Malaysians live in a multiracial and multicultural country where a diversity of traditions and of course religions are celebrated and tolerated.
As this is the month of Ramadan, Muslims in Malaysia, like all around the world are fasting from sunrise and to sunset. It is also in this month the Buddhists are celebrating the birth, enlightenment and passing into nirvana (parinirvana) of the Buddha. This gives a poignant meaning of Malaysia Truly Asia.
For the Buddhists in Malaysia, this year’s celebration is extra special, not just because it coincides with the Ramadan month, the holy month for the Muslims, it also promises a new hope for a better future and for all Malaysians to continue to prosper and live in harmony.
Here, Chua Li Pei writes on what is Wesak Day and what it means to her.
I have been volunteering for the Wesak Day celebration since my university days, and this year I am volunteering again. As a general rule, you can choose to volunteer or just pay a visit to temples on Wesak Day. Volunteers usually help out in the kitchen, preparing food offerings for the public.
Besides, we also facilitate the whole day’s schedule. You can even get the chance to volunteer for the well-known Wesak Day parades.
Despite the hectic work schedule, volunteers would find time together with other Buddhists to pay respect to the Buddha on this auspicious day. It is a reminder to live mindfully in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings. Generally, Buddhists renew vow to take refuge under the Triple Gems. As a note, Triple Gems refer to the Buddha, Dharma (Buddha’s teachings) and Sangha (Buddhist monks and nuns).
We also observe Five Precepts. This means to abstain from harming living beings, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and intoxication. Besides that, some people may also choose to observe Eight Precepts on Wesak Day. Normally, they refrain from all sexual activities, eating outside meal times, entertainment and beautifying oneself as well as using luxurious furniture.
Most of the time, the activities carried out at the Buddhist centres are similar on Wesak Day. Visitors can bath the Buddha statues, release captured animals into the wild. They also offer lights and flowers as well as share the merits. Moreover, meditation, sutra chanting and Dharma talks are also available for those keen to learn and practise the teachings of the Buddha.
Other than that, one can also offer necessities such as robes and food to the monks and nuns in dana session. You are encouraged to donate to the charity on this significant day. Often, blood donation and organ pledge campaigns are held in conjunction with Wesak Day as well.
Now, Malaysian Buddhists are a unique group of Buddhists. All three different major traditions are practised widely here. From Theravada and Mahayana traditions to the Tibetan tradition of Vajrayana, you are bound to be pleasantly surprised by the rich diversity of Buddhist cultures. This certainly mirrors the complexity of Malaysian cultures itself.
Therefore, if you want to immerse yourself in the festive celebration, go through our list to find out more. You can even visit these places on other days, as most are also popular tourist destinations.
As a start, these centres mostly revolve around Theravada tradition, using English as its main medium. This tradition is often practised in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos.
Bodhi Park & Samadhi Vihara
Bodhi Park and Samadhi Vihara are just located next to each other. Firstly, Bodhi Park is probably the first eco-Buddhist centre in Malaysia.
On another note, Samadhi Vihara with its huge iconic lotus roof Shrine Hall is a vihara of the Buddhist Missionary Society of Malaysia.
Location: Shah Alam, Selangor
Buddhist Maha Vihara Malaysia
On the other hand, don’t forget to reserve a spot along the route taken by this temple’s Wesak Float and Candlelight Procession. Usually, the colourful and festive Wesak parade will start from Brickfields and passes by Chinatown. Thus, remember to go early to avoid the notorious traffic jams.
Facebook Page: Buddhist Maha Vihara Malaysia
Location: Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur
Next, there is also a huge number of Buddhist temples and associations using Chinese as the main medium. This is due to the fact that the majority of the Buddhists in Malaysia are Chinese. Generally, they follow the Mahayana tradition, widely practised in China, Japan and South Korea.
Fo Guang Shan Dong Zen Temple
Also famous among tourists for its grand annual Chinese New Year celebrations. After all, Dong Zen Temple is a large religious, cultural and educational Buddhist complex. It features gardens & a vegetarian restaurant.
Facebook Page: Fo Guang Shan Malaysia
Location: Jenjarom, Kuala Langat, Selangor
Tham Wah Wan Temple
It is a Buddhist temple located at the Old Klang Road. Recently, it has added another block of buildings to accommodate the growing number of Buddhists coming over.
Facebook Page: 曇華苑 Tham Wah Wan Temple
Location: Old Klang Road, Kuala Lumpur
Last but not least, if you are interested in the Vajrayana tradition often practised in Tibet and Mongolia, you can visit these places. For your information, Dalai Lama himself is the famous Tibetan Buddhist persona.
Karma Kagyu Dharma Society Kuala Lumpur
This is a society for Buddhists practising the most widely practised lineage within the Kagyu school.
Facebook Page: Karma Kagyu Dharma Society Kuala Lumpur
Location: Pudu, Kuala Lumpur
Ka-Nying Ling Dharma Society Kuala Lumpur
Other than that, this is a society established in the year 1990, dedicating to the lineage of Chokling Tersar of Nyingmapa.
Facebook Page: Ka-Nying Ling Dharma Society Kuala Lumpur
Location: Sentul, Kuala Lumpur
Finally, don’t worry if you are not in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor! You can still take part or watch the Wesak Day celebrations elsewhere in Malaysia. Thus, check out and visit these magnificent places near your location!
Johor – Puzhao Buddhist Vihara
Facebook Page: 马佛青普照寺 YBAM Puzhao Buddhist Vihara
Location: Kluang, Johor
Pahang – Pahang Buddhist Association
Facebook Page: Pahang Buddhist Assiociation 彭亨佛教会
Location: Kuantan, Pahang
Sabah – Santavana Forest Hermitage
Facebook Page: 寂靜禪林 Santavana Forest Hermitage
Location: Tuaran, Sabah
Penang – Kek Lok Si Temple
Facebook Page: Kek Lok Si Temple Penang 槟城鹤山極樂寺
Location: Ayer Itam, Pulau Pinang
All in all, Happy Wesak Day to all Buddhists and may all beings be well and happy always.
All events stated above are for the participation of non-Muslims only.