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Monday, April 30, 2007

What is Vesak Day and Why Celebrate It?

Jack asked that I blog a bit on Vesak Day (celebration of the birth of the Buddha) so here is my offering on the day.

Perhaps some might think the celebration of the birth of the Buddha is odd as Buddhists are encouraged not to attach too much importance to birth, death and the body in general.

However, I feel that the true essence of Vesak Day is to celebrate the Dharma rather then the physical presence of the Buddha himself. Indeed the Buddha did not want his followers to worship him but rather follow and honor his teachings. The Buddha was a human being--not a God. However, he was indeed a special, rare being who was inspired to bring us the timeless Dharma.

Thus, Vesak day for me is a special day to honor not only the Dharma that the Teacher Buddha so generously taught but also to celebrate the Buddha within us all. After all being interconnected to all things seen and unseen we are natural continuations or roots of the Tathagata. It is also a day for me to remind myself of what is possible and why I follow the path of the Middle-Way taught by the Buddha. It is a day of re-dedication to the Four Noble Truths, the Eight-Fold Path as well as the The Jewels: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

The date of celebrating Vesak Day seems to change from country to country and tradition to tradition usually in accordance of the first full moon in May. According to my Thich Nhat Hanh calendar the first full moon in may is on the 2nd. In places such as Thailand and Singapore the day is celebrated on the 31st of May.

In some places the day is a celebration of not only the Buddha's birth but his enlightenment and continuation from this life of samara (suffering) into Nirvana and Parinirvana. He did not die in a special way nor was seen ascending into the sky as a God would. He died just like any other human being.

In addition, in certain countries caged birds and fish are set free as a compassionate and lovingly kind gesture to show respect to all living creatures.

I plan on celebrating the day spending some time looking for trapped insects in our house in order to set them free. We have a fun device that allows one to gently and humanely catch insects in order to set them free outside in the garden. However, If I find a spider for example in a nest then I will leave them be as to not disturb their babies and cycle of life.

I also would like to purchase a lovely spring Lilly plant to grace our altar. As well as candles in honor of our founding father's enlightenment who pointed out the Way of the Infinite Dharma, the Buddha within us and the community of followers who keep the teachings alive. I will also meditate as usual and maybe attend the Tibetan Buddhist Stupa located in the mountains near by here at the Shambhala Mountain Center.

I see Vesak Day as being very different then the Easter of Christianity because the celebration of the birth of the Buddha is not the honoring of a Savior or God. Rather it is the celebration of the teachings of a great teacher.

Growing up and living in the western United States and spending several years in Africa I have, in addition, been highly influenced by the spirituality of the native peoples of those places. Thus, I also see this celebration as the honoring of spring arriving to bring life again to the world. Just as the great teacher the Buddha brought True Life to this time and place where we find ourselves.

Jack, I hope this gives you an idea of how I plan to celebrate this auspicious day. I shall blog again on the actual day on Wednesday.

~Peace to all beings~

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10 comments:

Florence said...

Happy Vesak Day to you... Thank you for your great blog!

Anonymous said...

Thank You.

jack

alison said...

indeed a day for reflection and motivation... towards the same destination for all beings! have a great vesak day james!

my reflection on wesak in my other blog: http://mettaville.blogspot.com/

renée said...

well explained, well spoken, james! I never knew that the vesak day is also a celebration for buddhas's birth.. probably the masters don't speak often about it because there is no more birth and no more death when a person is enlightened.. hugs and blessings (like greenwoman would say) for all of you!

They call him James Ure said...

Florence:

You are very welcome. I am happy that you find this resource beneficial. May you be well.

Jack:

You're most welcome. I bow to the Buddha within you. _/I\_

Alison:

Yep, even Buddhists have to party sometimes. :) I'll be over to see your reflections. Peace to you.

Renee:

I think that you're exactly right and thank-you for the compliments. You are very kind.

Greenwoman said...

I had never heard of this date until I read here today. Learn something new every day. Happy Tuesday!

gautam said...

It is a beautiful and informative Buddhist site. Wishing you peace and light on the full moon of Visakha.
Inviting you to my blog at

http://e-buddhism.blogspot.com

Warm Wishes

Gautam Sengupta
India

my blog is at

http://e-buddhism.blogspot.com

They call him James Ure said...

GW:

Always happy to teach new things to peeps. :)

Gautam:

I send the same warm wishes to you as well.

Anonymous said...

happy Vesak...

check out this beautifully/creavtively done website that caters to teaching Dhamma to kids via songs: www.d-kidz.com

also check out www.justbegood.net
dan

They call him James Ure said...

Anon:

Thanks for the links!!

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