Singapore

Buddhists mark Vesak Day with virtual celebrations

Temples and Buddhists groups celebrate with devotees online and also enjoy a live international e-concert

Activities to commemorate Vesak Day - which celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha - were held online yesterday.

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Buddhists in Singapore and around the world adapted, observing Vesak Day virtually for the first time.

Traditionally, Buddhists visit temples on the day for rituals such as chanting, three-step one-bow and bathing of the Buddha statue, or to take part in retreats.

In the morning, some temples and Buddhist groups kicked off the online celebrations - hosting morning puja, guided meditation and talks. Puja is a reflective ritual that is meant to deepen one's appreciation of Buddha and his teachings and calm one's mind.

At the Buddhist Fellowship's virtualcelebration held via Facebook livestream yesterday, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran sent greetings to Buddhists here.

"The core values of compassion, understanding and resilience as espoused in Buddhist teachings become all the more important amidst the turmoil brought about by Covid-19. It is these values that will keep us strong and help us prevail over the virus," he said.

Citing examples of how some in the community have helped others, including those who bought food for neighbours under stay-home notices, Mr Iswaran added: "These collective acts of selflessness and kindness, and many more like them, cheer us on and give us hope."

JIGSAW

The Singapore Buddhist Mission (SBM) held an international e-concert just before lunch time, with the event featuring Buddhist musicians from Singapore and abroad who sang live.

After lunch, 36 families gathered online on Zoom with jigsaw sets that SBM had mailed to them prior to the event.

Alongside a Buddhist monk, they worked on the puzzle, learning about mindfulness.

At 4pm, a group of about 10 got ready and stationed themselves online to make one of the biggest decisions of their lives.

They were about to participate in a refuge ceremony, undertaken by devotees ready to commit to following Buddha's teachings. It was the first time the Thekchen Choling temple in Beatty Lane had held the ceremony virtually.

After the ceremony, all participants got a new name, symbolising a new life.

Student Lee Journ Ing, 14, who had explored the faith for seven years before deciding to undergo the ceremony, said: "I was disappointed at first when I found out it was to be done virtually, as I would have preferred to take it face to face.

"However, Covid-19 has taught us about impermanence... I am grateful that I had a chance to do it virtually. It was a unique experience that I will cherish."

ADDITIONAL REPORTING: MELISSA HENG

COMMUNITY ISSUES