Vesākha: Selamat Hari Waisak

By N Mark Castro

Although it is not “Buddha’s Birthday,” it is sometimes referred to as such as it commemorates the birth, enlightenment (nirvāna), and death (Parinirvāna) of Gautama Buddha in the Theravada or southern tradition.

In Indonesia, it is celebrated as a national holiday based on the constitutionally recognized official religions. The exact date varies as it follows the Asian lunisolar calendars.

The World’s Largest Buddhist Temple


You would normally associate Buddhism in China, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Japan as major points of references considering that it’s been said Siddhartha Gautama spread his way of life in China and India, while emanating from Nepal. Sri Lanka’s 70% and Thailand’s 90% of population practice Buddhism while Japan’s Zen Buddhism had been responsible for its entry in the West.

What is amazing to note is that in the world’s largest Moslem population, Indonesia, sits the world’s largest Buddhist temple.

It’s a testament to the commitment of the ancestors and founding fathers of Indonesia to its Pancasila Principle or Unity in Diversity.

Built in the 9th century during the reign of the Sailendra Dynasty that flourished in Java from about 750 to 850, the dynasty was marked by a great cultural renaissance associated with the introduction of Mahāyāna Buddhism, and attained a high level of artistic expression in the many temples and monuments built under its rule.

During the reign of one of its kings, the famous stupa of Borobudur was built in the 9th century, with a taint of design in Javanese Buddhist architecture, blending the Indonesian indigenous cult of ancestor worship and the Buddhist concept of attaining Nirvana.

Considered as a World’s Heritage Site, global knowledge of its existence was didn’t come about until 1814 when Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, then the British ruler of Java, was informed by the natives of its location.

And ever since then, the temple has been called from mystical, magical, spiritual to legendary.


And people — pilgrims, famous, notorious, average, have flocked to visit the place ever since then.

Screenshot-2014-10-14-11.10.121 (1)


Although the Buddhist population in Indonesia is a mere 0.08% or about 1.7 million in contrast to it 250 million population, it is quite remarkable that it has received its own presidential decree as far back as 1983 to accommodate its practitioners in alignment to Indonesia’s Pancasila Principle.

To commemorate this day, 3 rituals are observed:

  1. Making water blessing of the springs( banners ) and lighting of  the torch using a source of ceremonial eternal fire.
  2. Ritual giving of alms to the monks by the community (Ummah) to give people an opportunity to do good.
  3. Samadhi in second peak full moon.

But, in essence, I think that the core message of Vesakha or Waisak is simply this, a thousand times this:



About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the Southeast Asia Director of JUMP DIGITAL Asia, which is an internationally-awarded and fully integrated digital marketing agency with 5 out of 10 offices in the ASEAN region. He is also the Secretary General of the Philippine Business Club Indonesia, managing and assisting the traffic of investments between the Philippines and Indonesia. He shuttles between Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Cambodia, and Australia. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on June 2, 2015, in General, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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Charlotte Setijadi

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