Buddhists pray for safe and sound Indonesian presidential election

by Slamet Susanto and Agus Maryono, The Jakarta Post, May 10, 2009

Magelang, Central Java (Indonesia) -- Thousands of Buddhists who observed Waisak, the Buddhist Day of Enlightenment, on Saturday at Mendut Temple in Magelang, Central Java, offered special prayers for a safe presidential election on July 8.

Vidyaka Sabha chairman of the Indonesian Buddhist Association (Walubi) Monk Dhyanavira Mahastavira said the prayer was especially expressed because this year's celebration of Waisak was expected to bring blessings and free Indonesia from various kinds of disasters.

"We hope the observance of Waisak this year will bring happiness to the community," he said.

Thousands of worshippers from thronged to the Borobudur, the world's biggest Buddhist temple, and the nearby Mendut Temple, where the national Waisak celebration was held.

Marking the moment of Waisak, which fell at 11:10:01 Saturday, the ritual's leader Tadisa Mahavira Stavira also called on Buddhists to work harder.

"Don't wake up late. Work harder for a better life," he said.

He also reminded Buddhists to clear their hearts and minds of hatred to make way for peace. "Through hard work, we will be able to create a peaceful life," he said.

Wagi, 36, a worshipper from Temanggung, Central Java, agreed.

"I pray for the crisis to end so people will be able to make a living again and live a peaceful life," said the father of one.

After prayers and meditation, worshippers and monks marched to Borobudur Temple, about a kilometer away, while carrying a holy flame and holy water taken previously from the Umbul Jumprit spring on the slopes of Mt. Sindoro.

The main ceremony was conducted at Lumbini Park, at the eastern foot of Borobudur Temple late Saturday, during which a "Trail of Civilization" ballet performance highlighting Buddha's messages was performed.

President Susilo Bambang Yu-dhoyono, First Lady Ani Yudhoyono, a number of Cabinet ministers and Central Java Governor Bibit Waluyo were among the guests of honor.

Hundreds of monks from Indonesia as well as from 14 other countries such as Japan, Korea, China, India, Sri Lanka and neighboring countries also attended the ceremony.

In Cilacap, Buddhists celebrated Waisak at Tri Ratna Temple in the compound of the Mt. Srandil Mandala Giri grand shrine on Saturday,.

Worshippers also came from outside the region. Among them were the Surakarta King Tejo Wulan and his royal family.

The celebration here was the first since the shrine was established three years ago.

Buddhism is believed to have come to Indonesia for the first time in about 423, reaching its golden years between the ninth and 13th centuries during the Syailendra Dynasty of the Sriwijaya Kingdom that built numerous temples, including Borobudur and Mendut.