Excerpt from www.mahamevnawabm.org
The Correct Way to Celebrate Vesak
We all love to celebrate our important days like birthdays, the day we get married, successful moments and festivals as well as on special religious days. But do we really celebrate knowing the purpose of celebrating? Do we really gain the true happiness of life by celebrating these kinds special occasions?
For example, children and even adults celebrate their birthdays and people offer gifts, sometimes even very valuable. But if we really think wisely, a birthday is not a good day to celebrate just with music and dancing. If we think wisely, it is just one more day that we get closer to our death, losing the time that we have to live. But fortunately we can celebrate our birthdays and other special occasions in a way that can help us to have a long life filled with merit. Celebrating in the proper way can help us to make the rest of our life successful and also to attain the ultimate bliss of Nibbana.
Among all these good and bad ways of celebrating and special days for celebration, Vesak day is the most important day to celebrate in a meaningful way. But unfortunately, some people misuse the Vesak day and celebrate wearing masks, offering dana in an unhelpful way with loud music that distracts the mind. That could even lead to insulting the great person who was born on Vesak day and achieved something unheard of before in the world.
During the Vesak holiday you get to see lanters, pandols, and dansals. We get to listen to bhaktigeeta and go to many other events. But at most of these events people do not know the real purpose of celebrating. For example, some people do not know that lanterns are to be made as an offering to the Buddha, just like we offer flowers. Pandols are not just to display fancy electronics. They are a way to help people learn about the Buddha’s life and teachings in an attractive manner.
We should be aware that we have a very rare opportunity to be born as humans in a time where the Buddha’s teachings are still heard. In a time like this we should try to get the maximum amount of good karma from each and every chance we get.
Importance of Vesak Day
Dear parents and children, on Vesak we should remember that the great prince Sidhartha Gautama was born in this world and at the age of 29, by seeing the drawbacks in life, he gave up the lay life to attain lasting happiness. After experience pain for six years, finally by following the Noble Eightfold Path, that great person became a Buddha for the benefit off gods and humans. After preaching his Dhamma for 45 years, he left this world like a lamp extinguished with no more burning. This we call Maha Parinibbana.
We should understand that Vesak day is more important than our birthdays and every other special occasion in life. Only because of the events that we commemorate on Vesak day do gods and humans have the opportunity to escape from the suffering in this cycle of birth and death. Only because of following his teachings do we have the chance to perfect our qualities of human goodness. Only because of his achievements do we learn to be more concerned about the mind than the body. Only because of him do we learn to recognize the beneficial as beneficial and the unbeneficial as unbeneficial. Without him people don’t understand the value of doing merit. They never learn that doing even a small good thing can lead us to be born in a good destination even at the last stage of life. Only a Buddha can teach us how suffering arises in life and the exact way to overcome it. This is why celebrating Vesak is so very important.
How to Celebrate Vesak Day in a meaningful way
- As lay disciples we can observe eight precepts imitating the great arahants.
- We can give Vesak cards to friends, teachers, and relatives with a genuine intention of blessing them.
- We can offer kiripindubuddha puja with the same mind that Sujata did, thinking that the Buddha will attain enlightenment on the following day.
- We can make a lantern and offering it to the Buddha, just like we offer flowers.
- On the day before Vesak, we can clean the area around a Bodhi Tree with the thought, “Tomorrow the Bodhisatta will sit beneath this tree and become a Buddha.”
- On Vesak day we can offer flowers, drinks, honey, hakuru, chatumadhura, incense, oil lamps, and robes thinking, “The Buddha has appeared in the world!”
- We can worship and make offerings to the Bodhi Tree thinking, “Even the Buddha paid homage to this great tree that offered him shelter on the night of his enlightenment.”
- We can join in with Vesak dansalas, convincing our parents to contribute if we don’t have anything of our own to offer.
In Vimanavatthu 4.9, we learn, “If people offer something to the Supreme Buddha when he is alive or after he has passed away, as long as they have the same confident mind on both occasions, the results will be the same. Beings are reborn in heaven because of their confident minds.”
Dear parents and children, make the determination from this day on to celebrate Vesak correctly. Remember how our teacher came to this world on Vesak day, attained Enlightenment, and passed away into Parinibbana. Do these acts of merit with the pure intention of honouring our teacher and remember happily the good results that will come to you. Each Vesak, determine to practice the Buddha’s teachings diligently so you can attain true happiness in this Gautama Buddha’s Dispensation.