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VESAK is special

By Sirohmi Gunesekera, (Source: Daily Mirror, May 25, 2010), The Buddhist Channel, May 28, 2010

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- The full moon Vesak Poya Day falls today. Buddhists commemorate the Birth, Passing away and Enlightenment of the Buddha on this thrice-blessed day.

Born into a royal house, Prince Siddhartha was a Seeker after Truth.  He had a disturbing horoscope and his father the King decreed that he should not be allowed to see old age, sickness or death.  However, as a young adult he escaped from the Palace and roamed the streets of the town and he came across an old man, a sick man and a dying man.  He questioned these human conditions and could come up with no easy answers.

Finally, he left his princely robes, his young wife and baby son and went into the forest to meditate.  “The Great Renunciation” is beautifully depicted in paintings and murals and we mortals can only imagine the Prince’s state of mind as he left the Palace for the last time.

He lived the life of an ascetic and then concluded that the “Middle Path” was the best way to attain Nibbana.

Most Buddhists live with their families and have not renounced human companionship or materialism.  How then can Buddhism be practiced in modern life?

The Buddha preached against “tanha” or craving and tied it up with materialism.  Today, television advertisements promote craving for food like pizza attractively presented with gooey cheese.  Newspaper advertisements promote “tanha” for electrical appliances like washing machines and other mod.cons. Open economy was introduced to Sri Lanka in 1977 and capitalism became the watchword in the market.

“Everything is temporary” preached the Buddha and this is very true of material things.

Take even a Vesak lantern made with so much time and effort going into it.  Once the kite paper catches fire, the beautifully-decorated lantern will simply burn away and be reduced to ashes.  It is an important lesson in life for even a small child to learn.

Buddhist houses are decorated for Vesak and lamps are lit.

Then there are the beautiful pandals at street junctions with a myriad lights shimmering from sunset to sunrise.  Usually, they depict “Jataka stories” from the lives of the Buddha lived as a “Bodhisatva” and carry a moral message. 

For example, the Guttila and Moosila kavya tells the story of the pupil who tried to outdo the master in playing the lyre only to find the master winning the day through supernatural means.

Vesak is a time for purity of thought and action. Buddhists go to the temple and observe ‘sil’ and meditate.  Even at home, Buddhists should not indulge in dislike or hate of others however different they may be.

The Buddha preached a doctrine of Non-Violence and said, “Hatred does not cease by hatred but by love.”  So it is time that  people  propagated peace and reconciliation.  The time has come to let bygones be bygones.

Terrorism should be considered in the past and everyone should think of building bridges with each other. This phenomenon should not be limited however to the Vesak season.

Then what about ‘Dansalas’ where food and drink are served free to all, especially to the poor and hungry? During Vesak, you see big banners proclaiming “Maha Buth Dansala”(Great Rice Free-Giving) or ‘Maha Noodle Dansala”(Great free-giving of noodles) and a patient queue of people waiting to eat.

Those who organize these “Dansalas” are supposed to gather merit for the after life. Since food is expensive in Sri Lanka, eating a meal at a ‘dansala’ can be a welcome break.  Besides, you cannot expect the food cooked in such large quantities to be very tasty but it makes for a change.

Above all, the Buddha preached Right Thought, Right Speech and Right Action.  If only everyone practiced these precepts then the special season of Vesak would permeate the whole year.

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