Buddha's birth as Prince Siddhartha took place on this day at Lumbini
in Kapilavatthu (modern Nepal).
Gautama attained Supreme Enlightenment on this day at Buddha Gaya under
the sacred Bodhi Tree.
Buddha's Great Demise (Parinibbana) happened on Vesak Full Moon day
at Kusinara. In terms of the evolution of the Supremely Enlightened
One in the course of His migrations in Samsara (Cycle of Rebirths) Vesak
Full Moon possesses a tremendous significance.
Buddha, in His existence as Ascetic Sumedha, received his confirmation
of the attainment of Buddhahood from Buddha Dipamkara on a Full Moon
Supreme Buddha's display of His psychic powers through the performance
of Yamaka Maha Patihariya (The Miracle of the Twin Wonders) took place
on a Vesak Full Moon day. This event is a crucial turning point in His
Dispensation as this convinced numerous skeptics "doubters" -
about the Supreme Buddha's Enlightenment.
In practical terms Vesak is celebrated mainly for the three-fold events
in the life of the Buddha - Birth, Enlightenment and the Great Passing
Away. In the whole of mankind no one else's birthday has been so regularly
and without an interruption, celebrated for over 2,500 years.
Generally, mankind does not celebrate year after year the spiritual
victory won by an outstanding human hero. Even shattering military and
political victories are not celebrated by mankind for so long and with
such pageantry. These worldly victories tend to get forgotten and neglected
with shifting military and political changes. But the celebration of
the Buddha's Birth, Enlightenment and His Great Demise (Parinibbana)
continues without a break, with ever-increasing vigour.
To those who do not follow the Buddhist faith, the Birth and Enlightenment
of the Buddha is also of the greatest significance when one considers
the unique contribution made by the Buddha over 2500 years ago to the
various branches of modern knowledge.
Moreover, one marvels, whether he be a Buddhist or non-Buddhist, at
the rational and scientific teachings of Buddhism, which indeed is in
keeping with the scientific temper of this modern age. It is no wonder
then that the brilliant minds and thinkers of the East and West have
bowed their heads in reverence and acknowledged Gotama the Buddha as
the greatest man ever born, beyond compare, the greatest combination
of heart and mind that ever existed.
On this hallowed day, our hearts and minds are naturally directed to
the Blessed One who through countless aeons strove earnestly and strenuously
to gain supreme enlightenment, and proclaim the Dhamma for the benefit
of gods and men. His Enlightenment at the Bodhi Tree, at Buddha Gaya,
on this of memorable full moon day is of tremendous importance. It is
an epoch making event in the annals of history, because He discovered
the remedy for the ills of life and death. Moved by deep compassion
and boundless love for suffering humanity He proclaimed the Dhamma which
is glorious in the beginning, glorious in the middle and glorious in
the end, for forty-five years which is unprecedented and unsurpassed
by any other religious teacher.
Enlightenment is significant to us mortal beings because the Buddha
as a man reached the acme of perfection and the pinnacle wisdom through
his own inherent Powers without the aid of any supernatural agency or
an omniscient God. This stupendous achievement of the Buddha gives us
ordinary men, enmeshed as we are in the storms and tempests of life
much encouragement and inspiration in that we ourselves could, if we
make the necessary effort attain that glorious state of Buddhahood.
Among the world's religious teachers the Buddha alone has the glory
of having rightly judged the intrinsic greatness of, Man's capacity
to work out his own salvation without any extraneous aid. If the worth
of a truly great man consists in his raising the worth of all mankind,
who is better entitled to be called truly great, than the Blessed One,
who instead of degrading man by placing another being over him, has
exalted him to the highest pinnacle of wisdom and love.
Therefore the Teachings of the Buddha holds out hope for the modem man,
who is sunk in the mire and morass of drab materialism, by offering
a path which leads to spiritual illumination and ultimate deliverance
from physical and mental bondage. The Buddha was inviting man to move
out of the entanglements of mental and spiritual slavery into the rarefied
spiritual atmosphere of peace and perfection, which has been reserved
for a specially graced person by other religions. In doing so, he has
paid the highest tribute and singular honour to man.