"Visak Bochea Day" is a day to commemorate the Buddha's birth, enlightenment, and death. It is a day to dedicate to his Dharma principles and adopt them into your everyday lives.This Cambodian public holiday is celebrated on the full moon of the sixth month of the Buddhist lunar calendar, which is usually in May on the Gregorian calendar.
Although Buddha's death is recalled on Vesak Bochea day, it is not a day to be sorrowful or mourn. Gautama Buddha counseled his Sangha (community of students) not to cry after his death but instead dedicate themselves to his instructions.
He stated that the greatest method for his disciples to pay respect was to embrace his Dharma teachings to improve their brains, lead virtuous lives, and eventually preserve peace for humankind.
Buddha Day is traditionally observed in eastern Asia; yet, it has spread to several western nations with sizable Asian populations.
When is Vesak Day?
The Asian lunisolar calendars determine Visak Day's date. Hence the holiday may be honored on distinctive days in different nations. Around the Gregorian calendar, Buddha Day festivities vary year to year, although it generally falls in April or May. During leap years, it may be commemorated in June.
The Origins of Visak Bochea Day
Vesak Day commemorates the Gautama Buddha's three significant life events.
Gautama Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha, the descendant of the Sakya ruler. The Sakya kingdom was situated between Nepal and India. The priests predicted at his birth that the prince was destined to become a powerful king or a great spiritual teacher.
Gautama Buddha was born into nobility, but after several years of meditation practices, he entirely rejected the sophisticated world at the age of thirty.
Prince Siddhartha had realized that the only way to achieve enlightenment was through committed spiritual practice and sacrifice of all sensual pleasures.
Buddha pondered beneath a Ficus religiosa, known as Bodhi tree, Pippala tree, Peepal tree, or Sacred fig, in the northern Indian town of Bodh Gaya till he attained the advanced enlightenment. The tree, known as the Bodhi Tree, is now a well-known and sacred Buddhist shrine.
After attaining enlightenment, the Gautama Buddha began his discourses, presenting the fundamental principles of Buddhism.
In Buddhism, there are Four Noble Truths:
1. Existence is suffering
2. This suffering is caused by human craving
3. There is a cessation of suffering called Nirvana
4. Nirvana can be achieved through the Eightfold Path
When Gautama Buddha passed away at the age of 80, he left instructions to his Sangha and other monks to continue to work for spiritual freedom by obeying his lessons.
Each of these events occurred on a full moon during the lunar month of Vesak. Buddhists honor Visak Bochea by learning and obeying Buddha's teachings, regarded as a life guide.
How do Cambodians Celebrate Visak Bochea Day?
Cambodian Buddhists attend local temples and shrines to celebrate Visak Bochea day. They will spend most of the day contemplating Buddha's lessons. Many people also bring food, flowers, and candles to holy places to offer to the monks as offerings. Occasionally, people free the birds as ceremonial liberations.
Monks recite Buddha's scriptures, educate about Buddha's teachings, and lead people in meditations. Moreover, Cambodian Buddhists will gather at pagodas before daybreak to chant hymns and solemnly raise the Buddhist flag. Many Buddhists will be dressed in white and spend most of the day at their pagodas listening to monks offer remarks.
Monks will recite poetry and lessons at Visak Bochea to promote joy and tranquility for humankind. Buddhists are mindful of Buddha's legacy teaching to live together peacefully with people of various beliefs and religions.
On top of that, Visak Bochea Day celebrations include:
∙ Bathing for Buddha statues.
∙ Cleaning households and main roads.
∙ Adorning private and corporate spaces with flowers.
∙ Orbiting Buddha statues at night surrounded by candles.
It is noteworthy that religious rites are held similar to other Cambodian festivals like Meak Bochea Day, Pchum Ben, and even the Khmer New Year.
Several Buddhist festivities will take place in major cities. During Vesak Day, individuals are alerted that they must make particular endeavors to provide bliss to the less privileged. The aged, the sick, the hungry, and the disabled will all benefit from generous offerings.
Kingdom Rituals for Visak Bochea Day
The National Committee for Organizing National and International Festivals has advised all organizations to send leaders, civil servants, and residents to participate in Visak Bochea Day to celebrate the Buddha's birth, enlightenment, and death.
It also urged them to display national and religious flags and slogan-emblazoned banners at their organizations and in notable public locations.
The authorities encourage residents to commemorate the event, including monks, civil workers, students, and citizens. According to a letter from the committee to that effect, Phnom Preah Reach Troap or Phnom Oudong in Kandal province's Ponhea Leu district will be the site of the traditional holiday celebrations.
Typically, residents create floral arrangements, put lights, and fly the national and Buddhist flags to acknowledge the Buddha's birth, enlightenment, and Nirvana.
During the celebration, healthcare precautions will be implemented cautiously, with all attendees having their temperatures taken and hand sanitizer being widely used. Besides, authorities will send security personnel to ensure public safety and traffic management before, during, and after Visak Bochea.
On April 26, Siem Reap province governors expressed relief that Visak Bochea festivities have resumed following a brief halt due to Covid-19.
As instructed by the organizers, banners containing Buddhist messages will be placed during this year's festival. The Visak Bochea celebration honors the Buddha, who guided society toward peace.
Visak Bochea festivities were always carried on Cambodian National Television (TVK) and national radio stations. According to the Head of the Government of Information's General Department of Information and Broadcasting, the ministry has instructed news agencies to telecast Visak Bochea and all national occasions such as Meak Bochea and the King's birthday.
As a result, if you happen to be in or around Cambodia in May, a Cambodian pagoda visit will provide insight into a very important holiday: Visak Bochea Day.
This celebration is known as Buddha Day, celebrated by Buddhists worldwide. The event honors the birth, enlightenment, and Nirvana of Siddharta Gautama Shakyamuni Buddha.
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2. Circus, P. (2019, January 29). Visak Bochea Day - Celebrating Enlightenment around the World. Phare Circus. Retrieved May 8, 2022, from https://pharecircus.org/visak-bocheaday-celebrating-enlightenment-around-the-world/
3. Visak Bochea (Vesak Day). (2019, October 16). Siem Reap Shuttle Tours. Retrieved May 8, 2022, from https://www.siemreapshuttle.com/visak-bochea-day-cambodia-holidays/