Vesak Day

Vesak Day Quick Facts - GB

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2024 Date23 May 2024

Vesak Day

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Vesak Day History

Vesak Day, also known as Buddha Purnima, marks the birth, enlightenment (Buddhahood), and death (Parinirvāna) of Gautama Buddha. The day serves as a time for Buddhists and others around the world to reflect on the life and teachings of the Buddha. It's a day dedicated to promoting peace and happiness throughout the world, with followers engaging in meditation, prayer, and acts of charity. Temples are often adorned with lanterns and the air filled with incense to commemorate the occasion.

Vesak Day has ancient origins, dating back over 2000 years. The significance of this celebration extends beyond the Buddhist population and reaches individuals in the United Kingdom. As Buddhism is recognised as the fourth largest religion in the country, a growing number of people embrace this day with keen interest and respect. Schools and colleges often incorporate lessons on the meaning of Vesak Day into their curriculum. Acts of charity during Vesak also see participation from non-Buddhists, further highlighting the universal message of peace and compassion that the day embodies.

In the United Kingdom, Vesak Day celebrations primarily take place in Buddhist temples, cultural centres, and meditation centres. The activities include offerings of food and necessities to the monks, meditation, chanting of Buddhist scriptures, and rituals like "Bathing the Buddha". Additionally, lantern processions and peaceful marches feature prominently in some regions. This day represents a coming together of diverse communities unified under the shared values of peace, compassion and goodwill. Vesak Day typically falls in the month of May, and while exact dates might vary, it is usually observed on the full moon day of the ancient lunar month of Vesakha.

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
  • Buddhism has had a presence in the U.K. since the early 20th century, when the Buddhist Society was established in 1924. Over the years, the religion has become more prominent and its holidays, like Vesak, more recognized.
  • In 2008, for the first time ever, the UN Day of Vesak celebrations were held outside Asia, in the city of Leeds, UK, honouring the international nature of this festival.

Top things to do in the UK 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 documentary to learn more about Vesak Day:
    The Buddha: The Story of Siddhartha (2010) by David Grubin: This documentary narrates the life of Siddhartha Gautama, the historical figure who became the Buddha, and provides insights into the origins of Buddhism.
    Seven Wonders of the Buddhist World (2011) by Bettany Hughes: This documentary takes viewers on a journey to explore the most significant Buddhist sites around the world, including temples and sacred locations in the United Kingdom.
  • Join in on Meditation sessions and religious ceremonies: Many Buddhist centers and temples, such as the London Buddhist Centre, Amaravati Monastery, and Kagyu Samye Dzong London, hold meditation sessions, chanting, and prayer rituals to commemorate the life and teachings of the Buddha.

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