Today is the celebration of Visakha Puja or Vesakha Day – the annual Buddhist holiday also colloquially referred to as ‘Buddha’s Birthday’. It celebrates the three important events that occurred in Buddha’s life – his birth, the day he achieved enlightenment (Nirvana) and the day he passed away, at age eighty. The day is generally celebrated on the full moon of the sixth lunar month, which falls typically in May or June of each year.
On this day, Buddhists will traditionally visit their temples where they will participate in activities that may include singing hymns for the Buddha himself, for the Dharma (his teachings) and for the Sangha (his disciples). Many will also listen to the Buddha’s teachings by attending readings of Buddhist scriptures or by taking part in a candle lighting ceremony or procession in the evening. Devotees may also leave offerings of flowers, incense and lights and in some temples there may be a small statue of the Buddha in the front, in a basin of water which allows devotees to pour water over the statue, as a symbol of spiritual cleansing.
Most Buddhists try and pay homage on this day reaffirming their commitment to truly and sincerely follow the Buddha’s teachings by leading noble lives and practicing loving kindness that will bring peace and harmony to humanity.
(Special thanks to Interfaith Paths to Peace for contributions to this article.)