Vesak Day Ceremony

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  06 May 2017, Saturday night, was my first time as an “official” photographer for this year’s Vesak Day Ceremony at Poh Ming Tse Temple and I was feeling excited and a little bit stressed.
After all, I’m just a self-learned amateur photographer (out of my own interest) and I was worried about the “job fit”.
It was the night when Poh Ming Tse temple celebrated Buddha’s birth, attainment of enlightenment and death (although the actual date is supposed to be today, 10 May 2017, but for some reasons, the committee has decided to celebrate slightly earlier).
With my Nikon D5300 camera, a newly bought SJCAM SJ7 action camera and a heart full of uncertainties, I arrived at the temple and met up with Cousin Miao Quan and Wilson, who then explained to me the whole procedure and also my role and responsibilities.
Soon, the ceremony began and all that happened for the first half an hour or so was the chanting of sutras. And I was like a lost soul walking around, trying to look for moments to capture, but what I saw were just faces with full of sincerity as the devotees chanted their sutras.
As the chanting went on, I took a few moments to look at Buddha’s statue and my heart rose with respect for this great man from 2500 years ago. I imagined how he attained enlightenment and brought hopes to this world of ours.
Hence, even though I was suppose to be taking pictures, I took a moment to pray for my loved ones as I faced Buddha’s statue with my eyes closed.
It was about slightly more than half an hour when there was more motion in the chanting hall, as the 2 masters led the devotees and moved towards Prince Sidharta’s statue.
The ceremony of bathing Prince Sidharta has begun.
According to articles I found on Baidu (equivalent of Google search), the ceremony of bathing Prince Sidharta is to remind mankind (or devotees) to keep a heart with purity, and always to be mindful of our thoughts and behaviours.
Although I claim to be a buddhist, my knowledge of Buddhism is at the minimal. All I know is that Buddha was a sage, not a god. He was just like anyone of us, except that he had a heart filled with purity and peace.
As the bathing ceremony ended, the devotees were led to the main hall for another round of Sutra chanting, which then began the second ceremony: Passing on the lights.
In Buddhism, it is believed that Buddha’s teaching is a lantern in the darkness, leading lost souls like us to the path of light, away from sufferings. Henceforth, passing on the light signifies passing on the knowledge of Buddha’s teachings. (Again, this is based on articles from Baidu search engine).
With the lotus lantern in their hands, the masters passed on their lights to the first devotee by lighting his lantern, who will then pass it on to the next person, till all the people in the hall had a lighted lantern in their hands (except me I think). And I could see the flickering lights in the dimly lit hall were illuminating each and every single soul’s heart.
Following next was the procession led by the masters around the hall till the whole proceedings ended.
Even though I was present in the hall, I was just a photographer, an outsider and everything that has happened or was going on, seem to have nothing to do with me. And I seemed to be out of place.
Perhaps my mind was still filled with the fact that I had a responsibility not to fail my cousin who has given me the opportunity to be a photographer.
However, as I witnessed the peace in the chanting hall, I could feel the greatness of Buddha, one who has brought hopes to all those who believes in him…..
10.05.2017
Francis Lim

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