On the 22nd of April 2016, Earth Day, the Wat Phra Dhammakaya had organized a celebration event for the Abbot’s, Phrathepyanmahamuni’s, birthday. Here is the report for all the people who missed the party.
Starting from the night of the 21st, monks, novices, and devotees started arriving from all cities around Thailand, and even from other countries to attend the event. Phrathepyanmahamuni sent invitations to monks and novices from all over of Thailand to travel to Wat Phra Dhammakaya to be a part of world’s first largest Alms Giving event, so that on his birthday, all of his devotees and monks may start their day off with a great act of generosity.
At 6 AM, the first grand event was the alms giving ceremony in front of the Dhammakaya cetiya. Receiving the alms were over 100,000 Thai monks and novices. This event became successful despite the temple having to cancel the previously planned alms giving event at another location. Many of the monks are from the the southern part of Thailand, where they faced insurgency. The food collected from this ceremony will be sent to these problem areas to aid all the temples in need.
After the alms giving ceremony, Phrathepyanmahamuni also provided breakfast to all the devotees and offered breakfast to the participating monks and novices as a thank you for starting the Earth Day event bright and early with generosity. Lunch was also provided for all, a bowl of noodles. The rest of the morning was filled with a group meditation session at the Dhammakaya Meditation Hall.
In the afternoon, there were two ceremonies.
At 2 PM, Phrathepyanmahamuni initiated the casting of Khun Yai’s gold statue with a meditation session. Many of the devotees and monks lined up to pass along two golden spheres from the abbot to the gold melting furnace. Khun Yai refers to the founder of Wat Phra Dhammakaya. She was an 80 years old illiterate nun when she first began the establishment of Wat Phra Dhammakaya. There are several monuments of her at Wat Phra Dhammakaya, showing that both the abbot and the devotees of this temple have been very keen to pay her respect.
The abbot once said on DMC, the temple’s personal broadcasting channel, “Khun Yai was the most important person in my life.” Thus, he took the occasion of his birthday to cast Khun Yai’s gold statue on his birthday, which in Buddhist culture is a sign of the utmost respect.
The last event of the day was the Award Ceremony where there were a total of 97 awards from 40 countries. The awards presenters ranged from high Buddhist monks, nuns, government officials, to organization presidents and representatives.
Highlights are as follow:
International Buddha Education Institute presented by Reverend Loknayak Ashva Ghosh Mahanayaka
Noble Awards from Supreme Patriarchs and Sanghas
Sangharaja, Supreme Patriarch of Bangladesh
Sanghanayaka of Bangladesh
Most Ven. Bhadanta Tilawkar Bivamsa, Myanmar
Most Ven. Dr. Thich Thien Tam, Vietnam
The Great Supreme Patriarch of the Kingdom of Cambodia
All Nepal Bhikkhu Association
The Korea Theravada Maha Sangha Sapha
Uganda Buddhist Centre
Most Ven. Thich Tri Guand of Vietnam
Tango University of Buddhist Studies, Bhutan
Awards from Government Officials
President Benigno S. Aquino III of The Phillipines
Archbishop Lagdameo of The Phillipines
Federal Parliament of Nepal
Ministry Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation of Nepal
HRH. Dr. Molinge Ikome David, Cameroon
Awards from Universities
Rissho University, Japan
The Department of Theology and Religion, University of Otago, New Zealand
The Norwegian Institute of Palaeography and Historical Philology
Association for the Protection of Afghan Archaeology, USA
SOAS – School of Oriental and African Studies University of London, UK
Istituto di Psicologia Subbliminale`, Italy
After receiving the awards showing great appreciation to all that came to present them to him, Phrathepyanmahamuni made a thank you speech to all of the awards presenter. Part of it was as follow, “Many have traveled great distances to present these noble awards today at the Dhammakaya Meditation Hall. This is a testament to the collaboration between the Four Buddhist Communities to unite and help revive Buddhism to restore it to its golden days.”
Over 200,000 people, in total, from all over the world attended this Earth Day ceremony, despite all the rumors and discrimination from some sectors in the society. These people who attended are people who believe in the goodness of Phrathepyanmahamuni and are willing to show it through supporting him. If he were an ordinary man, there would not have been so many guests on his birthday. He is a true activist advocating for Buddhism and true world peace.