The Complete Guide to Wesak
The global spring spiritual Full Moon Festival of Wesak, Buddha's Birthday, occurs this year on Friday, May 5, 2023, at 1:34 PM Eastern Time, the day of the Scorpio Full Moon and the Taurus Solar Festival.
Tian Tan Buddha, Photo by Jason Cooper on Unsplash
In the East, Wesak is a yearly Festival commemorating the birth of Gautama Buddha, his spiritual enlightenment, and his transcendent journey beyond the manifested universe.
In the West we celebrate Buddha's Birthday, Wesak, every year on the day of the Scorpio Full Moon, Taurus Solar Festival.
For students of the Western Mystery School Traditions in general, and Theosophists in particular, the Festival of Wesak is a Global Celebration of the work being done by the Ascended Master Teachers in Spiritual Worlds and by the New Group of World Servers, often known as Lightworkers, in the physical realm on planet Earth.
The festival is intended to celebrate the Unity of Eastern and Western mystery schools, especially Buddhism and esoteric Christianity.
However the date of the Buddha's birthday is not fixed worldwide, in contrast to Christmas, which is always and everywhere December 25th. And throughout Asia, differing countries celebrate this festival on different dates, often changing every year.
"On what day is Buddha's birthday? That's simple. Just calculate the first full moon day of the sixth month of the Buddhist lunar calendar, which would be the fourth month of the Chinese calendar, except in years in which there's an extra full moon, and then Buddha's birthday falls in the seventh month. Well, except where it starts a week earlier. And in Tibet it's usually a month later. Oh, and in Japan, Buddha's birthday always is April 8," Barbara Brian explains in an article on Thought.com. For more information see the Wikipedia article entitled Buddha's Birthday.
So check it out to find out when this celebration occurs in various countries throughout Asia.
Bodhi Tree at Bodhgaya, India Site of Buddha's Enlightenment
DevBihari Buddhist, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
On Buddha's Birthday(s), millions of Buddhists in thousands of temples across the world from Tokyo in the East to San Francisco in the West gather and pay homage to an Indian Prince who renounced the pleasures of his royal household to seek enlightenment for the purpose of ending human suffering, and to bring peace and happiness to mankind.
Buddha Shakyamuni, the Supremely Enlightened One, was born in 623 B.C. on a May full-moon day, during the month the Hindus call Wesak. The young Prince was named Siddhartha or “the one who has brought about all good”.
As a young man, after excelling in every aspect of his royal education, Siddhartha left his family palace, including his wife and young son, to live the ascetic life of a renunciant. On the 35’th anniversary of his birth, on the full-moon day of the Hindu month of Wesak, while in meditation, seated under a Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya, India, the seeker Siddhartha became the Buddha, the Fully Enlightened One.
For many years the Buddha traveled around Northern India preaching His message of compassion and Loving-Kindness for all beings.
Buddha taught that the individual Self, experienced as the egoistic personality, is an illusion, and that each of us is indissolubly united with the vast web of life that interpenetrates the physical and spiritual realms, extending throughout the space-time continuum, encompassing past, present and future.
That vast web, comprising all components of the space-time continuum, was first envisaged in Hindu philosophy in 900 BC, in the Atharva Veda, as Indra's Net.
Visualization of Indra's Net
No machine-readable author provided. Schnerf~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons
Indra's Net is an infinitely large net which hangs over the palace of the Hindu Deva Indra, Lord of the Gods. Indra's palace is located on Mount Meru, the axis mundi of Buddhist and Hindu cosmology. Indra's Net has a multifaceted jewel at each vertex, and each jewel is reflected in all of the other jewels. This symbolic depiction of the Universe hints the interdependence of all that exists, and points to what modern science has discovered to be the holographic nature of the Universe. Each jewel within Indra's net contains a perfect reflection of every other jewel, just as every bit of information in a hologram contains all the information comprising the entire image.
Indra's Net has been used to illustrate the concepts of the concepts of Śūnyatā (emptiness), pratītyasamutpāda (dependent origination), and interpenetration in Buddhist philosophy. Indra's Net shatters the illusion of the individual self because each individual sentient being arises as an interdependent aspect of the entire Universe, and what appear to be individual qualities can be seen as mere emptiness, merely reflections of reflections arising from the interplay of various biological, mental, and karmic forces at play within and surrounding the individual in time and space.
Free of the illusion of the independent, individual self, we realize our radical dependence upon all the elements of the Universe, Universal Life Force Energy and the entire web of life comprising all sentient and non-sentient beings, past, present and future. We are part of that and that is who we are.
Thus, when we help another being we help ourselves. When we harm another being, we harm ourselves. This is the philosophical and spiritual foundation for the practice of compassion and selfless service that defines Buddhist spirituality.
True to this vision of compassionate Unity Consciousness, many of Buddha’s disciples seek to achieve nirvana (or enlightenment, or liberation) by attaining the rank of Bodhisattva. Bodhi means "awakening" or "enlightenment," and sattva means "sentient being." Sattva also has etymological roots that mean "intention," implying the intention to enlighten other beings. Thus the word bodhisattva signifies a spiritually enlightened being whose primary intention is to enlighten other beings.
One becomes a Bodhisattva after arousing the “mind of enlightenment” by taking a vow to attain supreme enlightenment for the sake of all beings. The Bodhisattva vows never to obtain nirvana for him or herself alone but to transcend this Universe only when all sentient beings have been liberated from the delusion of individual existence and attained Unity Consciousness.
Many versions of the Bodhisattva vow exist. Here is one: “The passions of delusion are inexhaustible. I vow to extinguish them all at once. The number of beings is endless. I vow to help save them all. The Truth cannot be told. I vow to tell it. The Way which cannot be followed is unattainable. I vow to attain it.”
This beautiful vow contains the seed of all Buddha’s wisdom teachings, which he spread throughout Northern India during his lifetime. Buddha's teachings are further elaborated in his instructions for his disciples, encoded in the eight-spoked wheel called the Dharmachakra, which refers to the Eight necessary practices required to achieve enlightenment, and in countless teachings written down by his disciples over the centuries.
Dharmachakra: The Buddhist eight-fold path illustrated in a wheel.
Krisse, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
After decades of unremitting work, having firmly established the Buddhist path upon the Earth, on the Wesak Full Moon, forty-five years after his enlightenment, lying between two beautiful sala trees, in front of a large group of his followers, Buddha left his body and transcended phenomenal existence completely.
Today, devout Buddhists celebrate the Buddha’s Birth, Enlightenment and Passing at the Wesak Festival by gathering before dawn to raise the Buddhist Flag and sing hymns in praise of the “Three Jewels” of Buddhism – the Buddha, the Dharma (Teachings), and the Sangha (Spiritual Community). Devotees bring simple offerings of flowers, candles and incense sticks to lay at the feet of their great teacher. These offerings remind us that just as the beautiful flowers wither away after a short time, just as the candles and incense soon burn out, life is subject to decay and destruction.
For this reason it is important to cultivate spiritual practice now and every day in our lives. Spiritual practice alone leads to the flowering of enlightenment. It is important to light the candle of devotion within our hearts and spark the light of wisdom within our minds, by deep meditation grounded in gratitude for our many blessings. It is important to exercise our will and send our sincere prayers for spiritual advancement spiraling to the heavens like coils of smoke from sticks of incense on an altar.
The Global Inter-Denominational Festival of Wesak
Now is the time for each of us to participate in this Scorpio Full Moon's profound moment of global spiritual practice. This is a time for each one of us to perform the necessary purifications and spiritual practices to achieve our very best consciousness and to relate to others and to our world with all the dignity, careful consideration and diplomatic integrity that we would expect from our world leaders at their very best moments.
Over the last one hundred years, the Celebration of Wesak has become a World Festival of Spirituality, transcending the Buddhist community, and is now a major celebration for Lightworkers everywhere.
The 20th century Theosophist, clairvoyant, spiritual teacher and esoteric astrologer Alice Bailey discussed the new global tradition of the Wesak Full Moon Festival in her booklet, “The Wesak Festival: A Technique of Spiritual Contact”.
“As one studies the world situation today, it becomes apparent that the secret of synthesis has been lost. Humanity is divided – one section against another section; the East versus the West; one race against another race; one nation against another nation,” Alice Bailey explains. “Men need to get back to the ancient knowledge that our planet is intended to demonstrate the essential unity of humanity, and that the energy which should manifest is that of integration and coherence. When this is truly realized our present world problems will adjust themselves, and the basic world rhythm will be re-established and stabilized.”
“Unfortunately, as yet, the race as a whole is not group conscious, and therefore average humanity cannot be trusted to work, think and plan for the group,” Bailey continues. “Men are as yet too selfish. In this fact, there is, however, no cause for discouragement, because to those who have a wide world vision it is also become definitely apparent that group consciousness and group responsibility are already something more than simply a lovely vision.
"Brotherhood and the recognition of its obligations are beginning to permeate the consciousness of men everywhere. This is due to the increasing activity of the Hierarchy of Light, to the services rendered down the ages by the Guides of the race, and today by Christ and his Church," Bailey explains. "They are beginning to demonstrate to man the true meaning of brotherhood, and men are beginning to grasp and realize their responsibilities. There is innate in mankind a responsiveness to that supreme ideal, and men are now reacting to a deep-seated need for synthesis.”
That synthesis is a recognition of the Unity behind the apparent dualities of reality. The Sanskrit word for that mysterious Unity is 'Satya' or 'Truth'.
Recently, our spiritual teachers, Shri Anandi Ma and Dileepji Patak, were asked whether the Hindu mystery school teachings of our lineage, which is a kundalini maha yoga lineage extending back in time thousands of years to Lord Ram, were appropriate for Buddhists or Christians to follow.
Shri Anandi Ma and Dileepji Patak
Truth is One, our Teachers explained, but the paths to Truth are many and varied. “There is One Energy that manifests as different Deities,” Dileepji continued. “We humans create differentiated religions, but at the subtle level the energy is One and the same and there is no conflict.”
Individuals on the spiritual path have mental and emotional expectations and images concerning the nature and form of spiritual experience and the Deities and other Beings of Light they will encounter in the spiritual world.
These expectations condition their spiritual experience. Thus, a Christian who attains enlightenment has an experience of walking with Jesus Christ. A Hindu who attains enlightenment has an experience of light exploding from the crown chakra, and a vision of the Union of Shiva and Shakti, and the Buddhist who attains liberation enters the Void.
Although these energies are somewhat different, the fundamental Truth of spiritual experience as Unity consciousness transcends the culturally conditioned forms and categories of that experience. In every case, the individual who attains the spiritual goal will find they share common ground with other enlightened beings and spiritual seekers of all denominations and lineages.
The Truth of Wesak
“The time has now come when the West should understand the true significance of this event (Wesak),” Alice Bailey revealed. “As men understand and avail themselves of the opportunity offered at the Festival, they place themselves in line with a particular spiritual force. They become vitalized by it, and spiritually stimulated, and are consequently rendered available for service.”
The true spiritual significance of Wesak is this. In the spiritual world, there is a Hierarchy of Ascended Master Guides and Teachers whose elevated consciousness constitutes a kind of collective hive-mind dedicated to the enlightenment of human beings and the acceleration of humanity’s spiritual evolution.
This Hierarchy honors all the various Wisdom Schools of the East and the West, and recognizes the validity of all true religious teachings of every lineage.
Each and every human soul currently embodied on planet Earth is blessed by the special attention of one, and usually more, Ascended Master Guides and Teachers with whom the individual souls have developed a special affinity through countless rounds of reincarnation.
These enlightened teachers work ceaselessly to help human beings to remove the obstacles separating them from Unity Consciousness: pride, ignorance, anger, lust, greed, jealousy, sloth, envy and gluttony. The Ascended Teachers work ceaselessly to help human beings liberate themselves from the bondage of karmic attachments accrued through millennia of incarnations. These Teachers stand ever ready to respond to sincere requests for help, guidance, grace and assistance from spiritual seekers everywhere.
In addition, these Teachers help to co-ordinate the work of various churches, ashrams, sanghas, mosques, and other gatherings of spiritual seekers and Lightworkers worldwide by sending energy streams infused with Wisdom and Love to the leaders and members of these organizations, designed to provide these groups with the specific vibrations they require to obtain their spiritual goals.
In addition, the Spiritual Teachers reach out in every possible way to human beings on the spiritual path, seeking to prepare them for the important work that only embodied souls can do to alleviate human suffering and promote spiritual progress on Earth.
For those who have become conscious of their Guides and Teachers, the Enlightened Ones send a continuous energetic stream of intellectual inspiration, loving wisdom, compassion and will forces designed to strengthen the spiritual seeker, guide them toward golden opportunities to be of maximum service in the world, and unite them with like-minded souls from various walks of life with whom they can share the life of Spirit in a more conscious way.
Ascended Masters are believed to be spiritually enlightened beings who in past incarnations were ordinary humans,
but who have undergone a series of spiritual transformations originally called initiations.
Виктория5551, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Thus the Ascended Master Teachers seek to help the individual find and affiliate with a sympathetic group of spiritual aspirants, so that the individual may enjoy the enhanced energy levels available only in group spiritual practice.
The Ascended Master Teachers also seek to join the individual with spiritual teachers appropriate to each individual’s soul development, personality, cultural conditioning and karmic needs.
Finally, the Ascended Master Teachers seek to embrace the individual in the New Group of World Servers comprising all those spiritual aspirants worldwide from every lineage and religion who share a common vision of humanity’s essential Unity and of the essential Truth of Unity.
Wesak and the New Group of World Servers
The Festival of Wesak is a Global Celebration of the work being done by the Ascended Master Teachers in Spiritual Worlds and by the New Group of World Servers in the physical realm on planet Earth.
As we recall today, the Buddha taught that the individual Self, experienced as the egoistic personality, is an illusion, and that each of us is indissolubly united with the vast web of life that interpenetrates the physical and spiritual realms, extending throughout the space-time continuum, encompassing past, present and future.
Much of the work that the New Group of World Servers must accomplish in this New Age is to bring the activities of human beings into harmony with the myriad beings of the mineral, plant and animal realms on planet Earth, restoring a balance to the environment and preserving the lives of countless species during this period of global climate change and transition.
Spiral Jetty, Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash
The New Group of World Servers strive to elevate human consciousness so that we will all recognize the existence of the many devas, elemental spirits and nature spirits active in the realms of nature, whose work equilibrates and optimizes the growth of all sentient beings on this garden planet.
Over the last hundred years, countless meditators, lightworkers, spiritual seekers and aspirants have told stories of dreams and meditative visions they have experienced on the Full Moon of May.
Over time, their stories have coalesced into a larger collective Story of Wesak, which has its foundation in the initial writings of Alice Bailey.
This is a summary of that Story.
“The Wesak Festival is in recognition of a present living event. It takes place ... whilst some great and heavenly event is going on, and it is in the nature of a participating ceremony,” says Alice Bailey. . . .There is release upon Earth (according to the measure of man's demand) of the blessing of God Himself, transmitted through the Buddha and His Brother, the Christ.”
"Song of Shambhala", painting by Nicholas Roerich, 1943
Nicholas Roerich , Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
High in the Himalayas, in the general area of Tibet, there lies a remote valley, all but circumscribed by lofty mountain ranges. Beginning on the third day prior to the Wesak Full Moon in Scorpio, a slow but steady stream of adepts, high lamas, magi, monks, priests, nuns, high priestesses, clairvoyants, spiritual teachers, and yogis begin to travel through a small funnel shaped opening in the mountains, to the northeast of the valley, and to set up camp on the valley’s plains.
Toward the northern end of the valley lies a large flat rock. Shorn of trees and shrubs, the valley is covered with a kind of short grass, but the mountainside surrounding it is full of tall trees.
Throughout the days prior to the Full Moon and up to the night thereof, the growing gathering is augmented by the addition of many Beings of Light -- Ascended Masters, Guides and Teachers, Rishis and Bodhisattvas whose subtle bodies pervade the valley with auric light visible on the etheric, astral, and causal planes of existence.
During this period, many lightworkers and disciples, spiritual teachers and yogis who inhabit the earth in a physical form and who cannot attend the gathering in person perform spiritual practices, meditations and prayers designed to join their energies, their souls, and their spirits with this elevated gathering.
In the hidden Himalayan Valley, this gathering congregates in groups according to their various grades, religions, paths, affiliations and lineages. Each one individually, and as part of a group, performs intensive spiritual practices to prepare themselves to receive a great spiritual gift.
Through these practices, the adepts open the heart, strengthen the will, illuminate the mind, and set up a ceaseless petition to heaven asking the Divine Source to instruct them concerning humanity’s pressing needs for the upcoming year, and asking the Divine Source to provide them with the grace and guidance they need to be of maximum service in the world.
On the evening before Wesak, as the time of the Full Moon nears, the congregation looks to the northeast of the valley, concentrating their attention upon the vast flat rock lying there. A vast crystal bowl, full of the water of life, sits upon its grey expanse.
The Cosmic Christ takes up his position among the congregation in the valley, and the various groups begin to move, forming human, moving mandalas that inscribe through sacred geometry the wisdom teachings of East and West upon the valley’s floor. Chants and mantras rise up into the night sky. As the chanting and the rhythmic movements of the groups quicken and strengthen, mere minutes before the exact time of the Full Moon, a saffron dot appears in the northeastern sky, soaring over the mountains and descending into the sacred valley.
The Buddha appears in his saffron robes, hovering above the great rock, in a full lotus meditation posture, his hand extended in blessing.
At that moment, the Cosmic Christ intones a secret mantram, and the congregation falls upon their faces in a gesture of supplication, gratitude and devotion.
At that moment, the combined energy of the congregation reaches its highest pitch and is met with a vast outpouring of Loving Wisdom in the form of the blessing of the Buddha, conveying energies direct from the Divine Source essential to humanity’s evolution during the coming year.
The Cosmic Christ receives these potent energies, transforms and transmutes them into energies appropriate for the vehicles of the various participants in the Valley and around the world, and distributes these energies to all those receptive and prepared to receive them.
All this takes approximately eight minutes. The Buddha’s annual sacrifice being complete, he returns to that inconceivably elevated place from which he came, at great personal cost, to aid suffering humanity.
The crowd rises to its feet. The water in the bowl is distributed in small portions to the attending Master Teachers, initiates and disciples, and they go their own way to their places of service. The crowd shares the waters of life with one another.
This is symbolic of the initiation of a New Aquarian Age of World Service, in which human beings, symbolized by the Water Bearer, recognize the essential unity of all humanity and willingly share with one another all that is essential for human life and human spiritual evolution.
Wesak Practices for the Wesak Full Moon
Here are some ideas for those who would like to participate in this great Festival of Love and Light.
Full Moon Rising Over Zion National Park, Public Domain, courtesy Wikimedia
1.During the day prior to the full Moon, accelerate your spiritual practice as much as possible. Attempt to remain somewhat more quiet than normal. Listen to some uplifting spiritual music, chants or mantras, instead of watching TV if possible. Or simply make some silent time. Meditate. Pray. Ask for the grace and guidance you need to achieve your loftiest spiritual goals. Ask that you be ever more consciously connected to inner spiritual guidance. Ask that you be given golden opportunities to be of maximum service in the world. Give thanks. Perform random acts of kindness.
2.In the room where you meditate, place a crystal bowl full of water on the altar or nearby you. Light a candle and some incense if you have these available. Play some appropriate spiritual music the evening of the Wesak Full Moon. Meditate during the evening hours whenever you have the time to do so.
3. In 2023, the Wesak Full Moon occurs on Friday May 5 at 1:34 PM Eastern Time.
Fifteen to thirty minutes prior to this time, at the latest, try to be sitting in meditation. Connect with your spiritual guides and teachers, and with inner spiritual guidance. Ask for help with any and all issues you are currently addressing. Ask to be graced with guidance that will help you understand what is to come in the next year, and how you can be of maximum service in the world.
If you are awake at that time, chant or pray as the Full Moon approaches. Five minutes before the Full Moon, simply enter into a deep meditative state. Try to visualize or hear or feel the presence of a vast energy grid surrounding the Earth, energized by the combined will and intent of the entire Spiritual Hierarchy and the New Group of World Servers around the world. Feel your own energy uniting with that vast collective outpouring of love and light.
However, all of those who wish to participate should feel free to simply tune in to this global meditation at any time during the evening of the Full Moon, and during the early morning hours, and to join in and participate. You may have some very interesting early morning dreams!
4. The evening of the Full Moon, fill any crystal bowls or vases you may have available with water, and place them outside at sunset. Allow these containers to sit outside during the night, and bring them in the following morning after the full moon.
Full Moon in Clouds, Photo by Jake Weirick on Unsplash
Put the water from the crystal containers into sealed glass bottles. You can use this holy water, infused with the magnetic energy of the Loving Wisdom embodied by Lord Buddha and the Cosmic Christ, to heal your environment, yourself, and others. Place the water in a crystal bowl on your altar, or by your bed, or on your mantelpiece, and simply allow the water to evaporate. Then replace the water as needed. This will elevate the energy within your living space.
Occasionally pour some of this enlivened water into your bath to purify your body and soul. Occasionally drink the water for self-healing. Offer the water to others who are in need of healing. Tell them what they are receiving. Pour this water upon the earth in areas where human beings have damaged the environment, and ask Grandmother Earth for forgiveness.
Cover photo: Lord Buddha Statue, India, Photo by abhijeet gourav on Unsplash