LIKE many celebrations this year, Wesak Day will be a low-key affair, as large gatherings are prohibited to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Datuk Seri Victor Wee, president of the Buddhist Gem Fellowship (BGF) in Ara Damansara, explained how Wesak Day celebrations are going to be held differently this year.
Tell us about your preparations for Wesak Day.
“Wesak Day is a thrice-sacred day for Buddhists to commemorate the birth, enlightenment and passing away of the Buddha. It is normally a big celebration for us at the BGF centre where we run programmes on Wesak eve and Wesak Day. It will take several weeks to prepare the centre and also items for offerings, such as bouquets of flowers, candles and food.
“With the MCO, we cannot run these activities [here]. Instead we will take the programmes online. Even before Wesak, we have already started to run our Dhamma talks and discussions, counselling sessions, and weekly meditation sessions [online, due to the movement control order].
“To our surprise we found that we are able to reach out to a wider audience, including overseas viewers, this way.”
How and when did your organisation start to plan this year’s Wesak Day prayers?
“We came to this decision in late February/early March. At that time, it was still uncertain if the MCO will be continued into May.
“We decided that even if the MCO was to end before Wesak Day, it wasn’t a good idea to hold a gathering at our centre because of the need to maintain social distancing.”
There are online events leading up to the day, as well as live streaming of prayers on Wesak Day. Can you tell me more about that?
“BGF will be going online with its programme for Wesak Eve on May 6 from 7.40pm to 9.30pm, and Wesak Day on May 7 between 9am to 11am. This is the first time where we will each contribute items from our houses, but it will be sequenced and put together in a programme that runs continuously. Of course, we need to get members who can manage the programme execution, as well as online management.
“Actually, the online programme is very similar to what we would run at our centre. On Wesak eve and Wesak Day, we will have talks, show short movies made by our children, and put up musical performances by our musical groups.
“BGF is strong in the performing arts. We have musical groups that have recorded their own albums. We will feature the performances of these groups, some of which are pre-recorded, or use footage of performances from previous Wesak [celebrations]. We will also screen two movies made by our Sunday school children. We also have a short video lasting eight minutes on the life story of our late teacher,
Dr K Sri Dhammananda.
“Devotees can make donations to light a candle on Wesak eve or Wesak Day at the BGF Centre as a dedication to the Triple Gem in support to BGF.”
For those who have to confine themselves at home during this time, is there anything they can do on this auspicious day?
“They can offer lights, incense and flowers to the Buddha image at their home. Light to represent the Buddha’s light of Wisdom that dispels darkness of ignorance; incense to represent the fragrance of virtuous deeds that spread in all directions; and flowers to represent that the beautiful things in this world, such as the human body, are subject to the law of impermanence and will one day pass away.
“On Wesak Day, we need to recall the Buddha’s teachings and put them into practice.
“During the Covid-19 lockdown, some people feel a sense of confusion, loss, frustration and anger. Staying together within the four walls of the house may seem like confinement, and often creates stress and tension if we do not handle our emotions and thoughts well.
“But we are in our home environment with our loved ones. This is the time to bond with them because during the days before the lockdown, every member of the family seemed to be caught up with their own thing. We will need to balance emotions and act with love and kindness towards our family members. This is the time for us to make efforts to act with more loving kindness and laughter, instead of creating tension and annoyance.
“Also, rejoice and feel blessed that we have a roof above our head, food on the table, and a healthy body.
“This is the time to practise love and generosity. We should also make a religious donation as dedication to the Buddha. Such donations is considered meritorious [and] will bring you abundant results.
“Remember that Covid-19 has caused economic and financial difficulties for businesses that result in job losses. We should be charitable in sharing with the less fortunate, including giving food to the hungry.
“We may worry about our [own] business but there is nothing much we can do right now. So, this is a time to set aside the worry and look after our own mind and emotions. A good way to neutralise and balance our mind is to perform meditations on loving kindness.”