Friday, 24 May 2013

Fó Dàn Ri 佛誕 日 (Vesak Day)

Buddha's Birthday: Fó Dàn Rì 佛诞日 (Simplified) 佛誕日 (Traditional)
A statue of the child Gautama Buddha as depicted in his apocryphal story of birth

Buddha's Birthday is a holiday traditionally celebrated in Mahayana Buddhism to commemorate the birth of the Prince Siddhartha Gautama, later the Gautama Buddha and founder of Buddhism. According to the Theravada Tripitaka scriptures (from Pali, meaning "three baskets"), Gautama was born in Lumbini in modern-day Nepal, around the year 563 BCE, and raised in Kapilavastu.

The exact date of Buddha's Birthday is based on the Asian lunisolar calendars and is primarily celebrated in Baisakh month of the Buddhist calendar and the Bikram Sambat Hindu calendar, and hence it is also called Vesak. In Nepal, which is considered the birth-country of Buddha, it is celebrated on the full moon day of the Vaisakha month of the Buddhist calendar.

In China, Hong Kong and Korea, it is celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth month in the Chinese lunar calendar. In Nepal and neighboring South Asian and Southeast Asian countries (Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore), Buddha's birthday Vesak Day (韦塞节) is celebrated on the 15th day of 4th lunar month.

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Vesak Day 韦塞节,佛诞

Vesak day is a Buddhist holiday commemorating the birth, enlightenment and death of the historical Shakyamuni Gautam Buddha. As there are diverse Buddhist cultures around the world, Vesak day is celebrated on different days by different traditions. Chinese Mahayana Buddhist celebrates the Vesak Day on the 8th day of the 4th lunar month while the Theravada Buddhist celebrates Vesak on the on 15th day of the 4th lunar month, the full moon Uposatha day. As it follow the lunar calendar, Vesak Day falls on different day each year. See Chinese festivals for this year's Vesak Day date. In China, Hong Kong and Korea it is celebrated on 8th day while in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore it is celebrated on 15th Day of 4th Lunar Month falling on 24 May this year.

On Vesak day, Buddhists visit monasteries to offer their prayers and to attend sermons led by Buddhist Venerables. Buddhist prayers often extend beyond themselves to pray for world peace and harmony. They also perform rituals such as the bathing of the Buddha; A symbolic act to commemorate the devas and spirits who made offerings to the Buddha at the time of his birth. During the Vesak Day period, monasteries are decorated with Buddhist flags and flowers while vegetarian restaurants offer promotions as people abstain from meat as an act of compassion. Many Buddhist will also make donations to charity organizations and to free animals that are captured for human consumption.

So although the dates of Vesak may differ from tradition to tradition, Buddhist communities share a common focus in their celebration and their hope for world peace and harmony. This celebration of common themes and objectives against the backdrop of cultural diversity is a unique feature of Buddhism.



Vesak celebrations

The Buddhists observe Vesak Day, which denotes perfection and commemorates the birth, enlightenment and Nirvana (liberation from earthly passions and desires) of the Buddha. Vesak falls on the full moon day in the fifth month of the year. The occasion is marked by chanting, recitations and offerings at shrines; the ritualistic bathing of Prince Siddartha(the earthly name of the Buddha) statue; the practice of vegetarianism; and the release of captive animals. Temples are also decorated with flags, lights and flowers, and vegetarian meals are served to those present.

The joint Vesak celebrations held by Buddhist organisations and temples are observed by the practice of dana (the virtue of generosity). Gifts in cash and kind are distributed to the poor and needy through charitable organisations, regardless of their race or religion. Buddhist youths participate in mass blood donation exercises held in hospitals. Some Buddhists also visit homes for the aged, drug rehabilitation centres and prisons to share the joy of Vesak with the inmates.

Vesak celebrations in Singapore are also marked by mass candlelight processions, in which thousands of devotees participate to chant sutras (holy verses) and pay homage to the Buddha. The highlight of the festival is a mass religious and cultural gathering held at either the Singapore Indoor Stadium or a major public theatre.



Vesak Day 卫塞节
Vesak Day

Vesak Day For Buddhists the world over marks the birthday of the Lord Gautama Buddha. In Singapore, the many followers of Buddha pay a visit to the various Buddhist temples dotting the island for a day of worship and prayer.

Priests in the newest saffron-coloured robes chant blessings and sprinkle holy water at the devotees, and for many Buddhists this is the time to re-dedicate themselves to the central teachings of Gautama - moderation and the release from worldly desires. In many temples, priests will release a flock of doves from a cage, to signify humanity's freedom from earthly bondages.

Priests in the newest saffron-coloured robes chant blessings and sprinkle holy water at the devotees, and for many Buddhists this is the time to rededicate themselves to the central teachings of Gautama - moderation and the release from worldly desires. In many temples, priests will release a flock of doves from a cage, to signify humanity's freedom from earthly bondages.



Vesak 卫塞节

Vesākha (Pali;Sanskrit: Vaiśākha, Sinhala: වෙසක් පෝය, Devanagari: वैशाख, Bengali: বুদ্ধ পূর্ণিমা or ভেসাক, Thai: วิสาขบูชา), Wesak or Vesak also known as Buddha Purnima is a holy day observed traditionally by Buddhists in Sri Lanka, Tibet, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and the South East Asian countries of Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Sometimes informally called "Buddha's Birthday", it actually commemorates the birth, enlightenment (nirvāna), and death (Parinirvāna) of Gautama Buddha.

The exact date of Vesākha varies according to the various lunar calendars used in different traditions. In Theravada countries following the Buddhist calendar, it falls on a full moon Uposatha day, typically in the 5th or 6th lunar month. Vesākha Day in China and Korea is on the eighth of the fourth month in the Chinese lunar calendar. The date varies from year to year in the Western Gregorian calendar, but usually falls in April or May. In leap years Vesākha is celebrated in June.

The name of the observance is derived from the Pali term vesākha or Sanskrit vaiśākha, which is the name of the lunar month falling in April–May (see Vaisakha). In Mahayana Buddhist traditions, the holiday is known by its Sanskrit name (Vaiśākha) and derived variants of it. Local renditions of the name vary by language.

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Vesak Day 韦塞节

Vesak Day, formerly also spelt as 'Wesak Day' until the 1970s, commemorates the birth, enlightenment and nirvana of Siddharta Gautama Shakyamuni (Sakyamuni) Buddha. The day falls on the full moon of the fourth lunar month - the month of Viskha in Pali.

Celebrations in Singapore - The earliest mention in The Straits Times of Vesak Day being celebrated in Singapore was a notice by jeweller B. P. de Silva on 7 May 1925 (p.7) that he would be closed to celebrate the Wesak Festival. In subsequent years, The Straits Times mentions "carolling" in conjunction with Vesak Day celebrations. Most newspaper reports from before the Second World War link Vesak Day with the Ceylonese community as the Ceylonese celebrated their National Day together with Vesak Day as a two-day event.

It was only after World War II that the movement to make Vesak Day a public holiday started. According to Ong Y. D., the first of many petitions to the government to make Vesak Day a public holiday was from the Singapore Buddhist Association in October 1947. Both Theravada and Mahayana communities then united to form a joint Vesak Holiday Committee in 1949. However, a government Select Committee in 1950 recommended against adding Vesak Day to the number of holidays. It said that there was "insufficient evidence" of public support for it.
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