The month of May for the Buddhists in Sri Lanka is a very special month : a month that is dedicated to religious activities, meritorious acts and leading (as much as possible) a lifestyle in accordance with the teachings of the Lord Buddha.
Vesak is the celebration of the Birth, the Enlightenment and the Parinirvana (death) of Gauthama Buddha who preached a religion that is more a philosophy of life than a mere religion. At best, it is a simple way of life, if practiced correctly. Buddhism teaches its followers to live a life according to the Noble Eight Fold Middle Path avoiding the two extremes of Self-Mortification and Self-Indulgence. It teaches that the middle path would allow you to lead a reasonably contented and happy life.
It was during the reign of the King Devanampiyatissa, that Arahath Mihindu , the son of Emperor Ashoka of India who was a great friend of our king, came to Sri Lanka to preach dhamma to the king. Understanding the deeper meaning of the dhamma that was preached by Arahath Mihindu, the king went on to become a devout Buddhist . Thereon, Buddhism became the religion practiced by the majority of Sri Lankans.
Vesak is celebrated in the country in many ways. It is most importantly a day of deep religious meaning to the Buddhist and thus venerated by the masses observing “sil” : a day of abstinence from the worldly activities of our everyday life, spending the day either at the temple or at home, observing the eight precepts to foster good conduct and develop self-discipline.