Category Archives: Vesak

VESAK

May…

The fleet of metal dragons roars overhead. They circle the wild, tangled hinterland around the little suburban town…

He was the only person who even thought of stepping outside that night before the celebration. The moon began, slowly, to show itself to him. A pale ghost upon thousands of miles of inky space, it threw fleeting, floating shadows onto the ground at his feet. Visages of mighty, ancient trees, a display of shadow puppets with no strings around him; strange, misleading, harbingers of lunacy.
Warmer lights blink and flicker, tiny orange eyes peeking delicately out of darkened corners that would be otherwise engulfed by endless night.
A celebration.
His family had been preparing themselves, the whole town wanted to pour its heart out today in the watchful shadow of the ancient, inconstant moon. Rosy paper lotuses of light frame floated across the ground as if on a pond, golden lights glowing within their hearts. The vibrancy and spectacles of glowing reds, blues and yellows coming from the forest-buckets of shimmery cellophane which had replaced nightly white jasmines.
Octagonal frames with string hanging down, lights softly glowing behind crisp, tissue paper skin.
A festival of light and beauty.
A celebration in a small place, watched by the holiest of beings in the vault of the Six Heavens. His was a town where every day in the month of May, voices rang out into the sky in proclamation of the Threefold Miracle. Song-like verses and chants rumbled from beneath the roofs of every home here. More village than town perhaps? Still large enough to be lit from head to toe, multicolored stars affixed to wires crisscrossing every home, pole and tree.

Even his parents.
The mighty white concrete dome is clothed in striped flags and banners of warm colors, with string upon string of lights wrapped around from base to apex. A welcoming giant of the gentlest order, it beckoned the devoted crowd hither. Always it was a welcoming sight, the most beautiful sight. This was a special night. The chorus of verses and prayed was louder tonight, the shining heads of monks in saffron robes now multiplied as if by magic.
His parents too were here, lost among the faithful. But the faithless would taint and tarnish this day, writing its history in rotten blood.
The prayers began and ended again and again, a celebration to be heard by the gods.

A  blast of sound!
Fast as lightning, loud as thunder echoes through the chilly night air. It is coming now, a dark goliath and his vicious pack blackening the weeping, helpless moon. They drift in lower.
He and his parents haven’t the slightest clue that the ominous cloak is being draped across the heavens. The thunder of prayer is deafening still…then the flash of light blinds them…
He feels the force…

The thunder grows in tone, the fire spreads across the town in a tsunami of heat and light, a raging wall from hell’s maw that sweeps across the verdant lands of mortals! Roars from the aerial marauders! Hundreds of blood-curdling screams of people being swept away, picked up from the charred earth by claws of flame, or burned in their sleep. They are washed away by this tidal wave of flame, hundreds of faces wiped clean off the slate they call their country, merely tiny figures, living dolls nameless before the god of this apocalypse!
His parents are running, it is a marathon almost. They are retreating from the blaze that creeps ever closer, a fiery tiger stalking menacingly its innocent prey. Another man is consumed, overwhelmed by the ever-advancing wall of death…
His mother is next, picked screaming off her feet, skin melted away by the cruel, swirling vortex-and her husband has his flesh flung away and his bones turned to horrible imitations of firewood. The infernal dogs have ravaged the land! They howl into the air, breaths of ash in a mushroom cloud that keeps spreading on forever it seems, a blanket that the sky cannot drape itself it but has no choice. The moon hides behind its cloudy sheet in terror.

He is the only one alive.

The dying blaze cleans the festival grounds, a pair of terrible jaws scraping the earth of life with tongue of flame.
He runs.
He is ALIVE.
Thunder boils the air above him as the leaves of the forest shiver in fear. The blast radius is immense. His hometown in now wiped away from the face of the earth. He is too young to know of the monsters who soared past just a while ago. Why is he here? Is it the faithful or the faithless who died? Why is he safe? Who saved him? Is he faithless or faithful? He has not one answer. He never will. The black sky is painted red with the blood of the dead. The devil has eaten off a chunk of his world; never will the earth here be good for humanity; it will always be that haunted graveyard, nameless men and women, their life-strings torn away by some dastardly puppeteer.
This inferno is not the seven-circled nightmare of Dante. It is hell on earth.
All he knows is that the forest beckons him.
The black maw is comfort now. He does not know where he will go. All he knows is, he will go on, he will have to go on…

May…

The fleet of metal dragons roars overhead. They circle the wild, tangled hinterland around the little suburban town…

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Vesak


Vesak marks the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha. It shows us that Buddha was no ordinary person, and yet, he was a mere human. Magical tales surround the story of his birth, seven lotuses bloomed, and trees were heavy with flowers and fruit. And then this prince, husband, father, leaves all luxuries behind to seek this truth. When he does, the world shudders and the gods smile. Then after a lifetime of preaching the Dhamma and spreading this truth, he dies. An ordinary death. Food poisoning, some say.
Centuries have passed since the Buddha’s time. We still celebrate Vesak, the full moon day that marks the three main milestones of the Buddha’s life.
Now Vesak has been sadly turned into Halloween. The scary masks which have nothing to do with Vesak seems worse than the commercializing of Valentine’s Day! Dansal which are meant to be about giving are visited for fun, and are organized for fun. People rarely think about why exactly they are having a Dansala! And Dansal hunting has become a fun thing to do on Vesak.
Vesak At home, 2011 and 2013
Then there are the colorful Vesak lanterns. This is the Dhanaya or giving of light. It is believed that the Buddha once said, one lit oil lamp could be used to light many more, without the flame of the first in any way dying. If I’m right, the Buddha was talking about merit and the act of “Pin Dheema” or the conferring of merit. Yet, light has been used as a metaphor for the many issues and topics the Buddha discussed. It is also with light that the Buddha’s enlightenment is marked. The rays of light or “Budhu Ras” mark a sense of purity, of understanding, of having found that one truth that will get you out of this never ending cycle of Sansara. So Vesak lanterns have a story behind them. They aren’t mere decorations. They mark enlightenment. Sadly, not many know this and has lost its meaning. People decorate their houses for Vesak the same way they do for Christmas, not knowing why they do so.
Vesak is obviously a Buddhist holiday. Wearing white, people go to the temple. Most observe Sil. They refrain from eating meat. Vesak is more special than the other Poya days. Yet, it isn’t only Buddhists who visit the Dansal, light up their gardens or go out to see the decorations, Pandols and listen to Bakthi Gee. It isn’t only Buddhists who enjoy a holiday on Vesak and the day following Vesak. Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Hindus and those with no religious beliefs, they all enjoy the colors, the sound of tissue paper rustling in the wind. Vesak shows that religion, caste, race; they can separate us. But as the Buddha taught us all; tolerance is the key to happiness.