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Buddha’s Birthday

18 May

On May 15th, many Buddhists came out to celebrate Buddha’s birthday in Flushing, Queens. It was a day to celebrate and display our respect to Buddha.

The Bathing of the Buddha Ceremony is celebrated on the 8th day of the 4th month of the Lunar Calendar. It celebrates Buddha’s birthday and the story of how Buddha gained Enlightenment. It also serves as a reflection on what it might mean for individual Buddhists to move toward Enlightenment themselves.

The ceremony kicked off at 11:30am, a tradition that has been followed annually. A speaker came up to the podium and gave his speech about the goodness of Buddha’s teaching while everyone dropped their heads in silence as a sign of respect and some with their palms together.  Once it was over, the noise of the crowd filled the entire block, enough to silence the LIRR train that was passing by behind the temple. It was pandemonium. I was helping out at stand #5, selling steamed buns for the early shift. There were orders coming in from left and right, and it was hard to keep up with prepping the buns when 5 orders came from one person, and another 3 from behind.

There were more than 10 Vegetarian food stands lined up in the parking lot of the temple. Servers included young volunteers and many elderly who eagerly tried to get temple members to buy their items. Items included veggie meatballs, imitated meat stuffed in steamed buns, vegetable-filled sushi, cold peanut noodles, and their yearly famous stinky tofu. The price ranged from 1-5 tickets which roughly cost $1 per ticket. All procedes goes towards improving the temple.

Towards the afternoon, Indian dancers dressed in a beautiful silk scarf wowed the audience, followed by performance of martial arts from 6 kids from a nearby shaolin temple. The event was also filled with singers in between performances.

The event ended early when rain started to drizzle down. The man frying up tofu outside of his tent cover immediately closed down, afraid that the oil would splash everywhere. Families started to become restless from the cloudy weather, and others were lounging around in chairs waiting for the raffle calls.

Prizes included 1 year subscription to the Buddhist channel, kitchen appliances, and consumable products. The grand prize that everyone hoped to win was a round trip to China plus entertainments. Sadly, I didn’t win anything but I also didn’t leave empty-handed. I took home leftovers, including rice wrapped in bamboo leaves, grass jelly tea, spring rolls, curry and roti cani, and blessings from the monks.

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