Bathing The Baby Buddha

posted Feb 25, 2011, 7:53 AM by Jundo Cohen   [ updated Mar 20, 2011, 7:07 PM ]

On the day of Vesak, participate in a ceremony (with your Sangha and priests, or at home with your family) in which all participants bathe a figure of baby Buddha in tea or fragrant water. This tradition is found in many Buddhist cultures and traditions. 

Buddhist stories and traditions tell the tale of how, when the Buddha was born, he immediately took seven steps and declared "I alone am the World-Honored One," pointing up with one hand and down with the other to indicate that he would unite heaven and earth. Some say that the seven steps represent seven directions -- north, south, east, west, up, down, and here -- standing for all reality. Mahayana Buddhists often interpret "I alone am the World-Honored One" such that "I" represents all sentient beings throughout space and time -- everyone in other words. Many other good and positive meanings and teachings be found in such stories.

The ritual of "Bathing the Baby Buddha" celebrates this moment. It is said to be the single most common ritual in Buddhism, seen throughout Asia and in many different schools. A small standing figure of the infant Buddha, with the right hand pointing up and the left hand pointing down, is placed on an elevated stand within a basin on an altar. People approach the altar reverently, fill a ladle with clear water or tea, and pour it over the figure to "wash" the baby (based on information from

Below are examples of such a ceremony ... both a simple version for at home and a longer version for adaptation by Buddhist Sangha. 

If you cannot find a traditional statue of the Baby Buddha, make one with your kids! Find a large, smooth stone and help your child/children paint a figure of Baby Buddha on it. In fact, why not take an ordinary child's baby doll and, with reverence and respect, dedicate it to serving as the Baby Buddha?! The sincerity of our doing so is found in the heart.  

Celebrating Nature

posted Feb 25, 2011, 7:43 AM by Jundo Cohen   [ updated Mar 20, 2011, 7:35 PM ]

Vesak is a holiday of birth and Spring and ever new beginnings and hope for this world. Go outside with your family, if weather permits, and touch nature. As a family, work together to make a bird feeder or a bird house, and put it up outside your home in order to feed and shelter other living creatures. Go to a park for a picnic with friends in the Dharma and loved ones, go for a walk and enjoy the scenery together, and then spend some time afterwards picking up trash and cleaning a natural area to show your kids how important it is that we all work together to keep our world clean. April is also the month that includes Earth Day, and volunteer actions for that day would honor Buddha as well.  Plant something with your kids to symbolize life - birth and rebirth. This could be a tree, or flowers to give to someone once they bloom or for your family to enjoy. Or start an herb garden so your children can see the magic of life as it grows, and then how it can nourish our bodies.

Practice of Dana (Giving)

posted Feb 25, 2011, 7:38 AM by Jundo Cohen   [ updated Mar 20, 2011, 7:15 PM ]

As a family, make a donation of money, food, clothes, etc. to a foodbank, shelter, or other charitable organizations. It would be best if the donation were money that the child had to earn through their own work or chores before donating, or food and clothing purchased with such money. Either take your children to the facility to drop items off, or ask the child to contribute a portion of their chore/holiday/spending money to donate to the cause of your family's choice. As well, make soup or some type of food to deliver to a sick/elderly neighbor and spend time visiting if you can as a family. Of course, it is also vital to impress upon children the importance of charity, generosity and giving all year round.

Lighting Vesak Lanterns

posted Feb 25, 2011, 5:22 AM by Jundo Cohen   [ updated Mar 10, 2011, 5:48 AM ]

ake Vesak lanterns with the kids! INSTRUCTIONS ARE BELOW. Each family member should make one to symbolize both the Buddha's light and the light within each of us that, when united together, can truly brighten a small space and our whole world. It also symbolizes the moment at which Buddha found the Truth and became enlightened. The lanterns (or candles in their place) can be lit each night for the week leading up to the day of the Buddha's birth, together with a family chant of the Three Refuges.

We take refuge in Buddha

We take refuge in Dharma

We take refuge in Sangha

Every night for the week before April 8th, light the lanterns or 3 candles at dinnertime while reciting the Three Refuges, to signify Buddha's search to end the impurities of greed, anger and ignorance, and to symbolize the three treasures: Buddha, Dharma, Sangha.


In many places in Asia, Vesak is often celebrated by decorating the streets with handmade lanterns and colorful streamers. Instructions for making lanterns can be found various places around the Web, such as:

A Birthday Party For Baby Buddha!

posted Feb 25, 2011, 5:22 AM by Jundo Cohen   [ updated Mar 20, 2011, 7:18 PM ]

Celebrate the holiday with a typical child's birthday party, but with the Baby Buddha as the Birthday Boy! 
Invite other, especially Buddhist children. Cake and ice cream (in moderation!), songs and games ("Pin the Tail on the Elephant"? ... "Musical Zafus"? ... a "White Elephant Hunt"? ... ) and all the typical birthday party events. Combine with some other holiday suggestions such as Vesak Lantern Making and Tree Planting. Sing "Happy Birthday to You, Dear Buddha" ... blow out "the Candle of Desire", making a wish ... not for oneself ... but for others' peace and happiness. Sing Buddhist songs (see our SONG WRITING CONTEST). Exchange small, handmade gifts given to others, emphasizing the giving. 

Please suggest other game and children's party activities. 

Read To Kids

posted Feb 25, 2011, 5:22 AM by Jundo Cohen   [ updated Mar 20, 2011, 7:19 PM ]

The story of Buddha's birth, early life and continue up to and slightly after, his enlightenment. This story can be found in 
a few different versions like "Becoming Buddha: The Story of Siddhartha" (available on If you know some other good children's story books centered on the life the the Buddha, please recommend them to us!

Of course, reading to kids should be part of other Buddhist holidays too, and all year round.

We also invite our aspiring story writers to submit their own tales on the theme of the Buddha's birth, enlightenment, life and teachings to our ORIGINAL STORY CONTEST.

Elephant Hunt

posted Feb 25, 2011, 5:21 AM by Jundo Cohen   [ updated Mar 20, 2011, 7:23 PM ]

Much like 
an egg hunt, families with small children could enjoy an "ELEPHANT HUNT" -  elephants because Siddhartha's mother dreamt of a white elephant while she was pregnant with him. Elephants are cute for young kids, who would enjoy them. You can cut out paper elephants for your kids to color (as many as you'd like). Or you can find plastic or wooden elephants to use - it doesn't matter what they're made of. Number them - each number will correspond to a task, a treat to give to other kids, or another game for tall he children after the hunt. If you use paper, you can write these things on the back. The tasks can include anything you want, examples may be: go to lunch/breakfast with dad or mom (the idea is only one parent, so they have quality time with that person), help mom/dad with the dishes, laundry or trash, make a gift for a neighbor or friend, play a game (of your choice) with your family, make a birdhouse/birdfeeder with dad. The idea is to get children thinking about doing things for, and with, other people and not about "getting" a present for themselves. 

If you have older children who may not enjoy the elephant hunt, then create a scavenger hunt - to symbolize how Buddha left home in search of the Truth. The scavenger hunt should be a fun search all family members can do together, but should somehow relate back to what the Buddha went in search for ... we're looking for suggestions here.  Here is a nice site with some creative ideas: SCAVENGER HUNT IDEAS. If you scroll down a bit there, there is a list of hunts that others have created for B-day parties, not related to Buddhism in particular, but the ideas can be adapted.

When To Celebrate?

posted Feb 25, 2011, 4:17 AM by Jundo Cohen   [ updated Mar 20, 2011, 7:25 PM ]

Vesak is celebrated at various, changing times in April and May in Asia depending on the year and country. It is celebrated each year on April 8th in Japan, other days in other lands. For this reason, families can either follow the custom in one Asian country for that year, or adopt the week of April 8th. An April day may be a convenient time for families to celebrate, due to the nearness of school holidays accompanying Easter and "Spring Break."

To find out when Vesak is celebrated in countries of Asia outside Japan, here is a schedule: WHEN IS BUDDHA'S BIRTHDAY? 

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