Vesak Festival in Sri Lanka
or Vesak Poya
— the main religious and cultural festival
in Sri Lanka
. It is celebrated on the full moon day in May.
The day of Vesak
— one of the most grandiose days of the year and is celebrated by Buddhists around the world. Buddhists remember the important events that occurred in the life of Buddha on this day. First, on this day, the birth of the king Siddhartha Gautama
in Lumbini in the territory of present-day Nepal. Here is an arbor from the trees, where Queen Mahamaya bore Him. The second event was Siddhartha's supreme achievement of Gautama enlightenment, that is, He became Buddha — the Awakened, the Enlightened One. The third event was Parinibbana — withdrawal from earthly life — Lord Buddha more than 2500 years ago in the city of Kushinagar.
The decision to celebrate birthday as Vesak of Buddha
, was formalized at the first conference of the World Brotherhood of Buddhists, held in Sri Lanka in 1950, although the celebration at this time in the Buddhist world was already a centuries-old tradition. The resolution that was adopted at the World Conference reads: «It is this conference of the World Buddhist Brotherhood that records its gratitude for the kind act of His Majesty, Maharaja of Nepal for the creation of the Full Wing Day full day in Nepal, and convincingly asks the heads of government of all countries in which find a large or small number of Buddhists, take measures to ensure that the full moon day in May was a public holiday in honor of the Buddha, who received universal recognition as one of the greatest blessings Lei humanity.» In 1999, for example, the United Nations decided to observe the day of Vesak at headquarters and in offices at the international level.
Since Buddhism has spread from India, it has been assimilated by many foreign cultures, and therefore Vesak is celebrated differently throughout the world. In India, this day is also known as Buddha Jayanti and is traditionally taken as the Buddha's birthday. Many Hindus believe that Siddhartha Gautama appeared on the Earth in the image of Buddha, as one of the avataras (images, epistasis) of Lord Vishnu. Buddha is revered as the incarnation of the Supreme Deity who descended into the world to spread one of his teachings. However, the Buddhists themselves believe that this is not so. Moreover, the very word «avatara», unlike Sanskrit, in the Pali language and Sinhalese language
has a completely different meaning — «ghost», «spirit of the dead». The very name of the holiday was derived from the term in Pali Vesak
or Sanskrit Vaishakha
, which denotes the name of the lunar month in the Hindu calendar, falling out in April-May. In the Buddhist traditions of Mahayana, the holiday is known under the Sanskrit name Vaishakha and in derivative versions from it.
Many religious events are organized during this period in Sri Lanka, such as the Seal campaigns, the Bodhi Puja (the worship of the sacred Bo tree, under which the Buddha attained Enlightenment), Dansalas (free distribution of food, coffee, tea), prayer songs (Bhakti Gee), Pandols (Torans) and ignition of street lamps. Temples are filled with devotees and pilgrims throughout the country to celebrate this great event. In the temples Buddhists worship the images of Buddha, offer Him flowers, lamps, incense and incense. These traditional rituals, in fact, have their significance in meeting the religious and emotional needs of people.
On Vesak, the faithful Buddhists and followers, as expected, and as they are called, are gathered in various temples before dawn for the ceremonial part, the installation of the Buddhist flag and the singing of hymns for the glory of the holy Three Jewels (Theruwan): Buddha, Dharma (His doctrine) and Sangha (His disciples, followers). Devotees can bring simple sentences of flowers, candles and incense sticks to be placed at the feet of their Teacher. These symbolic sacrifices must remind the followers that, just as beautiful flowers wither away after a while, and candles and incense sticks will soon burn out, so life is subject to disintegration and destruction. Devotees are ordered to make special efforts to refrain from killing any kind. They are invited to try vegetarian food during the day. In Sri Lanka, two days allotted for the celebration of Vesak, all shops, alcohol bazaars and slaughterhouses are closed by the government decree. In addition, birds, insects and animals are released by thousands in what is known as the «symbolic act of liberation». On this holiday it is instituted to give freedom to those who are in captivity, in prison, or tortured against their will. Orthodox Buddhists wear simple white clothes and spend the day in the temples with a new determination to observe the eight commandments.
Buddhists usually dress in white and come to the temple to take part in traditional ceremonies. Many of them spend the whole day, or even two in the temple, and confirm their determination to follow the teachings of the Buddha. On this sacred day, «Dhanaya» (charity, donation) plays an important role. It is a sign of sharing joy and peace with people.
In addition to exclusively religious aspects of the festival, Sri Lankan Buddhists decorate their homes and public places, and organize various cultural events.
Some temples also show a small Buddha statue in front of the altar in a small basin filled with water and decorated with flowers, allowing devotees to pour water over the statue, beginning with the head; this is a symbol of purification from the bad karma of the practitioner, and the action restores in the minds of praying events after the birth of Buddha, when the demigods and spirits made heavenly offerings to Him. Then devotees listen to reports made by monks. On this day, they read poems and sayings uttered by Buddha twenty-five centuries ago, in order to call the world to happiness for the government and the people. Buddhists remind us to live in harmony with people of other faiths and respect the beliefs of others, as Buddha taught.
Faithful Buddhists undertake to lead a noble life according to the teaching, making daily affirmations for observance of the Five Instructions. Nevertheless, on special days, particularly on the days of the new moons and the full moon, they observe the eight vows to educate themselves in the practice of morality, simplicity and modesty. And just the celebration of Vesak also means that it is necessary to make special efforts to bring happiness to the disadvantaged, such as the elderly, disabled and sick people. In the days of Vesak Buddhists distribute gifts in cash and in kind to various charitable homes and funds throughout the country. Vesak is a time for great joy and happiness, which is not expressed in favor of your appetites, but in concentrating on useful activities such as decorating and lighting churches, painting and creating exquisite scenes from the life of Buddha for public distribution. Orthodox Buddhists also compete with each other to provide refreshments and vegetable food for followers who attend the temple to pay tribute to the Enlightened One. The Lankarus
team during the celebration of Vesak also honors traditions, our colleagues are sent to perform a 2-3 day Wandana
— pilgrimage to the holy places of Buddhism of Sri Lanka
and limit themselves in food, sleep and entertainment.
Paying tribute to the Buddha
Tradition ascribes, and Buddha Himself gave instructions on how to worship Him. Shortly before his death, he saw his faithful servant Ananda crying. Buddha advised him not to cry, but to understand the universal law that all compound things (including even His own body) should disintegrate. He advised everyone not to mourn the disintegration of the physical body, but to consider His doctrine of Dhamma as the basis and position, because only the truth of the Dhamma is eternal and not subject to the law of change. He also stressed that the way of giving memory and gratitude to Him should consist not only in offering flowers, incense and lights, but truly and sincerely in an effort to follow His teachings. They are Buddhists and celebrate Vesak accordingly: take the opportunity to confirm their determination to lead noble lives, develop their minds in order to practice loving kindness, bring peace and harmony to mankind.
The birth of Siddhartha Gautama
Let's go back to how Siddhartha
or Lord Buddha
came into the world. For His birth, there were 5 established prerequisites — the right time, the right side, the right continent, the right caste and the right mother.
Any Buddhist knows, fully remembering his divine being, the infant entered the womb of Queen Mahamaya. Before the burden, the queen saw a symbolic dream, as if an elephant had entered the belly with tusks. The prince was born on the day of Vesak Poya in the family of Queen Mahamaya and King Suddhodana and was named Siddhartha, «one who found the meaning of existence.» The Queen died seven days after the birth of the prince.
The Comprehension of Lord Buddha
Gautama Buddha was taught various mental faculties by a multitude of teachers. But the knowledge that He received was completely disappointed in them, because they did not have the Truth that he was looking for. The right way to reach the Truth took Him one day. He directed his mind in the way of meditation. Through meditation He attained enlightenment and subdued the world of sorrows in the day of Vesak Poya.
Lord Buddha's Parinibbana
Then the 80-year-old Gautama Buddha announced that His death, Parinibbana, would take place during the third night watch in the grove of the royal family of Malla, and this happened on the day of Vesak Poya.
Vesak Lanterns in Sri Lanka
Lanterns, called Vesak Kudu, are lit in most houses in Sri Lanka on the full moon day of Vesak Poya. Lighting is a tribute to the memory of the Buddha, who transmitted the message of the Dhamma to the world. In ancient times, people used oil lamps from clay for lighting. When candles became popular, colorful lanterns began to be made in various forms using colors. Many organizations and teams even hold competitions in the design of street lamps, and the creators of the most beautiful lanterns are awarded with valuable prizes.
On a bright and joyful holiday of Vesak Lankarus
team also makes the lights, in mind or in reality wishing all our guests, partners and colleagues — Good, Peace, Love and Joy.
Subha Vesak Wewa! — Happy Vesak Holiday!