Amid its air of festivity, Wesak Day, which falls on May 10 this year, is a reminder to devotees that they should follow a path of righteousness.
IT isn’t just about incense sticks and flowers when devotees make their offerings on Wesak Day.
Smoke rising from incense sticks represents the absence of ego.The flowers symbolise the impermanence of all physical matters; that it is important not to be attached to earthly delights.
Offerings of water are given to help bring to mind purity in thought, word and deed.
“These may be the ritualistic aspects of how Buddhists show devotion, but they serve to reinforce the Dhamma (teachings),” says Vijaya Samarawickrama, a Buddhist speaker and writer.
Come Wednesday, more than five million Malaysians will take part in these acts of devotion across the country.
For Buddhists, Wesak Day commemorates the birth, enlightenment and passing of the founder of the religion – Siddhatta Gotama Buddha.
The faithful will head to temples to pay their respects to the Great Teacher.
But above the din and the crowds, the distinct sound of chanting will be heard as monks and devotees recite passages from the ancient teachings.
According to Vijaya, who is also the patron of Buddhist Maha Vihara’s temple governing body, the myriad of activities held during the day are meant to engage followers at a spiritual level.
“The faithful walk in with devotion in mind and proceed to take part in spiritual activities including blood-donation, partaking in vegetarian meals and volunteering at old folks’ homes.
“Though it begins with devotion, it leads to spirituality and wisdom. That is the Buddhist path,” he explains.
Wesak Day in Malaysia is unique as it has an element of festivity.
In the evening, huge processions will be held across the nation, featuring hundreds of brightly lit floats that will be paraded through towns.
The one in Kuala Lumpur is expected to attract a crowd of 40,000. It will take four hours to complete its journey around the city centre.
Amid the celebration and merrymaking, Ven Datuk K. Sri Dhammaratana Nayaka Maha Thero reminds devotees about the true meaning of Wesak.
“It is not merrymaking. That is what I always highlight.
“It is to encourage people to learn and practise the teachings, especially during this holy day. We must try our best to cultivate Buddhist values,” says Dhammaratana who is the chief of the 122-year-old Buddhist Maha Vihara in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur.
The ceremonies and festivities held on Wesak Day are meant to attract followers to the temple.
Attesting to this is the chief of Sri Jayanti Buddhist temple, Ven B. Saranankara Maha Thera.
“It is something we cannot neglect. As a small child, what drew me to the temples were the hymn singing and the other colourful ceremonies. If you want a kid to sit down and meditate, I don’t think many would come!” he chuckled
Abbess of the Sam Poh Thong temple Ven Sing Kan agrees, saying that a pure and calm mind gives rise to compassion and kindness.
“These are the qualities needed for a peaceful and harmonious society. Ultimately, the Buddha’s teachings have only one goal, which is to end suffering,” she said. Wesak Day is also known as “Buddha Day” and is observed by over 500 million followers all over the world.