Saturday, May 17, 2014

How Los Angeles celebrates Vesak

Amber Larson, Dhr. Seven, CC Liu, Wisdom Quarterly; Los Angeles Buddhist Vihara, Pasadena
Los Angeles Buddhist Vihara, 920 N. Summit Ave. at Mountain, Pasadena, CA 91101
The Buddha against the clouds on the island, Bentota Gama Vihara, Sri Lanka
A shower of Dharma, a spiritual offering to the Buddha, is made through the cultivation of virtue and meditation (sila-bhavana).

"The audience (hearers and learners) of Gautama ever awakens happily, day and night recollecting the qualities of the Buddha."
- Dhammapada
Gal Vihara (UNESCO/Alagz/
The Pasadena monastery, known as the Los Angeles Buddhist Vihara on Mountain and Summit, planned out a full day of activities open to all on Vesak, May 17, 2014. At 8:00 am we took on eight precepts and participants recollected and made offerings to the memory of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. At 9:00 am there was morning tea, Sri Lanka (Ceylon) having been a British colony previously known as the Island of Serendipity. At 9:15 Ven. Karunagoda gave English meditation instructions. At 10:45 there were more devotions and offerings to the memory of the Buddha. 

Adam Eurich, Dr. Ven. Karunananda (WQ)
At 11:00 there was a lunch of island delicacies -- red field rice, green jack fruit, golden curry, orange dal, bright greens with coconut shavings, crisp yellow papadum, fruits, treacle sweets, colorful strips of sauteed vegetables in tangy juices, and more. At 12:00 pm there was a recess to digest all that great food. At 12:30 pirith (parittas, protective mantras) chanting. At 1:00 there was a Dharma Forum, a lively discussion on the Buddha's message, with audience questions, and three very learned monks and a nun to discuss. At 3:30 we had more tea; it's what Ceylon and the Lipton Company are famous for. At 3:45 there was a Dharma Sermon in Sinhalese by a guest monk. At 4:45 a Buddhist Sermon and meditation practice in English with Ven. Chandananda, recently back from Sri Lanka. And at 6:00 a concluding eight precept observance (when practitioners revert to observing the Five Precepts), closing with a sharing of merits.

"We can influence others for the good by the good we are thinking."
- the Buddha

Day went into night with the cultural program running from 6:00-10:00 pm. The summer-like evening began with devotional songs (bhakti gita), a free food stand (dansala), and the exhibition of the rotating Vesak lantern.

While this event sounds unique splendid, it is only one of dozens throughout the city this month as Burmese, Thai, Laotian, Cambodian, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Bangladeshi temples also celebrate. There are at least eight local Sri Lankan temples. On Sunday the North Hollywood Sarathchandra Buddhist Temple puts on a larger display. The highlight will be the big all-Buddhist Thai lay Dhammakaya-meditation movement evening, which annually invites every single Buddhist school and tradition to participate. Happy Vesak!
Documenting Buddhism in America (

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