In the Theravada Buddhist world, the full moon day of November is celebrated as Kathina Dana Day. In the Triratna Bauddha Mahasangha, it is celebrated as Sangha Day, with the emphasis on the practice of spiritual friendship and confession. At Nagaloka on 17th November this year we restored what we thought had been a much neglected and even forgotten dimension of the day. It was on this day that the Buddha exhorted his first disciples to “Go forth, for the welfare of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the welfare, benefit, and happiness of gods’ and men. Let not two go by one way: Preach, O Bhikkhus, the Dhamma, excellent in the beginning, excellent in the middle, excellent in the end, both in the spirit and in the letter. Proclaim the Holy Life, altogether perfect and pure.” These words represent an essential aspect of Dhamma practice; they make it clear that we do not practice for our own benefit alone. They make it clear that compassion is an integral part of the practice of the Dhamma. We felt these golden and historic words should be celebrated every year. We have also made this day a celebration of the Walking Buddha, as he symbolises this spirit of active engagement with the world. Thousands of people turned up to celebrate the day with us.
Lokamitra, in his presidential speech, explained the significance of the day, and especially the implications of those momentous words of the Buddha. Our special guest was Venerable Kuang Shin, from Taiwan, who has done so much to help our work and made a very significant contribution to the Walking Buddha. He brought 73 disciples from Taiwan and China with him. Ven. Kuang Shin said that we all have Buddha seeds within us. We can create a new society by our practice and by removing suffering from the world. Meditating and chanting on Amitabha Buddha is the way many Eastern Buddhists try and do this. Dhammamitra Ashok Sarasvati and his group performed after lunch. He is well known and much appreciated for his communicating the Dhamma and social messages, especially those inspired by Dr. Ambedkar, through the local folk music tradition known as kirtan. In the afternoon the seven fold puja was conducted in Hindi. This was followed by the chanting of the Shakyamuni, Avaloketesvara and Amitabha mantras, the last two led by Ven Kuang Shin. The programme was concluded by the chanting of ‘Bahujan Hitay, Bahujan Sukhaya’ beautifully chanted by Nagarjuna Institute students. During this chanting all the participants left the shamiana and made offerings to the Walking Buddha. Thousands of people participated in the puja, and in silence and with concentration. Many more thousands visited Nagaloka that day to pay their respects to the Walking Buddha.