Happy Birthday Buddha! There was much celebration in the form of bright colours, music, dancing and ritual in Leicester Square this weekend to mark the birthday of the founder of Buddhism, Sakyamuni Buddha in 623 BC in what is today Nepal. The tradition is to bathe the Buddha and light incense and candles as symbols of purification. It was a family friendly event with lots of friendly Fo Guang Temple volunteers guiding old and young alike through the bathing ritual and providing lots of information on the work of the temple and on Buddhism whenever asked.
Little statues of Buddha stood in two separate highly decorated pools of water and the bathing ritual was as follows:
Bathing Buddha Procedure
This ritual is to improve harmony and inner balance:
1. Kneel on cushion
2. Fill ladle and pour water over small Buddha statue 3 times, left shoulder, right shoulder then over his back. Do not pour water over his head
3. While pouring water, say;
1st wash: "May I eliminate all evil thoughts"
2nd wash: "May I cultivate good deeds"
3rd wash: "May I help save all living beings"
As we were guided through the small but well-planned marquee, we read about the history of Buddhism and the other rituals practiced by Buddhists, encouraged to make wishes in the wishing pond then given small gifts and blessings printed on cards on the way out. Some cute performances by the children from Fo Guang temple in the square just next to the Charlie Chaplin statue rounded off the afternoon and we left Leicester Square feeling uplifted, tranquil and even slightly blessed.