Friday, 9 October 2009

Observing Kathina

I was clearing a whole lot of old papers from my computer table at home when I came across an old leaflet explaining the significance of Wesak. I had forgotten about it but whilst browsing through it, it struck me that come this 17 Oct 2009, my family would be making our way to the Buddhist Hermitage at Lunas to celebrate the annual Kathina programme. Great! For me, at least, some new photo opportunities.

This is actually a two-day programme that starts on Friday evening but we'll be going only on Saturday morning. Kathina is the offering of robes to the monks. Different Buddhist centres will celebrate Kathina on different days. For example, while the Buddhist Hermitage in Lunas will do so on 16-17 Oct, the Buddhist retreat at the foothills of the BM Hill will be having theirs this Sunday.

Lest I misplace the leaflet again, it is best that I reproduce some of its salient points here....
What does Wesak Day commemorate? It commemorates the three important events in the life of the Buddha - His Birth, Enlightenment and Passing Away. These events took place on the full moon day in the lunar month of Vesakha which falls between April and May in our conventional calendar. Officially, the first full moon in May is designated as Wesak Day in Malaysia. Amongst Buddhists, it is also known as Buddha Jayanti - the Birth of the Buddha.

Who is the Buddha? The Buddha is the greatest man ever born in the history of humanity. Born a prince in 623BC, He relinquished the luxuries of royalty and went forth in search of the true meaning of existence. After six years of intense striving, unaided and unguided by any supernatural power, and relying only on His strong conviction, nergetic effort and accumulated wisdom, He became a Buddha - a Self-Enlightened and Fully Awakened One. He has fully understood the unsatisfactory conditions in life and moreover, He knows the practical way out of this mass of suffering.

How did the Wesak holiday come about? In March 1885, Wesak was declared an official holiday in Ceylon by the British governor, Sir Arthur Gordon. The first Wesak full moon holiday fell on 28 Apr 1885. This declaration was made possible due to the sustained effort and persistence of Col HS Olcott, a visionary American Buddhist. Malaysia has been observing Wesak as a public holiday since 1962, in recognition of Buddhism being the religion with the second largest following in the country. In Year 2000, Wesak Day was recognised by the United Nations as the official Buddhist holiday internationally.

"The Buddha had exercised a profound influence on human civilisation, and His teachings and example had provided the ethical and moral underpinnings of many societies. His teachings were based on the law of release from suffering, leading to spiritual enlightenment."
- 54th Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, 2000

What did the Buddha do after His Enlightenment? After His Enlightenment, the Buddha wandered through many parts of India for 45 years, compassionately disseminating the message of peace without any discrimination as to whom his listeners were. Millions followed His teachings and realised their greatest potential as human beings - having attained that unshakable peace of mind and liberation from suffering.

What is the Buddha's message of peace? Greed, anger and ignorance are defilements that cause suffering in this world. Peace is attained when we purify our minds and successfully reduce and eliminate those defilements. One who thinks, speaks and acts without greed, anger and ignorance has peace in his mind, and helps promote peace in his family, community, country and the entire world.
What did the Buddha leave nehind after His Passing? The Buddha left behind a rich legacy of teachings - the Dhamma Vinaya. Over the last 25 centuries, people continue to look into His sublime teachings for solace, inspiration and guidance. Throughout history, the disciples of the Buddha - monks, nuns and lay people - have faithfully carried out the message of the Great Teacher, persistently and diligently serving the world with compassion. The contribution of Buddhism towards the spiritual and cultural advancement of humanity is indeed most valuable.

Wesak Observance. By knowing the Buddha's greatness and honourable personality, it is only befitting that we celebrate this Sacred Wesak Day mindfully. We make it an occasion to learn, practise and understand Buddhism's lofty ideals, which highlight our potential for the highest contentment, peace and happiness. It will be more meaningful if the Wesak Observance is motivated by selfless and altruistic thoughts. Sincere and genuine acts of kindness and compassion for the world are the best ways to honour the Englightened One. Hence let us encourage all to make the Buddha Jayanti a meaningful day, for the cultivation of amity and harmony, for the well-being and happiness of oneself and others.
I guess this is as far as I will go with this interesting post. Catch up with you in a few hours' time....

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