REGINA — The weather co-operated as a couple of hundred Buddhists, family, friends and supporters turned out in Wascana Park June 20 to celebrate the 2,559th birth of the Buddha. It’s called Vesak and it’s the first time it’s been celebrated in Regina, something the Buddhist community hopes will become an annual event.
The celebration began at six p.m. centred in the park’s band shell. The sun shone brightly off the new copper dome of the Legislative building across Wascana Lake, adding to the colour of the event with monks in traditional robes and other participants dressed in a variety of clothing representing the traditions of their homelands.
O Canada was sung to get the celebration underway followed by a group of women raising their voices in the Triple Jewel Song.
Lieutenant Governor Vaughn Solomon Schofield cut a ribbon to officially open the festival and brought greetings on behalf of Queen Elizabeth, Queen of Canada. She opened with a quote from the Dalai Lama: “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” She and most of the other speakers who brought greetings spoke about Canadian diversity and the strength it gives to this country.
Federal Public Safety Minister and MP for Regina-Wascana Ralph Goodale represented the federal government and he was followed by Saskatchewan Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Mark Docherty and Regina Mayor Michael Fougere. Fougere prompted everyone to look around “at this beautiful park” and enjoy the moment.
Buddhist Monks came from Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge and Saskatoon to attend the event. Dr. Sami Helewa, SJ, of Campion College, University of Regina represented the Archdiocese of Regina. He spoke about making peace in the world. Even with all the violence in he world, “its not too late to make peace.”
Girls in variously coloured dresses took turns presenting flowers to the Buddha located in an elevated position inside the band shell. They were followed by Sri Lankan, Vietnamese, Burmese, Bhutanese and Laotian monks chanting the five Buddhist precepts, which represent the basic Buddhist code of ethics: abstain from harming living beings, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and intoxication. A ritual of bathing the Buddha was next in which a small amount of water was poured over the Buddha, recalling his birth. The evening celebration ended with performances by the Burmese, Japanese, Sri Lankan, Bangladesh, Bhutanese communities, Tina Hong and a First Nations drum group.