Vesak is one of the most precious festivals to all the Buddhists who are scattered all over the world. In Sri Lanka this is not just a religious festival but also a cultural festival which is celebrated even by the non-Buddhist Sri Lankans in Sri Lanka. In the month of May this precious event takes place and therefore we frequently get to here this word “Vesak” in May. So under this article our attempt is to make a discussion about this event and the importance of this event to the Buddhists.
This event has a long history. Long years back a prince was born to a queen named “Mahamaya” and a king named “Suddodana.” And this prince was the “prince Siddhartha” and at the time of the birth a wise man had said that the prince will one day become either a great king or a monk. So in order to prevent him being a monk the king had to keep him away from the reality of the life. The king did not let the prince to go out of the palace and let him grew inside the palace itself. He did not know what is the reality of the life until he got to see “Sathara Peranimithi”(an old man, a sick man, a dead person and finally a monk). By the time he comes to know the reality of the life he had already been married to a beautiful princes named “Yashodhara” and also had a baby named “Rahula.” On the day where the baby “Rahula” was born, Siddhartha decided to leave the palace in order to find an answer for the problem of suffering.
Finding a way to overcome the suffering was not that easy. He tried so many methods. He kept himself hunger for 7 years. During that time he did not eat well. His ribs were visible through the skin. He followed an extreme path in order to find the solution to the problem. But finally he understood the fact that the answer for what he was searching can not be found by this way. So he decided to give up on this extreme method and started to follow the middle path where he did not follow any extreme path. This method mainly included meditation methods and finally gave him results and Siddhartha Gauthama attained the enlightenment and could become “The Lord Buddha”.
After the attainment of the enlightenment, Lord Buddha started travelling all over the North India with the intention of teaching the others how to overcome this suffering of life. Regardless of the castes and the status of the followers he taught the core of his findings and kept teaching it for about forty five years of time. And then he passed away.
The birth, enlightenment and the passing away which is also known as piriniwan pema all took place on Vesak day and that is why Vesak is such an important event to almost all the Buddhists in the world.
In different countries, this Vesak is celebrated in different ways. In Sri Lanka also we celebrate it in a unique way which again inlying with the teachings of our Lord Buddha. To celebrate this festival there is no exact date and it usually falls on the full moon poya day in May.
One of the core findings of Buddhism is that everything is temporary and there is nothing called permanent. For Vesak, most of the Sri Lankans make Vesak lanterns and light them with a candle. To make a lantern, a great effort is put, and finally, after the lantern being lit by a candle, the made lantern will be burnt into ashes. This represents the teachings of the Lord Buddha.
At the same time we light buckets with a candle on the Vesak day. Soon after the buckets being lit by the candles the view is just amazing. But that does not last a long time as they also being burnt into ashes by the candles. This again reminds us the temporariness of everything.
Even the oil lamps lighten on the Vesak day reminds the same thing. Once the oil is finished it does not last. Again the temporariness of the reality is trying to be realized.
In addition to that; Pandols, Vesak Kalapa are also organized on be half of this precious festivals and most of the temples also conduct special Sil Observing programs in temples. Lord Buddha’s teaching always guides us to keep a peaceful mind. But in the present context it is not that easy to maintain a peaceful mind as we are living in a competitive environment. But this sil observing programs help us to practice and acquire both the physical and mental rest. Therefore most of the Buddhists observe sil on Vesak full moon poya day apart from the other full moon poya days.
Not only that. Some people give “dansal” where things like foods, beverages and other needed items are given without charging any money. By doing all these things Buddhists try to follow the path shown by Lord Buddha. At the same time Lord Buddha also had said that practicing the teachings of him is what he needs. So the meaning of this Vesak festival and the way of celebrating it by the Buddhists have its unique meaning.
In a nutshell birth of Siddhartha, enlightenment of Gauthem Buddha and passing away of Lord Buddha (a.k.a parinirwanya) all took place on Vesak full moon poya day and that is why this festival is this much important to all the Buddhists who are scattered all over the world. and different countries celebrate this festival in different ways in a way where it inlying with the teachings of Lord Buddha.