The International Buddhist Committee (IBC), an organization of Washington-area Buddhist congregations, will hold its annual observance of the Vesak, a holiday celebrating the life of Buddha, in Blair's auditorium this Saturday.
The event will feature a religious ceremony, workshops and speeches and will culminate with a banquet and traditional dance. According to Adam Boyer, spokesman for the IBC, the celebration will draw over 50 monks and Buddhist priests from the United States and abroad to discuss current issues relating to the Buddhist community.
Senior Kyami Clarke plans to attend the celebration with her mother, who converted to the Nichiren Shoshu sect of Buddhism in her senior year of high school. Clarke worships at the IBC's main sanctuary, located less than a quarter-mile from Blair. She believes the committee selected Blair to hold this year's Vesak ceremony because of its size and attraction. "A lot of people in my neighborhood go [to Blair]. Plus, it's a kind of landmark to people in Maryland," said Clarke.
Though she has not attended a Vesak celebration in four years, Clarke looks forward to Saturday's event, which will include Vesak festivities such as "Zen gardens," where followers meditate and hear teachings.
Clarke emphasized the growing popularity of Buddhism in her explanation of its tenets. "Everybody likes my religion," she explained. "When I meditate before I go to school, it's like I'm on cloud nine. When I explain that to my friends, they think it's so cool."
Buddhist philosophies can vary as much as those of Christianity and other religions. Nichiren Shoshu is a sect of Japanese Buddhism, but, as junior Fumino Tamaki explained, even it has subsections. "I don't celebrate the Vesak. Japanese Buddhism is different from ‘regular' Buddhism, and there's a lot of different ways to practice," she said.
The Vesak is a traditional holiday remembering the Buddha's birth, his path towards enlightenment and his death. The day celebrates the tenets of Buddhism, including mindfulness and the search for enlightenment.
The religious observance starts at 8:30 a.m., followed by workshops with international monks and a show of traditional song and dance from one to 3:30 p.m.
Additional reporting by Matthew Yalowitz
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