What is Vesak
This year, in 2017, the International Day of Vesak will be hosted by Sri Lanka, and the commemorations will include an International Buddhist Conference, with the participation of over 400 delegates from over 100 countries.
Vesak is the most important day in the Buddhist calendar – first, it denotes the birth of Prince Siddhartha– born to King Suddhodana and Queen Mahamaya, in Lumbini, (presently in Nepal), an event of great wonder.
It is also the day on which Siddhartha Gautama realized the Enlightenment or the Awakening of the most unique, the most complete and the most profound knowledge with great clarity, without teaching by any other being but by oneself, with knowledge of all that belongs to the past, present and future. It is the attainment to the most exalted state of the human mind – the state of Sammasambuddha. This attainment, 2600 years ago under the Bodhi Tree in Buddha Gaya, in Northern India, illuminated the path through which all beings can move away from superstitions and find the path that leads to the cessation of all suffering and the realization of the Four Noble Truths. It is due to this attainment that humankind can find the path which leads to universal peace and real happiness. This day also denotes the parinibbana (the “death”) of the Buddha in Kusinara, presently in the Indian State of Uttar Pradesh.
The significance of Vesak lies with the Buddha’s teaching of cessation of suffering and universal peace to all humankind. It is a message to urge followers to do that which is good and to turn away from evil. It is a message of peace and perfect equity. Many countries, especially in Asia celebrate Vesak.
Sri Lanka celebrates Vesak on the Full Moon day in May. Many activities are organized throughout the country to signify this day of importance to all Buddhists. Buddhists observe “sil” (observance of the percepts), participate in meditation programs, organize dansalas (places where food is offered free, especially to the needy), and also create Vesak lanterns, build Vesak pandals, and light up the whole country.From the early hours of the morning on Vesak day, temple bells can be heard ringing, and dressed in white, streams of people are observed making their way to temples, signifying their intention in following the teachings of the Buddha.