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Faithful celebrate the life of Buddha

by Amber Parcher, Gazette.Net, Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Thai Buddhist temple in Layhill will observe one of the holiest Buddhist holidays of the year this weekend with full days of meditation, candlelight processions and, of course, delicious Thai food.

The Visakha Puja holiday commemorates the birth, enlightenment and passing of Siddhattha Gautama, who later became the Buddha. All three events occurred on the same day and will be celebrated Saturday and Sunday at the Wat Thai Washington, D.C., temple in the Layhill area of Silver Spring.

The holiday usually comes in May or June of every year, depending on when the sixth lunar moon of the year arrives, said Thanat Handy, the chairman of the board of directors at Wat Thai D.C.

All day Saturday and Sunday, monks cloaked in solid orange will meditate in silent homage to the Buddha, his teaching and his disciples. His underlying message — and thus that of the ceremony, Handy said — is peace.

"He's the world peacemaker," Handy said. Thousands of temples and monks around the globe will honor him the same way.

Buddhism is one of the oldest religions in the world, founded more than 2,500 years ago, and has several hundred million followers, depending on who's counting, Handy said. Buddhists follow the spiritual teachings of Buddha, who preached knowledge of one's self and place in the world to ultimately escape the human cycle of suffering and rebirth.

Handy said the religion's holiest holiday has become even more important since the United Nations recognized the celebration as an international holiday and world day of peace in 1999.

Buddhists and non-Buddhists are welcome to visit Wat Thai D.C. one or both days and meditate on peace while paying their respects to Buddha at Wat Thai D.C. with a giant Buddha statue, Handy said.

The monks will begin each morning chanting with the sunrise and then launch a day of meditation Saturday until 6 p.m. There will be a food offering for the monks on Sunday and afterward a lunch served to the congregation.

Handy said much of the ceremony will be in Thai, but there will be English translations available.

The celebration has a strong current of support in the greater Washington, D.C., area, as about 200 to 300 people show up each year at Wat Thai D.C. to celebrate it, Handy said.

source: http://www.gazette.net/stories/05062009/olnenew230033_32533.shtml

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Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammāsambuddhassa.
Buddha sāsana.m cira.m ti.t.thatu.