Happy with return to physical rituals

Enlightenment: Devotees lighting lotus candles on the eve of Wesak Day at the Mahindarama Buddhist Temple at Jalan Kampar, Penang. — LIM BENG TATT/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: After a two-year hiatus because of the Covid-19 pandemic, droves of devotees returned to attend physical prayer sessions and took part in rituals to mark the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha.

This year’s Wesak Day celebration also coincided with the 60th year of the occasion being declared a national public holiday in Malaysia.

Accountant Emily Tan, 36, took advantage of the weekend and public holiday to bring her family to take part in the ritual of bathing the Buddha statue at the Malaysian Buddhist Association (MBA) building in Burmah Road here.

She said she had been going there for Wesak Day celebrations since she was young, and used to bring her eldest son, aged eight now, every year before Covid-19 hit.

“This is the first time I brought my two younger boys (aged three and six) along. My children looked forward to coming here and were happy to get the five-colour Buddhist flags. Since my boys could not attend Buddhism classes due to the pandemic, I’ve been guiding them on Buddhist teachings at home,” she said, adding that she prayed for good health and happiness for her family.

Dentist Khaw Qing Ling, 27, was seen carrying out the ritual of bathing a Buddha statue with her boyfriend and family.

“I never missed coming here for Wesak Day celebrations ever since I was a kid. I am glad that we could come now after attending online prayer sessions for two years.

“I hope that everyone are happy and, most importantly, healthy,” said Khaw, adding that she would go to other temples too.

During the opening ceremony, MBA national president Venerable Jit Heng said apart from what it represented, this year’s theme of “Promote Harmony through Mutual Respect and Helping Each Other” also reflected the spirit of the Buddhist sages when they were trying to get Wesak Day declared as a national public holiday 60 years ago.

“The Buddhist traditions such as Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism inspired mutual cooperation to achieve a consensus on the celebration of Wesak,” he explained.

Ven Jit Heng added that making Wesak Day a public holiday was one of MBA’s crucial contributions to Buddhists in the country.

“This year, as we commemorate the 60th anniversary, we should also value the noble spirit of our Buddhist elders and sages and follow in their footsteps,” he said.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said for the third year, MBA did not organise the Wesak Day float procession as a result of the pandemic.

“However, MBA and Penang Wesak Celebrations Committee once again opened up the Buddha bathing activity for devotees to participate in. We also celebrate this special day via a live broadcast,” he said.

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