Vesak (Buddha Day) - Buddhist
Vesak - also spelled Wesak - (pronounced way-sak) has come to be known
as Buddha day. Vesak, which is named for the month of May, is generally
acknowledged as the most important holiday of the Buddhist year.
In many ways similar to Christmas in the Christian faith, Vesak is a
celebration that commemorates the Buddha's birth. Additionally, in the
United States Vesak has become an occasion for a common celebration to
unite all Buddhist traditions and schools: Asian and non-Asian,
immigrant and convert, Theravadin and Mahayana.
This year a majority of Buddhists will celebrate Vesak on May 9th;
however, in any given year the exact date of Vesak varies according to
the differing lunar calendars used in the various traditions.
Vesak day is a time to honor the Buddha, the Dharma (his teachings) and
the Sangha (his disciples) . . . and to rededicate one's self to the
Buddha's teachings and to practice.
Much as there is no one universal way in which Christmas is celebrated,
the ways in which Buddhist's celebrate Vesak vary widely. In most
cultures, devotees are directed to make a special effort to avoid killing
of any kind and to partake of only vegetarian food. Additionally, simple
gifts are often exchanged on Vesak day . . . and gifts to the disadvantaged
are particularly encouraged. Visits are often made to orphanages,
homeless shelters, soup kitchens, blood banks, and other places of need.
While not necessarily universal, here are a couple of practices which we
found particularly engaging:
In some traditions thousands of birds, insects and animals are released
in a "symbolic act of liberation" -- giving freedom to those being held
in prisons or otherwise being held captive against their will.
Some temples display a small statue of the baby Buddha in a basin which
is decorated with flowers and filled with water. In what serves as both a
reenactment of the events following the Buddha's birth and as a symbolic
personal cleansing of bad karma, practitioners pour water over the
Traditional Greeting: Happy Vesak! Happy Buddha Day!
Adherents.com places the number of Buddhists at 376 million and ranks
Buddhism sixth, based on number of adherents, among the world's
On Vesak day, all Buddhists are reminded to live in harmony with people
of other faiths and to respect the beliefs of other people as the Buddha
had taught. On this, the most important celebration of the Buddhist year, we
suggest that we each join with our Buddhist brothers and sisters in
reminding ourselves to live in harmony with, and to respect those, whose
beliefs differ from our own.
Shalom Salaam Peace
Kay & Dave Corby, Founders
Vesak (Buddha Day)
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