak’ because it falls during the Indian lunar month of Vesakha – the month when the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha were said to have occurred. All of these were said to have happened on a full moon.
Why don’t we celebrate Vesak three times?
Older traditions did mark the birth, enlightenment and death as three separate events, while other groups just celebrated the birth.
Most Buddhists consider his death the most significant as this is when he passed into Nirvana or Nibbana.
For Buddhists death means rebirth rather than the end of life – hence why it is a celebration.
So when is Vesak?
Vesak will be celebrated on different days depending on where you are in the world.
Vesak will be marked on May 20 in Cambodia, Nepal and Thailand as well as that being the UN’s official date to mark the festival.
But in Bangladesh, India, Dri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore Vesak will be marked on May 21.
Indonesia will celebrate Vesak on May 23.
How is Vesak celebrated?
Again this totally depends on where you are. In Sri Lanka light displays and colourful lanterns are used to signify the life of the Buddha.
Fragrant-smelling water is poured over Buddha statues in Taiwan and caged birds are set free in Singapore.
More generally, flowers are used to decorate temples, offering are made to shrines, there’s chanting and prayers but importantly there is a focus on helping others and charity as well as people donating money and gifts to the poor.
Many deva=out Buddhists will spend the whole day in a temple on Vesak.
Buddha quotes for Vesak
1) There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.
2) You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.
3) Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
4) No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.
5) We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.
6) Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.
7) Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.
8) Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.
9) The mind is everything. What you think you become.
10) To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.