Vesakh 2011 Celebration at
European Institute of Applied Buddhism
This year the celebration of Vesak (Buddha’s birthday) was very special for the Plum Village Sangha since most of our monastic brothers and sisters are presently staying at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbroel, Germany preparing for two major retreats. So on Sunday, May 8th 2011 after hearing a wonderful Dharma talk by Thay Phap An (True Dharma Seal) we gathered in the great hallway of the Ashoka Institute, transformed on that occasion into a large meditation hall. About 160 monks and nuns were wearing their ceremonial robes and sitting with our lay friends, according to gender and age of ordination on either side of the Buddha’s altar. We chanted in Vietnamese, listened to the story of how an ordinary human being practiced to realize deep understanding and compassion and become an Enlightened One.
Sitting before the ceremony to celebrate Vesakh 2011
The Discourse on Happiness was then recited in German and after that we raised from our seats to start a procession while invoking Shakyamuni Buddha’s name, walking slowly and mindfully from the Ashoka Institute to the garden of the Great Compassion Temple. Up in this garden was a beautiful set of the Buddha’s birth with characters like Queen Mother Maya, the wise Asitha (who predicted an outstanding career for this baby), painted with talent by our brothers and sisters, garlands of fresh flowers and a statue of the new-born prince Siddharta stepping in 7 lotuses on a small pond.
Walking meditation to the small pondn to bath the baby Buddha
Waiting for turn to bath the baby Buddha
The weather was very sunny and warm. As we were standing in two lines still according to gender and age of ordination, chanting “Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya”, every single practitioner present took turn to come close to the statue of the Buddha, to kneel down and to ladle clear water and fresh flowers to pour on the holy child. This is a beautiful ritual which we practice with a lot of joy and which brings us in contact with the nature of awakening being born and growing at every moment when we are mindful. It also can wash away difficult mental formations that we are experiencing.
The little baby Buddha
A gatha for bathing the baby Buddha:
Today we bathe the Tathagata.
Deep wisdom and clarity bring great happiness.
May all living beings who are overwhelmed by suffering
See the Dharmakaya in this very world.
After this noble ceremony, a picnic lunch was served for the community, with abundant, delicious vegan dishes and desserts. Later in the afternoon, we joyfully sat together again, this time facing the Great Compassion Temple in order to enjoy performances prepared to celebrate the special occasion. We had fun watching our lay sisters in a skit and dance about cleaning mirrors, then a group of 5 Vietnamese nuns in a graceful traditional dance; we were entertained with songs in all EIAB languages possible and between each performance and sound of the bell a little bit of the Buddha’s story was told.
Eldest Brother Thay Phap An [Top], and eldest sister: Sister Chan Duc [below]
This was a very special day indeed. The Sangha has shown again that it is the living manifestation of an awakened life: together we can experience and offer peace, joy, beauty to help our planet Earth and all beings. Every day the Buddha is born and every day the Three Jewels are available for us to take refuge. Happy Vesak to you!
Four fold sangha performance at the evening