Vesak 2012 at Dharma Vijaya in Los Angeles
The all-day and evening Vesak celebration at Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara in Los Angeles began early with nearly 50 people taking Eight Precepts and spending the day in a meditation retreat. Buddha Puja was followed by talks and meditations conducted by Ven. Walpola Piyananda, Ven. Shibuya Subhuti, Ven. Wehihene Pannaloka, and Dr. Stephen Long.
During the meditation retreat Mr. John Church, an educator with the L.A. Unified School System, was initiated as a Dhammacari, the second level of the three-tier system for becoming a Buddhist lay minister, and given the name “Dhammacari Sugata.”
Ven. Kalabululande Dhammajothi was the event organizer, as well as the designer/engineer of an amazing lighted and mobile Vesak kuduwa, which was inspired by the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy, and enhanced by original “Life of Buddha” paintings by Mr. Bhadraji Jayatilake. A large crew of creative volunteers from the dayake helped make this year’s lantern truly a work of art, and a representational commemoration of the birth, enlightenment, and parinibbana of the Buddha.
Upon the conclusion of the meditation retreat at 4:00 p.m., the evening program commenced
The previous Sunday ten of the middle group of Sunday School children wrote essays on a variety of Buddhist topics. The winner was announced at Vesak: Uduwap Kandagedana, age eleven, with her paper entitled “World Peace Through the Five Precepts.” Second place was a tie between Thisun Udagedara, age nine, and Tiara Weedagama, age eight; third place was also a tie between Thasuni Bandara, age seven, and Sajini Weerasekara, age ten.
The oldest Sunday School group, “Team Enlightenment,” then began an oratory competition. Of the seven contestants participating, Tiara Kaimal, thirteen, won first place. Second place was won by Kaveen Tennakoon, age nine, and Pawani Samasinghe, thirteen, was the third place winner. Not included in the competition was a moving speech by graduating high school senior, Justin Hettigoda, who spoke eloquently about growing up at Dharma Vijaya – literally being taken to the temple for the first time when he was two hours old.
Previous year’s winners of the speech competition, Dhishal Tennakoon, fourteen, and Kalpa Samasinghe, fifteen, captained opposing teams in a riveting debate, the subject of which was “The goal of Buddhism is for Happiness vs. The goal of Buddhism is for Enlightenment.” The Enlightenment proponents won the majority of votes from the judges, and Kalpa and team-mate Tiara Kaimal took the prize. Dhishal and team-mate Shan Perera won second place. Everyone who witnessed the chanting, essay, speaking, and debate competitions was astounded by the prodigious knowledge of Buddhism the Sunday School children had acquired during the past year.
Ven. Piyananda presented the contest awards as well as certificates of appreciation to various members of the temple dayake, including Cynthia Shimazu, Robert Crook, Anna Kadin, and Heidi Singh, for their long service to the temple community; and on behalf of the Consul General, Hon. Dr. Hector Weerasinghe, the new Sri Lankan Consul/Minister of the Commercial Sector, Mr. V. S. Sidath Kumar, presented certificates to selected individuals who had provided assistance to the Government of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan expatriate society in America over the years.
The children then presented a drama entitled “Unity,” which was written and directed by Sunil Samasinghe. Afterwards, Ramani Weerasingha directed the combined Sunday School classes, along with talented temple musicians, in the performance of Bhakti Geethas for the appreciative audience that had by this time grown to over 350 people. Saman Bamunuarachchi and Ayesha Bulegoda gave solo performances under the biggest full moon of the year. The temple youth provided a tasty dansala for everyone at the conclusion of the happy evening.
Vesak at Dharma Vijaya was honored by the presence of esteemed author and Buddhist Scholar, Dr. Ananda Guruge, and other distinguished guests. Ven. Udagama Sumangala, Ven. Bambarawane Kalyanawansa, and newly-arrived Ven. Walpola Piyaratana assisted in the event preparation and execution. The Vesak program was emceed by Mihiri Tillakaratne, Harvard graduate and Masters Degree candidate at UCLA, who also screened her short film about Dharma Vijaya and its influence on second generation Sri Lankan immigrants, which is entitled “We Take Refuge.”
At the end of the event Ven. Piyananda presented gifts to each and every child, who left the temple feeling happy and very much a part of their Buddhist community. Ven. Piyananda expresses his thanks to the many volunteers who made this year’s event possible – including the “army” who cleaned the temple premises into the wee hours of the next morning.
- Asian Tribune –