Another memorable day for Buddhists with Sai Baba - Courtesy Sanathana Sarathi

By Thilak S. Fernando

With the blessings of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, the Buddhist devotees celebrated the Fourth Vesak – Buddha Purnima Day- in Bhagavan’s Divine Presence at Whitelfield, Bangalore, India, on May 9 and 10, 1998. The event was hosted by Thailand with the co-ordination of Sathya Sai International Buddhist Secretariat, which is chaired by Sister Nandini Samarasinghe from Sri Lanka. A Large number of Buddhist devotees participated in the event; they were from Japan, Sri Laanka, Singapore, Indonesia, Nepal, Taiwan, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Bahrain, South Africa, Germany and Thailand.

Sai Ramesh Hall and the surrounding premises were decorated with yellow flags, Buddhist symbols, the five-coloured Buddhist flags as well as beautiful lighting depicting the artistic traditions of Tahi styles. Thai devotees put an exquisitely beautiful altar of Lord Buddha on the stage in Sai Ramesh Hall. This special alter showed the significance of Buddha; It had Lord Buddha’s statue in the centre, behind which were three golden leaves, signifying his Birth, Enlightenment and Death. Against this altar was a magnificently beautiful religious Thai Screen.

On the 9th morning, a seminar on ‘Inner Peace and the Teachings of Lord Buddha’ was held in Sai Ramesh Hall. Five speakers from Nepal, Japan, Sri Lanka and Thailand expounded on various aspects of Buddhism. A large number of Buddhist devotees participated in this seminar. In the afternoon, devotees from Buddhist countries were blessed to lead the Bhajan and they sang with all their hearts to their “ Buddha” Sai.

On the May 10th morning, Bhagavan was greeted by a procession and drum music played by a group of children from northern Thailand as He emerged from Trayee Brindavan” in all His glory. The Tahi dancers were in their traditional costumes with their special tribal long drums. The dancers and rhythmic beatings of the drums conveyed the greetings of the devotees to Bhagavan and welcomed him to the festival in Sai Ramesh Hall. Behind Swami, two Bhikkus (Buddhist priests) walked side by side and then came a group of white-clad Buddhist devotees. After the conclusion of the dance, Bhagavan was greeted by the prayer: “ Buddham Sharanam Gachhami”, sung by Thai devotees. Bhagavan then moved to the stage and sat on a special chair brought from Thailand. This wooden chair was specially carved and made so that when Bhagavan sat in that chair, He looked like a king on the throne. It gave immense joy to the assembled devotees to have Darshan of Bhagavan in that particular throne-like chair. Then Thai-led Bhajans were sung while Bhagavan sat on the “throne” for a while and then moved among huge throng assembled in the hall giving Darshan. After Bhajan, prasadam ( blessed offerings) was distributed to devotees. At ten o’clock Buddhist ceremony seven Buddhist monks, five from Thailand and two from Sri Lanka conducted celebrating the Buddha Purnima Day. The monks chanted prayers to mark the event and to bless the participants. Food was then offered to the monks. At lunch a special Thai menu was served in the overseas canteen for participants.

In the afternoon, Bhagavan arrived at four o’clock for the afternoon programme, taking His place behind the desk from where He would give His discourse. Bhagavan was then greeted with devotional songs in English and Thai. The songs gave praise to Lord Buddha and to Lord Sai and ended in the prayer; “Buddham Sharanam Gachhami, Dharmam Sharanam Gachhami, Sangam Sharanam Gachhami”. The singing came to an end at 4.15 when Mr. Hira from Japan introduced the four speakers of the afternoon. He also introduced the distinguished guests such as the grand daughter-in-law of King Rama IV of Thailand, and a member from the first family of Sri Lanka. Mr Hira emphasised that amongst the five important missions, for which Bhagavan had incarnated, one of them was the unity of faiths. He said, “ Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is the only Avatar in the history of mankind who has taken upon Himself this stupendous task of restoring, reviving and re-established all major religions of the world. At the 1997 Buddha Purnima, Bhagavan mentioned that lack of unity and discipline was the main cause for the decline of Buddhism. But today there are over 4,000 sects of Buddhist. It is with these sacred and holy intentions that Sri Sathya Sai Organisation has undertaken the programme of unity of faiths, in which not only Buddhists o Christians but also all religions can find satisfaction and fulfilment. Buddha Prunima is the direct proof of Sai’s universality. It is the universality of Sai which is accelerating the unity of faiths. He has the vision that the 21 century will be the century of Sathya Sai or the golden century when the world will be one at His Loutus Feet”.

The other speakers moved the gathering by their speeches and Sister Puntip Nitising, chairperson of the organising committee of the event, gave vote of thanks to everyone concerned and specially to Bhagavan who had allowed Buddhist devotees to celebrate this event in his Divine presence. After this, Bhagavan blessed the audience with his diving discourse on “ The Essence of Buddha’s Teachings”.

When Arati was performed Bhagavan lighted another candle to be used for Vien Tien” ceremony. Vien Tien is traditional Thai ceremony of circling around any significant holy symbol of Buddhism, i.e. Buddha Image, Pagoda or Dharmachakra ( Wheel of Dharma) for commemorating and paying respect to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The main candle lighted by Bhagavan was shared by all. Participants then lined up to form rows and moved behind the monks as a procession to circle around at a specially made and beautifully decorated Dhamachakra for three rounds. Carrying a candle, participants sang “ Buddham Sharanam Gachhami” for peace in the world.

It was a spectacular and moving ceremony put up by Thailand and joined in by other Buddhist countries. At night there were many coloured lights twinkling on Dharmachakra, buildings, trees, expressing the joy of the occasion. Buddhist devotees pray that Sri Sathya Sai Baba will bless them to remember this occasion and the universality of Sai not only in Buddhism but in all religions.