h

Buddha’s Day and Multicultural Festival is sharing respect, compassion and understanding through celebration

Buddha’s Day and Multicultural Festival will be bringing dragon boat racing to the Yarra River, along with messages of ethical eating and the art of connection.

Held in Federation Square for many years now, the open and free festival celebrates the birth of Buddha with an array of events and experiences on offer. Spokesperson Katie Yang explains the two sides of the organisation behind the whole affair.
 
“Fo Guang Shan is the organisation name for all the monastics, and Buddha’s Light International Association of Victoria (BLIA Vic) is the organisation for lay Buddhists such as myself. Our goals are to promote humanistic wisdom in the community. BLIA also do volunteering work in the community, such as Clean Up Australia Day and tree planting.”
 
Fo Guang Shan is one of the largest Buddhist monasteries in the world and has quite a few temples in Australia, including three in Victoria. “There are hundreds of branches of our organisation across the world, including America and Europe, many places in Asia, Australia and New Zealand. It all really began in Taiwan with our founder Master Hsing Yun,” Yang explains.
 
Similar festivals by BLIA are held elsewhere in Australia and New Zealand with an eye to celebrate Buddhist values but also to embrace multiculturalism. “First and foremost, Buddha’s Day and Multicultural Festival is a celebration of Buddha’s birthday. We want to share values of Buddhism such as respect, compassion and understanding, which are very relevant in Australian community and society,” Yang says.
 
“We just want to promote that and share the story of the Buddha, and at the same time with the multicultural festival we want to create an event that can celebrate and embrace all the cultures so that it’s very inclusive.”
 
The annual festival is structured around a theme. This year’s theme is timely for what’s going on in the world, as Yang explains. “We usually have a theme which lasts for a couple of years, and this year’s theme is openness and consensus, which we think is quite relevant to our community. Basically, it’s just about being open, facilitating dialogue around certain issues, and coming to understand each other about our differences and similarities.”
 
The festival will bring an incredible vegetarian food fair and will align itself with the Be Kind Be Vego ethical eating initiative. Some high profile Melbourne chefs will be leading the vegetarian charge. “There will be a huge variety of food that will be reminiscent of street foods in Asia. We will also have a guest Mexican stall just to make it a bit more multicultural,” Yang explains.
 
“On top of that, we will have vegetarian cooking demonstrations. It’s called Vegi-licious and we’ve invited chefs from various restaurants and institutions to come and do demonstrations on how you can make really delicious vegetarian food at home. That’s a very popular event every year, and we will have sessions across both days.”
 
For the first time in the 23 years of Buddha’s Day and Multicultural Festival, dragon boat racing will be held along the Yarra River. “It’s very exciting,” Yang says. “It’s a collaboration with Dragon Boat Victoria, and it’s the first time we’ve done that. On Sunday there will be a regatta on the Yarra River. It will be very exciting, there will be dragon boats racing and when they finish they’ll come up and we’ll have a medal ceremony.”
 
Also on the list of activities is guided Buddhist Ch’an Meditation. “There are quite a few events that are mediation centred. There will be guided meditation at Deakin Edge and that’s your traditional seated meditation. Venerable Jue Fang will be guiding participants through that, through all the techniques and discussing and exploring the benefits of meditation on our everyday life.”

The 23rd Annual Buddha’s Day and Multicultural Festival goes down on Saturday May 19 and Sunday May 20 at Federation Square. For more info head to buddhaday.org.au.