Vesakha

Vesakha

On May 19th, 2019, Vesakha was celebrated.  This day is also known as Buddha Jayanti, Buddha Purnima or Buddha Day.  This day celebrates a trilogy of the birth, enlightenment and death of Guatama Buddha. The celebration is usually held on the first full moon of the month of May.  The day of actual celebration will depend on the country and the moon cycle.

This celebration is an opportunity for the devout and regular followers to follow the eight precepts of the day. Normally there are five precepts but on this day there are eight.  The eight precepts include the abstinence of taking life, stealing, sexual relations, lying, intoxicants, eating at the wrong time, entertainment, wearing adornments and cosmetics and finally, sleeping in high places.  The iconography includes flowers, candles and joss-sticks.  Because these items have a fixed beginning and end in their life cycle of use, they are symbolic of the demise of life through decay and destruction.

On this day, it is a true celebration of another trilogy.  It celebrates the Buddha, his teachings and his disciples.  There is also a ceremonious display of releasing birds, insects and animals into the wild.  This act represents the liberation of those held in captivity.  This is also a time to bring happiness to the sick, aged and physically challenged.  It is a time for great joy through the decorating of temples and the creation of grand public pieces.

In Indonesia, the day is known as Waisak Day and has been celebrated as a national holiday since 1983.  Indonesia celebrates the Waisak in different ways according to the location.

The great gathering of monks is at the Borobudar temple where there is the repeating of Mantras and much meditation.  The ceremony is three-tiered.  There is the eternal flame, the blessed water and then an offering of food to the monks.  The celebration culminates with the releasing of sky lanterns.  These lanterns symbolize light and enlightenment.  It is quite a visual effect to see the night sky littered with floating lights in the foreground of a full moon.

In Yogyakarta, there is the carnival of Kirab Agung Amisa Puja.  The parade consists of the participants wearing traditional Javanese clothing.  This garb choice is significant for cultural blends.  This ceremony also highlights fire and water.  The carnival winds down with prayers and sacred readings. 

Pekanbaru also has a parade.  This parade includes prayers.  These prayers are a little more diverse in their focus.  The prayers are made for the blessings of Indonesia and God Almighty, gods in general and Buddha. 

The second largest celebration is held at Muara Jambi Temple.  This celebrations hosts music, food and art.  Ironically this goes against one of the eight precepts.  This celebration also ends with the releasing of lanterns floating into the sky in the foreground of the full moon.  Even though there are variances in the celebration, Waisak day is a great way to embrace the various cultures of Indonesia and show support for differing beliefs in this great nation.

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