Vesak Festival 2011


Where all hearts met for the sake of Buddhism.

Virginia Beach – On May 15th, 2011 at Dong Hung Temple, we solemnly and in unity held the Buddha’s Birthday ceremony, in beautiful weather and surroundings.

In the morning, there were two services at the temple: the offering to the Three Jewels ceremony and bathing the baby Buddha ceremony. Many Buddhist followers came from the city of Virginia Beach and surrounding areas to witness and celebrate this event. The bathing ceremony was simple but moving for the large group of Buddhists who participated. We saw many joyful tears when we chanted the gatha of the Buddha’s appearing in this world. (see the album part 1, 2 and 3)

The Vesak festival continued at 5:00PM at the Philippine Cultural Center on Baxter Road, which is located about two blocks from the temple. It was celebrated by the Venerable monks from Wat Pasantidhamma in Carrollton Virginia, the Venerable nun Như Bảo from Hải Quang Temple in Norfolk Virginia and the Sangha from Dong Hung temple. There were hundreds of guests and Buddhist followers from the Hampton Roads area and North Carolina who came to celebrate with us. American Buddhist followers also sent a notice to the Virginia Pilot newspaper this year, so many American friends knew and joined us too.

The weather was beautiful, with only a quick rain which happened about 15 minutes before the afternoon ceremony. This was a special offering from the mother earth because the weather man predicted that there would be heavy rains during the weekend. We worried a little bit, but everything turned out great!

The dragon dances performed by Chow Ga Kungfu in Norfolk as an offering to the newborn Buddha and to welcome the guests were very exciting and effervescent. The official Buddha's Birthday ceremony was then opened in three languages: in the Pali language by the Thái Monks, the offering incense chanting in Vietnamese by the Monks at Dong Hung temple and the Heart Sutra in English, which was performed by American Buddhist followers. The harmony of the chanting in the three languages touched the hearts of the participants.

The bathing ceremony was very solemn, as the participants lined up in two lines to bath the baby Buddha. After the chanting ceremony and the bathing of the baby Buddha, there was entertainment. American Buddhist Aryan Shalone, with his brother and sister accompanying, sang the beautiful song “Birth of the Buddha” in English.   The song was sent by Vien Minh from Texas just few days before for him to practice, and he rocked the audience with his musical style.

Most songs were performed in Vietnamese by local singers, including Thanh Tú, Cao Quý, Thanh Tân, Minh Vũ, Xuân Đào, Lucky Dang, Thanh Thanh and others. We also enjoyed popular singer Đan Nguyên, who came from Asia Music Center in California. All the singers offered their best to create a fun and warm atmosphere for the Vesak festival on the Buddha’s birthday. The Philippine Cultural Center's maximum occupancy of 1000 was still not large enough for all the participants, and the parking lots at the center and next door were full.

There was a raffle for prizes which raised money to pay the singer’s fee and the Philippine center's rental fee. We also had over 30 delicious vegetarian dishes to sell which were made by the Buddhist followers.

In one corner of the hall, there was an Origami table for the young children provided by a group of American volunteers. These volunteers played with the children until the festival ended. On behalf of Dong Hung we’d like to say thank you to the three volunteers: Amy Bateman, Michelle Chrzanoski and Susan Hampe, who served the children with all their hearts. Next to the Origami table there was a Virginia Beach Police Department table and display which provided information about the Department for citizens. All of these activities contributed to the color of the festival!

The Vesak festival this year was very beautiful and exciting. The Vietnamese community is very small here in Virginia Beach, but the unity between the monks and the Buddhist followers made everything come together! The meal preparation group started listing the menu a long time before the event, then came to the temple to get ready beginning on the Thursday before, although many were very busy at work. Other teams cleaned, decorated, and started arranging everything for the event as well. We would like to say thank you to Trí Minh, Hiền Đoàn, Tư Tùng, Thanh Tú, Aryan Shalone, Scott McCoy, Karyn Souza's family and everyone from the temple who helped to make this event so successful. The Vesak festival this year found all the Buddhist followers from both the American and Vietnamese communities working happily and in harmony together to create a beautiful celebration!

We would like to thank everyone who came to support the event and who sent your good thoughts to the temple. We also want to thank our sponsors: Sàigon #1 restaurant, City bakery, Hair First barber shop and Đại Dương music band for the entertainment.

Once again, may all of you have a great Buddha’s birthday! May everyone be blessed by the Triple Gems!

Thich Chuc Hoi

Translated by Chuc Thanh

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