Why Is Vesak Day With Different Dates In Different Countries?

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Question: What does Vesak Day (卫塞节) commemorate and celebrate?

Answer: It celebrates the Birth (诞生), Nirvāṇa (成道) and Parinirvāṇa (涅槃) of Śākyamuni Buddha (释迦牟尼佛).

Question: Did these three events occur on the same day?

Answer: No, according to the Chinese lunar calendar, the days are as below.

Birth Day: 8th day of the 4th lunar month
Nirvāṇa Day: 8th day of the 12th lunar month
Parinirvāṇa Day: 15th day of the 2nd lunar month
Vesak Day: 15th day of the 4th lunar month

Question: Why is there Vesak Day, since the three events occurred on other days?

Answer: Vesak Day was the universal day agreed for celebration since 1950 by the international Buddhist community. Traditionally, in different countries, the three events are also celebrated separately.

Question: Why is Vesak Day celebrated on different days in different countries, as below?

Japan: 8 Apr 2023 (corresponding to the Chinese lunar calendar in day and month but in terms of the Gregorian calendar, thus fixed yearly)
Malaysia: 4 May 2023 
Nepal: 5 May 2023 (corresponding to the first full moon day of Vaiśākha)
Singapore: 2 June 2023 (corresponding to the Chinese lunar calendar)
Indonesia: 4 Jun 2023

Answer: Different countries define the day differently due to different calendars used. This is not a big problem, as the more celebrations there are worldwide, the ‘merrier’, as this reminds more to be mindful of the Buddha and his teachings.

Question: What are the calendars used?

Answer: As listed above, there is the Gregorian (or solar) calendar that we are all familiar with, and lunisolar (i.e. lunar and solar) calendars, that Buddhists, Hindus and Chinese use. As these dating systems are not exactly the same, the three events and Vesak are calculated to be on different days.

Question: Which is the most likely ‘accurate’ Vesak Day? 

Answer: As Vesak Day was named after Vaiśākha, the second month in Buddhist-Hindu calendars, the Nepalese date is perhaps the closest. The Buddha was born in Nepal too, on that month’s full moon day. In terms of the Gregorian calendar, it corresponds to the period between the second half of April and the first half of May.

Please Be Mindful Of Your Speech, Namo Amituofo!

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