Celebrating Vesak meaningfully this year

By Kusumanjalee Thilakarathna

The Vesak festival is just a few days ahead. Just like we had to celebrate the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and Easter, it seems like we’ll have to celebrate Vesak indoors too. During the Vesak period, we usually get to see lanterns, pandols, dansals, and many religious programmes organised in Buddhist temples. We also get to listen to bhakti gee and participate in sil programmes on Vesak Poya Day.

This year, however, it is best if we avoid crowds and refrain from any of these activities involving crowds in order to maintain social distancing. We celebrate Vesak mainly in remembrance of the birth, enlightenment, and death (parinirvana) of Gautama Buddha. According to the Mahavamsa, it was on a Vesak full moon Poya Day that Prince Vijaya came to Sri Lanka with his followers. Furthermore, the second coronation of King Devanampiyatissa also took place on Vesak Poya Day. So is social distancing a barrier to celebrating the Vesak festival? Well, not really. This year you can actually try to have a more meaningful Vesak celebration with those around you. You can even observe sil (the eight precepts) with your family members and have a spiritual programme organised at home in a more comfortable manner.

As you have more free time to spare, this year you can even try some homemade Vesak décor too. Someone is likely to argue that there is no point in making décor or decorating homes because no one will be able to come see it this time. This is not wrong, but did you know that Vesak décor is not merely a fun activity but is also a way of expressing our gratitude towards the invaluable efforts of Gautama Buddha in teaching humankind the correct way of living?

Following this, Buddhists believe that making these decorations and getting involved in activities like making pandols or organising dansal are meritorious deeds. In other words, these are not supposed to be activities carried out just to gain attention. This Vesak, try to engage in meaningful activities and celebrate Vesak better than any other time. If you haven’t started already, today is not too late to start. Reading Little Stars today, you can learn how to make a Vesak lantern with what you can find at home. Get help from everyone at home so that you’ll also get to spend some quality time with your family and take some time to think about how lucky you are to be in their company at a time many have to stay away from their families.

Don’t be disappointed if you can’t think of a way to do something meaningful because if you look around, you’ll find lots of ways to do meaningful things. Even a small deed like feeding a stray pup or keeping some rice for birds also count. This time, let’s get ready to celebrate the best Vesak there ever was.