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Buddhist Temple expecting 3000 to celebrate Buddha's birthday

By Maureen Walsh/ Correspondent, Townonline.com, May 25, 2005

New England, USA -- As many as 3,000 Buddhist members and 50 venerable monks from throughout the northeast are expected to celebrate the 2549th birthday of Sakyamuni Buddha this Sunday at the Samantabhadra (Pho-Hien) Buddhist Center in Braintree.

"We have 120 other Buddhist organizations in the New England area," said Venerable Master Thich Thien Hue, the center's founder. "This is an opportunity for everyone to get to know each other and share our traditions with each other."

Most of those who will be attending are far away from their homelands, but all have come to this country where they have freedom and can participate in worship, said the Ven. Master Hue. "Everyone is invited to come and get to know us. We try to share our value and the traditions we practice with everyone, Buddhist or not Buddhist."

The international Vesak ceremony will include the Bathing of the Baby Buddha, when each member comes forward to the Temple basin to shower the statue of the baby Buddha with water and flower petals. By focusing on the ritual cleansing with a pure mind, members hope to decrease the bad kharma they have brought into their lives through bad thoughts and actions, said the Ven. Master Hue.

"If we have been human beings, then everyone has made mistakes," he said. "Buddha represents the perfect mind. As human beings, we forgot the way. We celebrate how we come back with the Buddha. We ask everyone to focus deeply on the need to follow the way."

The Vesak celebration also includes an opening procession; the offering of gifts to the Buddha by elders and members in the traditional costumes of several nations; the spreading of flower petals for the Buddha; and a sermon offered in English and Vietnamese.

Chanting will be conducted in a variety of languages, including English, Vietnamese, Chinese, Tibetan, Korean, Japanese and the language of the Pali tradition in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Cultural performances reflecting the traditions and languages of many countries will follow the chanting ceremony and special sermon. Additional entertainment will be provided by the Samanatabhadra Buddhist Youth, members of the Boston Chapter of the Vrindavana Preservation Society, and the Vedanta Centre of Cohasset.

"This is a huge celebration for Buddhists, very much the same as Christmas Day is for Christians to participate," said the Ven. Master Hue. "We are happy to say Hello to everyone. We invite our neighbors to come and participate. We ask Buddha to bless everyone with health and good luck."

Delegations from the New England states, New York, New Jersey and beyond will attend the Vesak celebrations at the Samantabhadra (Pho-Hien) Buddhist Center, located at 155 Quincy Avenue (site of the former Resthaven Nursing Home). The program begins at 11 a.m. with a vegetarian luncheon served to all in attendance, with the main ceremony scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. and entertainment concluding at 4 p.m.

The Temple has arranged for a police detail to assist with the crowd of visitors, said the Ven. Master Hue, and he asked pardon of the center's neighbors for any inconvenience the increased traffic and need for parking may cause.

Samantabhadra (Pho-Hien), is the largest Buddhist Center in New England. Founded in June 2001 by the Ven. Master Hue, a Buddhist leader from Vietnam, the Temple welcomes any individual interested in learning about Buddhism. Classes are offered on meditation and Buddhist scriptures and history. The Temple currently has students and followers of different backgrounds and ethnicity.

"This Temple is not for Buddhists. It is for everyone," said the Ven. Master Hue. "We are proud to have our center in this town. Our center is meaningful for the town and this neighborhood."

For more information on the Samantabhadra Center or the Vesak celebrations, contact the Ven. Master Hue at the Temple, 781-848-7519.

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