Last month, I had a truly inspiring and uplifting Vesak (the annual celebration of the Buddha’s life) among Hong Kong’s Sri Lankan Buddhist community. The families comprising the island’s immigrants and expats here come from diverse backgrounds and work in many different trades. What binds them together is a sense of community and duty to see to each other’s wellbeing, as well as expanding awareness about their activities among other expatriate circles and local Hong Kongers. At present, the community is centered on two main institutions: the Sri Lankan Buddhist Cultural Centre (SLBCCHK) and Po Leung Kuk Lam Man Chan English Primary School. Both are presently located in To Kwa Wan, a suburb in Kowloon.
I’ve spoken a few times to Ven. Sumiththa Thero, founder of the SLBCCHK and its Theravada Buddhist spiritual instructor and counsellor. As far as I can tell he is an ideal representative to diffuse the Dharma in Hong Kong, thanks to his excellent English but more importantly because of his grounded-ness in the Theravada Vehicle, which is not common among Buddhist practitioners in the city (save for academic interest).
“Vesak is the most important Buddhist festival in Sri Lankan Buddhism. It is highly celebrated and venerated in Sri Lanka by the Buddhist community. Not only by Sri Lankans. but other Buddhist communities around the world also celebrate this annual auspicious festival. Theravada Buddhist tradition is not very popular in Hong Kong, therefore we hope to promulgate Buddhist ethics for the wellbeing and happiness of Hong Kong community,” he told me.
“For the second time Sri Lankan Buddhist Cultural Centre in Hong Kong organized Vesak festival on 27 May 2018. Sri Lankans and non-Sri Lankan friends alike participated this event with great devotion. This time we invited two very popular Buddhist clergies from Sri Lanka to take part of this event. They conducted two preachings and Dhamma discussions on Buddhist techniques of stress management,” he continued.
“At the same time there was an exhibition of sacred Buddha relics from Sri Lanka, a free buffet for the whole community, observance of the lay precepts, and an evening chanting at SLBCCHK. More than seven hundred participants participated to this event. I feel Buddhism teaches the path to understand the real meaning of our lives, and how the individual should spend this life spreading love, compassion, sympathy, forgiveness, and kindness towards all living beings in the world.
As far as I could see (and confirmed by Ven. Sumiththa), this was quite a large-scale celebration despite it being entirely staffed by committed volunteers, many of them busy professionals. “The one and only hope of this event was to serve the community in the name of humanity without any discrimination because we don’t know whether we will have a second chance as human beings to serve the community by sacrificing our labor, wealth, and time,” said Ven. Sumiththa.
“We feel, we have earned last long happiness that can be recalled every moment. In the future, SLBCCHK hopes to launch such events in the name of becoming a noble human being.”