Vesak 2020

Forum for discussion of Tibetan Buddhism. Questions specific to one school are best posted in the appropriate sub-forum.
Post Reply
User avatar
tobes
Posts: 1822
Joined: Fri Dec 24, 2010 5:02 am

Vesak 2020

Post by tobes »

I always get confused by this. I know the Theravadins have a different date, a month earlier. I checked the FPMT calendar a while back, and they have it locked in for June. But it seems a lot of other Tibetan Buddhists are celebrating it today. What's the deal? :shrug:
User avatar
Aemilius
Posts: 2762
Joined: Sat Mar 27, 2010 11:44 am

Re: Vesak 2020

Post by Aemilius »

The exact date of Vesak is based on Asian lunisolar calendars and is primarily celebrated in Vaisakha, a month of both the Buddhist and Hindu calendars, hence the name Vesak. In Nepal, which is considered the birth-country of Buddha, it is celebrated on the full moon day of the Vaisakha month of the Hindu calendar, and is traditionally called Buddha Purnima, Purnima meaning the full moon day in Sanskrit. In Theravada countries following the Buddhist calendar, it falls on Uposatha Day, the full moon typically in the 5th or 6th lunar month. Nowadays, in Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, and Bangladesh, Vesak/Buddha Purnima is celebrated on the day of the full moon in May in the Gregorian calendar. In Thailand, Laos, and Indonesia, Vesak is celebrated on the fourteenth or fifteenth day of the fourth month in the Chinese lunar calendar. In China, Korea, and Vietnam Buddha's Birthday is celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth month in the Chinese lunar calendar, and in Japan, the same day but in the Gregorian calendar. The date varies from year to year in the Western Gregorian calendar, but usually falls in April or May. In leap years it may be celebrated in June.

In Japan, Vesak or hanamatsuri (花祭) is also known as Kanbutsue (灌仏会), Goutan'e (降誕会)), Busshoue (仏生会), Yokubutsue (浴仏会), Ryuge'e (龍華会) and Hanaeshiki (花会式). It is not a public holiday. It is based on a legend that nine dragons appeared in the sky on the Buddha's birthday and poured amṛta over him.

It used to be celebrated on the 8th day of the fourth month in the Chinese calendar based on one of the legends that proclaims the day as Buddha's birthday. At present, the celebration is observed on 8 April of the Solar Calendar since the government of Meiji Japan adopted the western solar calendar as the official calendar. Since the 8th day of the fourth month in the lunar calendar commonly falls in May of the current solar calendar, it is now celebrated about a month earlier.

In Japan, Vesak celebrations include pouring 甘茶 (amacha), a sweet tea made from Hydrangea macrophylla, on statues. In Buddhist religious sites such as temples and viharas, more involved ceremonies are conducted for lay Buddhists, priests, and monks and nuns.

In the East Asian tradition, a celebration of Buddha's Birthday typically occurs around the traditional timing of Vesak. The Buddha's awakening and death are celebrated as separate holidays that occur at other times in the calendar as Bodhi Day and Nirvana Day.
svaha
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1. (in english and sanskrit)
User avatar
KathyLauren
Posts: 707
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2009 5:22 pm
Location: East Coast of Canada
Contact:

Re: Vesak 2020

Post by KathyLauren »

The OP is probably wondering why the different calendars.

The calendar we use is based on the Sun: either 365 or 366 days in a year. Most people use the same rules to decide if a year should have 365 or 366 days.

Traditional Asian cultures use a lunar calendar: either 12 or 13 months in a year. Whether a year has 12 months or 13 is decided arbitrarily, often by an astrologer deciding which is more auspicious. A given year can have 12 months in some places and 13 months in others. So which full Moon is the fourth of the year depends on how a specific culture has designated their calendar for the prior year.

That is how the Vesak full Moon can be any one of several around this time of year.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy
jmlee369
Posts: 470
Joined: Tue Aug 09, 2011 1:22 am

Re: Vesak 2020

Post by jmlee369 »

Saka Dawa for most Tibetans this year is 5th June. However, Karma Kagyupas following the Tsurphu calendar celebrated it a month earlier. Most Tibetans follow the Phugpa calendar.

I suspect the month difference in the two Tibetan calendars is the same as why there is currently a month difference between the Phugpa Tibetan calendar and Chinese calendar, i.e. the Tibetans had a leap month last year while the Chinese have a leap month this year (happening now actually, we are in the first of two 4th Chinese months this year)

As a side note, the Theravadans seem to have simply decided that the full moon in May is Vesak.
User avatar
Aemilius
Posts: 2762
Joined: Sat Mar 27, 2010 11:44 am

Re: Vesak 2020

Post by Aemilius »

The Buddhist calendar is a set of lunisolar calendars primarily used in mainland Southeast Asian countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand as well as in Sri Lanka and Chinese populations of Malaysia and Singapore for religious or official occasions. While the calendars share a common lineage, they also have minor but important variations such as intercalation schedules, month names and numbering, use of cycles, etc. In Thailand, the name Buddhist Era is a year numbering system shared by the traditional Thai lunisolar calendar and by the Thai solar calendar.

The Southeast Asian lunisolar calendars are largely based on an older version of the Hindu calendar, which uses the sidereal year as the solar year. One major difference is that the Southeast Asian systems, unlike their Indian cousins, do not use apparent reckoning to stay in sync with the sidereal year. Instead, they employ their versions of the Metonic cycle. However, since the Metonic cycle is not very accurate for sidereal years, the Southeast Asian calendar is slowly drifting out of sync with the sidereal, approximately one day every 100 years. Yet no coordinated structural reforms of the lunisolar calendar have been undertaken.

The calculation methodology of the current versions of Southeast Asian Buddhist calendars is largely based on that of the Burmese calendar, which was in use in various Southeast Asian kingdoms down to the 19th century under the names of Chula Sakarat and Jolak Sakaraj. The Burmese calendar in turn was based on the "original" Surya Siddhanta system of ancient India (believed to be Ardharatrika school). One key difference with Indian systems is that the Burmese system has followed a variation of the Metonic cycle. It is unclear from where, when or how the Metonic system was introduced; hypotheses range from China to Europe.

Today, the traditional Buddhist lunisolar calendar is used mainly for Theravada Buddhist festivals, and no longer has the official calendar status anywhere. The Thai Buddhist Era, a renumbered Gregorian calendar, is the official calendar in Thailand.
svaha
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1. (in english and sanskrit)
User avatar
tobes
Posts: 1822
Joined: Fri Dec 24, 2010 5:02 am

Re: Vesak 2020

Post by tobes »

Thanks for the replies. My confusion remains! It's a bit of a dog's breakfast....
mikenz66
Posts: 240
Joined: Mon Apr 06, 2009 1:10 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: Vesak 2020

Post by mikenz66 »

tobes wrote: Sat May 09, 2020 1:55 am Thanks for the replies. My confusion remains! It's a bit of a dog's breakfast....
It's only an issue because we now have access to these multiple calendars, rather than just going by whatever happened to be the local convention. The only really important thing is that all the locals turn up on the right day!

It's similar with time. We used to just use local noon to set time...

:heart:
Mike
Malcolm
Posts: 32844
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

Re: Vesak 2020

Post by Malcolm »

tobes wrote: Thu May 07, 2020 7:06 am I always get confused by this. I know the Theravadins have a different date, a month earlier. I checked the FPMT calendar a while back, and they have it locked in for June. But it seems a lot of other Tibetan Buddhists are celebrating it today. What's the deal? :shrug:
Vesak is the Theravadin holiday. Their calendar follows the Chinese lunar calendar, which is a month ahead of the Phuglug calendar in Tibet (the Tshur lug corresponds with the Chinese lunar year). The Phuglug is followed by everyone In Tibetan Buddhism but the Karma Kagyus. We call our holiday Saga Dawa, as the fourth month is called Vaisakha in Sanskrit.

Internationally, most Buddhists follow the Theravadin date.
User avatar
tobes
Posts: 1822
Joined: Fri Dec 24, 2010 5:02 am

Re: Vesak 2020

Post by tobes »

Yeah, so maybe it also about increasingly liminal boundaries between previously very disparate traditions...

Quite intentional perhaps, in many cases.

But basically: Vesak is usually May, Saka Dawa is usually June.
User avatar
Aemilius
Posts: 2762
Joined: Sat Mar 27, 2010 11:44 am

Re: Vesak 2020

Post by Aemilius »

There is a related question: In Mahayana Wesak/Vaisakha full moon is the birth day only of Siddhartha Gautama. Buddha's day of awakening is the 8th day of the 12th month of the Indian lunarsolar calendar. In some ways this later day makes more sense. After his awakening Buddha stayed 49 days in samadhi in Bodhagaya. Then he started walking toward Varanasi/Benares in order to meet his former friends in the religious life. On the way he met two merchants and an ascetic. The distance to the Deer park of Varanasi is roughly 250 km from Gaya. According to Bhikkhu Anandajoti it took Buddha about a week to get there. If in comparison we consider that Buddha Guatama's awakening took place on the eighth day of the last month of the Indian buddhist calendar, called Phalguna (about January... March), this gives a different flavor and a different seasonal background to the first months and first events after his awakening
svaha
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1. (in english and sanskrit)
User avatar
Aemilius
Posts: 2762
Joined: Sat Mar 27, 2010 11:44 am

Re: Vesak 2020

Post by Aemilius »

John Powers writes in The Buddhist World about Buddhist festivals of the classical era in India, seen by the Chinese pilgrims:
"The buddhist calendar also regularly schedules the eighth lunar day (ashtami) of each fortnight for rituals. In the classical period, ashtami is also called "fasting day" and this seems to have been the common lunar day chosen for to hold ritual and festival events outside of the monasteries. For example the bright ashtami day of the month of Jyeshta is mentioned by Chinese pilgrim Faxian (in India and Lanka 399... 414 CE) as the day when a great Buddhist Chariot festival was celebrated in Pataliputra. Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang (in India 629... 645 CE), to cite an other example, also records that there were three months each year -Phalguna, Asadha, Karttika- when Buddhists observed special rituals and "long fasts"."
Jyeshta is the 3rd month, Asadha 4th, Karttika 8th, and Phalguna 12th month of the Indian buddhist calendar.
According to J. Powers "fasting" means here that the laity keep the eight precepts, which includes no eating after midday.
Ratha yatra or Chariot festival is a form of Buddha image worship that spread to many Buddhist countries. There are Chariot festivals in Japan even in modern times.
svaha
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1. (in english and sanskrit)
Malcolm
Posts: 32844
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

Re: Vesak 2020

Post by Malcolm »

tobes wrote: Sat May 09, 2020 4:49 am Yeah, so maybe it also about increasingly liminal boundaries between previously very disparate traditions...

Quite intentional perhaps, in many cases.

But basically: Vesak is usually May, Saka Dawa is usually June.
Unless you are following the Tshurlug system, in which case Saga Dawa is generally in May.
Post Reply

Return to “Tibetan Buddhism”