Wesak, the Day of Buddha's Blessing

Joann S. Bakula
May, 2012

Wesak is the day of the annual blessing of the Buddha on the day of his enlightenment, birth and death, which occurred at the full moon of Taurus some 2,600 years ago. It is Saturday, May 5, 2012, at 11:36 pm EDT, 8:36 PDT, and Sunday in London and for most of the British Commonwealth at 3:36 am GMT/UT. This event has been celebrated by Buddhists and many non-Buddhists all over the world ever since.

We, too, can make good use of this opportunity, whether we are new to this tradition or have been celebrating it for many decades. Whole cities come to a halt, traffic and work stops for a moment in some Buddhist countries. But many people celebrate the event any time on this day or all day by meditation, prayer and deepening our understanding of Buddhist knowledge and wisdom. Some celebrate it by contemplating the 4 causes of suffering and their eventual removal by following the Eightfold Noble Path, or by some other way of approaching the highest spiritual planes we are capable of. This day is used for world service as well as individual growth and can be an important service to humanity in our yearly spiritual calendar. In this increasingly interfaith world where people are not just tolerant but truly value the beautiful contributions of wisdom, enlightenment, and ethics that each religion contributes, this is a way for us to live spiritual and religious unity. Interfaith appreciation is becoming more popular all the time. Ten years ago the U.N. passed a resolution recognizing Vesak or Wesak as an important day for recognizing the universal values that infuse the United Nations.

A video by 16 Buddhist Nations
Last year for the first time 16 Buddhist nations held a special event in the General Assembly of the United Nations, initiated by the permanent delegate of Sri Lanka called "Special events on the occasion of the Day of Vesak" , and the video is available on U.N. webcast video-on-demand at: http://www.unmultimedia.org/tv/webcast/2011/05/10th-session-of-un-permanent-forum-on-indigenous-issues-opening.html. Watching this video is one easy way to celebrate the contributions of the Buddha to world enlightenment and ethics. It is less than 2 hours long, and watching the first 20 minutes gives you a good summary, three 5-minute talks and a chant. The introduction is by the delegate of Sri Lanka, followed by the monks chanting for five minutes, then a talk by the Acting President of the General Assembly, and the third speaker, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, whose mother was a devout Buddhist. After this delegates from each of the Buddhist countries speak briefly and the event concludes with a presentation to the Secretary General of a book commemorating the occasion. The values of tolerance, compassion, interconnectedness, kindness, and non-violence were the impetus for founding the U.N. after WWII to help 'prevent the scourge of war for future generations.'

The event, both esoteric and exoteric, is described as the annual return of the spirit of the Buddha to bless the world. It takes place in 'real time' by pilgrims who journey to the Vaisaka Valley (after which the day is named) near Mt. Kailash in the Himalayas to receive the blessing in person. In this celebration a large bowl of water is placed on a central rock where the etheric form of the Buddha is said to appear for the blessing. The high lamas, disciples, aspirants and tourists gather there. Esoterically, the current head of the spiritual hierarchy and his assistants are there to receive the blessing for humanity. His approach, blessing, and departure is said to take only 8 minutes. He confers the touch of Shamballa, the center associated with the will of God and the highest, most powerful energies are transferred from the Buddha to his successor, some call the Christ and others call the Lord Maitreya. Whether he is known by the name anointed messiah or loving kindness, he represents the most enlightened Being of the human kingdom. After the blessing is given and received, the water is distributed to all who have made the arduous physical journey.

A ritual of communion with holy water
Many imitate this ritual in their own homes and places of prayer and meditation. The water used in this "ceremony of communion" is considered by many to contain healing properties. Humanity itself, through its "Great Invocation," causes the Buddha to reappear every year in response to its cry for spiritual blessing, understanding, compassion, wisdom, knowledge, and love. Some of us may wish to begin our Wesak meditation with an invocation as the Tibetan Buddhists do. If we begin with Alice Bailey's Great Invocation using the words, 'may Buddha return to earth" we can add our own voices to the Buddhist invocation just before the Buddha returns at the moment of the full moon, and conclude our meditation with the usual invocation of the World Teacher to come. Unique spiritual energies are available at this time and many use it to sound the keynotes of the spiritual work ahead of finding methods to bridge the subjective world of the soul with the objective world where the energies of the soul — light, love and purpose — are most needed.

The physical ceremony and outer ritual of bringing a vessel to receive the holy water is, of course, a symbol to remind us that we ourselves are to become the vessels of spiritual beings. We bring ourselves for filling and fulfilling. And when we become the vase or the vessel, and drink the water of communion, we contain the water of life, and pour it forth through our thoughts, words and deeds for the rest of the year until the sublime moment occurs again in the circle of time. The Lord Maitreya is almost always portrayed in Tibetan Buddhist tanka art with a vase in his hand. His name, meaning loving kindness, reminds us that the blessing is conferred on all sentient beings in the interconnected web of life, not just humanity. Our use of the blessing includes contemplation of humanity's responsibility to the earth and its symbiotic life forms. The blessing is for all.

Whatever way we might choose to honor the teaching and the event of Wesak, it can be dedicated to humanity as a whole, to the brotherhood of man, or unity of all, including the entire web of nature and unseen spiritual worlds, and contain a blessing to all those who further the work of religious tolerance, interfaith appreciation, and subjective unity.

The Ornament of Stainless Light, a Tibetan Buddhist classic now available in English from Wisdom Publications says: "There on the full moon of the middle spring month, in the form of the primordial buddha, he [the Buddha] emanated the primordial speech mandala and the glorious constellation mandala above. There on that very day gods and others were initiated by the Buddha and taught extensively and in condensed form all the system of secret mantra" (p. 27).

Spring is a state of consciousness
The meditation of this "middle spring month" of Aries-Taurus-Gemini is known as the high point of the spiritual year and is often called the time of the open door when the highest spiritual energies of the year are uniquely available and the masters of the wisdom of all religions and their energies are easiest to reach. Many visualize the spiritual triad of atma-buddhi-manas or will-intuition-creative intelligence as reflected in their physical correspondents of ordinary mind, emotions and subtle body, all anchored in the physical form. Meditating on how the spiritual triad within each of us can transform the personality in daily life is an ongoing meditation for many of us. Special preparation for the Wesak meditation may also be by mental, emotional and especially motivational purification, as the Dalai Lama teaches, using it as an opportunity for the deepest insights and realizations.

Spring is a state of consciousness in which a spiritual greenness comes upon the meditative landscape. Subtle worlds become visible again. In the clear light we see through to the inner life, and nature opens out with the radiant light that informs all life. The latent inner light reveals its subtle pattern before it is manifested in the product and production that begin a new cycle of life. In this same way the inner spiritual triad can make its presence known through subtle realizations, direct perceptions unmitigated by the senses, and an overshadowing becomes possible in which the greater light can shine through us.

As the wheel of time again approaches the window of greatest opportunity in the spiritual year, the full moon of Taurus, the energies and entities of the spiritual triad of power present themselves. The clear light of mind, wisdom of compassion and directed purpose of volition prepare the triangle of inner structure for the appearance. That which is without comes within initiating the transfiguration into the new. Like a phoenix, the limitless arises out of the small container.

May each one of us become a vessel for the water of spiritual life poured through our lives in service of humanity and all sentient beings.

Joann S. Bakula
May , 2012

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