Queens, NY: Buddhists world over celebrate Buddha Jayanti with devotion and gaiety. Nearly 500 people, especially those of Nepalese and Tibetan origin, gathered at Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights on May 22 to mark the 2,560th birthday of Lord Gautam Buddha.
Organized by the Himalayan Buddhist Community of Nepal in the U.S., a nonprofit working to unite all the Buddhism followers from Nepal in the United States, dozens of Buddhist priests recited a special prayer during the celebration. “This festival is a platform to bring together all the Nepalese Buddhists living in the USA,” Tenzing Ukyab, president of the organization was quoted as saying. “The other purpose of the celebration is to spread the information of the birthplace of Buddha, which is Nepal,” Ukyab said.
In New York the United Nations observed the day May 20 with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noting how the teachings of Buddhism can help the international community tackle pressing challenges, including violent conflicts, atrocious human rights abuses and hateful rhetoric aimed at dividing communities. “On this Day of Vesak, let us pledge to reach out to bridge differences, foster a sense of belonging, and show compassion on a global scale for the sake of our common future,” Ban said.
In Jackson Heights, scores of people, dressed in their ethnic costumes, attended the rally and offered prayers. Ani Kunga Chodron, who is a Harvard graduate, made a special remark at the gathering during which she highlighted Buddha’s teachings. ““I have always believed that following Buddha’s preaching will always bring positivity in one’s life,” she said.
Buddha Jayanti, also known as Buddha Purnima, celebrates the birthday of Lord Buddha. It also commemorates his enlightenment and death. It’s the most sacred Buddhist festival. Buddhists regard Lumbini (which is now part of Nepal) to be the birthplace of Buddha. Named Siddhartha Gautama, he was born as a prince into a royal family sometime in the 5th or 6th century BC. However, at the age of 29 he left his family and began his quest for enlightenment after seeing the extent of human suffering outside the walls of his opulent palace. He became enlightened at Bodhgaya in the Indian state of Bihar, and is believed to have lived and taught mostly in eastern India.