Ceremonies were held at Buddhist temples across western Sydney on May 18 to commemorate the birth of Buddha. The Cambodian community gathered for its ceremonies at Wat Khemarangsaram at Bonnyrigg in the morning and at Wat Samaki at Canley Vale in the afternoon, many worshippers attending both.
The anniversary, known as Vesak Bochea, is held on the day of the full moon of the sixth lunar month. Buddhists believe this date also marks the enlightenment of Buddha and his passing into Nirvana, making it the most sacred day on the Buddhist calendar.
Preparations at Bonnyrigg started two weeks before, as laymen and monks organised working bees to prepare the grounds and make decorations. Artwork depicting the Buddha in the three stages of his life was placed alongside the temple.
Ceremonies at Bonnyrigg began the night before, when people gathered to listen to the monks chant Buddhist scriptures and preach sermons. Many wore white as a symbol of purity.
The community returned early Saturday morning to offer candles, incense and flowers to the monks. The offerings remind followers that just as flowers wither and candles and joss-sticks burn out, so too is life subject to decay.
Visiting monks from Wat Samaki, WatRattanaram at Cabramatta and a nearby Lao temple joined the monks at Bonnyrigg for the occasion.
Once the chanting was over, people lined up outside the temple with offerings of food to put in the monks' bowls as they walked past.
In the early afternoon, young women in traditional Cambodian costume lined up in formation, each carrying a floral display. Two of them stepped forward to help raise the Buddhist flag outside the temple as a song was sung in praise of the holy triple gem: the Buddha, the Dharma (his teachings) and the Sangha (his disciples).
Then the community followed a parade of Buddhist figures and sacred objects which circled the temple three times. Thin Em, president of the Cambodian Buddhist Society, said this was the biggest Buddha parade they'd organised.
The Bonnyrigg monks travelled to Wat Samaki to join the celebrations at Canley Vale in the afternoon. The Venerable Venglim Mao said the different temple communities work together to support each other on important occasions like this.
On Saturday evening, the grounds around the Bonnyrigg temple twinkled with the lights of a myriad small candles, each representing a year since the start of the Buddhist era 2563 years ago. Some were laid out in patterns to spell "Vesak Bochea" in Khmer script, others were placed in circles representing the eight Buddhist precepts.