With an estimated ballpark of 500 million followers, Buddhism is among the top five largest religions in the world. Its origin is unquestionably attributed to Gautama Buddha, otherwise called Siddhartha Gautama (480 BCE-400 BCE). He was an Indian prince born to King Suddhodana and Queen Mahamaya of the Kingdom of Kapilavastu in Northern India, who prophetically named him Siddharta or “the one who has brought all good.’’
Commonly spelled Wesak or Vesak, the word is derived from vesakha or vaisakh, respectively of the ancient languages Pali and Sanskrit. These terms refer to the Indian lunar month in the vicinity of May. Wesak Day, the Sunday nearest to the month’s full moon, is when Buddhists reflect as well as celebrate the birth of the Buddha, his enlightenment and the day he died and entered Parinirvana, which is a stage beyond Nirvana that is attained after death.
As a 29-year-old, the Buddha, despite the worldly comforts of palace life, was deeply troubled by human suffering and pondered about its causes. His quest to seek answers led to a six-year pilgrimage that brought enlightenment as he sat under a Bo tree at Buddha Gaya. It was under this tree that Siddharta became the Buddha, or the Fully Enlightened One. He teaches that man’s ignorance is the root of all misery.
While man blames external forces for his troubles, his insatiable craving or greed for the temporal things in life at the expense of moral and spiritual development produces within him fear, worry, envy, jealousy, doubt, insecurities and more. The Buddha espouses letting go of the temporal and embracing mindfulness and kindness through meditation and profound reflection.
In Malaysia, Wesak Day falls on 19 May this year, and can be perceived at various Buddhist temples. If visiting one of these temples, expect to see religious rituals such as “bathing of the Buddha”, chanting of holy scriptures, the lighting of joss sticks and the ordination of monks.
On this day, devotees will release doves as a mark of liberation, offer alms to monks and provide free meals to the needy. At nightfall, there will likely be grand processions in cities such as Kuala Lumpur, George Town, Johor Bahru, Seremban and Melaka.
WHEN 19 May