Wesak is the celebration of Buddha's birth & enlightenment, & in some traditions also his death. As the most important figure in Buddhism his life is celebrated and revered. Gathering to chant and pray are an important part of a traditional Wesak celebration.
It is said that Wesak is that time at the Full Moon of May in which the Christ gathers the entire Spiritual Hierarchy together in meditation to invoke the forces of Shambhalla. The Buddha, representing those forces, appears and blesses humanity.
The ceremony of Wesak is held in the actual Wesak Valley in the Himalayas at the time of the full moon of May (which is actually the full moon of Scorpio). A vast crowd assembles in the valley, in front of the great rock table at the end of the valley. Alice A. Bailey describes this event in The Unfinished Autobiography. It is said that the Christ and the Buddha conduct the ceremony of Wesak from a rock table at the end of the valley described by Bailey as "...an immense rock, rising out of the floor of the valley like a great table."
The second of the three major spiritual planetary festivals is The Wesak Festival, The Buddha's Blessing, and is celebrated in the eastern hemisphere at the Taurus full moon. (The first, in April, is the Festival of the Christ and the third, in June, is the Festival of Humanity.) Wesak is the festival of The Buddha, divine intermediary between the highest spiritual center, Shamballa, and the Hierarchy.
The Buddha is the expression of the Wisdom of God, the embodiment of light and the indicator of divine purpose.
Wesak - the Sun in Taurus Full Moon, is the most powerful Full Moon of the year. The Sun's transit through Taurus exalts the Moon and Taurus is ruled by Venus, the spiritual ruler of Earth. Venus is identified with Mary, the World Mother. May, the month of Taurus, is the month of Mary. Venus appears in the west as the feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl who brought enlightenment to the Mayans; in the east she is Maya, mother of the Buddha.
The lunar cycle is a wave of creation that comes to fruition when the Moon is full. Each Full Moon brings revelation and possibility for healing body, mind, and soul. The Moon is the Mother whence comes reflected Light of the spiritual Sun to nurture, support, protect, and bring to flower the seeds of creation.
The Full Moon is like a pitcher pouring out a healing elixir. The celestial dispensation continues for three days following the day of the Full Moon. Calm and balance, deep breathing, meditation, yoga, rhythmic music and dancing help for receiving the blessings of heaven.
Locally the Full Moon has strong effect in the hour following Sunset when the Moon is rising and at local Midnight when the Moon is directly overhead. This Sun in Taurus Full Moon is called Wesak (WE-sock). Mystics say that the Buddha returns now to help regenerate the Earth.
According to metaphysical tradition, the Buddha was born, attained enlightenment, and left Earthly incarnation under the Full Moon of Taurus. And the Buddha returns at this time each year to bring new light to the world. Spiritual leaders gather in Wesak Valley, a mythic place high in the Himalayas. Here initiates led by the Christ arrange themselves into a great pentagram (the Venusian emblem of world soul) while the Buddha hovers over those gathered radiating light. This cosmic alignment occurs during the eight minutes centered on the moment of the Wesak full moon.
The Legend of The Wesak
According to tradition, at the time of the full moon in Taurus, the Buddha comes to the Wesak Valley of the Himalayas to bring the powerful spiritual energy of Shamballa to the assembled masters, initiaties and disciples of the Hierarchy, for the assimilation and eventual distribution of this Shamballa force throughout the world.
The Wesak Valley, lying at a rather high altitude in the foothills of the Himalayan-Tibet ranges. It is surrounded by high mountains on all sides except towards the northeast, where there is a narrow opening in the mountain ranges. The valley is bottle-shaped in contour, with the neck of the bottle to the northeast, and it widens very considerably towards the south. Up towards the northern end, close to the neck of the bottle, there a huge flat rock. There are no trees or shrubs in the valley, which is covered with a kind of coarse grass.
Approaching the time of the full moon of Taurus, pilgrims from the surrounding districts begin to gather. The holy men and the lamas find their way into the valley and fill the southern and the middle parts, leaving the northeastern end relatively free. There, so the legend runs, gathers a group of those great Beings Who are the Custodians on Earth of God's Plan for our planet and for humanity.
This group of knowers of divinity are the main participants in The Wesak Festival. They arrange Themselves in the northeastern end of the valley, in concentric circles, and prepare for a great act of service. In front of the rock, looking towards the northeast, stand Those Beings Who are called by Their disciples The Three Great Lords. These are The Christ, Who stands in the center; the Lord of living forms, The Manu, Who stands at His right; and The Lord of Civilization, who stands to His left. These three face the rock upon which rests a great crystal bowl, full of water.
Behind the grouped Masters, adepts, initiates and senior workers under God's Plan are to be found the world disciples and aspirants in their various grades and groups (either "in the body" or "out of the body"), who at this time constitute the New Group of World Servers. Those present in their physical bodies have found their way there by ordinary means. Others are present in their spiritual bodies, and in the dream state. The "dream," which they later relate, has been uniformly registered by people throughout the world, and bears the testimony to the recollection of an inner spiritual happening.
As the hour of the full moon approaches, a stillness settles down upon the crowd, and all look towards the northeast. Certain ritualistic movements take place, in which the grouped Masters and Their disciples of all ranks take up symbolic positions, and form on the floor of the valley such significant symbols as the five-pointed star, with The Christ standing at the highest point; of a triangle, with The Christ at the apex; or a cross, and other well known formations, all of which have a deep and potent meaning. This is all done to the sound of certain chanted words and esoteric phrases, called mantrams.
The expectancy in the waiting, onlooking crowd becomes very great, and the tension is real and increasing. Through the entire body of people there seems to be felt a stimulation or potent vibration which has the effect of awakening the souls of those present, fusing and blending the group into one united whole, and lifting all into a great act of spiritual demand, readiness, and expectancy. It is the climax of the world's aspiration focussed in this waiting group. These three words - demand, readiness and expectancy - best describe the atmosphere surrounding those present in this secret valley.
The chanting and the rhythmic weaving grows stronger, and all the participants and the watching crowd raise their eyes towards the sky in the direction of the narrow part of the valley. Just a few minutes before the exact time of the full moon, in the far distance, a tiny speck can be seen in the sky. It comes nearer and nearer, and grows in clarity and definiteness of outline, until the form of The Buddha can be seen, seated in the cross-legged Buddha position, clad in his saffron-colored robe, bathed in light and color, and with his hand extended in blessing.
When The Buddha arrives at a point exactly over the great rock, hovering there in the air over the heads of The Three Great Lords, a great mantram, used only once a year, at The Festival, is intoned by The Christ, and the entire group of people in the valley fall upon their faces. This Invocation sets up a great vibration or thought current which is of such potency that it reaches up from the group of aspirants, disciples and initiates who employ it, to the Being we know as God. It marks the supreme moment of intensive spiritual effort throughout the entire year, and the spiritual vitalization of humanity and the spiritual effects last throughout the succeeding months. The effect of this great Invocation is universal or cosmic, and serves to link us up with that cosmic center of spiritual force from which all created beings have come. The blessing is poured forth, and The Christ, as the representative of humanity, receives it in trust, for distribution.
Thus, so the legend runs, The Buddha returns once a year to bless the world, transmitting renewed spiritual life, through The Christ. Slowly then The Buddha recedes into the distance, until again only a faint speck can be seen in the sky, and this eventually disappears. The whole ceremonial blessing, from the time of the first appearance in the distance until the moment The Buddha fades out of view, takes just eight minutes.
The Buddha's annual sacrifice for humanity (for He comes back only at great cost) is over, and He returns again to that high place where He works and waits. Year after year He comes back in blessing; year after year, He and His great brother, The Christ, work in the closest cooperation for the spiritual benefit of humanity. In these two great Sons of God have been focussed two aspects of divine life, and They act together as Custodians of the highest type of spiritual force to which our humanity can respond. Through The Buddha, the wisdom of God is poured forth. Through The Christ, the love of God is manifested in humanity, and it is this wisdom and love which pour forth upon humanity each Wesak full moon.
When The Buddha has again disappeared, the crowd rise to their feet; the water in the bowl is distributed in tiny portions to the Masters, initiates and disciples, and they then go their way to their place of service. The crowd, who have all brought their little cups and vessels of water, drink of them and share with others. In this beautiful "water ceremony of communion" is portrayed the symbol of the new age which is upon us, the Aquarian Age, the age of the Water Carrier.
In this ceremony is perpetuated for us the story of the universality of God's love, the need for our individual purification, and the opportunity to share with each other that which belongs to all. The water, which has been magnetized by the presence of The Buddha and of The Christ, carries certain properties and virtues of a healing and helpful nature.
The day of the Festival is to be known as the "day of safeguarding" whilst the two succeeding days are called the "days of distribution." These words mean something different to the Hierarchy of Masters than they do to us and it is fruitless (as well as forbidden) to elucidate them in their deepest meaning. They mean, however, five days of a most intensive effort in service, leading to the renunciation of all which could hinder our usefulness as channels of spiritual force. It means that after due preparation, dedication and upward striving for the first two days, on the day of the Festival itself we simply regard ourselves as the recipients of, or the custodians of, as much of that inflowing spiritual force as we can possibly hold. As channels, we must be prepared to forget ourselves in the service of touching, containing and holding force for the rest of humanity. We must regard the Festival itself as a day of silence (I refer to an inner peace and silent solemnity that can be preserved unbroken though the individual may be serving through speech and spoken interest), a day of service carried forward entirely on esoteric levels, and of complete self-forgetfulness in the remembrance of humanity and its need. During that period, two thoughts only will hold our constant attention-the need of humanity and the necessity of providing a group channel whereby the spiritual forces can be poured through the body of humanity under the expert guidance of the chosen members of the Hierarchy.
For two days prior to the full moon, we will hold the attitude of dedication and service and seek to assume that attitude of receptivity to that which our soul will impart which will make us of use to the Hierarchy. The Hierarchy works through groups of souls, and the potency of this group work is to be tested out. These groups in their turn contact and feed the waiting dedicated attentive personalities. On the day of the full moon, we attempt to hold ourselves steadily in the light. We will not formulate to ourselves what will happen nor will we look for results or for tangible effects.
On the two succeeding days, the focus of our attention will be steadily turned away from ourselves but also from the inner subjective planes to the outer world, and our efforts will be to pass on, or to pass through, that measure of spiritual energy that may have been contacted. Our work then in this particular and peculiar field of cooperation will then be ended.
This effort of the Hierarchy is a five days' effort, preceded by a most intensive period of preparation. The work of getting ready for the opportunity starts for the Hierarchy exactly at the hour when "the sun began to move northward." But They tire not as do human beings and it is not possible for the human aspirant to keep up so long a period of preparation, no matter how deep his devotion.
When the Great Lord was on Earth, He told His disciples that successful spiritual effort of a healing nature went not forth except by prayer and fasting. Will you ponder on these words? This is a group effort towards a vast group healing and by prayer (sanctified desire, illumined thought and intense aspirational longing) and by the discipline of the physical body for a short period and for a definite objective, the work can be done.
What is it that should be accomplished at each momentous full moon in May? I shall state the objective sequentially and in the order of their importance, and with as much clarity and brevity as this abstruse subject permits.
1. The releasing of certain energies which can potently affect humanity, and which will, if released, stimulate the spirit of love, of brotherhood and of goodwill on the earth. These energies are as definite and as real as those energies with which science occupies itself and calls the "cosmic rays." I am speaking of real energies and not of emotionally desired abstractions.
2. The fusion of all the people of goodwill in the world into an integrated responsive whole.
3. The invocation and the response of certain great Beings, Whose work can and will be possible if the first of the objectives is achieved through the accomplishment of the second objective. Ponder on this synthesis of the three objectives. By what name these Living Forces are called is entirely immaterial. They can be regarded as the Vice-Regents of God, Who can and will cooperate with the Spirit of Life and of Love upon our planet, the One in Whom we live and move and have our being. They may be regarded by certain thinkers as the Archangels of the Most High, Whose work has been made possible through the activity of Christ and His body of disciples, the true and living Church. They may be regarded by others as the guiding heads of the planetary Hierarchy, Who stand behind our planetary evolution, and Who seldom take an active part in the world activity, leaving it to the Masters of the Wisdom except in the time of an emergency such as this. By whatever name we call Them, They stand ready to aid if the call comes forth with sufficient strength and power from the aspirants and disciples at the time of the May full moon and the June full moon.
4. The evocation from the inner side of a strenuous and one-pointed activity on the part of the Hierarchy of Masters, those illumined Minds to Whom has been confided the work of world direction. A responsiveness is desired and can be effective between the following three groups:
1. The waiting and (at this time) anxious Hierarchy-anxious because even They cannot tell how humanity will react and whether men will be wise enough to avail themselves of the proffered opportunity. They stand, organised under the direction of the Christ, the Master of all the Masters, and the Teacher alike of angels and of men. He has been constituted the direct intermediary between the earth and the Buddha, Who is, in His turn, consecrated intermediary between the entire waiting Hierarchy and the attentive Forces.
2. The New Group of World Servers, composed at this time of all those sensitive and consecrated servers of the race whose objective is world peace, who aim at the establishing of goodwill on earth as the basis for future living and world expansion. Originally, this group was composed of a handful of accepted disciples and consecrated aspirants. Its ranks have been opened - . . to all those people of goodwill who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the helping of humanity, and who see no separating bar of any kind, but feel alike to the men of all races, nationalities and religions.
3. The masses of men and women who have responded to the ideas which have been set forth, and who react favorably to the objective of international understanding, economic interdependence and religious unity. When these three groups of thinkers and servers are brought en rapport with each other, and when the three groups can be aligned, even momentarily, much can be accomplished; the gates of the new life can be opened, and the inflow of the new spiritual forces can take place. Such is the Group objective and idea.
May I now make an inquiry? Of what importance is this full moon of May to you personally? Does it seem to you of sufficient importance to warrant your utmost effort? Do you really believe that on that day there can truly come a release of spiritual energy of sufficient potency to change world affairs, provided that humanity plays its part? Do you really believe, and can you stand practically to that belief, that the Buddha on that date, in cooperation with the Christ, and with the Hierarchy of Illumined Minds, plus the proffered aid of some of the Thrones, Principalities and Powers of Light, Who are the higher correspondence of the powers of darkness, stand waiting to carry out God's Plans, when given the right and the permission of men? Your major job at this time is not to wrestle with the powers of evil and the forces of darkness, but to awaken an interest in and mobilise the forces of light in the world today. Resist not evil, but so organise and mobilise the good, and so strengthen the hands of the workers on the side of righteousness and love that evil will find less opportunity.
If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed in what I have told you, if you have staunch belief in the work of the spirit of God and in the divinity of humanity, then forget yourselves and consecrate your every effort, from the time you receive this communication, to the task of cooperation in the organised effort to change the current of world affairs by an increase in the spirit of love and goodwill in the world during the month of May. (Esoteric Psychology, Vol. II pp. 687-692)
(Article on Wesak, by Alice A. Bailey)