News: Buddhist Celebrate Vesak Day
Story by Sgt. Sarah Enos
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — Many people from different denominations in the Buddhist religion came together as one, in celebration of Vesak Day at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord North Chapel May 26.
According to the Buddha Dharma Education Association, approximately 300 million people around the world, predominately in Southeast Asia, strive to follow a moral and mindful life.
Traditionally, Vesak Day is celebrated on the first full moon of May as it is also the same day of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing away.
“I normally experience Vesak in a temple,” said Phramaha Artid Payuntgvong, a monk from the Washington Buddhavanaram Temple in Auburn. “So this is a little bit different than tradition for me.”
Attendees bowed to the six monks from the Washington Buddhavanaram Temple as they passed them while entering the building. This was a way to show respect to the Triple Gems, the Buddha [the founder], the Dharma [his teachings], and the Sangha [the community of practicing monks and nuns].
“I would like to be more like them and follow in their footsteps,” said Chairat Noppakovat, an admin officer, Madigan Healthcare System.
Capt. Somya Malasri, a Buddhist chaplain with the 593rd Special Troops Battalion, began the service by speaking about having a wholehearted commitment to what is wholesome.
He said that Buddhist should try to reach harmony with society by abstaining from killing or harming, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from sexual misconduct, abstaining from telling lies and abstaining from toxins such as alcohol or drugs.
“Buddha will show us the path, but we have to walk it ourself,” Malasri said.
Malasri lit two candles as a way to symbolize dispelling darkness. He also lit three incense sticks to represent compassion, wisdom and purity.
The monks chanted by heart buddhist teachings over 1,000 years old.
“I believe that the chanting is a powerful way to radiate loving kindness and blessings to everyone in attendance to the service,” Malasri said.
Following the chanting, Chaplain Malasri encouraged everyone to sit up straight, cross their legs, close their eyes, relax and mediate. The room became quiet.
“Mediation is key to knowing Buddha,” Payuntgvong said. “You will feel peacefulness surround you.”
“I’ve been in service for 11 years and have been trying to find a Buddhist place where I can meditate,” said Staff Sgt. Aroon Urrutia, a supply sergeant, 593rd Sustainment Brigade. “I am glad that mediation is also offered during lunch at Madigan on Thursdays.”
After the mediation, everyone in attendence was invited to form a line behind the monks to bathe the Buddha statue.
“Water is a symbol of our heart,” Payuntgvong said. “When we bathe Buddha we try to make our minds pure like water. This is a way to show deep respect to Buddha.”
Volunteers setup a buffett comprising of vegetarian eggrolls, fried rice, fried noodles, chicken, pizza, soda and water.
The attendees enjoyed refreshments, sat to eat and watched the dancing and singing performances on the stage.
Malasri said that the Thai dances are performed during ceremonies to show respect to Buddha and the religion.
“I enjoyed todays events,” said Sgt. Phodaothong Sysourath, an aircraft armament/electronic/avionic systems repairer with the 4-6 Air Reconnaissance Squadron. “It brought me back to when my parents took me to the temple as a kid.”
Depending on the Indian Lunar calandar, Vesak Day will be celebrated here annually in May to practice mutual understanding and harmony between the different denominations in the Buddhism religion.