At Pine Gate Mindfulness Community http://www.ianprattis.com/PineGate/index.html we are co-ordinating Buddhist communities in Ottawa-from Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Taiwan-to celebrate Vesak on May 4, 2014, in Ottawa City Hall 1.00pm – 4.30pm. Friends in the Ottawa region may wish to mark this date in their calendar. The website for the event is at: http://www.vesakinottawa.wordpress.com
This is a new venture for Ottawa and represents a willingness to cross traditional boundaries and to recognize the quality of inter-connection. Not just with different Buddhist communities but with non-Buddhist citizens in the city. The program includes cultural performances, a Vesak Proclamation from the Mayor of Ottawa, Jim Watson, and an inspirational talk to show the relevance of Buddhism to 21st century realities. I will give a talk about Cyberbullying and Teenage Suicide. Cyberbullying is a new phenomenon for our times, scarcely twenty years old. It coincided with the ramification of cell phones, chat rooms, ipads and the internet. This created an ecosystem of interruption technologies that many teens have become addicted to. In less than a generation the world has been fundamentally changed and we have yet to catch up with its consequences. Governments, school boards, parents and councillors are scrambling to deal with it. Parenting skills and legal restraints have to adapt radically in order to protect our young children.
The practices that can calm troubled teenage minds are derived from the teachings of the Buddha. They are tried, tested and true, totally relevant to 21st century realities of cyberbullying. In modern day Canada it is intelligent to refer to them as Mindfulness Practices, which complement the efforts of all levels of government, from City Hall to the Federal Government. There are many school boards with apps for anti-cyberbullying, dedicated educators and concerned parents offering their skills to deal with the spectre of cyberbullying.
Here are some insights about Vesak Day prepared by Lisa Karuna from Pine Gate.
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 lunar calendar is central to Buddhist tradition and it is believed that these events each took place during the full moon of vesākha (Pali) or vaiśākha (Sanskrit), which is simply the ancient name of April–May of the lunar calendar.
The United Nations marks Vesākha Day as an official holiday, worldwide. Local communities will choose a date together, as close to the full moon as possible, often on a weekend, allowing the community to be fully present.
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.
Generally, 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).
On this day, we renew our commitment to the precepts, which help us to live a moral life that contributes to our well-being and the well-being of others, which includes giving our time and resources to those in need.
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.
Photo of Advisors for the event, from Left to Right Venerable Master Bon Dat, Dharmacharya Ian Prattis, Bhante Sam Rath Viriyad