Buddhist Festivals

Two major Buddhist festivals are shown in this short film: Vesak Day in May which commemorates the birth, enlightenment and attainment of Nirvana of the Buddha and the Kathina or Robe Offering Festival which takes place in October or November. Members of London-based Buddhist communities - Buddhapadipa Temple and Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple - explain about the background and purpose of these festivals.

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Venerable Ru Hai, Fo Guang Shan Temple, London: There are many important festivals in Buddhism. They have become a very crucial part of Chinese culture.

Phra Maha Bhatsakorn Piyobhaso, Buddhapadipa Temple, London: Well, most festivals are related to the Buddha’s life. So, Wesak seems to be the most important Buddhist festival, because it has bene observed to commemorate the event when he was born, when he reached enlightenment, and when he passed away.

Venerable Ru Hai: Buddha’s birthday ceremony is a celebration of the birth of the Buddha. As our founder, his birth is extremely important. At this time, our devotees can commemorate the great Buddha. At the same time, the ceremony reminds us to cleanse and purify our body, mind and speech. It is also an opportunity for devotees to cultivate their gratitude, and furthermore it is a reminder to improve oneself and a reminder to learn from the Buddha, our founder, and other buddhas and bodhisattvas. On this day, we invite representative from the different faiths to attend the ceremony, conveying a message of harmony and mutual respect between all religions. At the same time, we hope that we can join together to pray for world peace.

Dr Betty Kunjara, Buddhapadipa Temple, London: So women play an important role in every ceremony and festivals. So we’ve been helping as well as men. The Kathina robe ceremony always takes place in the month following the end of the rainy retreat, and they allow only one month after that.

Phra Maha Bhatsakorn Piyobhaso: Well, the Kathina is in Pali language. It means the frame, the wooden frame. Monks in an ancient time used the wooden frame to make the robe.

Dr Betty Kunjara: By seeing the sad state of their robes, the Buddha rewarded them by permitting them to wander around the forest collecting cloth and make the robe together. And the Buddha and other monks come and help as well; it’s a big ceremony. And the lay people come and serve them food and water and the Buddha asks the community to offer that robe to the deserving monk who are very good and patient, and they will select one monk and that’s to show their unity and generosity. And normally it will be the abbot. So the monk will chant, and say ok, we all together have to agree and they offer to the abbot.

With thanks to:
Phra Maha Bhatsakorn Piyobhaso
Venerable Ru Hai
Dr. Bettu Kunjara
Buddhapadipa Temple, London
Fo Guang Shan Temple, London

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