Peace and happiness to all

Westender, May 10, 2009

Australia's Buddhist community taking part in colourful celebration for United Nations Day of Vesak

Sydney, Australia -- Australia’s Buddhist temples come alive with colour this week as celebrations are under way for the United Nations Day of Vesak, with the best wishes of the Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services, Laurie Ferguson.

Sometimes informally called "Buddha's birthday," Vesak actually encompasses the birth, enlightenment Nirvana, and passing (Parinirvana) of Gautama Buddha.

“Buddhism is the largest non-Christian faith in Australia and one of the fastest growing,” Mr Ferguson said.

Buddhists traditionally celebrate Vesak around the world by attending temples, releasing insects, birds and animals, observing a vegetarian diet and decorating temples with colourful flags and lanterns.

“There are about 420 000 Buddhists in Australia who are from many different backgrounds,” Mr Ferguson said.

“According to the 2006 Census, nearly 120 000 were born in Australia and more than 84 000 were from non-Asian ancestries.”

The first Buddhists arrived in Australia from China in 1848 as part of the Victorian gold rush and established one of the first temples in South Melbourne.

In the late 1970s, Buddhism began to become widespread in Australia, through a higher public awareness of the religion and increased immigration from Asia.

New South Wales has the largest Buddhist population in Australia, and Sydney’s Buddhist community will be celebrating Vesak with a ceremony commemorating the Buddha, food and a candlelight procession in Haymarket.

One of the largest Vesak celebrations this year will be in Melbourne’s Town Hall. It will feature a program of theatre, performance and dance.

Australia’s Buddhist community is encouraging the wider community to attend its local Vesak celebrations.

“I wish all Buddhists well for their celebrations and prayers on the Day of Vesak,” Mr Ferguson said.