Wesak Day is one of the most important festivals in the Buddhist calendar as it commemorates three significant events in Gautama Buddha’s life – namely his birthday, his enlightenment and his passing away. During this festival, devotees bring offerings of flowers, joss-sticks and candles. This is to remind them that, just as flowers wither and die, and joss sticks and candles burn away, so too is life – temporary. The ‘Bathing the Buddha’ ceremony is important and often a part of the celebration where water is poured over the shoulders of the Buddha. This serves to remind fellow Buddhists to purify the mind from greed, lead noble lives and practise morality and kindness.
Celebrating Vesākha also means making special efforts to bring happiness to the unfortunate like the aged, the handicapped and the sick. To this day, Buddhists will distribute gifts in cash and kind to various charitable homes throughout the country. Vesākha is also a time for great joy and happiness, expressed not by pandering to one’s appetites but by concentrating on useful activities such as decorating and illuminating temples, painting and creating exquisite scenes from the life of the Buddha for public dissemination. Devout Buddhists also vie with one another to provide refreshments and vegetarian food to followers who visit the temple to pay homage to the Enlightened One.
Tradition ascribes to the Buddha himself instruction on how to pay him homage. Just before he died, he saw his faithful attendant Ananda, weeping. The Buddha advised him not to weep, but to understand the universal law that all compounded things (including even his own body) must disintegrate. He advised everyone not to cry over the disintegration of the physical body but to regard his teachings (The Dhamma) as their teacher from then on, because only the Dhamma truth is eternal and not subject to the law of change. He also stressed that the way to pay homage to him was not merely by offering flowers, incense, and lights, but by truly and sincerely striving to follow his teachings. This is how Buddhists are expected to celebrate Vesak: to use the opportunity to reiterate their determination to lead noble lives, to develop their minds, to practise loving-kindness and to bring peace and harmony to humanity.
The Taurus full Moon marks the festival of Wesak. The forces of enlightenment are active right now. These forces emanate from the heart of God and transmit divine understanding, strengthening those who serve humanity.
For this ritual, we invite you to join in a meditation which requires a glass or vessel of water, that can be placed next to you … breathe deeply, close your eyes, and experience this visualization as we tune into the ceremony of The Wesak and contemplate its meaning.
You may want to create an altar that depicts the Wesak Legend. It could include figures representing the Buddha and the Christ, and a ceremonial bowl that is surrounded with Rose Quartz. This mineral is used to amplify the quality of Love-Wisdom; it is a symbol combining the Love of Christ and the Wisdom of the Buddha. You may also want to use a large quartz crystal to assist in attuning to the ceremony taking place in the Wesak Valley.
As part of the Wesak water ceremony, ritually pour spring water into the bowl. Gardenias may be added to the water for a special blessing, fragrance and taste. The water remains on the altar throughout the ritual and meditation.
Sanctify the ritual space by saging and using incense.
MEDITATION : “There is a valley lying at a rather high altitude in the foothills of the Himalayan-Tibetan ranges. It is surrounded by high mountains on all sides except towards the northeast, where there is a narrow opening in the mountain ranges. The valley is therefore bottle-shaped in contour, with the neck of the valley to the northeast, and it widens very considerably towards the south. Up towards the northern end, close to the neck of the bottle, there is to be found a huge flat rock. There are no trees or shrubs in the valley, which is covered with a kind of coarse grass, but the sides of the mountains are covered with trees.
Approaching the time of the Full Moon of Taurus, pilgrims from the surrounding districts begin to gather. They find their way into the valley and fill the southern and the middle parts, leaving the northeastern end relatively free. There, so the legend runs, gathers a group of those Great Beings Who are the custodians on Earth of God’s Plan for our planet and for humanity. This group of Knowers of Divinity are the main participants in the Wesak Festival. They arrange Themselves in the northeastern end of the valley, and in concentric circles according to the status and grade of their initiatory development, prepare Themselves for a great act of service.
In front of the rock, looking towards the northeast, stand Those Beings Who are called by their disciples the Three Great Lords. These are the Christ, Who stands in the center; the Lord of living forms, the Manu, Who stands on His right hand; and the Lord of Civilization, who stands on His left. These three face the rock upon which rests a great crystal bowl, full of water.
As the hour of the full moon approaches, a stillness settles down upon the crowd, and all look towards the northeast. Certain ritualistic movements take place, in which the grouped Masters and their disciples of all ranks take up symbolic positions and form on the floor of the valley such significant symbols as the five-pointed star with the Christ standing at the highest point; of a triangle with the Christ at the apex; or a cross, and other well-known formations, all of which have a deep and potent meaning. This is all done with the sound of certain chanted words and esoteric phrases, called mantrams. The expectancy in the waiting, onlooking crowds becomes very great, and the tension is real and increasing. Through the entire body of people there seems to be felt a stimulation or powerful vibration which has the effect of awakening the souls of those present, fusing and blending the group into one united whole, and lifting all into a great act of spiritual demand, readiness, and expectancy. These three words ~ demand, readiness and expectancy ~ best describe the atmosphere surrounding those present in the secret valley.
The chanting and the rhythmic weaving grows stronger. All the participants and the watching crowd raise their eyes towards the sky in the direction of the narrow part of the valley. Just a few minutes before the exact time of the full moon, in the far distance, a tiny speck can be seen in the sky. It comes nearer and nearer, and grows in clarity and definiteness of outline, until the form of the Buddha can be seen, seated in the cross-legged Buddha position, clad in his saffron-colored robe, bathed in light and color, with his hand extended in blessing.
When he arrives at a point exactly above the great rock, hovering there in the air over the heads of the three Great Lords, a great mantram, used only once a year at the Festival, is intoned by the Christ. And the entire group of people in the valley reverently touch their foreheads to the ground. This Invocation sets up a group vibration or thought current which is of such potency that it reaches up from the group of aspirants, disciples and initiates who employ it, to the very presence of God. It marks the supreme moment of intensive spiritual effort throughout the entire year, and its spiritual effects last throughout the succeeding months. The effect of this great invocation is universal or cosmic, and serves to link us up with that cosmic center of spiritual force from which all created beings have come. The Blessing is poured forth and the Christ, as the representative of humanity, receives it in trust for distribution.
Slowly then, the Buddha recedes into the distance until again only a faint speck can be seen in the sky, and this eventually disappears. The whole ceremonial blessing, from the time of the first appearance in the distance until the moment the Buddha fades out of view, takes just eight minutes.
When the Buddha has again disappeared, the crowd rise to their feet; the water in the bowl is distributed in tiny portions to the Masters, initiates and disciples, and they then go their way. The crowd, who have all brought their little cups and vessels of water, drink of them and share with others. In this beautiful water ceremony of communion is portrayed the symbol of the Aquarian Age, the age of the Water Carrier. The water, which has been magnetized by the presence of the Buddha and of the Christ, carries certain properties and virtues of a healing and helpful nature.