Thursday, May 27, 2010

Happy Wesak Day!

Hi all,

As an effort to bridge and to share with fellow readers the significant of Wesak Day as part of the Buddhist in Malaysia and why it is celebrated.

To start off, i am born Buddhist. Buddhism is both a religion and a way of life. When you see people burning joss sticks and such, that is Taoism, it is a ritual. The Malaysian Chinese community in has sort of assimilated and adopted practices from both Buddhism and Taoism in their life and both has now so jumbled up it is hard to separate one from the other - and often, what really separate each one from another is really the scale of the ritual involved (Noticed those tong-tong chiang during funeral? those elaborate ritual are actually Taoism, Buddhism takes a whole gentler approach and concentrate on Metta (love) as a way of giving to the deceased, so chanting and recital of holy scriptures are involved).

There are two main branch of Buddhism - Theravada (The School of the Elders) and Mahayana (The Great Vehicle). To put it simply, Theravada is the more old school teaching . Mahayana is (in laymen's term) more like those "Zen" type of teaching. In Malaysia, there are more Buddhists practicing the old teaching than the Zen teaching (but if you want to look cool, just say Zen la, everything also Zen-like)

The foundations of Buddhist tradition and practice are the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma (the teachings), and the Sangha (the community). While a lot of these can be elaborated in more words, simply put, it is a commitment of a person to "seek refuge under the Three Jewels" and separate themselves from the worldly (materialistic) ties.

In another word, there is a lot of Buddhist around, but most are not practicing it (including yours truly).

Being brought up in a traditional Chinese family (both my parents are 3rd Generation Malaysian Chinese), many practices that has happened in the household of my grandparents and my great-grandparents are already diluted and has a lot of influence from the society and way of life in Malaya/Malaysia. However, religion and it's practices are a daily affair as we make it a point to pray as a family everyday.

As per our text book in school (Form 3 to Form 5), we all know who Siddhartha Gautama is. He was borned a prince to a small community where there are only two types of class - Masters and Servants. From birth, the Father, the King, has already been told by a fortune teller that his son will either be a great king that will rule a vast land, or renounce all material and ties and become a holy man; depending on what he sees in his life.

The King did all he could but failed to prevent Him from going out of the palace and saw (what was later known as "the Four Sights") - an old man, a sick man, a corpse and a holy man.

He started to learn meditation and learn from a holy man in his quest to find an end to suffering. In his quest, he fasted, exposed himself to pain and practiced breath-holding (Yoga???). None of them provided him with any solution to end suffering. It was told that He accepted milk and bread from a person and that has been a changing moment where (it later became "the Middle Way") He realised that moderation is the way to go.

The story goes on and years later, under the Bodhi tree, he attained enlightenment and was then known as Buddha. I can't recall the event of the three days he sat under the Bodhi tree before he was enlightened (I learned this in Sunday School in Brickfields though - but back then, it was more of meeting girls than trying to pay attention in class :P)

However, i do know, and tried to practice the "five percept":

To refrain from killing,
To refrain from stealing,
To refrain from sexual misconduct
To refrain from lying
To refrain from intoxicants

There are extension to these five basic percepts and i was told there were other 3 or 5 more, which, again, i can't recall. But i know they were of the more specific such as only eating a meal a day (true Buddhist monks only eat once a day - usually before noon). So, now you know, those fake monks walking in Kuala Lumpur with an alms bowl are nothing but fake. Buddhist monks do not sell anything or exchange money for material items (usually a symbolic bracelet or such).

Buddhism believes in karma and re-birth. In the Theravada teaching, each Buddhist tries to attain Nirvana - a practice usually not easy.

However, i was also taught about the many level of re-birth :
1. Naraka - or Hell. Yeap, you are re-birthed in Hell and has to go through 18 levels of punishments - depending on the severity of your mis-deed in your humanly-life. There are chances to "move" out of hell if you are at the "higher" level of hell (i.e. - if it is a basement parking, you are at level B1 to B3, but level B16-B18 - you can forget it, it is like you are trapped in a cycle where your death kept occuring and you kept being re-birth again in the same level to die the same way, again, and again. usually, this is reserved for politicians ). B18 is known as Chamber of Avici - Crooks who have committed heinous crimes, brought misery to the people and betrayed the ruler are placed on a platform above an inferno. The unlucky ones fall off the platform into the inferno and burn while the lucky ones remain on the platform. These spirits are never to be reincarnated.
2. Preta - you are sharing space with Human, but you are never seen - Lost soul/hungry ghost.
3. Animals
4. Human - you are given a second chance to attain Nirvana
5. Nirvana- no, there are no harem up there, i was told.

So, now that the basic of Buddhism and a bit of revision on our Form 3 to Form 5 history is in place, it will be easier for me to just tell all of you that Wesak Day, is a day where the Buddhists would remembers how Gautama Buddha attained His enlightenment and has found a way on how human could end all suffering and live a life to reach Nirvana. It is a day of reflection (of oneself) and correcting to be a better Buddhist.

Have a good weekend y'all.

*Please correct me if my entry above is inaccurate. The above was written based on my shallow knowledge and how i was told about it when i was growing up.


  1. Cool sharing!Thks.. Like the B16-B18 (VIP parking for politicians) part. Blessed Vesak celebrations!

  2. Plee - LOL. I've also sinned by saying/assuming that the politicians ends up thre! :)

    Happy Vesak to you too!

  3. Sutpe:Nolah! no sin .. Am sure you just joking(hard to resist a good joke isn't it?).. no malice intended.

  4. Plee - you know me too well la!

  5. wow. you got it almost all right. also from my limited understanding.

    Happy wesak day to you too. And to all your reader.

  6. SCKhoo - :) At least i know my parents not teaching me wrong things :P

  7. very enlightening.. good write up..thank you

  8. Selamat menymbut Hari Wesak, sahabat..

    Lama sungguh rasa nya kita tak bersua. Abang bandit pun sama..


  9. Hi Stupe. Hopefully you are good. Thanks for sharing this exciting post. Happy Wesak Day to you. =)

  10. SK - ditto. Catch up soon?

    Naz - the intention is to share. I am also learning.