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You are in: Birmingham > Faith > Features > Buddha Day 2008

Monks chanting

Buddhist monks chant

Buddha Day 2008

Birmingham celebrated a unique event that saw different Buddhist traditions uniting at the Sultanganj Buddha in Birmingham Museum to celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha.

The celebration of Buddha Day has become a regular event at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and is a day when the Buddha's followers celebrate the beginning of the Buddhist new year.

Celebrating Buddha Day 2008

Celebrating Buddha Day 2008

Buddha Day,or Wesak, is a day of great significance to followers of Buddhism. In the Buddha Gallery in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, different cultures, countries and Buddhist traditions joined together for a variety of forms of chanting in a multitude of languages.

Buddist followers

Buddist followers

Birth, enlightenment and death

"Today is a unique event across the country", says Keith Munnings of the West Midlands Buddhist Council. "The getting together of eight or nine different  Buddhist schools representing the great diversity of tradition within Buddhism, to get together to celebrate Wesak or Buddha Day, which is the celebration of the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha all on the same occasion."

"It's in recognition of the most recent Buddha, 2500 years ago, and the remarkable achievement in his life of becoming completely enlightened and becoming completely free of all his conditioning and suffering. For Buddhists it's a very important occasion for them to reflect on how their life and development is progressing."

The Sultanganj Buddha

The Sultanganj Buddha

The Sultanganj Buddha

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is home to the Sultanganj Buddha This particular one being where it is it has great age and great significance to Buddhists for over 1500 or more years which makes it that bit more special still.

The impressive copper statue of Buddha was discovered when when a railway line was being excavated in the Indian town of Sultanganj in 1862. The chief engineer was a brass founder Samuel Thornton from Birmingham who paid £200 to save it from being melted down and to bring it to Birmingham.

At 2.3 metres tall and weighing about 500kgs, it is the largest metal figure of it's kind in the world and remains as on of the museum's most important exhibits.

Dr Ottara Nyana

Dr Ottara Nyana

Transfer of merit

The Buddhist groups, supporters of the Jubilee Debt Campaign and gallery visitors stood around the statue absorbing the chanting and singing of the monks and nuns, and taking part in a transfer of merit ceremony performed by Dr Ottara Nyana from the Peace Pagoda in Birmingham:

"Birmingham is a faith city and Buddhism is a world religion and all of us around the world celebrate Buddha Day which is a great celebration and great occasion. Here in the museum everybody can be together for Buddha Day."

Monks approach the Sultanganj Buddha

Monks approach the Sultanganj Buddha

Supporting Burma

It's a very interesting Buddhist practice," explains Keith Munnings "when a good deed, or a number of good deeds have been performed together by a group of people, some of that benefit or merit made by that action can be willingly transferred to others, wishing them well."

On this particular occasion there was a wish to transfer merit both to the countries affected by international debt, supported supported by the Jubilee Debt campaign, and also to the many thousands of victims of the cyclone in Burma.

last updated: 10/05/2008 at 19:30
created: 10/05/2008

You are in: Birmingham > Faith > Features > Buddha Day 2008

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