Vesak day or Vesākha is one of the most important days in the Buddhist calendar. It is the celebration on the birth, enlightenment and final nirvana of Buddha, who was born Prince Siddhartha Gautama.
I visited Ju Si Lin temple (Singapore Buddhist Lodge) at Kim Yam Road to mark this special day (28 May 2010). I haven't been back to the temple I would think in the last ten years since I was living in Australia. I used to do the yearly ritual with my mum and I remember vividly burning joss sticks, offer prayers and "bathing" the statue of Buddha. Bathing the statue of the Buddha symbolizes our aspiration, determination and effort to purify our body, speech and mind.
On this day it reminds us on the teachings of Buddha, to be compassionate, selflessness and non-violent. It is his universal peace message to mankind that highlights the potential for inner peace and happiness that lies within us all.
One of the teaching of Buddha is to shelter the weak and provide food to the needy.
On this day, temples offer free vegetarian meals. For most people consuming the vegetarian meals during this special occasion symbolise the blessing by Lord Buddha.
One experience I will never forget is when I was in National Service and I was in an army training exercise high up in the mountains of Taiwan. I was with my fellow soldiers in a land rover out in the field for a few days without bath and surviving on ration food (can food and 'dog' biscuit).
We have parked our land rover nearby a temple to rest. Apparently the monks noticed us and invited us back to the temple for a bath and offered us fresh hot meals. I will never forget this wonderful experience and their kind gesture.