Plum Village community celebrated Vesak on 7th May in the New Hamlet, with over 400 monks, nuns, and lay friends, including the French sangha, and the members of the Order of Interbeing in France. Vesak commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and passing away (parinirvana) of Shakyamuni Buddha. In the morning, Brother Phap Linh shared in his Dharma talk that as we bathe the baby Buddha in this celebration, we bathe the seeds of awakening within us, because Buddha is someone who has awakened. Brother Phap Linh also shared his personal experience in the pursuit of happiness and how the suffering he had encountered as a lay person had awakened him to choose a career as a monk. To listen to his Dharma talk, please click here:
The fourfold sangha began the Vesak ceremony with chanting in the Meditation Hall, followed by slow walking meditation to the beautiful altar set up in the lotus pond. In many Mahayana temples, we celebrated Vesak by bathing the baby Buddha. We believe that each one of us has the baby Buddha within us, the capacity to become a Buddha. This is one of the important teachings in Mahayana Buddhism.
We bathed the baby Buddha not only as an act of devotion, but also as a practice to touch the Buddha within ourselves. We are very grateful to the Buddha that he has shown us the path. But if we only practice devotion to the Buddha, it is not enough. We have to generate the energy of understanding and love for ourselves and for the world, in order to become the Buddha, because Buddha is someone who has developed his understanding and compassion to the highest degree. We are also very grateful to our teacher Thay that he has renewed Buddhism. He has shown us that Buddhism is not only a devotional practice, but also a practice that we can generate the energy of the Buddha, the energy of awakening, understanding, and love in daily life.
Sister Chan Khong gave a speech at United Nations Day of Vesak 2017 in Thailand representing Plum Village International Community of Engaged Buddhists. You can read the transcription of her talk by clicking here: http://www.undv.org/vesak2017/pdf/thich_nu_chan_khong.pdf.
As Thay has often taught us, we should say “Happy continuation day” instead of “Happy birthday”, with deep happiness and gratitude to the Buddha we can say “Happy continuation day, dear respected teacher, dear Shakyamuni Buddha!”
“Today we celebrate his birth. We look around and recognize that we have been transforming the Buddha into a God. We pray to him in order to get what we want, like money, fame, profit, and health. Siddhartha found out that true happiness does not come from money, fame, power, and sex. But we are praying, we are asking him to give us all these things. The Buddha saw very well that happiness is possible. Happiness is made of understanding and love. He shows us the way in order to cultivate understanding and love so that we can have a happy life. In order to generate the energy of understanding and love, we have to practice mindfulness, concentration, and insight. That is the Buddhism of wisdom, and not the Buddhism of devotion. Buddhism of our time is made mostly of the devotion. The Buddha is no longer a teacher, but a God. We do not come to the Buddha with the intention to learn how to generate understanding, love, and happiness. We pray to the Buddha that he will help us to have more money, fame, profit, and success. We know that in the past, in the history of Buddhism, Buddhism was able to help bring peace and happiness in individuals, families, and nations. Buddhism has been able to go through many periods of transformation in order to continue to serve the humankind. But today Buddhism has been greatly corrupted. We do not profit from the wisdom of the Buddha as much as our ancestors in the past. Not many of us able to go the path undertaking of our teacher, the Buddha. That is why as good Buddhists, as good disciples of the Buddha we have to help renew Buddhism. We have to help purify Buddhism from superstitions and things like that, that corrupted and have kept made Buddhism corrupted.” – Thich Nhat Hanh during the Vesak Celebration 2013 in Hong Kong