THE Buddha’s Day and Multicultural Festival this weekend will give you a glimpse into a way of life practiced by more than 500 million people worldwide. Alyce Shaw brings you the highlights.
STUDENTS following the Buddhist tradition, or those keen to explore another facet of multicultural Melbourne, can do so at the Buddha’s Day and Multicultural Festival this weekend.
In Australia, Buddhist and other Eastern religious traditions date back to the mid to late 1800s, brought in by immigrants from China, Sri Lanka, and Japan who were working as gold miners, pearl divers and sugar cane plantation workers.
The festival itself, hosted by Fo Guang Shan Melbourne and Buddha’s Light International Association of Victoria (BLIA VIC), has been running in Melbourne for almost 20 years now. It’s a birthday celebration for Sakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, as well as an opportunity to introduce newcomers to the religion and philosophy of Buddhism.
BLIA Reverend Miao Kong says this year’s festival aims to promote harmony, respect, peace and cultural awareness in a diverse society, with a range of activities for all ages and walks of life.
“We have a few new events this year, including an outdoor meditation garden for people to come and learn how to participate in sitting meditation,” Mrs Kong says.
For a fifth year, a youth forum will also be held as part of the festival’s activities, inviting young people from various faiths to share their thoughts and experiences.
“This year’s youth forum is not just for Buddhism, but for people from other faiths as well. Melbourne is very multicultural, so people from different cultures and regions can come and celebrate too,” Mrs Kong says.
The festival opens on Saturday with an authentic Purification Ceremony, a service held at the beginning of any important Buddhist function, conducted by Fo Guang Shan.
The Abbess Man Ko and Venerables will chant the mantra of Great Mercy – one of Buddhism’s most important texts, while using blessed water to purify Federation Square for the festival to commence.
“We chant for peace and understanding, because the festival is about everybody coming together and understanding each other,” Mrs Kong says.
Over the course of two days, the festival program includes traditional acts such as the bathing of the Buddha and customary incense offerings, daily Dharma series talks and Tai Chi workshops.
Festival goers will also get the chance to taste the harmonious explosion of vegetarian Asian delights to enlighten your soul, and stomach.
The festival is a free event, and a worthwhile event for those interested to explore a way of life practiced by more than 500 million people worldwide.
The Buddha’s Day and Multicultural Festival will be held at Federation Square this weekend May 18 and 19. For the full program and more information, visit the festival website.