Wesak, or Vesak, also known as Buddha Day, is a day for Buddhists to celebrate Siddhartha Gautama’s birth, enlightenment, and death.
The day is one marked for prayer and good deeds.
On this day, many Buddhist temples are adorned with beautiful lights and candles. Thousands of practitioners gather together at these temples to pray. One tradition includes releasing birds and other animals as a symbol of liberation.
Sometimes, practitioners bathe statues of Buddha. For example, thousands at the Chempaka Buddhist Lodge in Petaling Jaya walked up to pour holy water from ladles over Buddha statues while offering their prayers.
Wesak is a day to remind everyone to do good deeds. Ven Hemaloka reminds Buddhists on the day, “As Buddhists, we are encouraged to practice what the Buddha taught us which is cultivate good habits and values. It can be just doing one good deed a day and in a year, you will have 365 good deeds.”
Liow Tiang Lai, a politician from Malaysia, used the day to bring Buddhism into modern times. He called for a “New Dawn of Buddhism” that better recognized interactions with modern technology. One of the points he wanted to further was an increase in internet education so as to protect children who are now more exposed to negative ideas sooner and more frequently than they had been prior to the internet.
Buddha Day is actually celebrated at different times in different parts of the world. Some festivals are as early as April in places like China, Korea, and Japan. The reason for the difference in celebration days is that the holiday varies depending on which calendar is used to schedule it. Most of those who celebrate the day do so on the full moon in May or June.