by Dr. Tilak S. Fernando from London

Gautama Buddha, the Enlightened One was born over 2500 years ago in what was then northern India (present-day Nepal). His early life was one of privilege and pleasure but he soon realized that there was no escape from suffering, old age, sickness and death. At the age of 29 he left his father's palace, his own wife and young child, and began to search for an answer to the fundamental questions that beset us all. After six years of intensive practice he finally attained enlightenment. For the next forty-five years he spent his time teaching others the profound truth he had discovered.

Vesak, in the Buddhist calendar, is the most imperative day because it marks the Birth, Enlightenment and the Parinibbana (death) of Gautama Buddha. Buddhists the world over remember this holy day and gather at temples to pay respect, homage and reverence to their great master who taught how to gain insight into the true nature of reality and bring an end to suffering whilst entrapped in their sojourn during the tour of samsara. In this respect Samadhi Meditation Centre at No.1 Oxford Road, Edmonton N9 OLY, was of no difference.

Conforming to ideal Buddhist practices and teleporting the devotees thousands of miles to Sri Lanka to a typical traditional environment of Vesak celebrations, Samadi Meditation Centre too had its fair share of Buddhist tradition with decorative Vesak lanterns, singing of Bakthi Gee, observation of Sil, Dhamma Desana, Parittana Desana and the most significant feature of a typical 'dansela'.

Samadhi Meditation Centre, where Ven. Gunnepana Sumarama thero is the chief incumbent, is increasingly becoming a new abode of peace and tranquillity for Buddhists in North London. Although it is new to Edmonton area it offers a great service to the densely populated Sri Lankan community in North of London which was evident from the number of Buddhist devotees who gathered on Sunday, 15 May, to participate in a full day programme filled with events.

Early in the morning religious activities commenced by devotees observing Ata Sil offered by Ven. Kithidhaja thero. It is normally the matured and the senior Buddhist who is focussed on life after death and can be seen engaged in the observation of Sil on poya and Vesak and meditating on good thought and deed on such occasions, but it was quite unusual and inspiring on this occasion to see a Sri Lankan youth observing Sil on this Vesak day at the Meditation Centre. Naturally, it was seen as a promising act and stood in the eyes of the observers as an example to other young people in the community to follow suit. Another speciality on this occasion was an Englishman converting himself to be a Buddhist simultaneously.

After Buddha Pooja conducted by Ven. G. Sumanarama, offering of Dane to Sangha, celebrations continued with a dhamma discussion by Ven Nandpala on the subject of Re-Birth and Death, followed by a second dhamma discourse by Ven. Bogoda Seelawimla thero. Devotee Deepani Bandara also gave an inspirational and highly topical speech on the subject of 'significance of Vesak in relation to Flower of Mankind,'

With the idea of grooming the young to be better citizens in the society from their childhood and uplifting them from a fast degrading world, Samadhi Meditation Centre had focussed on the young at a 'horizon' level by making them to participate in the religious ceremony. In doing so, and as an encouragement for their efforts, Dinakshi Shah, Sandalee Hemapura, Tharuka Iddamalgoda, Hashika Peiris and Sandalle Hemapura received their much deserved prizes.

No Vesak is complete without Bakthi Gee which forms an integral part of the religious ceremony. On this occasion Rohan Amarasinghe, who is renowned for his Tabla performances conducted Bakthi Gee with musicians S.V.A. Ariyadasa (flute) Hirantha Iddamalgoda (key board) Sanjeeva Perera ( Key Board) Charith Chandrasena (Guitar) and Rohan Amarasinghe himself at the Tabla. Pushpa Hemadeera, Anula Perera, Illika Karunaratne, Saman Jayaratne and Chandana Perera sang Bhakthi gee; Lyrics were also written by Rohan Amarasinghe.

Wimala Herath and Lakmini Shah, in their speeches, both emphasised the importance of having a Buddhist Centre in Edmonton, and reminded the packed audience how 'privileged the North London Buddhists are' in this respect. While the temple is open for all Buddhists she reminded that it was their prime duty and responsibility to look after the standards and services of their Centre .

The icing of the cake on this occasion was the Dansela organised by Rosie Weeratunga who had gone into great pains in doing the whole show on her own, from cooking of food and offering it to hundreds of devotees at her own expense.

Samadhi Meditation Centre now becoming a cynosure in North London is looking forward to their next event in June - The Poson Celebrations.