Vesak celebrations at the Berlin Vihara

by Senaka Weeraratna, The Buddhist Channel, June 16, 2005

Berlin, Germany -- The Vesak celebrations, annually held in the historic Berlin Vihara in Germany to honour the three important events in the life of the Enlightened one, the Buddha, was organized in a respectful manner.  The ceremonies were conducted with due priority being given to the observation of Buddhist precepts and right conduct.

On May 21, 2005 a series of religious programmes comprising Dana, Sila and Bhavana were organized at the Berlin Vihara for the benefit of Sri Lankans, now resident in Germany.  Large groups of people not only from Berlin, but living in distant places such as Hamburg, Munich, and Wupertal took part in these activities. 

The religious programmes were conducted by the Chief Resident Monk of the Berlin Vihara, Ven.Rathmale Punnaratana Thera with the assistance of Ven.Palbandiyave Jinaratana Thera, Deputy Pirivenadipathy of the Jayamaga Pirivena (Hingurakgoda), Ven.Unagalave Uparatana Thera of the Yakkala Bogamuwa Samadhi Dharmayathanaya and Ven.Mahadamane Assaji Thera all of whom had arrived in Germany to participate especially in the Vesak Programme of the Berlin Vihara.
On May 22, about 100 devotees had joined in the Sila (observance of vows), and Bhavana (meditation) programme arranged for the benefit of German Buddhists.
Ven. Rathmale Punnaratana and the English monk Ven.Medhayo of the Berlin Vihara, Ven.Obadagalle Rahula from Hanover, Ven.Sanghasena currently the President of the Indian Mahabodhi Society and President of the International Meditation Centre at Ladakh City in India, the German Samaneri Agganyani and Mr.Harold Wolf, offered their assistance in conducting the activities, which were specially arranged for the German groups.
On the same day i.e. May 22, the main event of the celebrations, the Public Meeting planned for the occasion, was held in the Library Hall of the Berlin Vihara. Ven.Punnaratana chaired the meeting and Mr.Jayantha Palipana, the Ambassador for Sri Lanka in Germany, was the Chief Guest.  Mr.Tissa Weeraratna, the Vice-President of the German Dharmaduta Society and Trustee managing of the Vihara delivered the welcome address. Mr. Jayantha Palipana, Ambassador, speaking next described the role and manifold activities the Berlin Vihara was undertaking in spreading the message of the Buddha in Europe.
Ven.Thich Tin Song, a highly respected Zen teacher, who enjoys immense popularity among German Buddhists delivered the keynote speech. His stimulating lecture, based on the theme, ?Buddhism for Daily Living? earned high commendation from the gathering.
Ven.Sanghasena Thera, the President of the Indian Maha Bodhi Society and President of the International Buddhist Centre in Ladakh, India spoke on the topic ?The spread of Buddhism in the present-day Indian society and the Social Services connected with Buddhism? His talk which was backed with play back of video recordings was well received by an appreciative audience.
The German Samaneri, Agganyani, Secretary ? General of the German Buddhist Union ( DBU )and Dr.Rainer Noack, the President of Buddhistische Gesellschaft Berlin, speaking briefly, extended their greetings and best wishes to the assembled gathering.
A special feature of the celebrations this year, was a colourful procession incorporating Buddhist symbols and cultural motifs. It was conducted within and in the vicinity of the Berlin Vihara.  Headed by 15 Buddhist Monks and Nuns, and followed by Sri Lankan children (living in Germany) dancing with winnowing fans, clay pots and display of stick dances, with bearers of banners and ?sesath? the procession wended its way along Edelhofdamm and Zerendorfer Weg and returned to the Vihara premises.
A Bhakthi song recital and a free food stall (Dansala) were also in progress in the Vihara garden. The Vihara premises were decorated and lit up with Vesak lanterns and other colourful paper items ( Vesak Sarasili) promoting feelings of religious piety.

It was observed that about 500 persons comprising German, Sri Lankan and other nationalities interested in the Buddhist doctrine and practice, participated in the Vesak Programme conducted at the Berlin Vihara.