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The Vesak Festival or Buddha Day

The Vesak festival, or Buddha Day, celebrates three major events in the life of the Buddha: his birth, Enlightenment and passing away on the full moon of the 6th lunar month (May). It is the most important festival in the Buddhist lunar calendar.

Buddhist festivals are a time for joy. The give Buddhists an opportunity to meet together, to take the Three Refuges and learn more about the Buddha's teachings. Families bring food, candles and flowers to the monks in the monasteries. In return, the monks chant the scriptures, lead a period of meditation and give teachings on the themes of the festival.

There is a party feel to the whole occasion. Houses and streets are cleaned and decorated with Buddhist flags and flowers. In villages, Buddhists gather around statues of the Buddha when it is dark. They walk around the statue with candles till all is covered in light.

During the Vesak celebration, an image of the new-born Buddha - in the gesture of pointing to the Truth - is usually displayed in the shrine room.

Baby Buddha

Buddhists use light (candles, butter lamps) to celebrate Vesak to recall that the Buddha showed people how to become enlightened. Why do you think lights are such a powerful symbol?

Vesak gifts
your own lanterns and cards for Vesak. Decorate them with symbols of the Buddha's birth and Enlightenment such as lotus flowers, lights and the bodhi tree.

[ Use the "Creating Vesak Gift" eBook in the "Activity Box" in this unit to make your Vesak cards ]

The Buddhist Flag

The design of the Buddhist flag is based on six colours of the aura that are believed to have shone around the head of the Buddha after his Enlightenment.

Buddhist Flag    
Blue: Compassion
Yellow: The Middle Path
Red : Blessings
White: Purity
Orange: Wisdom

The first five stripes of the flag are in five colours. The sixth colour is a conglomeration of the other five, but for the design, it has been separated into its constituent colours.

The Buddhist flag is a modern creation but it has come to symbolize the unity of Buddhists. It is now used worldwide in nearly sixty countries during Buddhist festivals, particularly during the Vesak celebrations.

[ In the "Activity Box" in this unit, find a line drawing of a Buddhist flag to colour in as a Vesak decoration ]

The Bodhi Tree

The tree the Buddha attained Enlightenment under, in Bodh Gaya, India, is called the bodhi tree. It is greatly revered in Buddhism. A bodhi tree can usually be found in the grounds of most temples or monasteries, and is decorated with flags, lamps and lanterns for the Vesak celebration.

It is a custom in Buddhist countries to paint on leaves from a bodhi tree, usually a picture of the Buddha, to give as gifts on Vesak day.

Find out all you can about 'Buddha Day' and how it is celebrated in Buddhist countries. Then present your research as a poster, a talk to your class or as a booklet.

[ In the "Activity Box" in this unit, find a line drawing of a bodhi leaf with the Buddha's image to colour in as a Vesak gift ]

Let's Continue! Work Unit 8
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