My heart teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, always gives a Wesak message, and this year’s was a stirring, powerful call for Buddhists to wake up and move beyond a “devotional” Buddhism, which reduces the Buddha to a kind of god to whom one prays to grant blessings. He calls on his fellow and sister Buddhists to rouse themselves to practice in their own lives the Noble Eightfold Path which leads to liberation. Here is the powerful conclusion of his message:
“...Today we celebrate the appearance of Siddhartha on this planet. However, the majority of us only worship Siddhartha as a supreme sacred power with the ability to bless and to protect us from danger. Not many are able to walk the path he has walked, to handle suffering, generate happiness, reestablish communication and touch Nirvana in the present moment. Our Buddhism of today mostly is a Buddhism of devotion. What the Buddha advised us—to let go of such things as fame and sensual pleasures—we now ask him to grant us.
Practicing mindfulness, concentration and insight, walking the Noble Eightfold Path as the path of happiness in the present moment, has become only a very small part of Buddhism as it is practiced today. We did not inherit the most precious parts of the spiritual heritage that Siddhartha left. Our Buddhism has become corrupted, unable to play its original role. We need to put all our heart into renewing Buddhism, so that it can continue to play its role in generating peace for individuals, families, countries and societies. By only practicing devotional Buddhism, bowing our heads amidst incense all day long, we will not able to do that—and not be worthy to be called descendents of the Buddha—the Great Conqueror of Afflictions.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
Excerpt from Thich Nhat Hanh's 2013 Wesak Message