Wesak Day customs in Malaysia

  • 17 May 2019
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Buddhism is the second largest religion in Malaysia and on Wesak Day, thousands of Buddhists will be visiting their local temples. Below are some of the customs significant to the celebration.

1. Performing prayers and meditation

The day starts with prayers and meditation. Devotees would be at the temple as early as 6am and pay homage to Lord Buddha.

2. Wearing white clothing

Devotees normally wear white and are encouraged to do so because the colour represents purity. Other colours may be worn but white is believed to be more suited for the prayers conducted.

3. Observing the five precepts

The five precepts is a system of morality for Buddhists. They represent commitments to refrain from killing living beings, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and intoxication. They are part of the right speech, action and livelihood aspects of the eight-fold path, which is the core teaching of Buddhism.

4. Lighting oil lamps / candles

Oil lamps are lighted on the day because light symbolises the light in a devotee's life and an absence of darkness. The candles would be in the shape of a lotus flower because the flower is held in regard in Buddhism, as it grows and blooms beautifully despite being in a muddy environment. It represents the journey of each person on their path to enlightenment.

5. Seeking blessings from a Bodhi tree

Lord Buddha was sitting under a bodhi tree when he attained enlightenment. The tree is revered and worshipped by devotees because they believe that there are devas around it. However, they are cautioned to only seek blessings from the tree and not rely on it for guidance.

6. Eating vegetarian dishes

Only vegetarian dishes are served in the temples as it is part of the five precept to refrain from killing any living beings. It is also believed that a vegetarian diet purifies the body.

7. Participating in the candlelight procession

At night, floats from different temples will participate in the annual procession in Kuala Lumpur. Devotees will follow the floats on foot and carry candles and flowers.

8. Raising the Buddhist flag

The flag has six vertical bands in blue, yellow, red, white and orange. The sixth band consists of a combination of all five colours stacked horizontally. It was designed by J.R. de Silva and Colonel Henry S. Olcott in the 1800s. Many temples distribute the flag for free to devotees, for them to hang it at home during the auspicious occasion.

9. Offering alms to monks

Monks are offered either food or basic necessities by the devotees. The food is cooked by the devotees in the temple although some would choose to provide the raw ingredients to the temple to be cooked there. Hampers filled with toiletries and other products are given to the temple by the devotees too.

10. Bathing of the Buddha

Bathing of the Buddha is customary as it signifies purifying the heart and mind from greed, hatred and ignorance.

Photo Source: Pixabay

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