When the moon is full in the constellation of Scorpio and the sun is in Taurus (usually the full moon in May), a world-wide event takes place that is oftentimes referred to as Wesak (also known as Vesak, Sanskrit Vaishakha, Pali Vesakha). In the East, this date also marks a celebration of Gautama Buddha's birth, attainment of Buddhahood, and His departure from the outer physical body.
He was born Siddharta Gautama in northern India at Kapilavatthu on the border of modern Nepal in the period between 623 B.C. and 563 BC on the day of the full moon in May. He was the son of the king and queen of the Sakya kingdom. Receiving an education befitting a royal son, Prince Siddharta married and had a son. He led a luxurious life at home and was blissfully unaware of the sufferings and sorrows of life outside the palace gates. In his twenty-ninth year, realizing the fleeting nature of physical life and the vanity of material pleasures, he resolved to leave his palace in search of Truth and Peace.
It was on the night of the full moon in May that Siddartha sat on the grass under the famous fig tree (Bodhi tree) at Buddhagaya. He entered into a very deep meditation, during which veil after veil was lifted that covered the face of Truth. Finally, He beheld the fullness of that blessed Truth, which completely transfigured Him. He obtained perfect Enlightenment (Samma Sambodhi) in his thirty-fifth year. Gaining the attainment of "Buddha" (The Awakened One), He was thereafter known as Gautama Buddha (Buddha Gotama).
Having successfully completed His noble mission in His eightieth year, He retired to Kusinara, a small hamlet, and lying on a couch between two Sala trees, passed out of physical limitations and Ascended in a peaceful state of mind on a Wesak Full Moon Day more than 2500 years ago.
In some parts of Asia, the Wesak Festival has been regarded as a public holiday for centuries. It is a day of reunion, of pilgrimage and of joyful expectancy. Devotees believe the most important things to practice are the good virtues of kindness and generosity to all living things. There are stands by the sides of some roads from which free food or drinks are given to people walking by. The streets are filled with entertainers, pageants, and happiness. The celebration begins at dawn when devotees gather at the temples to meditate on the Eight Precepts. Common traditions include the giving of donations and food to the needy, as well as the offerings of incense and prayers in the homes and temples. The Sutras are chanted in unison by monks in saffron robes. The celebration is highlighted by a candle light procession. In Sri Lanka, Buddhists dress in white and carry baskets of flowers to the local monasteries. Buddhists all over the world decorate monasteries with Buddhist flags, lanterns, and flowers. Some people donate blood to hospitals, while others hand out free spiritual books. It is considered a very holy day. However only a handful of the spiritually minded recognize the Inner Significance of the day.
The dates of Christian holy days are established by past events or by happenings which occurred centuries ago. The Wesak Festival is in recognition of a present living event. This Heavenly Event takes place annually at the time of the full moon of Taurus (often called the "May Full Moon"), and at that event there is released upon Earth (according to the measure of man's demand) the Blessing of God Himself, transmitted through Gautama Buddha and Lord Maitreya, the Cosmic Christ. This happening has its physical / etheric counterparts. Paralleling the spiritual ceremony, an event of importance also takes place simultaneously in a little valley in Tibet, on the further side of the Himalayas. It is there that the earthly ceremony of blessing takes place, and to that valley many people in and around the district find their way as pilgrims towards the Light. There a solemn ritual is performed, which can be as definitely seen and heard as can any ceremonial in any of our great cathedrals.
Now with the advent of the Internet, Gautama's Address to the world can be heard world-wide. You are invited to be present in Tucson, Arizona for the Service at The Temple of The Presence, or to participate on the live Internet Broadcast.
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