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Buddha Day or Wesak
These notes are intended to help increase understanding and awareness of Buddhism and the celebration of Buddha Day or Wesak.
Buddha Day is also known as Wesak and is one of the most celebrated Buddhist festivals. Celebrations of the birth of Buddha take place on the full moon in May and for some Buddhists it is also a mark of his death.
Buddha translates into “one who is awake” and therefore is enlightened. The term is used to describe a person who has gained supreme wisdom and compassion of Enlightenment and is viewed as a blessed state of being.
Many of Buddha's disciples have attained Enlightenment, and there have been many other Enlightened teachers.
Wesak is when Buddhists remember the story of how Buddha gained Enlightenment as well reflecting on what it would mean to an individual to go down the path of Enlightenment.
The celebrations involve much colour and enjoyment where houses are given a spring clean and then decorated with colourful objects for example, paper and wood lanterns are used to decorates homes in Thailand.
There are many activities during the festival of Wesak which include visiting the temple and lighting candles. Monks are offered food too. The “Bathing of Buddha” involves pouring water over the Buddha’s shoulders as a reminder to purify the mind from greed, hatred and ignorance.
Chinese Buddhists incorporate elements of their country's culture into their religious celebrations like the traditional dancing dragons.
Gifts are offered to the Buddha statues as a sign of respect and gratitude to the Buddha for his life and teachings.
If there is food it is usually vegetarian as Buddhists try not to harm animals.