- Created on Monday, 05 September 2011 14:40
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By Kala Keerthi Edwin Ariyadasa.
Conventionally, the Buddhist era is calculated from the day, the Supremely Enlightened Buddha passed away in the Great Demise (Parinibbāna). In terms of that tradition, 2011 marks the 2555th year of the Buddhist Era. Ascetic Siddhārtha attained Supreme Enlightenment and became the Buddha, forty five years prior to his passing away. This way, the attainment of Enlightenment took place exactly 2600 (2555 + 45) years ago. In terms of that, today, we celebrate the 2600th Anniversary of the attainment of Enlightenment – a unique spiritual moment in the whole of human history. As all right - thinking people, uphold spiritual achievement, the 2600th anniversary of the Attainment of Enlightenment is a singularly significant event for the whole of mankind. The achievement of Supreme Enlightenment is a sacred heritage for the totality of humanity – as all men and women are the beneficiaries of that spiritual triumph.
But, here, Sri Lanka is especially privileged as the Land that ensured the perpetuation of the Sacred Word of the Supremely Enlightened Buddha. In 29 B.C – that is 2040 years ago – King Valagambā, requested the monks to write down the Teachings of the Buddha in book –form. For more than 500 years, the sacred word of the Buddha had been passed on through the mnemonic tradition – by word of mouth. Under the devoted patronage of King Valagambā, the Doctrine was duly written down in Ola leaf books at Āloka Vihāra in Mātale, Sri Lanka. Tradition has it that the resultant pile of Ola - leaf books, was as tall as nine elephants. The sacred occurrence endows upon Sri Lanka the noble stature of being the capital of Buddhist Communication.
Along with the celebration of the 2600th Anniversary of the Supreme Enlightenment, we have a very strong reason to mark the writing down of the Buddhist Scripture, in Sri Lanka 2040 years ago. Over and above this, Sri Lanka is distinguished in the history of Buddhism in several other ways too. In Sri Lanka, we have a Bōdhi Tree, which has grown from the original sacred Bōdhi Tree, under which Ascetic Siddhārtha attained Supreme Enlightenment. In Sri Lanka’s Sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic at Kandy, we have the holy Tooth Relic of the Supremely Enlightened Buddha, venerated by devotees, from all over the world. Considered this way, Sri Lanka earns the sobriquet, “The Golden Casket” containing the Sacred Relics of the Supremely Enlightened Buddha and his saintly disciples.
In this Island citadel of ours, we have protected the word of the Buddha for nearly 2500 years, building a gentle culture dominated by compassion and loving kindness. Such scholars as the Chinese Pilgrim Monk Fā Hien visited Sri Lanka to venerate our sacred edifices and to study Buddhism in all its profundity. All these qualify Sri Lanka to celebrate the 2600th year of the Attainment of Enlightenment as an unprecedented National Event as well.
The State and the Private Sector organizations have given pre – eminence to these celebrations. The Prime Minister, as the Minister of Buddhist Affairs, has taken the initiative to launch a whole series of events to mark this historical and religious event. International Buddhist Conferences are being organized, to bring men and women of high learning together to consider issues relating to religion in depth. International Sambuddhathva Jayanthi Film Festival Organization is implementing a whole range of events to celebrate the Sacred Anniversary. This organization, which has His Excellency the President as the Patron and the Hon: Speaker of the National Parliament as the Chairman, made preliminary arrangements to mark this event, over several years. They unerringly noted that the modern world needs the Teachings of the Supremely Enlightened Buddha, with a marked urgency. Violence is rampant in most theaters of human existence, Although a Third World War did not erupt since the end of World War Two in 1945 the global community has been troubled by unending conflicts. Many of them are armed wars. In Afghanistan and in the Middle east, wars rage, bringing about massive loss of life. We in Sri Lanka have totally eradicated the prolonged Terrorism that plagued our noble land for nearly three decades and have ushered in an era of tranquility and peace. But in a vast range of countries, terrorism lurks right beneath the surface of public life, awaiting to victimize people it targets .A vast sense, “angst” tends to grip men and women of our time.
With this background in mind The Sambuddhathva Jayanthi International Film Festival plans to take the Supreme Buddha’s eternal doctrine of compassion and tolerance to the global community, utilizing the universal language of cinema. In their International Film Festival, several categories of cinematic works are entertained. They are 1) Short Films, 2) Feature Films, 3) Animation Films, 4) Documentary Films, 5) Mobile Films, 6) Docu – Drama, 7) Buddhist Music Video and 8) Children’s Films. As a run – up to 2011 Buddha Jayanthi, they have held two International Film Festivals in 2009 and in 2010. The participation in these has been highly impressive. At international level, cinematic entries come from Japan, Malaysia, Puerto Rico, etc. The winners both local and international received their awards in 2010 from His Excellency the President himself. The films are on themes that could be described as “Buddhist Issues”. This film festival has contributed substantially to promote world wide the Teachings of the Supremely Enlightened Buddha.
The category of films described as “mobile films”, engenders an enthusiasm in the minds of the young to utilize the ubiquitous mobile phone, as a vehicle for the propagation of wholesome thoughts and sentiments that will turn the younger generation towards thoughts of virtue and sentiments conducive to peaceful co – existence. A scholarly outcome of the Buddha Jayanthi Film Festival is the setting up of a cinema circle to enable young film – makers to study various aspects of cinema, including animation. The studies are provided entirely free. This is quite a wholesome creative development from this Supreme Spiritual occasion.
Spectacle and Pageant usually tend to increase religious ardor and spiritual fervor. History is witness to the fact that over the ages, spectacular pageants had been extensively utilized in religious celebrations. These have a way of appealing to the mass mind. An extensive range of spectacles and pageants will enhance the Buddhatva Jayanthi celebrations.
Sambuddhatva Jayanthi International Film Festival plans to have a novel pageant for the 2600th Anniversary. This is a parade of floats which will travel through the city of Colombo. Each float will depict a scene from the life of Prince Siddhārtha. These episodes will be enacted by school children. The pageant of floats dramatizing events from the life of Prince Siddhārtha will prove a highly interesting attraction to the visitors who throng the city of Colombo during the Sambuddhatva Jayanthi season, May (Vesak) 2011. The pageant is described as “Sambuddha Pelahara” (The Miracle of the Supremely Enlightened Buddha). Gaily decorated Three – Wheel Taxis and cyclists on their bikes will add glamour to the Pageant.
Jumbo screens set up in various places of the city (BMICH, Vihara Mahā Devi Park, Independence Square etc) will enable the devotees to watch films on Buddhist Themes. A good part of the city, especially the area around Gangārāma Monastery and Bēira Lake will be transformed into an enchanting world of glory through extensive illuminations. These illuminations will spread out, with Temple Trees as the hub.
Many crucial events relating to the Buddhatva Jayanthi, will take place in the city of Kandy. The Sacred Temple of Tooth Relic will be the focus of a whole series of activities that are planned for the Buddhatva Jayanthi. On the 2nd of May 2011, His Excellency the President will ceremoniously declare open the International Buddhist Museum in Kandy. This, incidentally, is the only museum in the world that has been set up with the collaboration of seventeen nations. These nations include India, China, Japan, Thailand, Bangladesh and Pakistan. This prestigious Buddhist Museum has been constructed at a cost of RS. 3.4 Billion. This museum has a special cell for each country.
Sri Lanka has a special cell, to present its Buddhist history, in all its ramifications. This specific cell will give a total picture of the state of Buddhism in each country. Any visitor to the museum can gain a comprehensive view of the stature of the Buddhist World. Over and above this the museum has provisions to provide guidance towards practical aspects of Buddhist Life. Those who may need in – depth awareness of such concepts as Dāna (Charity), Sīla (moralities) and Bhāvna (Meditation) can receive guidance here.
The total city of Kandy, will take on a glorious appearance. Illuminations will brighten the whole city. A special event that will fascinate visitors to the city is the recital of Devotional Songs, from a stage constructed at the center of Kandy Lake. The songs that will be recited have been composed by several outstanding Lyric – writers. The cumulative effect of all this will undoubtedly be, the city of Kandy and its environs, being transformed into an alluring Vesak Center, providing a spiritual and aesthetic joy to both local and foreign visitors. Invariably, the glitter of these illuminations and decorations will prove ephemeral, reflecting the nature of things.
But some segments of Sambuddhatva Jayanthi 2600 will continue to exist in a practical manner. The International Buddhist Museum in Kandy will be a permanent institution illuminating the path of generations of visitors, towards the understanding of the status of Buddhism in the world.
The background structures that will be constructed for the Epic Film on the Supreme Buddha – titled “Siddhartha the Buddha” will also be lasting edifices. The ancient city of Kapilawasthu where Prince Siddhārtha was born and grew up until his renunciation at the age of 29 will be recreated at Mānelwatta, in Kelaniya. This structure will continue to function as a center of Buddhist studies, after the Epic Film on the Buddha has been duly completed. This reconstruction, achieved in terms of the guidance provided by eminent Archeologist Basantha Bidari, is built on a land, graciously donated by Rev. Dr. Bōdagama Chandima Nāyaka Mahā Thēro, as a tribute to Mr. Navin Gooneratne, the Founder of Light of Asia Foundation which is the principal organization, behind the Epic Film on the Life of Prince Siddhārtha.
The Sambuddhatva Jayanthi that celebrates the 2600th Anniversary of the attainment of Supreme Enlightenment by Ascetic Sidhhārtha will prove a holy and sacred preface to an era of a new spiritual awakening.