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Most Important Theravada Buddhist Holiday

August 5, 2023

Theravada Buddhism’s most revered holiday is called Vesak. Vesak, also known as Visakha Puja or Wesak, is a celebration of the historical Buddha’s conception, enlightenment, and death (parinirvana).

The fourth month of the Indian lunar calendar is known as Visakha, and “puja” is the Sanskrit word for “religious service.” It is possible to translate “Visakha Puja” to mean “the religious service for the month of Visakha.” On the first full moon day of Vesakha, Vesak is celebrated. Although different lunar calendars in Asia use different month numbers, May is often the month that Vesak is observed.

However, the Mahayana celebration of the Buddha’s birthday typically coincides with Vesak. The majority of Mahayana Buddhists observe these three events of the Buddha’s life at three distinct periods of the year.

Instead of using a lunar calendar, Japan observes Buddha’s Birthday every year on April 8 using the Gregorian calendar. Saga Dawa Duchen, the Tibetan Buddhist equivalent of Vesak, typically (but not always) falls one month later, in June.

Vesak is a significant holy day that Theravada Buddhists observe by renewing their commitment to the dharma and the Eightfold Path. Meditating and reciting the traditional precepts of their orders, monks and nuns. The temples are visited by laypeople who bring flowers and offerings. They can meditate and attend talks there. There are frequently solemn candlelight processions in the evenings. To represent the liberation of enlightenment, caged wild animals, insects, and birds are occasionally released during Vesak celebrations.

In certain regions, the grandiose secular celebrations of parties, parades, and festivals go hand in hand with the religious observances. Numerous lanterns may be used to decorate temples and city streets.

The Buddha is said to have stood straight when he was born, taken seven steps, and proclaimed, “I alone am the World-Honored One.” He also indicated that he will connect heaven and earth by pointing up with one hand and down with the other. North, south, east, west, up, down, and here are the seven directions that are represented by the steps. 

The custom of “washing the baby Buddha” serves to remember this day. There is just one ritual that is performed consistently across Asia and in a wide variety of schools. On an altar, a little standing representation of the infant Buddha is positioned with the right hand raised and the left hand facing downward. People respectfully approach the altar, fill a ladle with water or tea, and “wash” the infant by pouring it over the figurine.

Read More: The Buddha’s Life: Siddhartha Gautama

Read More: Buddhism: 11 Common Misunderstandings and Mistakes

Read More: Basic Beliefs and Tenets of Buddhism

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