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.
I’m being too harsh: people came, but no more people than those who were taking some sort of part in the production. Woeful underadvertising [*cough* my fault] and a drastic venue switch left us with a lot of dropped guests and a lot of missing participants.
By the Sri Lankan reckoning, this was the 2550th anniversary of the Buddha’s birth, so predicting a huge draw the organizer arranged to use a huge stadium-seating church. The echo of the crowdlessness was only cut by the head monk shouting last minute program corrections to the MC.
I nervously shuffled backstage, helping out and mentally preparing for a speech that spilled out from a terrified automaton. After the trainwreck was finally over, we bathed the baby Buddha one by one and then shuffled outside where tables and food were waiting.
Then, crowded around the picnic tables eating delicious fried noodles, everything became perfect, and it was for this reason:
This is the origin of Buddha day.
I’m not drawing any parallels to great events in the lift of the Buddha, but I do think that that day in May 2006 had a lot to do with the origin of Buddha day, the festival. It was a lot of folks getting together and doing the neat things they know how to do to celebrate an idea. There was no division betwen performer and audience, we were simply all brought together for the sake of sharing, because we had been inspired by a message and a man thousands of years old.
That is why it is my favorite Buddha day.
Now go and share something inspired with the world.