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Letchworth Dhamma Nikethanaya Buddhist Centre Celebrates 2600th Sambuddha Jayanthi

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The full moon day in the month of May is historically very important to Buddhists across the globe as it marks the milestone of 2600 years of the enlightenment anniversary of the Buddha. Dhamma Nikethanaya Buddhist Centre based in Letchworth, the world's First Garden City, celebrated this event with a fascinating commemorative civic celebration, on Sunday 15th May 2011 and a meditation day-retreat on Tuesday 17th May 2011 under the guidance of Venerable Akurala Samitha, the head of the centre.

In the early hours of Sunday 15th May devotees from far and near gathered with utmost Vesak Sambuddha devotion at The Dhamma Nikethanaya Buddhist Centre to offer specially made milk rice (kiripidu) to the Buddha and observed higher precepts (eight precepts). Venerable Bhikkhu Assaji conducted the morning special programme with meditation & Dhamma discussions. Everyone rejoiced at the rare occasion of The Exhibition of the Relics of the Buddha and Enlightened Ones (arahanths) and paid homage to the Relics conducted by Venerable Akurala Samitha. After the Sanghika Dana (offering food to the venerable monks), everyone enjoyed the Vesak Dansela (free food sharing stall).

In the afternoon, Letchworth Garden City was graced with the beautiful Sambuddha Jayanthi Perahera (procession) launched from Letchworth Dhamma Nikethanaya Centre at No: 69, Pix Road to St. Michael's Church Hall carrying a large statue of The Lord Buddha and relics across the city centre with other objects of veneration, Buddhist flags, traditional Sri Lankan drummers and Japanese monks led by Venerable Nagahama chanting peace. Many local residents and all the members of the Centre enormously appreciated this happy event which invoked abundant blessings of the compassionate, fully enlightened Blessed One, Gauthama The Buddha on the entire environment.

The Sri Sambuddha Jayanthi (Buddha's Enlightenment Anniversary) Commemorative Civic Ceremony was held at St. Michael's Church hall with the graceful participation of Venerable Buddhist Monks, Priests of other faith, honourable distinguished guests and a gathering of over 250. The Vice Chairman of the North Herts District Council, Councillor Mr Michael Weeks; Letchworth Area Committee Chairman, Councillor Mr Michael Paterson; Chair of the North Herts Faith Forum; the Rector of Hitchin, Reverend Michael Roden; Mrs Jenny Nicholson and Mrs Linda White representing North Herts Faith Forum attended the ceremony. The Right Honourable Mr Oliver Heald Member of Parliament for North East Hertfordshire; The Right Honourable Mr Richard Howitt, Member of the European Parliament for the East of England; His Excellency Mr P M Amza, Acting High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in London; Mr John Lewis, The Chief Executive Director of Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation and Ms Jane Chipperton, The Chair of the SACRE (Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education) Bedford Borough & Central Bedfordshire sent special messages with best compliments.

Dr Elliot Cohen (PhD Psychology, PGCE (HE), Bsc Hons), Lecturer in Psychology and Society, Course Leader & Chartered Psychologist in Leeds Metropolitan University delivered a fascinating special lecture on "Psychological benefits of Buddhist Meditation", introducing some recent researches in Psychology on Mindfulness based Buddhist Meditation. Much admired was his lecture with the PowerPoint presentation, which brought full of knowledge about Buddhist teachings on mindfulness practices for a happy and contented way of life.

Venerable Dr Deegalle Mahinda Thero (PhD (Chicago), MTS (Harvard), BA (Hons) [Peradeniya]) Senior Lecturer, Study of Religions, School of Humanities & Cultural Industries, Bath Spa University delivered the 2600th Sri Sambuddha Jayanthi (Buddha's Enlightenment Anniversary) Commemoration Lecture on "Uniqueness of the timeless message of the Buddha". Referring to "The Dating of the Historical Buddha" and other works, he emphasized that in prehistoric India there was not much written records available about the incidents. However there were plenty of evidence for the Buddhists to accept and celebrate the 2600th Anniversary of the Enlightenment. The Great Emperor Asoka deserves the highest credit for initiating this history by installing a pillar. The Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhist Monastic Order deserves the prestigious credit for introducing a Buddhist flag, 126 years ago due to the distinguished contributions of An American Buddhist, Colonel Henry Steele Olcott and many other respectful Buddhist dignitaries in 1885. Credit is also due to their upholding universal recognition to the Buddhist Era by celebrating 2500th Buddha Jayanthi (Anniversary of the Passing Away of The Buddha, which counts the Buddhist era) in 1948 on grand scale. The United Nation's acknowledgment in 2000 of the Vesak Full Moon Buddha Day as a UN recognized religious and national celebration was due to the humble contributions of the former Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Late Mr Lakshman Kadirgamar. Sri Lankan also deserves the credit for pioneering the 2600th Sambuddha Jayanthi (Enlightenment Anniversary of the Buddha) celebration worldwide in this year 2011. The Commemoration lecture that summarised the message of the Compassionate fully enlightened Buddha for 45 years into "All conditioned and compounded things have the nature of decay and disintegration. Strive with diligence", was well received.

Devotional songs and Jayamangala Gatas (Stanzas for Victorious Joy) sung with music by young talented Ayumini Wickramaratne touched hearts and minds of the gathering. Mention must also be made of little Tharushi Mudiyanselage who also have an inspirational and skilful devotional dance that raised the spirit of the occation sky high.

The Vice Chairman of NHDC, Cllr Mr Michael Weeks highly appreciated the incredibly peaceful atmosphere and invaluable knowledge rendered in the ceremony, which he deserves to take part in every year. He sincerely encouraged the gathering to host this type of event more and more in the county, for the social cohesion and spiritual harmony and pledged his full support. Letchworth Area Committee Chairman, Cllr Mr Michael Paterson shared the gratitude in his speech for the beautiful day he had in the 2600th Enlightenment Anniversary Celebration in Letchworth. Rector of Hitchin and the Chair of the North Herts Faith Forum Reverend Michael Roden appreciated Venerable Akurala Samitha's involvements and contributions in the North Herts Faith Forum and was delighted to share the joy of the celebration by quoting valuable teachings of the Buddha.

Dr Arosha Bandara presented the whole ceremony remarkably. Mr Manohar Summan thanked everyone for their valuable support in numerous ways for an extremely successful celebration on this historic occasion. Dr Sampath Wickramaratne, The Director of the Keshara Television supported in live telecasting the event to the wider community in the world.  Organizers appreciated very much the support given by Hertfordshire police with guidance of PC Liza Brazier, PC Roxanne Cramp and officers on duty on that occasion of Letchworth Garden City Neighbourhood Policing Team. In conclusion Venerable Akurala Samitha conducted a blissful pooja, offerings to the Twenty Eight Buddhas in tribute to parents, followed by a meditation and the chanting blessings on the discourse on Universal Friendliness (karaniyametta sutta).

The Dhamma Nikethanaya Buddhist Cultural Centre for Education, Meditation Psychotherapy & Counselling in Letchworth Garden City wishes a very happy 2600th Sri Sambuddha Jayanthi Vesak Buddha Day to all, with the boundless aspiration "The Great Merciful Lord, for the good of all living beings, practised all Perfections and attained supreme Enlightenment. By the power of this truth, may all beings be well, secure, prosperous, peaceful and happy!"

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written by Dhamma Nikethanaya Buddhist Meditation Centre, May 24, 2011
Thank you for publishing the press release of our 2600th Sambuddha Jayanthi Celebration. Wish you all the best.

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