Embracing change virtually


  • Metro News
  • Thursday, 07 May 2020

A Tzu Chi Foundation devotee performing the Buddha bathing ceremony virtually for Wesak Day.

Under the conditional movement control order (MCO), all places of worship are still expected to be closed and mass gatherings for prayers of any kind are prohibited, including for today’s Wesak Day celebration.

With all Buddhist temples closed until further notice, devotees are celebrating Wesak Day virtually this year, by tuning in to live streams on Dhamma talks, chanting, blessings and prayers.

Wesak Day is usually a big celebration with most Buddhist organisations having week-long activities which end with a float procession.

However, this year’s celebration has been cut down to two days and everything is being done virtually online.

The float procession at Ti-Ratana Buddhist Society’s Wesak Day celebration last year.The float procession at Ti-Ratana Buddhist Society’s Wesak Day celebration last year.

“Last year, more than 10,000 devotees visited our Buddhist Maha Vihara temple in Brickfields over two days — on Wesak eve and Wesak Day.

“We also gave free lunches to our devotees but we cannot do that this year as we have planned for everything to go online, starting with a live stream by our chief monk on the eve at 7pm until about 9.30pm. It will continue today from 7am until about 9.30pm,” said Buddhist Maha Vihara honorary secretary Tilak Leslie Jayawardena.

He added that there would also be Dhamma talks by three monks who are residing overseas, two in the United States and another in Canada.

“Devotees can also observe the eight precepts programme online as we usually conduct this at the temple annually,” he said.

Apart from the live stream, there will be other activities such as offering light and a wishing tree where devotees can make a donation and write aspirations for themselves or their loved ones.

Volunteers getting oil lamps ready for Wesak Day at Buddhist Maha Vihara in Brickfields.Volunteers getting oil lamps ready for Wesak Day at Buddhist Maha Vihara in Brickfields.

These messages will then be handwritten by one of their two staff members residing there and blessed by the monk.

“Our monk will also help light candles in memory of the departed or for loved ones and the lighting ceremony can also be viewed online,” he said, adding that applications for the wishing tree and oil lamp were available online.

For a full list of online activities, live stream and link to offer light and put a wish on the tree, visit its Facebook page facebook.com/groups/BuddhistMahaVihara/

At Ti-Ratana Buddhist Society, all its branches in Klang, Bangsar, Cheras and Puchong are also observing Wesak Day online.

“We used to have a very grand celebration because it is the celebration of Buddha’s birth but due to the MCO, we have to really scale it down this year.

“As our centres are closed, we can only do it virtually and we have asked our devotees to join in on our live stream,” said Ven Hemaloka, who is assistant to Malaysia chief high priest and founder of the Buddhist society, Datuk K. Sri Dhammaratana.

He added that the resident monks at the respective centres came together online and organised a live stream via social media so that devotees worldwide could join in.

A volunteer preparing the wishing tree for the celebration at Buddhist Maha Vihara temple.A volunteer preparing the wishing tree for the celebration at Buddhist Maha Vihara temple.

“In our programme, there is also a lighting ceremony for Covid-19 and devotees can light a candle or offer flower bouquets like how they normally do on Wesak Day.

“We have a Google link where those interested can indicate the number of flower bouquets they want to offer or the number of candles they want to light,” he said.

Its annual float procession has been cancelled but charity works that take place during Wesak annually is ongoing.

For details on its live stream and other activities, visit bit.ly/trbswesak2020

Over at Tzu Chi Foundation, a website has been created to allow devotees to perform an online Buddha bathing ceremony.

The website at buddhaday.tzuchi.my also contains links to its virtual events and live streams on Wesak Day.

“In response to the government’s movement control order, Tzu Chi Malaysia has temporarily stopped all its regular activities, including the Wesak Day ceremony, and launched a website in its place.

Devotees can also observe the eight precepts programme online, says Tilak Leslie.Devotees can also observe the eight precepts programme online, says Tilak Leslie.

“While Buddha’s birthday is celebrated differently this year because of Covid-19, what remains unchanged is its purpose to commemorate the birth of Buddha which reminds us of Buddha’s teachings,” said Tzu Chi Foundation’s humanistic cultural development head Chong Chuan Yit.

Chong explained that there would be a step-by-step interactive guide on the website for devotees to follow the Buddha bathing process at home.

He added that there would also be a live broadcast from Taiwan.

Tzu Chi’s virtual Wesak Day celebration will take place on May 10 at 7am onwards and all are invited to join in the live broadcast.

In Jenjarom, the ever-popular Fo Guang Shan Dong Zen Temple will be carrying out its virtual prayers via Facebook Live and Zoom.

The temple’s chief abbess Chueh Chen said there would be a line-up of activities such as storytelling for children, music concert featuring local singers singing Buddhist prayer songs and virtual blessings.

“We will start at 10am on Wesak Day until noon, then the concert will be at 8pm. The full schedule for the concert and storytelling session is on our Facebook page,” she said.

Last year, the temple saw visitors from all over the country including some foreign visitors. Additionally, nearly 130,000 Wesak Day biscuits were given out to those who visited the temple.

“To keep the tradition alive, we will still give out about 30,000 biscuits to our regular devotees and others,” she said adding that the biscuits would be delivered to the devotees’ homes.

She added that a virtual Buddha bathing ceremony, launched on April 30, welcomed over three million devotees participating from around the world.

Another temple in Shah Alam, the Samadhi Vihara temple, which is owned and managed by Buddhist Missionary Society Malaysia, will be holding virtual prayers, chanting and sharing sessions on its Facebook page and Zoom.

Chueh says the temple will give out about 30,000 biscuits to regular devotees and others this year.Chueh says the temple will give out about 30,000 biscuits to regular devotees and others this year.

“This year is exceptionally special because we cannot open our doors to devotees so we are just making the best of it and in these special circumstances, this virtual celebration is the best alternative,” said its president Loh Pai Ling.

There are four centres in Selangor, which are in Shah Alam, Kajang and Dengkil, and one more in Putrajaya which is nearing completion.“We have plans to make this a nationwide virtual celebration by combining all our centres and we have a special live session with a monk from Australia,” she said.

They have also registered an e-wallet account to enable devotees to make donations straight from their smartphones.

Its e-Wesak programme, which began on Wesak eve, continues today from 7am onwards.

For a full list of its activities and links to online streaming, visit its Facebook page at Buddhist Missionary Society Malaysia.

Loh: ‘Having  a virtual celebration is the best alternative since the temple  cannot open Loh: ‘Having a virtual celebration is the best alternative since the temple cannot open

At Chempaka Buddhist Lodge in Taman Sea, Petaling Jaya, its resident monk will be chanting alone and this will be streamed online for devotees to participate.

“It will only be a half-day event this year as our doors have to remain closed.

“Last year, over 10,000 devotees visited the temple over two days and we even had a grand parade,” said its president Lawrence Phuah.

He added that regular devotees had already made plans to offer light on Wesak Day to be donated to the temple.

For details, visit its Facebook page at ChempakaBuddhistLodge.
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