Vesak is traditionally celebrated by Buddhist all around the world to commemorate the birth, enlightenment and passing away “parinibbana” of Sakamuni Gautama Buddha. Vesak Day is internationally recognized for Gautama Buddha’s teachings, his compassion, peace, and loving kindness that touched the hearts of many throughout the world. In 1950 the World Fellowship of Buddhist first met in Sri Lanka and a resolution was passed to officially declare the day as a public holiday in honour of Lord Buddha.
In the Pali language this occasion is called “Visakha” whereas in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, this day is known as “Visakha Puja”. In Thailand and Laos it is known as “Visakha Bucha”; in Indonesia “Waisak”; in Myanmar “Kasone”, and in Sri Lanka and Malaysia it is known as “Vesak”.
The Sankrit meaning of Vesak in ancient India means full moon. Each year Vesak Day coincide with the first full moon in the 5th month. According to record Buddha was born on the full moon in the 5th month. Also on the same day 35 years later the prince attained perfect enlightenment under the Bodhi tree to become a Buddha. The day when he entered Nibbana was also on the full moon day in the 5th month. Collectively all the 3 significant events fell on the first full moon on the 5th month. For this reason, Buddhist devotees of later generations celebrates Vesak each year to commemorate the birth, enlightenment, and more importantly the teachings of Gautama Buddha to end sufferings thus achieving Nibbana bliss.
For Malaysia’s Buddhist devotees that follow Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, this celebration is no exception as it’s anticipated with high spirits by a large majority of lay Buddhist devotees. In order to highlight the significance of Vesak Day in the hearts and minds of Buddhist in Malaysia, we have chosen Wat Jayanti Buddha - a Theravada Buddhist Temple for this specific article.
Wat Jayanti Buddha is located at Peel Road in Kuala Lumpur and was established in 1957. It’s believed that in the beginning Wat Jayanti Buddha was originally a Chinese Mahayana temple. Today this temple is very much considered as a Thai temple even though the original architectural design still bears some Chinese motifs.
At the entrance visitors will be greeted by two statues of “Kylin”; a mystical lion with dragon head that is from Chinese geomancy origin. The temple compound is graced by the Great Brahma known in Thailand as “Phra Phrom” or Four-faced Buddha. On the temple compound Phra Sivali and Sangajai also received lots of veneration from devotees.
Each year Wat Jayanti will give away free amulets as token of appreciation to visiting devotees. As we witnessed during the Vesak Day on 17th May 2011 (B.E.2554), the temple had chosen Phra Pidta blessed by Luang Phor Ser from Singburi province. However, the amulets are in limited quantities and usually it will be given away in the morning. It is a good thing that the temple advised people to take this Pidta Mahalarp only if they take proper care of it as seen on the banner near the distributing counter.
People from all walks of life came for prayers at Wat Jayanti. The devotees’ mood is filled with enthusiasm for prosperity and good lucks after offering prayers. The usual procedure after offering prayers is to get holy water blessings from monks.
It is observed that many devotees are also amulet collectors and they would bring along their amulets in enclosed pouches to seek monks’ blessings. It might appear unorthodox at first but coming from the heart of the devotees, it is an auspicious day to re-blessed their amulets, buchas (e.g. Nam Kwak) or even money wallets to secure good fortunes.
Bathing of Buddha is another popular symbolic act during Vesak. This symbolic procession is rejuvenation of one’s hope and life aspiration to seek guidance and protection from Lord Buddha. We witnessed throng of people both young and old queuing up to wait for their turn to pour flower water over the Buddha figurine in signifying the bathing of Buddha in order to obtain blessings for peace and hope.
Beautifully flower decorated float procession is the main event from all participating Buddhist temples around the country. Different states e.g. Penang, K.L. Melaka, Johor has its floats possession organized.
Wat Jayanti is no exception in taking part in the annual Vesak float procession.
Vesak is often marked by chanting and Puja prayers in the morning followed by alms food offering to the Sangha. It’s also a day where charity and donations in kinds are received by the temple to maintain the Teachings of our Lord Buddha and the Sangha Order. This one day celebration ends with happiness with new resolute for me to pursue a new purpose in life. I wish the same happiness to all devoted Buddhist too.
May you too be well and happy always with the good deeds performed in this auspicious Vesak Day.
Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!