Happy Wesak Day!
Last year, my sister and I celebrated Wesak Day in Lumbini, the birth place of Buddha and a well known UNESCO heritage site in Nepal. We took the Saleena bus from the Naya bus station in Kathmandu. The bus ticket cost USD18 per person and it took approximately twelve hours to get to Lumbini.
It was my first time living in a monastery. One needs to arrive a several days in advance to secure accommodation in a temple prior to Wesak Day celebration. My sister and I stayed at the Korean Temple. For USD5 a day per person, we got a room with three single beds inclusive of three vegetarian meals. We stayed there for six days in total.
Living in Lumbini was a peaceful and transformative experience. Plenty of quite time to be with oneself, reflect, meditate and to study the holy scriptures. The workers, resident monks and Thangka painters in Lumbini were friendly and helpful. Lay people are welcome to join prayers and chanting of holy scriptures three times a day after meals.
The only downside was the long hours of load shedding which could be uncomfortable in the scorching mid-afternoon heat. It’s best to bring some books to kill time when not visiting other temples or holy sites. The small collection of books available in the library were in Korean.
Help was always needed during Wesak Day as there were many monks and lay people to feed. I volunteered as a potato peeler and my peeling skills improved significantly since then. Once the crowd left, we cleared the place in preparation for dinner. After dinner, our Jewish neighbors kick started picking up watermelon skins and garbage left on the ground by visitors. While my sister went to help out at the Chinese temple, other neighbors and myself decided to join our Jewish neighbors not long after. No one knew what to do with so many watermelon skins hence I suggested that we buried them underneath dry leaves to nourish the surrounding trees once they turned into compost.
Time passed by quickly and as if out of nowhere the round and brightly lit moon appeared in the contrasting night sky. This phenomena coincided perfectly with the history of Buddha being born on a full moon’s day. Some teenage monks from Sechen Institute decided to practice English with me before their long journey back to Kathmandu. Since it had been a long day, both my sister and I slept extremely well that night in spite of the warm weather.