The Ottawa Vesak Day and Asian Heritage Month celebrations and ceremony, will be attended by Thailand’s Ambassador to Canada, His Excellency Pisan Manawapat, the Hon. Senator Vernon White, the Hon. MP Royal Galipeau, the Hon. Yasir Naqvi, Minister of Labour, MPP, Jack MacLaren, MPP, Mayor Jim Watson, Ottawa City Councillors Shad Qudri and Marianne Wilkinson and various diplomatic dignitaries on Sunday, May 4th at Ottawa City Hall. Event highlights include messages from the Governor General, the Prime Minister, and the Premier of Ontario. There will also be speeches by the Ambassador of Thailand, Mayor Jim Watson and the Founder of Vesak Day in Ottawa and Sirin Chairman, Visita Leelaratna. Through the efforts and collaboration of various inter-cultural groups, the Vesak and Asian Heritage Month festivities will also be attended by the Ottawa community at large. The celebrations will also feature Sanga chanting for World Peace, cultural performances and art displays from Ottawa’s diverse Asian communities.
Members of the public are welcome to attend the festivities at Jean Pigott Place, City Hall, 110 Laurier Avenue West from 13:00 to 16:30. Admission is free.
This is a unique opportunity for Ottawa to participate in the multi-cultural celebrations of Asian Heritage and mark Vesak Day which commemorates the Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing. In addition, the occasion will be used for an inspirational talk on cyber-bullying by Carleton Professor Emeritus Dr. Ian Prattis, the Zen teacher at Pine Gate. The delivery of the official proclamation of “Vesak Day” by Mayor Jim Watson will be at 14:00. There will be a number of performances at the festivities. The Thai Dance Troupe of Ottawa (TDO), and People’s Choice Awards Winner 2009 sponsored by the Royal Thai Embassy will present the Homage to Lord Buddha, a fifteen minute journey through time, music, and dance which celebrates the Birth of Lord Buddha. Sri Lankan Hevisi drummers will lead the Sanga procession. Seniors from the Chinese Senior Support Centre in Kanata will perform a dance called Happy Together and a Vietnamese Buddhist youth group in Ottawa will perform the Lion Dance.
Light refreshments will follow the performance portion and from 15:30 to 16:30 attendees will be free to visit and enjoy the booths and beautiful art displays. A highlight of this special day will be the display of seven of the world’s most beautiful statues of the Awakened One: the Buddha, celebrating his message of peace. The day’s activities will wind down with “a day of compassion” which will encourage people to reaffirm their determination to practice loving-kindness.
Program: Ottawa City Hall, May 4, 1.00pm – 4.30pm
1:00 pm: Visiting Booths and Art Display
1:25 pm: Sangha Procession into the hall with Sri Lankan Temple Drums
1:30 pm: Canadian National Anthem
1:35 pm: MC Acknowledgements for Vesak and Asian Heritage
1:40 pm: Sangha Chanting for World Peace
2:00 pm: VIP Messages from:
1. Governor General, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston: Hon Senator Vernon White
2. Prime Minister Stephen Harper: Hon MP Royal Galipeau
3. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne: Hon MPP Yasir Naqvi
1. Thailand Ambassador to Canada, Pisan Manawapat ;
2. Founder of Sirin and Vesak in Ottawa, Visita Leelaratna,
3. “Vesak Day” Proclamation by Mayor Jim Watson
2:20 pm: Vietnamese Youth Group Dance
2:30 pm: Inspirational Talk on “Can We Stop Cyberbullying?” By Dr. Ian Prattis
2:45 pm: “Homage to Lord Buddha” Thai dance troupe
3:00 pm: Chinese dance group
3:15 pm: Lion Dance by Vietnamese Youth group
3:30 pm: THANK YOU – MC’s final statements
Refreshment and Visiting Booths and Beautiful Art Display until 4:30 pm
4:30 pm: End of Program
Pine Gate Mindfulness Community and Asian Buddhist communities in Ottawa – from Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand – worked together to bring about the Vesak Celebration. The 2014 Vesak Festival had the good fortune to receive guidance from three spiritual advisors: Master Bon Dat, Bhante Rath Sam and Dharmacharya Ian Prattis. They each come from different Buddhist traditions in Ottawa and three different countries – Vietnam, Cambodia, Canada. They established a common cause to spread the seeds of Buddha Mind across Ottawa for the Vesak Festival in Ottawa City Hall, Jean Pigott Place, on May 4, by creating an atmosphere of generosity, humility and kindness. Organization meetings were held during the winter months in the various temples in the city and at Pine Gate. The three advisors ushered in a consensus that donations taken in on Vesak Day would support the education of young boys and girls in Cambodia. Education was seen as a vital antidote to the trafficking of children in that country.
Buddhism is a religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, who lived and taught in India ca. 2,600 years ago. There are an estimated 550 million people in the world who identify Buddhism as their religion or way of life. While most live in Asia, Buddhism is recognized as the fastest growing religion in Western societies.
Vesākha Day is the day Buddhists remember the birth, the enlightenment, and the passing away of the Buddha. The United Nations marks Vesākha Day as an official holiday, worldwide. As Buddhism spread from India, it was adapted to many cultures, and consequently Vesākha Day is celebrated in many different ways in various countries, such as China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Burma, Tibet, Bhutan, Thailand, and Nepal, the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama.
Some will visit their local temple before dawn, to raise the official Buddhist flag, which represents a rainbow. Some may bring simple offerings of flowers, candles and incense, which serve as a reminder that just as the beautiful flowers will wither, and the candles burn out, so too is life subject to impermanence. In some countries, birds and animals are released in a symbolic act of liberation.
On Vesākha Day, Buddhist practitioners are encouraged to reiterate their determination to lead noble lives, to practice loving-kindness and to bring peace of mind to themselves and peace to the world. This is done by “going for refuge” in the Buddha (the human being, who through right effort, is able to free him/herself), the Dharma (the teachings the Buddha left for us), and the Sangha (the Buddhist community of monastics and lay practitioners, which has continued, unbroken, for 2,600 years).
In the West, the coming together of various cultures fosters ecumenism, which is one characteristic of the new Buddhism taking root here. Vesākha Day is therefore a time when we reach out across the various Buddhist traditions to celebrate, and to non-Buddhists to enjoy dialogue and harmony.