A Press Release from the Buddhist Council of Canada…
History was made on May 17, 2011 when a WESAK TORANA was displayed on Canadian public soil for the first time, on the south lawn of the Ontario Legislature grounds, better known as Queen’s Park. It was to commemorate the ushering in of the 2600th year since Sammasambodhi ‘Enlightenment’, and was sponsored by the Buddhist Council of Canada. A Pali and Sanskrit word, Torana means ‘archway’.
The tradition of bringing Buddhism to the attention of the wider Canadian community with a presence against the background of the Legislature had its beginnings in 2005, when the Buddhist Flag was raised at the venue, again for the first time anywhere on public soil in Canada. This was as part of the commemoration of 100 years of Buddhism in Canada, an event organized by Nalanda College of Buddhist Studies (Canada). Just as on that first occasion, the Torana of 2011 carried the words, ‘WESAK, the Buddha’s Birth, Enlightenment and Parinibbana’, above a large size picture of the face of a smiling Buddha. It was designed by Bryan Levman, Secretary of the Buddhist Council of Canada, and his team, with input from Prof. Suwanda H. J. Sugunasiri, President, who also provided the photo.
Speaking at the event, in a wintry-like rainy evening, the President said his mind went back to 1981 when he had first organized WESAK, introducing the term itself. The day dawning in the good company of rain, the phone was ringing off the hook. Everyone wanted to know what we were going to do, given the forecast. But, with tradition associating rain with every significant event of the Buddha’s life, a thousand (as reported in the Sun) braved the weather, holding their umbrellas as the program continued in the open air at the Nathan Phillips Square at City Hall, at Bay and Queen. So it is as if rain has come to be the symbol of Buddhism in Canada – rejuvenating, life-giving and purifying. Thus, in a slight twist of ‘April showers bring May flowers’, we now have a new saying, ‘Wesak May showers bring Canada Buddhist Blessing flowers’.
While the roughly over 80 Buddhist groups in Toronto, including many a temple, celebrate their own Wesak or associated event on the ‘Convenient Sunday’ closest to the Full Moon Day, the Buddhist Council of Canada chose to have it right on the Full Moon Day itself, which fell on a weekday (Tuesday). Those present were welcomed by Bryan Levman, on behalf of the Council. Mr Karunarathna Paranawitana, the Consul General of Sri Lanka in Toronto, thanked all for their presence, pointing to the importance of the event. Leading the congregation in homage was Bhante Kawwida of the Burmese Mahadhammika Temple, who had brought his own statue, flowers and a Buddhist flag.
Following the homage was a padakkhina, the participants circumambulating the Buddha with their shoulders to the right as in tradition.
The event ended with the participants receiving, as a token of appreciation, a gift of dhamma, an article titled, “The Night of Enlightenment: Samana Gotama to the Buddha”, a chart succinctly capturing the historic night in its three wakes.
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