Hundreds set to gather in Ilford to mark birth of Buddha

More than 400 people are expected to gather in Ilford next Sunday to pay their respects for the birth, enlightenment and passing of Buddha.

The celebration, the most important in the Buddhist calendar, will be held at the Redbridge Buddhist Cultural Centre, Balfour Road.

The day consists of meditation, recitations of prayers and giving offerings to Buddha.

Buddhist monk Venerable Pethigamuwe Hemaratana said: “Buddha is our teacher and he is the enlightened one, we respect Buddha and follow his dummas (teachings) with the highest respect.”

The day is due to start with administering the eight precepts, essentially a recitation of eight sins to be refrained from, including killing, stealing and sexual indulgence.

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Until the ritual is completed those present must refrain from a number of activities including eating at inappropriate times, artificial adornment and being proud.

This will be followed by making offerings to Buddha done by placing flowers and food in front of a large statue and lighting candles and sandalwood sticks.

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Mr Hemaratana said: “It’s a mark of respect to Buddha. The flowers, like the candles and sandalwood sticks, have a symbolic significance. They fade away and are impermanent like life itself.”

Two speeches are due to be held visiting topics from religious texts with one of the speakers from Sri Lanka. In the afternoon a meditation session will be held.

Mr Hemaratana said: “Meditation concentrates your mind and stops it focusing on the past and future and just to concentrate on the present moments.”

A question and answer session will also be held with three monks providing an opportunity to those present to ask anything about the religion.

One of the last activities of the day will involve everyone present holding a long piece of thread while they chant for an hour.

After the chanting, it is believed the string takes on the blessings and positive energy which is then cut and tied around the wrist of all those present.

Mr Hemarantan said: “We give food and drink to Buddha as although he has passed away we still respect him and it’s an act of generosity as we are giving something up to him.”

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