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Buddhist festivals and retreats

Buddhist festivals and retreats

Buddhist practices are a way of showing devotion to the Buddha through ceremonies, festivals, different types of meditation and retreats. Buddhist practices include rituals - a visual way for Buddhists to demonstrate their beliefs.

There are two main festivals in the Buddhist calendar. These are Wesak and Parinirvana Day. In addition, Buddhists may also take part in retreats, which allow for spiritual development.

Wesak

 Wesak is celebrated through the release of paper lanterns

Wesak is commonly celebrated in May. It is the Buddhist festival that celebrates the birth of the Buddha. Wesak also commemorates the three major events in the Buddha’s life, which were his birth, his enlightenment and his death. It is also known as Buddha Day.

Wesak is celebrated in several ways, including by releasing paper lanterns. This symbolises the light to the path of enlightenment through overcoming the darkness of ignorance. Theravada Buddhists may also release cadged birds. This symbolises the Buddha’s release from the cycle of samsara.

Parinirvana Day

Parinirvana Day is linked to Wesak as it is concerned with the Buddha’s death. It is commonly celebrated by Mahayana Buddhists on 15 February and it commemorates when the Buddha achieved final nibbana.

Parinirvana Day is a more reflective festival than Wesak as it allows Buddhists the opportunity to think about their own immortality and death. Mahayana Buddhists may go on a pilgrimage to Kushinagar. This is believed by many Buddhists to be the site of the Buddha’s death. When Buddhists go to Kushinagar, they visit the temple and give thanks to the Buddha.

Retreats

In the UK, there are a number of retreats that Buddhists use to practise meditation and remember the Buddha’s life. Buddhists may use retreats to remember key moments in the Buddha’s life but also to free themselves from cravings and undertake samatha or vipassana meditation.

Examples of Buddhists retreats:

♦   Aruna Ratanagiri: Harnham Buddhist Monastery (UK)

♦   Bodh Gaya (India, said to be the place of the Buddha’s enlightenment)

♦   Kushinagar (India, said to be the place of the Buddha’s death)

♦   Samatha Trust (UK)

Courtesy: BBC