As written by Rtr. Kavishka Gunaratne
Vesak is a festival celebrated by Buddhists all around the globe on the full moon of May, commemorating the Sacred Birth, Enlightenment and Parinirvana of Lord Buddha. The most important holiday in the Buddhist calendar, the Vesak Poya is dedicated by Buddhists towards practising the teachings of Lord Buddha and focusing on working on one’s spirituality.
Buddhist devotees give priority to worship at temples, listen to sermons delivered by Buddhist monks on the Dhamma preached by Lord Buddha and observe ‘Atasil’ on the day. In addition, taking part in meritorious deeds such as alms-giving, giving ‘abhayadhaana’ to animals put up for slaughter are common occurrences during the days leading up to, as well as after the Vesak Poya. The festival also proves to be very pleasing to the eyes of onlookers as Buddhists make offerings to the Lord Buddha through ‘Aamisa Pooja’, not only by means of flowers of incense but also by way of elegant Vesak lanterns in various shapes, sizes and colours. Vesak lantern exhibits are huge, especially around cities during the time wherein people flock to the streets to witness the beauty of Vesak lantern creations of talented artists from all over the island. A special feature of Vesak, unique to Sri Lanka, is the assembling of Vesak pandols or ‘thoran’: enormous illuminated structures of drawings of the Buddha or the ‘Bodhisathva’, depicting ‘Jaathaka’ stories or stories from the life of the Buddha. Dansals, where food and beverages are given out for free to passersby, is a common sight in the streets during the time of the festival.
“Hatred is, indeed, never appeased by hatred in this world. It is appeased only by loving-kindness. This is an ancient law.-Lord Buddha
Lord Buddha’s teachings reiterate on the aspect of showing ‘meththa’ or loving-kindness towards all beings in the universe. Showing forgiveness and loving-kindness even to one’s worst enemy is part and parcel of the way of life advocated by the Buddha.
Following the series of unfortunate events that occurred during the course of the past few weeks in the country, there is a grave case of religious tension and unrest that has settled within the country. News of violence of various forms in various parts of the island plagues the media.
Human actions mostly mirror the heart and their gravity is seldom inquired by the brains. Hatred, misinterpretations and high egos have put the entire world up in flames of war and destruction. Many people at present hold no care towards the feelings of others around them. Creating forced validation for one’s race or one’s religion, disrespecting and disregarding the fact that diversity in origin, opinion and beliefs is justifiable, is a common scenario in all parts of the world. The chaos that ensues has hindered the man’s right to live life freely, by his own means.
As a country with a predominantly Buddhist population, it is important that we act with discretion, paying heed to the principles of Buddhism: the most significant being the importance of loving-kindness. Forgiveness is not easy and forgiving may come with a price, but it is best that we attempt to project goodwill towards those in the wrong in hopes that they learn from their grave mistakes and open their eyes to see the bad to which they have fallen.
A kind word and a guiding hand are what a man blinded to the right and justice in the world may need to recover from his ill-sight, and a lack thereof might be the building blocks to him plunging further into the depths of his wrongdoings.
What we project to the universe is what we receive back from it. Therefore on this Vesak Poya, let us make it a point to cease the bad and the hatred with love and forgiveness and stick to following the ideal path of life preached by Lord Buddha and thus light up a world otherwise doomed with darkness.