Vesak Day

Vesak Day Quick Facts - AU

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2024 Date23 May 2024

Vesak Day

Vesak Day in

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Vesak Day History

Vesak Day, also known as Buddha Purnima or Buddha Day, marks the universal celebration of the birth, enlightenment and passing away of Gautama Buddha, the spiritual founder of Buddhism. The day is filled with acts of charity, virtue and kindness as Buddhists ponder the teachings of Buddha and strive to lead a more enlightened and compassionate life. It is widely recognised as an opportunity to reflect on the practices of love, peace, and non-violence, key principles in the Buddhist philosophy.

While Vesak Day has roots in ancient Asian history, its significance has transcended geographical boundaries, finding a place within the multicultural fabric of Australian society. There are now thousands of practicing Buddhists in Australia, many with Asian ancestry, but also a growing number of Australians who've adopted elements of Buddhist philosophy into their lives. Vesak Day plays an important role in promoting mutual understanding and inter-religious harmony, fostering unity among the diverse fabric of Australian communities.

In Australia, Vesak Day is typically observed with organised activities in Buddhist temples and community centres. Rituals may include meditation, the recitation of sutras (Buddhist scriptures), procession of Buddha images, acts of charity and lighting of candles. Participants often create lanterns, symbolic of enlightenment, and some Australians plant trees, reflecting the Buddha's birth in a grove. This observance illuminates a facet of Australia's vibrant, multicultural identity and contributes to the dynamic interfaith dialogue within Australia. Vesak Day varies annually, typically falling in May or early June, depending on the lunar calendar.

Facts about Vesak Day

  • About 535 million people around the world practice Buddhism.
  • According to the World Population Review, as of 2022, the countries with the highest proportion of Buddhist followers are:
    1) Cambodia
    2) Thailand
    3) Myanmar
    4) Bhutan
    5) Sri Lanka
  • In 2007, for the first time, the South Australian Jodo Shinshu Buddhist community celebrated Vesak outside of a temple setting, choosing to host events in public spaces to foster greater engagement and interaction with non-Buddhists.
  • Many Australian Vesak Day celebrations also participate in the tradition of "Bathing the Buddha", where water is poured over a statue of Buddha as a gesture of purifying the mind from greed, hatred and ignorance.

Top things to do in Australia for Vesak Day

  • Practice mindfulness. The Buddha taught that the way to end suffering is by eliminating desire. Be mindful and aware of your thoughts and actions. Try to understand why you do the things that you do.
  • Explore several Buddhist Heritage Sites. UNESCO has partnered with the Korea International Cooperation Agency to develop a project that promotes Buddhist heritage sites.
  • Watch a Film to learn more about Vesak Day:
    1) Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring (2003) - A South Korean film that portrays Buddhist teachings through the changing seasons and the human life cycle.
    2) 7 Years in Tibet (1997) - A drama film that recounts an Austrian mountaineer's experiences living in Tibet and learning about Buddhism.
  • Watch a Documentary to learn more about Vesak Day in Australia:
    1) The Buddha (2010) - A PBS documentary directed by David Grubin exploring the life and teachings of the Buddha.
    2) Walk with Me (2017) - A documentary about a community of Zen Buddhist monks and nuns who have dedicated their lives to mastering the art of mindfulness with their world-famous teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh.

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