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What is Vesak and Why is it Important?

Vesak is a very significant day for Buddhists. It marks the birth, the enlightenment, and the passing away of Buddha. This falls on the full moon day of the month of May. Lots of monks from adjoining states visit Chicago Buddhist Vihara, because Chicago is a very well-known place for Buddhism. To celebrate this sacred event we do meritorious activities from morning to evening. The lay people bring flowers and offerings to worship the Buddha. They meditate and listen to the monks talk. Lay people are people that follow Buddhism, but aren’t the Sangha.

How do we celebrate Vesak?

Daana – Almsgiving

Daana (The virtue of generosity or giving, a form of alms – Wikipedia). It can take many forms of giving to an individual in distress or need, philanthropic projects that empower and help many, and also in Buddhism, providing necessities to Monks and Lay people, who are practicing the teachings of Buddha, with the intention to become enlightened. Providing for Monks, is considered one of the most meritorious activity as by doing so, you will be not only helping an individual in quest for Nirwana, but also helping the Maha-Sangha (The entire monk community) to sustain and preserve Dhamma for many more generations to come.

On Vesak day and many other occasions, Chicago Buddhist Viahara is organizing Daana activities providing opportunity for our community to accumulate merits and develop the rewarding habits of giving and sharing. Giving also helps our quest to Nirwana, as the very first step of letting go the attachments to materialistic elements.

Sila – Self Decipline

Observing the eight precepts is the most important activity during Vesak. The eight precepts have three extra precepts in addition to the five precepts that Buddhists follow during their day to day lives.

The five precepts are:

On Vesak day (and some times in other fullmoon days), Lay people will also observe three additional precepts, which are:

Typically, when you observe the eight precepts you wear white clothes with a long sash across your chest.

The five precepts helps people to live a peacful and harmonious life and the extra three precepts help to simply the life providing a calm and conductive atmosphere to stay focus on Dhamma and mediation.

Bhawana – Meditation

Meditation helps to calm the mind and focus on innerworkings of mind, life and universal aspects of circle of life. Buddhism provides very rich and sophisticated forms of meditaion. While ultimate goal of meditation is to attain Nirwana, meditation also helps to reduce stress hence improvnig both mental and phyiscal health.
During Vesak, Chicago Buddhist Vihara is conduction special Medidtaion sessions.

Some memorable group activties as well..
Making lanterns is a pleasurable activity for the kids. Wooden sticks are glued together to make the frame. Colored tissue paper is glued to the frame to decorate it. The day ends with a parade of dazzling lanterns.

All in All Vesak is the most important day for Buddhists. Vesak is the day to recollect and have self-reflection

By: Sean Randunna and Gavin Godage
Dhamma School – 7th Grade