Vesak: How Buddha’s Birthday Is Celebrated Around The World

What do you get for the man who has attained perfect enlightenment? That depends on where in the world you are celebrating.

Buddha’s birthday, known as Vesak Day (or Wesak), is celebrated on various dates in the spring throughout the world, and each Buddhist culture has its own traditions for the day. It is usually observed during the first full moon in May.

Buddhists celebrate the Buddha’s three most important life stages on Vesak: Birth, Enlightenment and Death, which traditionally are said to all have happened on the same day of the calendar throughout his life. The birth story is important because the Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal, while his mother stood holding onto a tree. Once born he is said to have taken seven steps forward after which a lotus flower arose from each footstep. He then declared that this was his last rebirth and that he would become an enlightened individual.

In South Korea, followers light lotus lanterns that cover the temples in remembrance of these lotus footsteps. In Sri Lanka, where colorful lanterns are also used, elaborate electric light displays depict different stories from the Buddha’s life. In Indonesia, Buddhists light and release lanterns into the air while visiting the Borobudur temple. In Taiwan, followers pour fragrant water over Buddha statues to symbolizing a fresh start in life. In Singapore, devotees set caged birds free on the Buddha’s birthday.

Once a year throughout the world all Buddhist traditions celebrate The Buddhas birthday in various ways.

Here at the New Zealand Sati Arama Buddhist Centre the day began with a short dhamma talk, followed by walking and sitting meditation. People gave offerings of flowers, tea and many lotus lamps for Buddhas celebration. Even a local offering of raw milk was given!

A beautiful Hawaiian song was given by a local American family. Happy birthday was sang for Buddha in English, German and Korean!

The day was finished with a shared pot luck lunch, and great day was had celebrating the birthday.