Wesak: The Celebration of Buddha

The ancient ceremony of Wesak, began in the East, in Tibet. Wesak is a celebration of the birth, the enlightenment, and the death of Buddha all of which occurred during the full moon of Taurus.

Nowadays, many Buddhist groups are still celebrating Wesak; during this old rite they give the public the opportunity to learn the teachings of Lord Buddha, and realize the existence of a Higher Brotherhood and the close link some can have.

The festival of Wesak ( named after a valley in Tibet ), is able to unify both eastern and western spirituality. It is said, that Christ and Buddha, are present, together, during this sacred ceremony, to signify the strong, unifying, link, between the two divines,

The main aim of the festival is to let know, to the world, the teachings of the Lord Buddha, and to evoke the spirit of Peace ,on earth.

Since the year 1946 this ceremony had spread in the western world,too.

The Buddha was, and is, one of the most influential personalities in all of human history. His teachings are followed by more than 500 million people. Who was the man who set this incredible and complex religious tradition in motion? The Buddha is the very picture of calm and contemplation. And is this image of a calm and contemplative human being that has drawn many people to the Buddha, for centuries in Asia, and of course, in our own environment today.

The Buddha is represented in many different ways, but the classical image is that of a calm and contemplative man. The Buddha often is depicted as sitting very serenely in a state of contemplation, his feet are crossed in front of him in a position that we know as the lotus position.

Historically, we just have some facts. He was born in the family of king Suddhodana and queen Maya about the year 563 BCE, in a region of the Indian subcontinent that now lies in Southern Nepal. He is often called Shakyamuni, that means "the sage of the Shakya". These facts are important, because they tell us that the Buddha was a real human being just like you and me, but they don't tell us anything about his teachings or his personality.

To know more about him, we must look at him through Buddhist Eyes.

There are many stories that depict the Buddha and how he acted. One of my favorites is the story of Angulimala. He was a monk whose name means "garland of fingers". Angulimala was an applied student eager to please a demanding teacher, so much that he arouse the jealousness of his classmates. They go to the teacher and begin to tell him stories that are not entirely attractive, "poisoning his mind".

The teacher decides to get revenge on Angulimala by calling him and saying: "Listen, there is one more payment I expect from you before I give you my final teaching". Angulimala of course agrees to do anything. "I want you to bring me the fingers of a thousand people you have killed , and then I will give you my final teaching."

And Agulimala begins to kill people and collect their fingers. At first, he just hide them in the forest but eventually he begins to loose them, so he collects them together in a garland around his neck.

The Buddha hears about it. He realizes that by this time Angulimala is so far gone that he would kill his own mother to get her fingers. So the Buddha goes into the forest to somehow lead him away from this life that he had fallen into.

The Buddha walks slowly on a path through the forest. Angulimala is out there and sees him coming. He starts running to catch him and steal his fingers, but as he chases the Buddha through the forest, somehow the Buddha manages to glide just a step ahead of Angulimala.

Agulimala says: "Stop! Stop!" in wonderful elaboration. Then the Buddha turns around and says to him: "I have stopped, Angulimala. Why don't you stop?". Agulimala says: "You haven't stopped, every time I try to catch you, you slip away into the underbrush".

"I have stopped all of the causes of death and rebirth. Why don't you stop?". And at this point Angulimala reverts back to the old student that he once was. He falls down at the feet of the Buddha, and tears, and asks to be taught about the meaning of death and rebirth. How himself can begin to unravel that cycle of suffering that he has inadvertently cast himself into. He goes on to become one of the remarkable early followers of the Buddha.

This story shows that the Buddha was able to tune in to the particular religious needs of his followers and crystallize some kind of religious transformation that was deeply personal for them. This is why the Buddha attracted so many followers, he was personal, he was human.

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