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Vesak (Buddhist)

What is Vesak?

In Buddhist tradition, Vesak is the most important of the Buddhist festivals. It is a celebration of the Buddha's birthday and, for some, also marks his death and enlightenment.

When is Vesak?

The date of Vesak varies from country to country but is celebrated on a full moon during Vaisakha month of the Buddhist and Hindu calendars which generally corresponds to April or May in the UK. It will next take place in the UK on Wednesday 10 May 2017.

What do people do during Vesak?

Vesak varies considerably depending on the country/countries influencing the traditions.

Many Buddhists will assemble at their local temples before dawn for the hoisting of the Buddhist flag, the signing of hymns, and the giving of offerings. Others may wish to carry out additional private meditation and prayer.

Although many Buddhists are already vegetarian, during Vesak they are encouraged to make a particular effort not to eat meat or fish. Special lanterns, dancing dragons and the releasing of caged birds may also mark the celebration of Vesak.

Key workplace considerations

  • Although breaks should be kept, a shorter or longer lunch may make it easier for an employee to manage their workload if they wish to take time off to attend temple services. 
  • Employees wishing to carry out additional personal prayer or meditation will often benefit from a prayer room or temporary private space in the workplace where possible. 
  • Employees may ask for additional leave for religious reasons. There is no legal requirement to accommodate requests but planning ahead can help and may be met through flexible working arrangements, annual leave or unpaid leave. It is generally unadvisable to offer paid special leave for such time off requests because an employer needs to ensure they do not discriminate in favour of a particular religion. 
  • Awareness and understanding of Vesak and other religious festivals can be aided by posting information on staff notice boards or newsletters etc. 
  • Vesak may offer an opportunity for closer team relations and teamwork - for example, by joining in a group meditation exercise.
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