By Shelton A. Gunaratne
(May 08, Minneapolis, MN, Sri Lanka Guardian)The Minnesota Buddhist Vihara has invited the Buddhists in the Upper Midwest to join its Vesak Celebration (Buddha's Birthday) on Saturday [May 9] at the Vihara premises, 3401 N. Fourth St., Minneapolis. It will supplement the celebration with a day-long meditation retreat Sunday [May 10] at the Meditation Retreat Center, 2112 Bonaire Path (135th St.) East, Rosemount, MN
The Ven. Witiyala Seewalie Thera, abbot of the Vihara, said the celebration will commence at 7 a.m. with the observance of Eight Precepts and Noble Silence and end about 4 p.m. with gilanpasa (tea) preceded by singing of Bhakti Gee (devotional songs) and lighting of Vesak lanterns. The Vihara has requested the Buddhist families to encourage children to make Vesak lanterns and bring them to the celebration.
Seewalie Thera said the day’s schedule will include two Dhamma talks followed by discussions, guided meditation, walking meditation, sitting meditation, and a Buddha Puja immediately before the Diva Dana (lunch).
Bhikku T. Seelananda, a visiting monk from the Samatha Vipassana Meditation Center at Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, will conduct the meditation retreat Sunday at MRC where he has conducted training sessions several times. The MRC was established three years ago on a farm leased by James K. Bowers, a retired businessman from Excelsior, who has visited Buddhist places of worship in Malaysia and Sri Lanka, and has close friends in the Sri Lankan expatriate community in Minnesota. He is an honorary life-member of the Minnesota Buddhist Vihara.
Ven. Seewalie said that MVB was handling the Buddhist spiritual needs of the people in the six-state area covering Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota. Over the last three weeks, he and Bhikku Seelananda have conducted Dhamma talks and discussions at University of Minnesota, Saint Cloud State University, Iowa State University and North Dakota State University.
Vesak occurs on the full moon of the Taurus (in May or June in leap years). It represents the birth, enlightenment and passing away of Gautama Buddha. Buddhist communities in South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia celebrate the day though with different names: Vesak (Sri Lanka and Malaysia) is its Sinhala identity derived from the Sanskrit word Vaishaka It’s also known as Buddha Purnima (India, Bangladesh and Nepal), Hanamatsun (Japan), Kasone Lapayae (Myanmar), Phat Dan (Vietnam), Saga Dawa (Tibet), Seokka Tanshin-il (Korea), Visakah Puja (Thailand), and Visakha Bucha (Cambodia and Laos),
Buddhism in America take many forms: Chinese Buddhism, Shin Buddhism, Japanese Zen, Nichiren Soshu and Soka Gokkai, Tibetan Buddhism, Korean Buddhism, Vietnamese Buddhism, and Theravada Buddhism. Therefore, the celebration of Vesak will occur under different nomenclature in different parts of the United States.
Charles S. Prebish and Kenneth K. Tanaka, in their 1998 book The Faces of Buddhism in America estimated the Buddhist adherents in the United States as 324 million followers. Buddhism ranks fourth in population among world religions.
[The writer is professor of mass communications emeritus, Minnesota State University Moorhead]