By Thilak S. Fernando

An imposing Bodhi Puja, one of the ancient religious traditions in Buddhism, was held in the evening of 25th April at the Kingsbury High School hall, North West London, where over one thousand people flocked to invoke blessings upon themselves, on Sri Lanka and to pray for peace and harmony in their mother country.

This puja was the culmination of a series of Bodhi Pujas held at the Sri Saddhatissa International Buddhist Centre at Kingsbury commencing on 12 February 1998 for the first time, to commemorate its founder the late Ven. Dr. Hamallawa Saddhatissa.

Participating in a Bodhi Puja being a rare opportunity for Buddhists in London the news spread thick and fast from the very first ceremony and, from that point onwards it was a case of various devotees queuing up to get a date for themselves. The result was that the scheduled once a week, Sunday Puja, was extended to weekdays too , and at times to continuous seven-day series , according to individual needs of devotees.

Sri Saddhatissa International Buddhist Centre invited Ven. Uduwe Dhammaloka (Podi Sadu at Valukaramaya at Kolpetty) to London, who is the most popular monk for Bodhi Pujas in Sri Lanka at present especially for this occasion. Ven. Dhammaloka is a follower of the late Ven. Panadura Ariyadamma Thero, the architect of performing a new style of Bodhi pujas by reciting stanza . The melodious voice and the meaningful verses of Podi Sadhu during the Seth Santhi followed by his soothing Dhamma Desana, which usually focussed on the modern society, certainly touched every devotee's heart. This was the result of the mass puja in a public hall on 25 April, with a Bodhi tree on a stage. The hall was decorated with yards long single Buddhist flags and thought rendering messages, a kind of religious dˇcor that was never seen or heard in London in any Buddhist temple in the past.

All the chairs of the hall had been removed and hundreds of people squeezed themselves and sat on the floor on white sheets to listen to Ven. Uduwe Dhammaloka performing the sacred puja. On the stage were several Buddhist monks from various parts of England including the UK's Buddhist Primate, Ven. Dr. Medagama Vagiragnana, who gave a brief anusasana about the effects of Bodhi Puja and thanked both Uduwe Dhammaloka thera and Ven. Galayaje Piyadassi Thero for having afforded such a great opportunity to the Buddhists in London.

As a special bonus to thousands who arrived at the Kingsbury School hall to participate in this religious ceremony, a ' dan sela' organised by the Sri Saddhatissa International Buddhist Centre provided food and tea free of charge.

A Bodhi Puja has tremendous miraculous effects on the places they are held and on the devotees who participate in them. Ven. Dr. Vajiragna in his speech gave a glimpse of an incident in Kurunegala and explained how a Bodhi Puja held in this town which was infested with corruption, full of troubles, problems and illicit liquor brewing was cleaned up when those responsible for such nefarious activities were transformed into good respectable citizens as a direct effect of the puja. If one such puja could shower blessings to such a magnitude in one small town in Sri Lanka it is hoped that with over a dozen of Bodhi Pujas held in London over a period of three moths would certainly bring about good effects to the Lankans in London. Some of the devotees were saying how they were already beginning to feel such effects - from the very evening itself.