Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Celebrating 2,600 years of Buddhism

Wesak in 2011 marks the 2,600th year of the Buddha’s enlightenment and the teaching of His Dharma. And to celebrate this special occasion, many temples around the world hold various programmes including courses,seminars, exhibition, drama, and movie screenings to help the public understand and appreciate His teachings.

Buddhist friends and devotees are also encouraged to participate in devotional activities such as alms-giving, blood donation, chanting, meditation, and Dharma talks. Different temples would have their own ways of collecting donation, such as through oil lamp lighting, or monk robe sponsorship.

Wesak Day has always been a day I thoroughly enjoyed since understanding the Dharma more. I disliked it when I was younger because I had to get out of bed really early in the morning and join the crowd at the temple. Sometimes, I got lost and when your height was up to an adult's waist, that was no fun!

The day begins with alms-giving, donation and chanting at the Maha Vihara in Brickfields. The atmosphere is colourful and vibrant. The soothing sounds of chants float in the air while we queue to join the others in the main prayer shrine to partake in the water blessing ceremony. Here, we also receive threads of yellow string - a typical Buddhist symbol - to tie around our wrists.

Mum then makes donations for incense and candles. These candles are no ordinary candles. These candles come in the shape of a pink lotus flower sitting on a green lotus pad. Mum normally makes separate donations in the name of the family and the centres. She also donates by sponsoring oil lamps and monk robes.

The above are daytime happenings. After tucking ourselves into a light vegetarian lunch in a nearby Indian restaurant, we head home to rest in preparation for the activities in the evening, which to me are the highlights of the day.

My Wesak memories are filled with the float processions that go through the city with the picturesque Kuala Lumpur skyline as a backdrop. I always have enjoyed walking for three hours with a whole entourage of devotees and some curious tourists. Perhaps also, it is simply something else that I relate to and enjoy with my parents.

So if you are enjoying the bright full moon in the clear night sky right now with a lovely cup of tea in hand, or if you are in KL right now with thousands of others ready to take to the streets with colourful floats, I wish you Happy Wesak and metta.

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