Vesak celebrations in Ottawa, Canada
During my tenure of service in Ottawa, Canada, I came across a number
of Canadians who were interested in learning about Buddhism. My wife
Siri and I were therefore determined to make the Vesak and Poson
celebrations in Ottawa as meaningful as possible to both Sri Lankans and
Canadians alike. Our objective was to capture the nostalgic spirit of
these two great festivals in a land far away from home.
Children getting ready for Vesak
May and June in Ottawa is blessed with delightfully cool weather
after the five month long harsh winter and many Canadians spend their
time out doors. The stately heritage building which houses the Residency
overlooks a beautiful park frequented by many Canadians. This provided
an ideal setting for the celebrations to be held outdoors.
We made an attractive Vesak Lantern which was typically Sri Lankan
and hung it up at the main entrance to the Residency. The lantern and
the entire lawn were illuminated and became a major attraction.
We invited a Buddhist monk from the Buddhist Vihara in Toronto, some
three hundred miles away to be our guest during the Vesak and Poson
period to cater to the needs of the participants. He was more than happy
to be with us not only because of the peace and tranquility of the
beautiful and spacious surroundings but also because of the simple but
delicious meals which my wife Siri personally cooked for him. It was a
welcome change for him.
There was open air Bana preaching in the afternoon of the Vesak Full
Moon Poya day and the day after. A similar program was arranged for the
This was a big draw and many Canadians visiting the park dropped by
to listen to the preacher. We warmly welcomed them to join in the
celebration and learn something about the teachings of Lord Buddha. Many
of them were very appreciative of our invitation and decided to stay on.
Some of them came back the next day as well. We also distributed
copies of that very informative booklet "Buddhism in Sri Lanka" by the
late Dr. G. P. Malalasekera which was very well received. We were told
that several Canadians read it in the cozy comfort of their homes.
Some of them came back to ask the learned monk clarification on the
various aspects of Buddhism. They were particularly interested in the
Noble Eight Fold Path and expressed various views about it.
We also had a table laid out with kiribath, jaggery, lunumiris
ambulthiyal and bananas and the best Sri Lanka tea and invited the
Canadians to join us. They ate heartily and were full of gratitude for
This was followed by readings from the Dhammapada which provoked
lively discussion at which the erudite monk with his wit and humour made
a lasting impression on the audience.
Videos were shown of Buddhist shrines in Sri Lanka and also how Sri
Lankans celebrated Vesak and Poson in the cities and the villages.
These were very nostalgic moments for the Sri Lankans who were
present. They were not concerned about the pandals and illuminations in
the big cities but the simple and homely programs arranged in humble
villages where under the silvery light of the Vesak Full Moon streams of
white clad devotees carrying bouquets of lotus flowers wended their way
to the welcome ringing of temple bells to pay homage to the Blessed One,
the Enlightened One.
Several Canadians expressed a wish to visit Sri Lanka to learn more
about the country and her people.
A similar program was organized on Poson Poya Day and was well