Among activities at Buddhist temples nationwide were the bathing of Buddha ceremony, which symbolises serenity and peace

PETALING JAYA: The Buddhist community celebrated Wesak Day yesterday to mark the birth, enlightenment and passing of Gautama Buddha.

An event, hosted by Fo Guang Shan Malaysia, took place at its current centre at Jalan SS3/33 in Taman Universiti from 8am to 4pm.

Deputy abbess the venerable Ru Xing said the centre, which has about 5,000 members and 30 years of history at the location, held a month-long celebration to promote a plant-based diet that featured competitions and exhibitions.

She emphasised the importance of community outreach to foster the Wesak Day spirit through activities involving association members together with the less fortunate and prisoners.

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“The celebration includes the bathing of the Buddha ceremony and chanting sessions, symbolising serenity and peace.

“This year, we promoted eco-friendly practices by using USB rechargeable candles instead of traditional ones. This helps reduce waste and promotes environmental consciousness.”

Ru said amid preparations to relocate to a larger facility in Kelana Jaya, fundraising efforts are ongoing, with various activities such as exhibitions and the selling of drinks and crafts.

The celebration this year also hosted a calligraphy exhibition by Puan Sri Chelsia Chan, also known as Chan Chau Ha, a Hong Kong-based lyricist, songwriter, singer and actress. Chan, who has held solo exhibitions of her calligraphy and paintings in Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea, said she draws inspiration from the works of the venerable master Hong Yi from the 1920s.

Ru said as Fo Guang Shan Malaysia is still seeking funding for its new centre, it is preparing to organise additional events in the upcoming months as well.

She said the new centre will be able to accommodate over 100 vehicles, a hall accommodating up to 800 people, 60 classrooms and a kindergarten.

“The plans include the addition of an art gallery, auditorium and bakery academy to provide valuable skills to secondary school dropouts.”

She expressed gratitude for being part of such a vibrant community and emphasised its commitment to achieving its goals with the support of contributors.

The celebration ended with a night parade showcasing flower floats, which added to the festive atmosphere.

Meanwhile in George Town, 23 floats from several organisations participated in the Penang Wesak Day celebration, which culminated in the procession that was held from May 18 to 22.

It was initiated by the state government, supported by the Penang Harmony Corporation and organised by the Malaysian Buddhist Association.

Social Development, Welfare and Non-Islamic Religious Affairs state exco S.K. Lim said the celebration, themed “Living Harmoniously, Thriving Society”, focused on encouraging understanding and interactions between races and religions.

“There was also an exhibition on preserving life and protecting the environment and a recycled crafts workshop at the Malaysian Buddhist Association last weekend,” she said, adding that workshop participants were taught to make candles, baskets and decoupage items.

Its Wesak Day committee chairman Datuk H.H Loh said the number of floats decreased compared with similar processions before the pandemic.

“Although the pandemic restrictions have been lifted, fewer organisations joined the float parade. However, they still sent their members to walk with the procession.”

He highlighted the three main groups of Buddhism – Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana – from several organisations gathered to celebrate the birthday of Buddha.

In light of Wesak Day, Loh advised devotees to be more caring, compassionate and respectful of one another.

“(This is) to improve mutual understanding, so we can co-exist harmoniously as propagated by the theme this year.”

On May 19, the Penang Wesak Celebration Committee held a ceremony to officiate the decoration of their float.

“After prayers and chanting led by the chief monk, we symbolically invited the Buddha to the main float.

“Only then did we start decorating the float,” he said, adding that it cost about RM50,000.