Vesak is one of the most important Buddhist festivals, celebrating the Buddha’s birthday and, for some, marking his enlightenment
Vesak, known as Buddha Jayanti, Buddha Purnima, Wesak or Buddha Day, is a holiday observed by Buddhists in South Asia and Southeast Asia, as well as Tibet and Mongolia.
This festival celebrates the birth, enlightenment (Nirvana) and death of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.
But when is Vesak and how is it celebrated? Here’s what you need to know.
When is Vesak 2022?
The lunar month Vaisakha is considered the birth month of the Buddha and is derived from the Pali term vesākha or the Sanskrit word vaiśākha.
In 2022, Vesak falls on May 8 for Buddhists in China, Vietnam and the Philippines, May 15 for Buddhists in Singapore, Thailand and Sri Lanka, and May 16 for Buddhists in Indonesia, India and Nepal.
The dates differ because Vesak depends on different Asian lunar calendars, but the festival will always fall in April, May or early June.
When a month has two full moons, some countries like Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Malaysia celebrate on the first full moon and others like Thailand and Singapore celebrate Vesak on the second full moon.
What is the story of Vesak?
Vesak is a festival in honor of Gautama Buddha, who died in the 5th century BC. was a spiritual teacher in South Asia.
The Buddha, also known as Siddhārtha Gautama, was born a prince who thought that wealth and luxury are no guarantee of happiness. It is said that he found enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, now a religious site in India, after traveling the world as a homeless person, studying and meditating for six years.
The Buddha practiced a life of asceticism, a life devoid of sensual pleasures for spiritual gain, but taught a middle ground between asceticism and sensual devotion.
After becoming an enlightened being, he taught others a path to freedom from ignorance, desire, rebirth and suffering.
In 1950, Sri Lanka held the first conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists, at which it was decided to celebrate Vesak as the Buddha’s birthday in several Buddhist countries.
Vesak commemorates significant events for Buddhists of all traditions, such as the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha.
As Buddhism has spread across the world, the way the date is celebrated differs between cultures and countries.
How is Vesak celebrated?
On Vesak, before dawn, Buddhists gather in their temples and raise the Buddhist flag and chant in praise of the sacred Triple Gem: The Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.
Buddhists carry gifts and offerings ranging from flowers to incense sticks to symbolize life progressing and falling into decay and destruction, just as a flower withers or a candle burns out.
Some cultures dance, recite poetry, perform deep meditations, and the most popular of these dates is when the Rocket Festival, also known as Boun Bang Fay, takes place – where competitions to win the most colorful, fastest, and tallest rocket are held.
Devotees are encouraged to refrain from killing insects, and many eat only vegetarian food on the day.
In the UK, Buddhists follow cultural practices of their denomination of Buddhism.
I In some pious countries like Sri Lanka two days are set aside for this celebration and the government closes liquor stores and slaughterhouses.
In lifetime release, a traditional Buddhist practice, thousands of devotees release birds, insects, and animals to free captives, but some countries have banned it because some released animals may not survive long-term or could harm the ecosystem if they do this do.
Some devotees wear white, and most listen to sermons by monks that emphasize the Buddha’s belief in living in harmony and respecting others.