► Vesak Day or Wesak Day
24 May 2013, Friday
Vesak Day, also known as Wesak Day, or more commonly known as “Buddha’s birthday”, celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha. This holiday is widely celebrated in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, and many parts of Asia. In Singapore, the holiday is started in the morning with Buddhists and devotees gathering at temples for a morning ceremony. During this ceremony, a Buddhist flag will be raised and monks will recite the sutras. Followers will visit temples to pray and to give offerings of flowers, incense, and much more. These offerings symbolize that life will end since flowers will wilt and incense will turn to dust. Other rituals that will be observed are: releasing caged birds, bathing a Buddha statue, candlelight processions, having vegetarian meals, and doing good deeds. Acts of good deeds are known as “dana” and it’s believed that doing good deeds on this particular day brings more rewards. Buddhists will come to visit the needy and give donations, and young Buddhists often organize blood drives at local hospitals. The bathing of a Buddha statue is to commemorate his birth and some believed it’s also to remind followers to purify their minds from greed and hatred. At night there will be solemn candlelight processions through the streets. Some of the popular temples to celebrate this holiday are: Thai Buddhist Temple at Jalan Bukit Merah, Buddhist Lodge at River Valley Road, Lian Shan Shuang Lin Temple at Jalan Toa Payohand, and The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown.
There are many different sectors of Buddhism in Singapore and each celebrates Vesak in unique ways. The largest sector is the Mahayana which is made up of Chinese Singaporeans. Temples for this sector will perform the two-hour “three-step, one-bow” ritual. Buddhists will be on their knees as they step up and will bow at every third step as a way to ask for peace, blessings, and forgiveness. Another sector is the Theravada which has mostly Sri Lankan Singaporeans and Burmese Singaporeans and they will have the ritual of cooking rice in milk. This ceremony is to remember Buddha’s last meal before his enlightenment fast. You can see this practice at Sri Lankaramaya Temple at St Michael’s Road or Burmese Buddhist Temple at Geylang.