A large crowd assembled at Queens Park on Sunday 3 May to celebrate Vesak Day with prayers, hanging of lanterns and talks. Vesak Day marks the birth, enlightenment and passing of the Buddha; it is the most important day in the Buddhist calendar of events. This is celebrated annually on the day of the first full moon in the month of May.
A large crowd assembled at Queens Park on Sunday 4 May to celebrate Vesak Day with prayers, hanging of lanterns and talks. Vesak Day marks the birth, enlightenment and passing of the Buddha; it is the most important day in the Buddhist calendar of events. This is celebrated annually on the day of the first full moon in the month of May.
Shepparton’s Sri Lankan and Buddhist community spent the afternoon of Sunday 3 May stringing the Queen’s Gardens with Buddhist symbols, lanterns and flags.
Buddha Altar in Queen’s Gardens
Queen’s Gardens were decorated with lights over the rose beds, lanterns hanging from trees and Buddha Flags adorned many posts and lamp-posts in the gardens. There was a central shrine to the Buddha with many candles and incense sticks burning. The Buddha image was surrounded by Buddha flags; the significance of these flags is they represent the colours in the aura – the energy field – of the Buddha as he passed into Nirvana.
The celebrations commenced with Welcome to Country by the Mayor, Councillor Denis Patterson. The Mayor wished all present “Happy Vesak Day” and reminded those present that Shepparton has a strong Aboriginal cultural, spiritual and historical heritage. This heritage has witnesses a long history of migration and a continually growing, diverse multicultural community. Cr Patterson went on to say that the City of Greater Shepparton – sponsor of this event – was proud of the diversity the community and that the region’s multiculturalism – supported by events such as the Vesak Day festival, helps to create a socially cohesive society.
Particpants at Vesak Day Celebration
Rev. Chris Parnell then explained the Buddhist concept of metta – loving kindness with compassion and how this was also known in the Abrahamic faiths as hesed, and in Hinduism as karuna. Rev. Parnell explained that the community had many Buddhist friends in Nepal, and called for a moment’s silence and sending compassion – metta – to all affected by the recent earthquake. There was then a moment’s silence for the recently executed men of the Bali Nine, and sending of compassion to all affected by this event. The recent Queensland flash-flooding and floods at Newcastle and Maitland were also mentioned, and a moment’s silence was offered for victims of flooding.
Local member of Legislative Assembly, the Hon. Susanna Sheed then spoke to the gathering in support and encouragement of cultural diversity and events such as Vesak Day. Ethnic Council Manager Chris Hazelman then addressed the gathering and gave significant encouragement to the local Buddhists to form an association such as the Shepparton Buddhist Association and to affiliate with the Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District for further support and assistance. Chris Hazelman voiced full support to the Buddhists who had prepared the Vesak Day celebration and for the local Buddhists to form an association.
Message from Buddhist Sangha, Melbourne
Rev Dr Pannasobhana Thero from the Buddhist monastery in Keysborough, Vic, gave one message to the gathering:
A representative of the local Buddhists, Liz Arcus then shared the background to the Vesak Day event and how it was integrated with the life, teachings and passing of The Buddha. Guests – Councillors from the City of Greater Shepparton, the Hon Susannah Sheed, Supt. Michael Sayer and other guests were then invited to light candles at the Altar and take the candles – the Buddha Light – across to the lanterns and symbolically pass the”Buddha Light” to the lanterns which were then raised on the trees in Queens Gardens. After the lighting of the lanterns – with the Buddha light – the gathering returned to the Altar where local Buddhist representative, Sam Atukorala, read a final prayer. The gathering concluded with refreshments provided by People Supporting People.
Guests light candles on the Shrine to take across to the lanterns
A vote of thanks was given to the Sri Lankan community for their assistance on the day, to Victoria Police for support and help, to the City of Greater Greater Shepparton and to the Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District along with the Shepparton Interfaith Network for their sponsorship and support. Rev. Chris Parnell of the Shepparton Interfaith Network concluded the gathering with encouraging all present to chant the Buddhist Refuges, and gave one translation of each of the three refuges.
Vesak Lanterns hang in Queen’s Gardens
Sam Atukorala – local Buddhist representative – offers prayers at the Shrine as Rev. Chris Parnell looks on.
Offering Candles at the Shrine, conclusion of celebrations
Vesak Greetings Powerpoint Presentation: Vesak Day PowerPoint
Photographs courtesy Liz Arcus Photography and Bianca Bezzani
Buddhist Association Facebook Page
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