In Nepal, 2633 years ago, Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, was born 563 BCE Lumbini, Nepal. He passed away in 483 BCE Kushinagar, India at the age of 80. During the month of April, Buddhists around the world are celebrating the Buddha’s birth (This year, 2009, the Buddhist calendar year is 2553). The United Nations also recognized and celebrated this annual event called Vesak.
Vesak or Lễ Tam Họp is a very special and spiritual day in Buddhism that commemorates the thrice sacred events of the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing away. It is officially known as the United Nations Day of Vesak (UNDV) since 1999 under UN Resolution No. A/RES/54/115. The United Nation recognizes that it is a worldwide cultural celebration that was started and organized by the United Nations (UN) to venerate the Buddha as a great cultural and spiritual sage of mankind. The objective of the celebration is to venerate the moral and cultural values, the thoughts of peace, equality and non-violence of the Buddha and to create mutual respect and understanding among countries and peoples over the world.
Celebrating Vesak also means making extra efforts to bring happiness to the unfortunate like the aged, the handicapped and the sick. To this day, Buddhists will distribute gifts in cash and kind to various charitable homes throughout the country. Vesak is also a time for great joy and happiness, expressed not by pandering to one’s appetites but by concentrating on useful activities such as decorating and illuminating temples, painting and creating exquisite scenes from the life of the Buddha for public dissemination. Devout Buddhists also vie with one another to provide refreshments and vegetarian food to followers who visit the temple to pay homage to the Enlightened One. According to wikipedia: This is how we’re paying homage to the Buddha:
Tradition ascribes to the Buddha himself instruction on how to pay him homage. Just before he died, he saw his faithful attendant Ananda, weeping. The Buddha advised him not to weep, but to understand the universal law that all compounded things (including even his own body) must disintegrate. He advised everyone not to cry over the disintegration of the physical body but to regard his teachings (The Dhamma) as their teacher from then on, because only the Dhamma truth is eternal and not subject to the law of change. He also stressed that the way to pay homage to him was not merely by offering flowers, incense, and lights, but by truly and sincerely striving to follow his teachings. This is how devotees are expected to celebrate Vesak: to use the opportunity to reiterate their determination to lead noble lives, to develop their minds, to practice loving-kindness and to bring peace and harmony to humanity.
In practice, Vesak is an opportunity to bring happiness to others. All Buddhist is concerned with and needs to change and transform in social life. It is on this day the message of peace, of non-violence, of compassion, of equality is refreshing to all Buddhists around the world for them to practice and apply into real actions for the betterment of all beings.
Tâm Thường Định