May 27, 2010

Happy Birthday, Buddha

. . . and happy enlightenment, and happy passing away.

Today many Buddhist countries around the world celebrate Vesak (sometimes called Buddha Purnima or Buddha Jayanti), a holiday that commemorates all three of these major events of the Buddha’s life. It takes place annually at the end of May, when the moon is full.

How it is celebrated depends on where it is celebrated. 

In Sri Lanka, the practice of dana (giving) is important—rich, poor, high-caste, low-caste are all treated to food at alms-halls. Special prayers wishing for peace and prosperity to all living beings will take place at a national program in Bangladesh. In Russia, people will flock to the Ivolginsky datsan, the most important Buddhist monastery in the country, to view the preserved body of the Khambo Lama. In Singapore the Prime Minister sends his greetings.

Two years ago, I was in Lumbini, Nepal (the birthplace of the Buddha) during the Vesak celebration, shooting a short documentary about the development of Lumbini as a Buddhist pilgrimage site. One of these days I’m going to put that film on this blog. Stay tuned!

Image: Two monks talking at a Buddha Jayanti celebration in Lumbini
© Ajay Pillarisetti

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