PETALING JAYA: With places of worship across the country closed under the movement control order (MCO), Buddhists took their Wesak Day celebrations online this year.
Yang Gui Rong, who is the president of the Melaka chapter of the Young Buddhist Association in Malaysia, said they organised a series of online activities devotees could participate in, such as prayer sessions, Buddhist hymn broadcasts and talks.
In place of a float procession that usually takes place during the festival, he said they organised a drawing competition for children and their depictions of floats would be displayed virtually.
He added that he and some devotees had also spent the day doing charity work, where more than 100 of them turned up to donate blood.
The association also delivered about 1,000 vegetarian meal packages to the needy.
“Normally, we would go to the temple for Wesak Day, but this year is different.
“We did not go to the temple, because Buddha has taught us to be good people and not to do anything bad – such as spreading the virus,” he said.
Yong Ying Mun said she participated in a virtual Buddha bathing ceremony, which involves clicking an icon on a website to “bathe” an animated Buddha.
“The website also gathers statistics on how many people across the world have virtually ‘bathed’ Buddha, so there is still the feeling of togetherness.
“One of the teachings of Buddhism is not to be stubborn, so I’m okay spending Wesak Day at home,” said the business executive in her 30s who normally goes to the temple for Wesak Day.
Robert Chong, a Tzu Chi Foundation volunteer, said he and his family gathered to participate in Buddhist prayer sessions online.
“We have never done a prayer session at home before – we always go to the temple (for Wesak Day) to remember the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha.
“Although it is different, the most important thing is how we absorb the teachings and put it into practice,” the 56-year-old contractor said.
Joshua Khoo, a Malaysian in the United Kingdom, said he would be taking time to meditate and listen to Dhamma talks online.
“I will also be catching up with some friends and sharing how we use Buddhist teachings to deal with the challenges of life,” said the PhD student in his 20s.
He said that since he was a child, he and his family would go to the temple to pay homage to Buddha by offering candles, incense and flowers as well as engage in activities such as communal chanting.
“The MCO has helped us avoid a lot of the trappings of the festival and get closer to the heart of Buddha’s teachings.
“There is also more time for quiet reflection and meditation. Access to technology has kept the sense of community with spiritual friends alive,” he said.