Vesak Day

Vesak, also known as Wesak, is the most important Buddhist festival celebrated worldwide. Celebrated on a full moon’s day in May, Vesak is the holiest day in the Buddhist calendar. It is also called the ‘Buddha day.” It signifies three things: the day Buddha was born, the day he attained enlightenment (when he discovered the meaning of life), and the day he left the mortal body.

This article will provide information about Vesak Day in the context of the Civil Services Exam.

Significance of Vesak Day

  • Despite being a Buddhist festival, Vesak is celebrated differently across regions to signify the Buddha’s birthday; the other events, i.e., the day he gained enlightenment and his death, are celebrated on different days.
  • The UN recognises this day and is internationally acclaimed for its significance.
  • Buddha’s teachings and messages are revered worldwide, and millions of people follow his way of life.
  • Vesak or Wesak is a day for them to commemorate his being and celebrate his teachings and everything the Buddha stood for.

How is Vesak Day celebrated?

Since Buddhism is followed by millions of people across different countries, people of different cultures celebrate Vesak differently. Buddhists from different countries often celebrate Vesak on different days, since the first full moon is not the same day for every country.

In November 2021, the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) announced the first edition of the ‘Global Buddhist Conference’ and the establishment of the first Buddhist Studies Prize.

The conference’s topic, ‘Buddhism in Literature,’ attempted to carry Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of upholding India’s importance in introducing Buddhism to the rest of the world.

Some ways in which people celebrate Vesak are:

  • In Asia, many people spend the night meditating and reflecting in temples. For example, this is how people celebrate Vesak day in India.
  • In some countries, people light Chinese lanterns on this day.
  • In some countries, people celebrate by adorning their houses with lanterns and sharing food with their loved ones.
  • At many places, followers of the Buddha conduct a ceremony where they pour water over the shoulders of a Buddha’s idol. It’s known as bathing the Budhha. People believe that it is their chance to cleanse their selves.
  • The simple act of Liberation is also performed where the Buddha’s followers release birds, animals and insects. This act is seeded in Buddha’s teachings of tolerance towards all beings, including giving them peace and freedom from human’s shackles.

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Meaning of Vesak day

Vesak day meaning can be said as:

  1. It’s a day to pay homage to the Budhha, to reflect on his teaching and apply it to your own life. It’s a day of self-reflection and growth.
  2. Furthermore, Vesak day stands for bringing joy and peace to people. In many countries, people donate and distribute gifts to disadvantaged people, such as the differently-abled and the homeless.
  3. And finally, Vesak is a day of observance for the birth of the Budhha, often considered by many as one of the most remarkable men to ever walk on earth.

Special days representing India’s rich cultural and spiritual diversity – like Vesak – is critical for your IAS Exam Preparation.

What is the story of Vesak?

  • Buddhists do not believe in an idealistic Creator God. Instead, most Buddhists believe in the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who referred to creation as a natural order of ‘cause and effect.’ As per academic records, Siddhartha was a 5th century BC prince from a wealthy family in what is now called Nepal.
  • Siddhartha Gautama supposedly realised money and luxury did not ensure happiness, which prompted him to go across the world as a homeless holy man, trying to find the meaning of life and suffering.
  • After six years of seeking, meditating and penance, he attained spiritual awareness and found meaning in life. That’s enlightenment. That was when Siddhartha became ‘the Buddha,’ and he is said to have spent the rest of his life passing on his experiences to his followers. Buddha is, therefore, a designation and not a name: it means the enlightened or the awakened one.

Frequently Asked Questions about Vesak Day

What is Vesak Day?

Vesak, also known as Wesak, is the most important Buddhist festival celebrated worldwide. Celebrated on the full moon in May, Vesak is the holiest day in the Buddhist calendar.

How is Vesak day celebrated?

Since Buddhism is followed by millions of people across different countries such as India, Thailand, North and South Korea, people of different cultures celebrate Vesak differently. Some spend it meditating and reflecting. In some countries, people light Chinese lanterns. While others perform the simple act of Liberation by releasing caged birds, animals and insects to mark the Buddha’s way of life and teachings. In 2021, history was made when the White House celebrated the first-ever Vesak day by lighting lamps and offering prayers in front of the Second Gentleman and representatives of all three major Buddhist traditions: Vajrayana, Mahayana, and Theravada.

What does Vesak day stand for?

The true meaning of Vesak can be defined as follows:
1. It’s a day to pay homage to Budhha, to reflect on his teaching and apply it to your own life. It’s a day of self-reflection and growth.
2. Vesak day also stands for bringing joy to other people. In many countries, people donate and distribute gifts to the less-privileged, such as the differently-abled and the homeless.
3. And finally, Wesak is a day of observance for the birth of Budhha, the man who gave birth to the religion that is now followed by hundreds of millions.
Vesak is, therefore, a critical day for hundreds of millions of the Buddha’s followers. This alone makes it an essential topic for your UPSC notes or current affairs.

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