The Significance of Wesak Day

Wesak Day oil lamp - The Significance of Wesak Day featured image - Poh Ern Si Buddhist blog
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Wesak Day is one of the important events celebrated by Buddhists all over the world. Also called as Vesak Day or Vesak (also 佛诞 or 卫塞节 for Vesak Day in Chinese word) in short, this Buddha festival is a happening occasion, with many Buddhists visiting temples to pay their respect to the Buddha and perform sutra and mantra chanting. The Wesak Day celebration in Malaysia is usually rather grand, with colorful parades and processions carrying the Buddha statues.

However, this begs the question – is Wesak Day meant to be celebrated this way, with grandeur and mere Vesak Day greetings?

What Is Wesak Day?

Lord Buddha surrounded by his disciples - What is Wesak Day - Happy Vesak Day - The Significance of Wesak Day Celebration - Poh Ern Si Buddhist blog

Wesak Day is the day that commemorates the triple occasions of the birth (also called Buddha Jayanti), enlightenment (also known as Buddha Purnima) and death (also called parinibbana) of the Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, who is also regarded as the World Honoured One and the Blessed One.

And if you’re wondering when is Wesak Day, it falls on Full Moon day of the Vesakha lunar month, which is also the 15th day of the fourth Chinese lunar month.

Wesak Day is celebrated by Buddhists, where many Buddhists would be going around to many Buddhist temples to pay respect to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. As observed during Wesak Day in Malaysia, many would light up lotus lamps or even pineapple lamps for blessings while others would eagerly line up to bathe the “little Buddha statue”. One would then feel ecstatic that he or she is being blessed to overcome hindrances and can gain merits through such activities.

The Real Truth Behind Vesak Day Activities of Today

Unfortunately, events like lighting lotus or pineapple lamps, holding a float parade or procession, or even bathing the little Buddha statue are actually worldly attachments in the mundane world, which bring no benefit to anyone except blind delight in the shadows of illusion.

The significance of Wesak has no binding to all these artificially created activities, except these activities exist to make everyone happy to see some warm celebration of admiring the beauty of Wesak float procession on the streets. Without right mindfulness, we have deviated from the original form of proper celebrations of this meaningful Wesak Day.

How To Celebrate Wesak Day More Meaningfully

Wesak Day is not just about wishing fellow Buddhists “Happy Wesak Day” – it should be a day where we learn to ponder the pragmatic teachings of the Buddha where the emphasis is on the teachings of the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eight-Fold Path.

Without giving birth on this earth, we would not be suffering the cold and hunger of our physical needs. Without birth, then there will be no old age. Without old age, there would be no sickness. Without birth, old age and sickness, then there would be no death.

Death is the origin of birth and only the cessation of craving could destroy the origin of birth. Thereby, the contemplation and realization of the Noble Eightfold Path is the only way to destroy our craving (tanha) and the five senses’ desires.

Understanding The Noble Eightfold Path

Without exercising our careful speech where words can create slandering onto others, instigation, criticism, harsh words and foul language, then we will commit immoral actions. Notwithstanding, good actions, good livelihood and correct effort must also complement each other before we have finally mastered the fine art of good moral actions.

After achieving our good moral actions or values, we will then go to the next important aspect of mastering our mindfulness and good concentration. These two – right mindfulness and right concentration – will provide us with the correct meditation. After years and years of practicing these two main factors of having strong moral values and correct meditation, we would finally attain the highest faculty of our mind which is to gain correct understanding and right thought.

Once we have achieved these finest conditions of awareness and realization of true understanding and proper views, we will eventually gain the wisdom of knowledge and power.

Contemplating Buddha Sermons

One should always be mindful that the bathing of little Buddha and organising Wesak floats are the activities which arouse our attachment on this worldly affairs. Attachment is the hindrances to our cultivation of gaining purity of mind, heart and body. These illusionary celebration is the contributing factor of polluting our five senses desires which give rise to self illusion, doubt and lastly ignorance .

Many laities regard Wesak Day as a celebration of praying, offering of lotus lamps and bathing of the ‘ little Buddha’ statue. Then later in the evening, everyone will be looking forward to witnessing the beauty of the Wesak floats procession on the streets.

In actual fact, we should set this special day to ponder the Blessed One’s teachings and contemplate his Abhidharma sermons. This way we will achieve at least a feeling of calmness and peaceful reflections of the Buddha’s teachings.

We could also encourage the understanding of the Abhidharma by organising a Wesak Quiz contest where all the questions based on the teachings of the Buddha are introduced.

Chanting And Meditation

Wesak Day celebration with prayer chanting and meditation - What is Wesak Day - Happy Vesak Day - The Significance of Wesak Day Celebration - Poh Ern Si Buddhist blog

On this Wesak Day, one should wake up in the morning to do a good recollection of the Blessed One’s chanting of sutras and mantras while at the same time, ponder over the humility of the then Prince Siddhartha Gautama in undergoing asceticism while renouncing his royal title and seeking the truth over the glorification of status and wealth.

Another relevant action to commemorating this Wesak Day is to practice the one-pointedness concentration of meditation. These are all the proper ways to celebrate the significance of Wesak day.

Offering of Oil Lamp

Consequently, one should also learn to demarcate the different rites of both Mahayana and Theravada teachings in terms of the offering of lamps.

Lotus lamps are to revere the culmination of Bodhisattva attainment in sitting onto a lotus flower. This is the Mahayana concept of practice. Meanwhile, the Theravada school teaches us the lighting of oil lamp dispels all darkness. This signifies that in the offering of an oil lamp to the Blessed One, hopefully, one day we will gain enlightenment and dispel all darkness of ignorance.

The Proper Wesak Day Celebration

The best course of action in celebrating this Wesak day is to highlight the three main important courses of observation, mainly practicing simplicity, adopting moderation in our needs, and lastly being humble in ourselves.

On this Wesak day itself, we should wear simple, eat simple and practice humility in our character. This way after years and years of practice, we would eventually gain calmness of the mind, steadiness in our heart, and vibrance in our body.

Gradually, we will then achieve a state of Jhanas and finally gain emancipation into Nibbanaship as inspired by the World Honoured One.

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