YOON JOO HO
Vesak day is the celebration of the day when Buddha ‘came’. There is a diversity of Vesak day celebrations all over the world, showing how Buddhism has been deeply rooted into cultures. Vesak day is an Indian word used in Singapore. The word Vesak originated from Vaishaka month (2nd month) of Indian calendar, which is the month that Gautama Buddha died and Buddha was born through enlightenment and achievement of the state of nirvana. Nirvana is the state of mind where one achieves complete Buddhahood and has been enlightened. To celebrate such religiously significant month, Buddhists or even non-Buddhists around the world celebrate the day. The date of Vesak day changes every year due to the effect of Lunar calendar.
In Singapore, it is 10 May and celebration is not simply a Buddhist celebration. It’s a national holiday. People get a day off and practically, this serves as an effective reminder for people of Buddha’s teaching. If there is a public holiday, anyone would wonder why they have a holiday. If you’re looking forward to be immersed in Buddhism and love to experience new part of the world, you should use the holiday to visit Bright Hill Temple, the biggest Buddhist temple in Singapore where Vesak Fair happens. Free snacks are given out, thrift stories are told and lanterns are offered for you to learn and enjoy the Buddhist culture at the same time. At the temple, you will notice that the majestic temple is completely different from what you’ve seen in the modern city of Singapore.
Korea is another place famous for a rich and unique Buddhist culture due to its long history of national faith in Buddhism. The annual lantern festival of Korea holds a significant meaning since it includes almost everyone in the country. Temples are lighted with hand-made lanterns, free foods are given out to those in need and a colourful marching of young monks with lanterns are in their little hands is not just for Buddhists but has always been a harmonious celebration for everyone. Just like how Christmas is celebrated beyond religion, The day when Buddha came (Seokka Tanshinil) has become more than a religious celebration, a form of art and a sign of union in Korea.
Birthplace of Budhha, India has another name for Vesak day. They call it Buddha Purnima. People dress themselves in pure white, avoid non-vegetarian food and Kheer, a sweet rice porridge is commonly served to recall the story of Sujata, a maiden who offered Buddha a bowl of milk porridge. Ironically, even though it’s called Buddha’s Birthday, it actually commemorates the enlightenment of Budda (nirvana) and death (parinirvana) of Buddha at the same time. Basically he died after obtaining Enlightenment to become the Buddha we know as today. People visit temples to offer holy water, flowers, candles and fruits to the statue of Buddha. The most interesting fact is, caged animals are freed to highlight the message that freeness is everyone and every animal’s basic right.
It’s a beautiful celebration, an evidence of how people around the world can be diverse yet unified under same belief. The importance of everyone’s right to freedom is valued and therefore, celebrations can differ depending on the culture. It is the day for Buddhists to show their values and for non-Buddhists to deeply relate to them in many ways.
“석가탄신일 유래와 부처님오신날 등다는 이유”. 유라준. N.p., 2017. Web. 25 May 2017.