The mode of celebration has remained
unchanged since ancient times. It consists of continuous recitation from the
Buddhist scripture the Tripitakas; worship of the Buddha‘s statue with
offerings of incense, flowers, candles and fruits and distribution of fruits
and clothes among the poor.
The Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya is also worshipped.
Its branches are decorated with garlands and coloured flags. Rows of lamps are
lit and milk and scented water are sprinkled on the roots of the Bodhi Tree.
On this auspicious day meditation and contemplation is undertaken by monks and
Buddhists, taking refuge of the Buddha,
the refuge of Dharma and the refuge of Sangha (order), take 10 precepts: the
charge to avoid the taking of life, taking what is not given, sex, falsehood,
liquor, untimely meals, dancing, playing music and seeing unseemly scenes, use
of unguents and ornaments, lofty and luxurious beds and acceptance of gold and
A large number of pilgrims attend the
celebration at places associated with the great events of the Buddha‘s
life; Lumbini (where he was born), Bodh Gaya (the place of his Enlightenment),
Sarnath, near Varanasi (where he delivered his first sermon) and Kushinagar
where he attained Mahaparinirvana (his death).
May 2007 had two full moon days, the
1st and the 31st. Some countries (including Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Malaysia)
celebrated Vesak on the 1st, while others (Thailand, Singapore) celebrated the
holiday on the 31st due to different local lunar observance. This difference
also manifests in the observance of other Buddhist holidays, which are traditionally
observed at the local full moon.
On Vesak day, devout Buddhists and followers
alike are expected and requested to assemble in their various temples before
dawn for the ceremonial, and honorable, hoisting of the Buddhist flag and the
singing of hymns in praise of the holy triple gem: The Buddha, The Dharma (his
teachings), and The Sangha (his disciples). Devotees may bring simple offerings
of flowers, candles and joss-sticks to lay at the feet of their teacher. These
symbolic offerings are to remind followers that just as the beautiful flowers
would wither away after a short while and the candles and joss-sticks would
soon burn out, so too is life subject to decay and destruction.
Devotees are enjoined to make a special
effort to refrain from killing of any kind. They are encouraged to partake of
vegetarian food for the day. In some countries, notably Sri Lanka, two days
are set aside for the celebration of Vesak and all liquor shops and slaughter
houses are closed by government decree during the two days. Also birds, insects
and animals are released by the thousands in what is known as a 'symbolic act
to liberation'; of giving freedom to those who are in captivity, imprisoned,
or tortured against their will. Some devout Buddhists will wear a simple white
dress and spend the whole day in temples with renewed determination to observe
the observance of the Ten Precepts.
Devout Buddhists undertake to lead a
noble life according to the teaching by making daily affirmations to observe
the ten Precepts. However, on special days, notably new moon and full moon days,
they observe additional disciplines to train themselves to practice morality,
simplicity and humility.
Some temples also display a small image
of the baby Buddha in front of the altar in a small basin filled with water
and decorated with flowers, allowing devotees to pour water over the statue;
it is symbolic of the events following the Buddha's birth, when devas and spirits
made heavenly offerings to him.
Devotees are expected to listen to talks
given by monks. On this day monks will recite verses uttered by the Buddha twenty-five
centuries ago, to invoke peace and happiness for the Government and the people.
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.