The Buddha's Birthday

Vesak, the Buddha’s Birthday

Sunday, May 31, 2020   |  10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. | VIA ZOOM Place: Vermont Zen Center

Vesak, the celebration honoring the birth of Shakyamuni Buddha, will be on Sunday, May 31, beginning at 10 a.m. (There’s no morning sitting prior to the ceremony.) According to tradition, the Buddha was born on April 8. However, for purely practical reasons we celebrate this event when the weather is warmer and we can be outdoors. But things are different this year, and we will not have an outdoor portion of the ceremony—no elephant parade, no balloons, no pot luck—but there will be a special guest. Read on for details.

Since we are unable to gather in a large group, the ceremony will be geared to those who are Zooming in. This is how it will unfold:

The ceremony begins promptly at 10:00. Everyone should be logged onto Zoom by that time as we will begin chanting the Kanzeon and the ceremony will start. (As always, it will be in the Buddha Hall.)

• The house residents will enter, pour tea over the Baby Buddha and present their flower offering. (There’s no gift offering this year—more about that later.)

• Once the residents have made their offerings, Roshi will read the name of a person or couple.

• When your name is called unmute yourself and chant a line or two of the Kanzeon so that you appear on the individual screen. Hold up your flower offering and everyone should be able to see you in your Vesak finery—kids especially!

• While the person or people are on screen, one of the house residents will pour sweet tea over the Baby Buddha on their behalf. (The flower offering will be virtual—you can place it on your home altar after the ceremony.)

• This will continue until everyone has been seen and an offering made on their behalf. Of course, if you haven't signed up, your name won't be read. So please remember to sign up for the ceremony. Couples should sign up together so that it's clear they are sharing a connection.

• And then comes the special part: Sensei Rafe Martin will tell the story of the Buddha’s birth!

• After the story, we will bring out a Buddha’s Birthday cake—much smaller than usual—and everyone will sing Happy Birthday and virtually blow out the candles. By the way, the recipe for the Zen Center’s birthday cake is available here in case you want to make one.

In normal years, in addition to the flower offering, everyone brings a baby gift. Since that’s not possible this year, we’re suggesting that people make a donation to their local food shelf. And, sadly, there won’t be an opportunity to give children a special Vesak gift this year either.

Of all the Buddhist holidays, this is the most fun. After all, it’s a birthday party! People of all ages—members and non-members, family and friends—are most welcome. We hope to see you there!