Pittsburgh’s diverse Buddhist community is continuing a four-year tradition of gathering together for Vesak, a celebration of the Buddha’s birthday, enlightenment and entrance into Nirvana.
On Sunday May 20, 2012, local Buddhists, and anyone else who wants to join them, will celebrate Vesak from 3-5 p.m. in the Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church, 412 W. North Ave., North Side. The ceremony includes bathing the baby Buddha, chanting, scripture teaching and recitation, and a group meditation for world peace. At the end of the ceremony participants will make a 15 minute procession to the Allegheny Landing for a ceremony releasing the waters used in the ceremony into the rivers with intentions for world peace.
The continuing strength of this ceremony shows that Buddhism has gained traction in Pittsburgh since the Dalai Lama visited Western Pennsylvania in 1998. At that time there were perhaps 2,000 Buddhists and no organized temple. Today the Buddhist Society of Pittsburgh includes more than a dozen temples or organized meditation groups from several Buddhist traditions. Different strains of Buddhism can be as different from one another in style and practice as, say Pentecostalism and Eastern Orthodoxy in Christianity. Consequently, it’s a major statement when all of Pittsburgh’s Buddhists come together for this ceremony.