9 things you didn't know about Vesak Day

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How much do you really understand about Vesak Day? Here are some facts which you may not have known about this annual Buddhist celebration.

A day of joy, peace, and reflection, Vesak is observed by Buddhists in different parts of the world. However, it is traditionally celebrated by Buddhists in Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, and other South East Asian countries.

Here are 9 things about Vesak Day which you probably didn’t know.

vesak day singapore

Inner peace and reflection are important components of Vesak Day celebrations

1. Vesak is the most significant day in the Buddhist calendar

Vesak day is the most important date in the Buddhist lunar calendar. It celebrates three major events in the life of the Buddha: his birth, his attainment of Enlightenment, and his passing into Nirvana. According to Buddhist scriptures, each of these occurred on a full moon in the lunar month of Vesak.

2. Doing good deeds is an essential part of the celebrations

On Vesak Day, Buddhists reaffirm their commitment to living a moral and compassionate lifestyle; many of them believe that performing good deeds on this particular day will multiply merit many times over. On this day, vegetarian meals are consumed and caged birds and other animals are released as a symbolic gesture of compassion. Showing kindness to those less fortunate than yourselves through acts of sharing food, blood donations, etc. are also part of the celebration. Good deeds like these, whether by individuals or temples, are known as “Dana.”

vesak day singapore

Many Buddhists head to the temple to join others in a day of chanting and prayers

Head on over to the next page to find out more!

3. Mahayana and Theravada Buddhists celebrate Vesak Day differently

Majority of Chinese Buddhists in Singapore are Mahayana Buddhists. Mahayana temples such as Phor Kark See Temple on Bright Hill Road, practise the “three-step, one-bow” ritual on Vesak Day, where devotees take steps on both knees, bowing at every third step as they pray for world peace, personal blessings, and repentance.

The Theravada Buddhists, mainly comprised of Singapore’s Burmese and Sri Lankan communities, worship at the Burmese Buddhist Temple at Geylang and the Sri Lankaramaya Temple at St. Michael’s Road, respectively. Here Vesak celebrations include the ritual of cooking a pot of rice in milk, reminiscent of Buddha’s last meal before his long fast toward enlightenment.

vesak day singapore

Often there are processions and celebrations to mark Vesak Day

4. Anyone can join the celebrations

You don’t have to be Buddhist to celebrate Vesak. Head towards Singapore’s oldest Buddhist temple, Lian Shan Shuang Lin or The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, in the heart of Chinatown to observe the day.

5. Vesak Day in Singapore was only made an official public holiday in 1955

After World War II, the Singapore Buddhist Association led the petition to make Vesak Day an official public holiday. Subsequently, this significant day for Buddhists was made a public official holiday in Singapore in 1955. Since Vesak is celebrated according to the lunar calendar, the date on which it is celebrated changes from year to year, usually falling in the month of May or early June.

vesak day singapore

Vesak Day observes the three most important events in the Buddha’s life: his birth, enlightenment, and Nirvana

6. Temples are filled with flowers and joss sticks

Typically you’ll find flowers, joss sticks, and candles being offered in the temples on Vesak Day in Singapore and throughout the world. 

The presence of these items acts as a reminder of the fleeting and finite nature of life since the candles and joss sticks will burn down and the flowers will wither away. 

7. Bathing of the Buddha

A popular ritual on Vesak Day is the “bathing” of the Buddha. You’ll find worshippers gathering around pools or basins decorated with flowers and a small statue of Siddhartha. People pour water over the statue to remember a tale that the infant prince was also showered with waters of nine dragons shortly after he was born.

8. Three steps, one bow

Keep an eye out for a famous prayer ritual on Vesak Day in Singapore! Worshippers will engage in a stuttered walk consisting of three steps, followed by a bow. It’s normally done on the eve of Vesak Day and can last up to two and a half hours! Worshippers focus on a chant to remove distractions of the world and focus on Buddha.

9. Vegetarian for the day

To mark the beginning of Vesak Day with an act of purity, temples are normally filled only with vegetarian food. Worshippers are encouraged to partake in only vegetarian food for the day. In some countries, butcher shops are closed for the two days because of the dedication to uphold this discipline on Vesak Day!

References: yoursingapore.com and vesaksingapore.org

theAsianparent wishes all our Buddhist readers a very happy and blessed Vesak Day!

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