News Article

Happy Vesak!

From the bathing of the Buddha to charity and meditation- Vesak embodies devotion, peace and compassion, reminding us to awaken from greed, hatred and ignorance. Learn more about the origins of Buddha and how Vesak is celebrated across the world here.


Happy Vesak!


Traditionally observed in South and Southeastern Asia, and now celebrated by millions of Buddhists  (and some Hindus) across the world, Vesak or Wesak is one of the most important buddhist festivals celebrating the birth, enlightenment and death of Siddhartha Guatama.


Who was Siddhartha Guatama?

Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, was a Nepalese Prince whose father shielded him from the outside world. He wanted for nothing, was married with a son living a life distant from death, sickness and anything else considered to be distressing.

Curious of what lay beyond the palace walls, Siddhartha slipped through his fathers defences. Accounts vary as to whether he experienced, what is referred to as, the four signs in one day or over the course of four. Either way Siddhartha becomes profoundly affected after first encountering an old man, then a sick man followed by a dead man. 

Reflecting upon this, he comes to the realisation that everyone was subject to ageing, becoming sick and/or eventually dying and that he too, despite his privilege, was not protected from this.

He finally encountered a religious ascetic, a person with severe discipline and abstains from all forms of indulgences for spiritual purposes. Seeing that the ascetic seemed at peace and content, unconcerned with loss due to his lack of possession and spiritual understanding, the Prince was moved to seek peace of mind and seek the meaning to life.

Renouncing his worldly possessions, Siddhartha started on his spiritual path which would lead to him becoming the Buddha.

He sought teachers across the land, studying until he mastered all that was on offer. He practised a rigid ascetic lifestyle until he became so weak he struggled to keep his head up. A milkmaid mistook his emaciated appearance for a tree spirit, offering him rice milk. Realising that he still had not found what he was looking for, Siddhartha accepted the milk, giving him enough strength to continue on his journey.

Eventually the Prince determined that the only path to peace was through meditation.

Seating himself under a Bodhi tree and meditating for 49 days or 7 weeks, He contemplated his life and experiences, seeking the answers to his questions. He eventually found enlightenment and became known as the Buddha or ‘the awakened’.

The Buddha then went on to spend the rest of his life teaching others how to reach enlightenment.


How is Vesak celebrated?

It is believed that Siddhartha Gautama, was born, found enlightenment and died on the same day throughout his life. The Holiday is observed on the full moon of the ancient lunar calendar month of Vesakha, which occurs in the Gregorian calendar months of April, May or June.

While Vesak is a celebration of the life and teachings of The Buddha, it is also seen as a reminder of devotion, peace, compassion and tolerance. It is both a personal and communal celebration, providing the opportunity to look inwards, while also encouraging social unity through cultural exchange and acts of benevolence.

For some, this means partaking in acts of charity and giving- donating money or giving their time to volunteer.

Many Buddhists prepare for the festival by cleaning both their homes and temples, then decorating them with flowers and lanterns.

Other festivities include sermons and offerings in Temple; taking part in communal prayer and meditation, while offerings are left at altars for the statues in gratitude for the Buddha's life and teachings. 

A common ritual includes ‘the bathing of the buddha’ where  buddhists pour water over the statue of buddha, as a symbol of cleansing bad karma. 

Many Buddhists, if they do not already, will abstain from drinking alcohol and eating meat, putting emphasis on both the social, ethical and environmental impact on their consumption. There is no cross cultural dish for the occasion but many will drink rice milk in honour of the Buddha or consume rice based dishes such as rice pudding.


You can learn more about Vesak at where you can find articles and guides to Vesak celebrations sourced by the United Nations. 


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