Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Vesak — Why Is it Highly Significant to Buddhists?

Today is Vesak day, which is the most significant day to Buddhists. Today we celebrated Vesak day at this Buddha Dhamma Mandala Society in Singapore. About nearly 200 people joined our celebration today. I gave a short talk about Vesak. The following is my talk given today.

On this very same full-moon day of the month of Vesākha, 2635 years ago, Siddhaṭṭha Bodhisatta was born in the Lumbini Park near Kapilavatthu. 2600 years ago, He became a Fully Enlightened One at the age of 35 under the Bodhi Tree at Buddha-Gaya. 2555 years ago, He passed away at the age of 80 at Kusinārā.

As soon as the Bodhisatta was born, he stood firmly with his feet on the ground. And he took seven steps to the north and uttered thus: "အေဂၢါဟမသၼိ ေလာကႆ, ေဇေ႒ာဟမသၼိ ေလာကႆ, ေသေ႒ာဟမသၼိ ေလာကႆ, အယမႏၲိမာ ဇာတိ, နတၳိ ဒါနိ ပုနဗၻေဝါ - I am the Highest in the world, I am the Best in the world, I am the Foremost in the world; this is my last birth; now there is no more renewal of being in future lives".

At the age of 35, Siddhaṭṭha Bodhisatta became a Fully Enlightened One under the Bodhi Tree at Buddha-Gaya. Immediately after his enlightenment, the Buddha uttered words of joy thus:
အေနကဇာတိသံသာရံ, သႏၶာဝိႆံ အနိဗၺိသံ။
ဂဟကာရံ ဂေဝသေႏၲာ, ဒုကၡာ ဇာတိ ပုနပၸဳနံ။။
ဂဟကာရက ဒိေ႒ာသိ, ပုန ေဂဟံ န ကာဟသိ။
သဗၺာ ေတ ဖာသုကာ ဘဂၢါ, ဂဟကူဋံ ဝိသခၤတံ။
ဝိသခၤါရဂတံ စိတၱံ, တဏွာနံ ခယမဇၩဂါ။

Seeking but not finding the house builder,
I travelled through the round of countless births:
Oh painful is birth ever and again.

House builder, you have now been seen;
You shall not build the house again.
Your rafters have been broken down;
Your ridge pole is demolished too.

My mind has now attained the unformed Nibbāna
And reached the end of every kind of craving.

The Enlightenment of the Buddha is the most important and significant event, because it brought the light and freedom to the world. Therefore, the Buddha is called “The Bringer of Light or The Bringer of Freedom”. His arising in this world was, is, and will be for the good, welfare and happiness of the world. It was on this very full-moon Day of Vesak that it all started in this world and that the victory of the Buddha Himself and the world alike took place.

He passed away at the age of 80 at Kusinārā. Just before his passing away, he gave his very last message thus:

"ဟႏၵ ဒါနိ, ဘိကၡေဝ, အာမႏၲယာမိ ေဝါ, ဝယဓမၼာ သခၤါရာ, အပၸမာေဒန သမၸာေဒထ - Now, monks, I declare to you: all conditioned things are of a nature to decay — strive on with diligence".

For Buddhists, “Vesak” is a significant occasion for the above-mentioned three events of the Buddha.

In reality, Vesak is a Sinhalese word adapted from "Vesākha", which is a Pali month name. The month of "Vesākha" usually coincides with May. This is the reason why it is called Vesak. Now the word "Vesak" has become an international term, noted even on the United Nations calendar.

On this Vesak Day, it is a common tradition for Buddhists all over the world to pour fragrant and pure water at the Bodhi Trees at the pagoda platforms or temples in commemoration of the Buddha or as a mark of honouring the Buddha, remembering His unique virtues and match-less qualities. And Paritta, Paṭṭhāna and some Discourses are either individually or in groups chanted together with observing precepts, teaching and listening to the Dhamma, cultivating loving-kindness and practicing meditation.

According to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta of Digha Nikaya, on the day when the Lord Buddha passed away, the Sal-trees at the Kusinārā were untimely in blossom. And at the same time, gods from the sky were honoring the Buddha with divine music and song continuously. The Buddha has never been so honored, revered and worshiped before.

Then the Buddha said, "Ananda, whatever monk, nun, male lay-follower or female lay-follower lives practicing the Dhamma properly, and perfectly fulfils the Dhamma-way, he or she honors the Buddha, reveres him and pays him the supreme homage".

Here regarding honoring the Buddha, there are two kinds. They are called Amisapuja and Dhammapuja in Pali. Out of these two kinds, Amisapuja means honoring or showing respects to the Buddha with material or wealth such as offering alms-food, robes, flowers, lights, incense, fruit, music, song and so on. And Dhammapuja means honoring or showing respects to the Buddha by practicing the Dhamma.

According to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, the Buddha prefers to accept Dhammapuja from his followers. It clearly shows that it is very important for us Buddhists to practice the Dhamma. So, let's show our true respects to the Buddha not only with Amisa but also with the Dhamma!

May you find a peace of mind!

With best regards
Ven. Manita


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