When is Vesak Day exactly? Why so many different dates?

2 mins read
Published on Jun 2, 2023

Vesak, also known as Buddha Day, is a significant Buddhist holiday celebrated across the world. It commemorates the birth, nirvāṇa (enlightenment) and parinirvāṇa (passing) of Buddha. However, in Malaysia and Singapore, Buddhists celebrate this holiday on different dates in 2023.

While Malaysia celebrates Vesak on May 4, 2023, Singapore observes it on June 2, 2023. This discrepancy in the celebration of Vesak can be confusing for some, especially for those who are not familiar with the lunar calendar. For those wondering whether your long weekend is in jeopardy, we got your back 😉

Know your dates to have a date with Buddha 😉

The celebration of Vesak is based on the lunar calendar, which is a calendar based on the cycles of the moon. This means that the dates of Buddhist holidays, including Vesak, are determined by the lunar cycle rather than the solar cycle. The lunar calendar is used by many cultures and religions around the world, including Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism.

The difference in the celebration of Vesak between Malaysia and Singapore in 2023 is due to the different ways in which the two countries follow the lunar calendar. 2023’s May has two full moons. A buffet.

Malaysia celebrates Vesak on the first full moon in the month of May (similar to Sri Lanka, Nepal, India). This approach celebrates Vesak in the Gregorian Calendar of May. On the other hand, Singapore follows the Chinese lunar calendar and takes the second full moon in Visakha month. This is similar to Thailand, Laos, and Indonesia which celebrate Vesak on the fourteenth or fifteenth day of the fourth month in the Chinese lunar calendar.

🇲🇾 Malaysia: 4 May 2023

🇸🇬 Singapore: 2 June 2023

🇹🇭 Thailand: 3 June 2023

🇮🇩 Indonesia: 4 June 2023 

Vesak ain’t the only chaotic date

Because of the difference in the lunar calendars used by Malaysia and Singapore, the celebration of Vesak falls on different dates in 2023. However, it is important to note that this discrepancy is not unique to Vesak. Other religions that follow the non-gregorian calendar also have different holy dates across the world.

How should we look at this supposed ‘chaos’

So, how should Buddhists view this discrepancy in the celebration of Vesak between Malaysia and Singapore in 2023? Firstly, it is important to remember that the essence of the celebration remains the same, regardless of the date.

Vesak is a time for Buddhists to reflect on the life and teachings of the Buddha and to practice compassion and kindness towards all sentient beings. The date of the celebration should not detract from the significance of the holiday.

Secondly, Buddhists should view this discrepancy as a reminder of the diversity of Buddhist traditions and cultures around the world. Buddhism has spread across the globe and has taken on different forms in different countries.

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While the celebration of Vesak may differ in Malaysia and Singapore, the core principles of Buddhism, including compassion, wisdom, and mindfulness, remain the same.

Finally, Buddhists should use this discrepancy as an opportunity to learn more about the different ways in which Buddhism is practised around the world. By understanding the unique traditions and cultures of different Buddhist communities, we can deepen our own practice and broaden our perspectives.

Maybe we shouldn’t take getting the ‘right’ date so seriously as this hardwarezone commentator points out.

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