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Not sure what Vesak Day is all about? We break it down for you here

Buddhists all over the world will celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha next week on May 26, a day that is also a public holiday in Singapore.

However, Vesak Day this year will be a lot more muted once again considering the rise in community Covid-19 cases in Singapore that led to the Phase 2 Heightened Alert that is currently in place till June 13. 

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Many public places, including places of worship, have had to stop in-person events and reduce their occupancies significantly. This means that many of the rituals, processions and temple visits that normally happen on Vesak Day will not be able to go on as planned. 

Despite the changes, Vesak Day is still an incredibly special day for Buddhists. If you are unsure about what Vesak Day is all about, read on to find out everything you need to know about it. 

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What is Vesak Day about?

Vesak Day, or the day of the full moon, is a sacred day to millions of Buddhists worldwide. It marks the day that Buddha was born, attained enlightenment and then passed away in his eightieth year. It is a time for quiet reflection on Buddha's teachings, joy and peace.  

The day that it is celebrated changes each year in accordance with the first full moon of the lunar month of Vesakha. This usually falls between May and early June. 

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How is Vesak Day celebrated?

Buddhism is a religion that is present in many countries and cultures such as in India, Thailand, Singapore and Korea. As a result, each Buddhist culture tends to have its own unique traditions to honour the day.

However, typically, Buddhists will go to the temple at the crack of dawn to participate in the singing of hymns to honour Buddha, his teachings and his disciples. They will also raise the Buddhist flag while singing these hymns. Some Buddhists will even stay at the temple all day and night. 

On this day, many Buddhists also participate in good deeds because it is believed that performing good deeds on Vesak Day will multiply one's merit a number of times over. 

It is also common to see some Buddhist families decorating their homes with lanterns, taking part in processions and wearing special white clothes. They will also typically only eat vegetarian meals on this day. 

Of course, with the new Covid-19 regulations, processions, sadly, will likely not be taking place. 

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Why do Buddhists make offerings?

On Vesak Day, it is common to see people putting up offerings of flowers, candles and joss sticks at the temples.

The point of using these items as offerings is to acknowledge the transient nature of life. Candles and joss sticks will burn away and flowers will eventually decay.

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Why do Buddhists 'bathe' Buddha?

On Vesak Day, one of the most common rituals you will see being performed is that of the 'bathing' of Buddha. This is where Buddhists collectively gather around and pour water over the shoulders of Buddha. 

This practice reminds believers to clear their minds of negative thoughts and hatred as well as to commemorate the birth of Buddha. It is a very sacred ritual that is carried out by Buddhists yearly.

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