Today is the day we celebrate Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and parinibbana. This holiday is often accompanied by plenty of temple visits and merit making. (Temple hopping?) You’ll find me over at Dharma Vijaya this evening and Metta Forest Monastery tomorrow. Great events and lots of great food!
I played the wooden fish for the first and currently only time on May 17th, 2008. I had received a call that same morning half-asking but mostly telling me to do it at a Vesak celebration later that day.
I had never abused fish, gong, nor bell before, and hurried to try and be hastily taught by a friend of mine before show time. Education be damned, I ended up flustering about and striking the thing about twice as much as I should have. Rolling Stone praised my “rock steady baselines and infectious hooks,” but Buddhist chanting it was not. It was one of the most horrifyingly embarrassing experiences I have ever weathered and I regret not skipping town and hopping a freight train the morning of.
And nobody who wasn’t wearing robes knew the difference.
On May 19, the moon will pass into its full phase, marking the festival on which Theravada Buddhists celebrate Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and parinibbana. This date marks the most important and largest Buddhist holiday.
Devotees often undertake the eight precepts, make donations to charity and also go to temple to pay respects to Lord Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. This festival is filled with celebrations of joy and also the intent to renew one’s dedication to the path.
But for the people of Burma, the full moon of the month of Kason will mark two and a half weeks since the landfall of Cyclone Nargis. I cannot begin to describe this tragedy, especially as many others have done so thoroughly already (also see here, here and here). How will this festival be marked in Burma? How will Buddhists celebrate this day around the world, while so many Burmese flounder in destitution, abandoned by their own government?
What is an appropriate Buddhist response on this occasion?
For the community minded Buddhist in Southern California, May is a time of much bustling about. The region is blessed with a vibrant Buddhist community or laypersons and monastics of all different traditions. We also do Vesak up right, again and again and again.
It is not uncommon for each temple or center to offer their own celebration while also participating in one or two larger non-sectarian pan-temple ceremonies. Throwing in things like Tzu Chi, student groups, and other organizations, May can be a time of great celebration, and a time where a great number of brown cardboard boxes need moving.
Still, my favorite Buddha Day of all time, was two years ago when no one came. Read more