25 years of Vesak Celebrations – Recollections and Reflections
by Indra Weerasinghe
The worthy recollections come naturally, when the events are carved in one’s heart. That is how I look back the past 25 years of Vesak celebrations, which grew from numbers, activities, as well as inspirations and aspirations. The Halifax Buddhist community observed eight precepts, for the first time, on the full moon day of the month of May, on Vesak day, in the year 1991. Vesak day marks Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing away. The year 1991 was special to me personally, because not only I attained fatherhood, but also I was able to engage in a daylong insightful practice of Dharma with all my Dhamma friends.
All those years our celebrations were supported by the Halifax Shambhala center. I am grateful to Shambhala administration for their unconditional continuous support rendered to our numerous Buddhist activities. Without their generous support, these events would not have taken place. Special thanks go to former directors of the center Mo Harding and Barbara Badessi among other directors, who developed a long lasting friendship with the Sri Lankan Buddhist community in Halifax.
The events are celebrated with a mixture of Shambhala and Theravada traditions and the kids from both cultures observe eight precepts, enjoyed bathing Bodhisatva and cutting the birthday cake. The heats starts a week prior to the event, when Shambhala school children with Theravada Buddhist Sunday school children make Vesak lanterns together. One of the highlights of Vesak celebration is Dane, alms giving, the free potluck lunch with over a dozen of spicy food that everyone enjoys despite of their nationality.
Buddhists priests from the Theravada tradition, Dr. Bhante Saranapala from Westend Buddhist Meditation Center in Toronto, Venerable Ahangama Rathanasiry from Toronto Maha Vihara and Venerable Vijirabuddhi from Georgia Vihara at times guided the daylong Vesak programs from year to year. Even without a priest, some years, the dedicated devotees fulfilled their desire to be immersed in eight precepts on the Vesak day. Now we have a talented resident monk, our reverend Sirinanda to guide us for the rest of the years to come.
I wish to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to all of those Buddhist monks, who not only those who attended Vesak programs but those who shared their wisdom at other times as well, Shambhala teachers and lay devotees who helped to make the Vesak day celebration a meaningful Dhamma practice event in the past 25 years. Without your continuous support and dedication, those events in the past twenty five years would not have happened. My special gratitude goes to Shambhala center administration for their 25 yearlong dedication and support. I wish you all Happy Vesak!