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May 23 Vesakha Puja

May 23 Vesakha Puja

Known in the West as Buddha Day, Vesak or Wesak, this festival celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha

Outline script for assembly leaders

Suppose you were offered everything you ever wanted: money, favourite meals and drinks, no work, and whatever presents you wanted when you asked for them. But in return for all this, you would have to stay in the same building for ever. Would the bargain be worth it?

One day, a prince called Siddhartha decided he would rather give up all his luxuries and leave his palace. He set off on a journey to search for an answer to a question that had formed in his head. "What is life all about? What is it for?" Six years later, he came to a great fig tree called a bodhi tree. "I shall sit under this tree and I shall not stir again until I have found the answer," he said.

Eventually, the answer came to him. From then on, he was known as the Buddha, which means the "Enlightened" or wise one. He travelled the country with a new purpose, teaching what he now knew was the "Truth": "When we're full of selfish wants, we don't know what the world's really like. We must put aside our desires and (when we've lost our greed and selfishness) we'll see things as they really are and find real happiness.

"We must think how we can be of use to the world. We must speak the truth; be straightforward in what we do; choose a job that isn't harmful to others; and take care of everybody and everything we meet."

Every year, at the May full moon, his followers remember the story of the Buddha. They clean and decorate their homes, visit their temples and offer gifts to the monks. They may release caged birds and "bathe" statues of the Buddha.

Follow-up Discuss these questions: Would you like the luxurious life of a prince? What do you think is the purpose of life?

Find out more about the story of Siddhartha. Act it as a shadow play, using a white sheet lit from behind.

The Buddhist Centre in London is at www.thebuddhistsociety.org Tel: 020 7834 5858 (afternoons only) and the Birmingham Buddhist Centre is at www.birminghambuddhistcentre.org.uk

Tel: 0121 449 5279 A slide show about Wesak in Manchester is at www.bbc.co.ukreligionreligionsbuddhismholydayswesak.shtml

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