Celebrating 2,600 years of Buddhism

The Buddhist Channel, May 10, 2011

Wesak 2011 marks the 2,600th year of the Buddha’s enlightenment and the preaching of His Dharma

Seri Kembangan, Selangor (Malaysia) -- Every year, on the full-moon day in May, Buddhists the world over celebrate Wesak to commemorate three significant events in the life of Lord Buddha – birth, enlightenment and passing away.  This year’s Wesak Day falls on the 17th of May.

The Buddha gained enlightenment in 588 BCE.  Thus, this year marks the 2,600 years of his enlightenment and propagation of Dharma teachings.

Buddhism is the second largest religion in Malaysia after Islam.  There are approximately 5.4 million Buddhists in the country.  Throughout the world, there are 500 million followers.  Despite Buddhism’s long history of destruction and revival due to persecution and calamities, it is gaining wide spread adoption across the world. This proves that the Dharma taught by the Buddha is as relevant and practicable then and now.

Hence, NALANDA Buddhist Society, a leading Malaysian Buddhist establishment, plans to observe this sacred occasion with keen appreciation of the Dharma.  More emphasis is placed on learning and understanding the Dharma through various programmes including courses, seminars, exhibition, drama, and movie screenings. 

Wesak, therefore, is no longer a one-day affair but a month long devotional programme spanning from May through to June for Nalanda devotees.
The Wesak observance at Nalanda will begin on 15 May with an introductory course to the “Significance of Wesak”.  This short course will prepare one for a more meaningful Wesak observance and is vastly suitable for the general public.
Buddhist friends and devotees are also encouraged to participate in the devotional activities such as alms-giving, blood donation, chanting, meditation, and Dharma talks, which will be held from 15 – 17 May.

“The Journey of Dharmaraja” exhibition, which relates the spread of Buddhism from its root place in India to Sri Lanka, South East Asia, Central and East Asia, will be held for three days from 15 – 17 May.  The exhibition will also feature major events and teachings of the Buddha during his 45 years of Dharma preaching. 

In the evening of Wesak Day, Nalanda will hold a “Dharma Appreciation Night” incorporating Dharma verse recitation, heritage procession, drama, and meditation on loving kindness.  Highlight of the evening is a sketch on “The Story of Patacara” staged by the students of the Nalanda Dharma School.  It was said that during the time of the Buddha, there was a fine lady by the name of Patacara who lost her mind after all her family members perished in a single day.  The tragic story came to a joyful end with Patacara attaining sainthood after listening to a discourse by the Buddha.

More notable programmes come post Wesak Day, namely the “The Path to Liberation Seminar”, “Dhammacakkappavattana and Anattalakkhana Sutta Camps”, “The Sigalovada Sutta Seminar”, and “2011 Wesak International Film Festival”.

Liberation from suffering is the ultimate goal for all Buddhists, regardless of schools and traditions. The “Path to Liberation” seminar will clarify the similarities and differences in teachings and practices seen from three main Buddhist traditions - the Mahayana, Theravada and Vajrayana.

The “Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta” and “Anattalakkhana Sutta” weekend sutta camps will shed light on the first two sermons preached by the Lord Buddha immediately following his enlightenment. Participants will be taken on a thorough tour of the two discourses also known as the discourse on ‘Turning the Wheel of Dharma’ and the discourse on ‘The Characteristic of Non-Self’, respectively.

The “Sigalovada Sutta” seminar has high relevance to the general public as it focuses on the code of ethics and happiness for lay people.  The discourse was given to Sigala, a middle-class young man, who dutifully paid homage to the six directions out of obeisance for his late father.  The Buddha expounded the meaning of the six directions as respect and support for parents, teachers, wife, friends, employees, and religious figures, which gives rise to a blissful householder’s life.

The much-anticipated “2011 Wesak International Film Festival” featuring popular big-screen Buddhist movies, documentaries and animations will be held on 11 - 12 and 18 - 19 June.  This free movie screening is a collaborative effort by several Buddhist organizations with the main objective of increasing public awareness on Buddhist arts and culture. 

Majority of the activities will be held at the Nalanda Centre, a centre of educational excellence, located in Sri Serdang, Selangor.  Whilst, out-campus programmes in collaboration with other Buddhist associations will be held at various places within the Klang Valley.

For more information on Nalanda’s Wesak programme and how you may participate or contribute, please contact Ms Nandini Tan at 03-8938 1500 or 8939 1501.  You may also e-mail your enquiries to info@nalanda.org.my.  For detailed programme of Wesak Observance at Nalanda, kindly log on to www.nalanda.org.my/wesak.