About the event
Vesak or Buddha Day is a buddhist holiday that celebrates the life, enlightenment and death of Buddhism's founder Guatama Buddha. Every year it is celebrated around the full moon in May with different countries and traditions choosing slightly different themes and times to celebrate. In 1950, at the World Fellowship of Buddhists Conference, it was decided that all buddhist majority countries should celebrate vesak and the celebration has since spread to other buddhist communities.
The day usually centres around buddhist temples with the singing of hymns, the giving of offerings and listening to the lectures of monks. Often, Buddhists refrain from eating meat on this day. Some participate in a ‘life release’ of captive animals or take part in lantern ceremonies.
How to approach it
This is a great opportunity to discuss with your students about the inspiring life story of the Buddha and to celebrate with any Buddhists you may have in your class. Start by asking the class what they know about Buddhism. If there is a child who is a Buddhist or who knows a little, ask them if they’d like to tell the class. Do a little research before about the Buddha’s life story and fill in where you need to.
The Buddha was a rich aristocrat born in Lumbini, now northern India around 400 AD. After becoming disillusioned with his lavish lifestyle he simply set off with nothing from his palace with the goal of finding enlightenment. After years of meditation and self-inflicted suffering the Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment under what is now known as the ‘Bodhi tree’. From this point onwards the Buddha gained disciples and dedicated his life to teaching others what he had learned through his enlightenment.
This story can stimulate many interesting discussions such as the importance of material possessions or the practice of meditation and mental wellbeing. You could inspire students with the Buddha’s journey from dissatisfaction to contentment. You could also go through with students what the Buddha’s main teachings were such as the four noble truths or the eightfold path. Ask: how could we apply these teachings to our lives? What do you agree with in the Buddha’s teachings and what do you not?
The Buddha was once a rich man who had everything he could possibly want but he was dissatisfied with his life. He decided to leave all his wealth behind and went to search for a more meaningful life. What does a meaningful life look like to you?