Monday, 1 June 2015

Happy Vesak Day (韦塞节) 2015

Seeking Peace
Lian Shan Shuang Lin Temple

Vesak Day is the most significant day of the year in the Buddhist calendar and is celebrated by Buddhists the world over. The day commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha and is a day of immense joy, peace and reflection. In Singapore, Vesak Day usually falls in the month of May, on the 15th day of the fourth month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar.

On this day, devout Buddhists and followers alike congregate at their various temples before dawn for the ceremonial, where the Buddhist flag will be hoisted, and hymns sung in praise of the holy triple gem: The Buddha, The Dharma (his teachings), and The Sangha (his disciples). Devotees often bring simple offerings of flowers, candles and joss-sticks to lay at the feet of their spiritual teacher. These symbolic offerings remind followers that life too, is subject to decay and destruction when the offering burns out or wilts away.

Buddhists believe that performing good deeds on Vesak Day will multiply merit many times over. Buddhist youth sometimes organise mass blood donations at hospitals, while general rites and rituals practiced on Vesak Day include chanting of mantras; releasing of caged birds and animals; having vegetarian meals; and "bathing" a Buddha statue, a reference to the legend of the child Buddha being showered with the waters of nine dragons soon after birth. These acts of generosity observed by the Buddhist temples are also known as Dana.

Most statues of the Lord Buddha are illuminated on Vesak Day, and the celebrations conclude with a candlelight procession through the streets. The Buddhist community in Singapore is made up of various sectors, each of them offering variant ways of celebrating the occasion – The Mahayana or "Greater Way" constitutes mainly Chinese Singaporeans and form the majority of Buddhists here, while the Mahayana strain of Buddhism arrived on these shores in 1884 through individual missionaries from China's southern province.

The central pillar of Mahayana Buddhism is that Nirvana can be obtained not just through self-perseverance but also through the help of bodhisattvas or "enlightened ones". One such bodhisattva highly regarded in Singapore is Guanyin, the "Goddess of Mercy". Mahayana Buddhist temples in Singapore like the Phor Kark See Temple on Bright Hill Road, practise the "three-step, one-bow" ritual on Vesak Day, where devotees take steps on both knees, bowing at every third step as they pray for world peace, personal blessings and repentance. The exhausting two-hour procession actually begins 24 hours before, when many would reserve a place in the procession, sometimes with only a small tissue packet. 

Meanwhile another main variant of Buddhism is Theravada Buddhism, with a focus on seeking one's own path to salvation. Mainly practised by Singapore's Sri Lankan and Burmese communities, the Burmese Buddhist Temple at Geylang and the Sri Lankaramaya Temple at St Michael's Road practise a ritual of cooking a pot of rice in milk on Vesak Day, reminiscent of Buddha's last meal before his long fast toward enlightenment.

A great place to observe and mark this holy day in Singapore is at the majestic Lian Shan Shuang Lin Temple which literally translates to the Twin Grove of the Lotus Mountain Buddhist Temple. Built between the years of 1902 to 1908, it is Singapore’s oldest Buddhist temple and the second largest in Asia. You can also soak in the spirit of the Vesak Day celebrations at The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, a four-storey spiritual centre in the heart of Chinatown. It is architecturally inspired by the harmonious combination of the Buddhist mandala and the art culture of Buddhism in the Tang dynasty.

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Vesak Day (卫塞节)
Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery

Vesak Day in Singapore is a holy day celebrated by Buddhists. It represents the birth, the Nirvana (enlightenment) and the Parinirvana (death) of Gautama Buddha and is the most significant day of the Buddhist calendar. Vesak Day usually falls in May, on the 15th day of the fourth month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar.

On Vesak Day, temples are decorated with flags and flowers. Devoted Buddhists and many observers of the faith congregate at their temple before dawn, saffron-clad monks chant the sutras, the Buddhist flag is raised and the people sing hymns to celebrate the Buddha, the Dharma (his teachings) and the Sangha (his disciples).

Worshippers bring offerings of flowers, candles and incense to lay at the feet of the statues. These offerings demonstrate that the believers accept that life, like the offerings, is subject to decay and destruction.

Buddhists believe that performing good deeds on Vesak Day will multiply merit and it is often a day when Buddhist youth organise mass blood donations at hospitals and other Buddhists perform acts of generosity that can include releasing of caged birds and animals, taking goods to the poor and needy, and making gifts to charity. These acts of generosity are also known as Dana.

The celebration concludes with a candlelit procession through the streets. Mahayana Buddhist temples in Singapore, like the Phor Kark, practise the “three-step, one-bow” ritual on Vesak Day. Devotees take steps on both knees, bowing at every third step as they pray for world peace, personal blessings and repentance. The exhausting two-hour procession actually begins 24 hours before, when many reserve a place in the procession.

The main theme of Vesak Day is to practice love, peace and harmony as taught by the Buddha.

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Buddha Purnima
2577th Birth Anniversary of Gautama Buddha

Buddha Purnima during Vaishakha month is celebrated as birth anniversary of Gautama Buddha. Gautama Buddha whose birth name was Siddhartha Gautama was a spiritual teacher on whose teachings Buddhism was founded.

The time of Gautama Buddha’s birth and death is uncertain. However, most historians date his lifetime between 563-483 B.C. Most people consider Lumbini, Nepal as birth place of Buddha. Buddha died at the age of 80 at Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh.

For Buddhists, Bodh Gaya is the most important pilgrimage site related to the life of Gautama Buddha. The other three important pilgrimage sites are Kushinagar, Lumbini, and Sarnath. It is believed that Gautama Buddha obtained Enlightenment at Bodhagaya and he first taught the Dharma at Sarnath.

It is believed that Gautama Buddha obtained Enlightenment and passed away on the same day. Buddha Purnima is also known as Buddha Jayanti, Vesak, Vaishaka and Buddha’s Birthday.

In North India Buddha is considered as the 9th incarnation and Lord Krishna as the 8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu. However Buddha is never considered as an Avatar of Vishnu in South Indian belief. In South India Balarama is considered as the 8th incarnation and Krishna as the 9th incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Balarama is counted as an incarnation of Vishnu by the majority of Vaishnava movements. Even Buddhists don’t consider Buddha as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

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Buddha Purnima
Buddhist Holiday celebrated in several countries around the world

Buddha Purnima is the most sacred day in the Buddhist calendar. It is the most important festival of the Buddhists, and is celebrated with great enthusiasm.

Although Buddhists regard every full moon as sacred, the moon of the month of Vaisakh has special significance because on this day the Buddha was born, attained enlightenment, and attained Nirvana when he died.

Shakyamuni Buddha, the historical founder of Buddhism, was born in India 3,000 years ago. There are various opinions concerning the exact dates of his birth and death, but according to Buddhist tradition, he is said to have been born April 8, 1029 BC and died on February 15, 949 BC, although other Buddhist scholars place his birth five hundred years later.

Shakyamuni Buddha was the son of the king of the Shakyas, a small tribe whose kingdom was located at the foothills of the Himalayas, south of what is now central Nepal, fifteen miles from Kapilavastu. Shakya of Shakyamuni is taken from the name of this tribe and muni means sage or saint. His family name was Gautama (Best Cow) and his given name was Siddhartha (Goal Achieved) though some scholars say this is a title bestowed on him by later Buddhists in honour of the enlightenment he attained.

Even though many Buddhists observe Buddha's historical birth on April 8, the exact date remains in question. Although modern archeological and historical research confirms that Prince Siddartha Gotama lived around this time.

The exact date of Vesak is the first full moon in the fourth month in the Chinese lunar calendar. The date varies from year to year in the Gregorian calendar, but is typically in May.

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Vesak Day (韦塞节)
Vesak Day celebration in Borobudur temple, Indonesia

Vesākha (Pali;Sanskrit: Vaiśākha, Devanagari: वैशाख), Wesak or Vesak, also known as Buddha Purnima and Buddha Day, is a holiday observed traditionally by Buddhists on different days in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Tibet, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and the South East Asian countries of Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar and Indonesia, and other places all over the world. Sometimes informally called "Buddha's Birthday", it actually commemorates the birth, enlightenment (nirvāna), and death (Parinirvāna) of Gautama Buddha in the Theravada or southern tradition.

The exact date of Vesak is based on the Asian lunisolar calendars and is primarily celebrated in Vaisakha month of the Buddhist calendar and the Hindu calendar, and hence the name 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 Hindu calendar, and is traditionally called Buddha Purnima, Purnima meaning the full moon day in Sanskrit. In Theravada countries following the Buddhist calendar, it falls on a full moon Uposatha day, typically in the 5th or 6th lunar month. In China, Japan, and Korea, it is celebrated on the eighth day 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 it may be 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 in the Hindu calendar falling in April–May (see Vaisakha).[5] In Mahayana Buddhist traditions, the holiday is known by its Sanskrit name (Vaiśākha) and derived variants of it.

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5 things you should know about this Buddhist celebration
More than 10,000 Buddhist devotees gathered at Hougang Stadium on May 24, 2015, as they held lotus-shaped candles and prayed for peace in the lead up to Vesak day on June 1. National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who is Buddhist, joined the procession.  -- PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

The day commemorates the birth, enlightenment and nirvana of Siddharta Gautama Shakyamuni Buddha. It is celebrated by Buddhists around the world.

The date of Vesak Day varies around the world depending on the lunar calendars used in different cultures. Generally, in countries following the Western Gregorian calendar, it will happen in May, or June during leap years. However, in China, Japan and Korea, Vesak Day is celebrated on April 8.

On the day, Buddhists will usually visit their temples for ceremonies which will include prayers and offerings of candles and flowers. Other common rituals include bathing a Buddha statue, sharing in vegetarian meals as well as listening to teachings by monks.

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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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