The first Sunday in May is designated as Buddha’s Birthday in Orange County, Florida, USA. This year, in 2023, it fell on May 7th, and Guang Ming Temple hosted the Buddha’s Birthday Bathing Ceremony along with an art and food fair. Among the attendees were Jerry Demings, the Mayor of Orange County; Luis M. Martinez, the representative of the Mayor of Orlando; Director General Chou from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Miami; Dr. Maria Vazquez, the Inspector of Orange County Education Bureau; various community representatives from Orange County; Venerable Chaokun, the Abbot of Thai Buddhist Temple; and Wang Cheng-zhang, a member of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Advisory Committee. Additionally, more than a thousand people participated in the Buddha bathing ritual and enjoyed the cultural and food exhibitions.

Buddha's Birthday 2023

The Buddha bathing ceremony began with an explanation of the offering and bathing rituals by Ina, a lecturer from the Buddhist’s Light International Association. Following this, the sacred image of Prince Siddhartha was welcomed with flower petals by two young girls, accompanied by four young Buddhists and the congregation, all standing in solemn reverence. Together, they chanted the “Verse of the Triple Gem” and VIPs offered flowers to Prince Siddhartha.

Buddha's Birthday 2023

This year, the group of offering participants was particularly special as students from Rock Lake Elementary School joined in traditional Tibetan attire. Abbess of Guang Ming Temple, Venerable Master Yung Han then led everyone in reciting the Heart Sutra, the Praise to the Buddha, and the Buddha’s Birthday Prayer. Venerable Master Yung Han expressed that in order for each person to recognize their inherent Buddha nature, Venerable Master Hsing Yun taught us to fully embrace the concept of “I am Buddha.” This signifies the development of compassion, wisdom, equality, and patience within ourselves, manifesting through genuine and virtuous actions. After the speech, the lights gradually dimmed, and the Master invited all VIPs and attendees to take out their mobile phones. With the melodious music, they used their phone lights to symbolize twinkling stars, commemorating Venerable Master Hsing Yun through the connection of their hearts.

Jerry Demings, the Mayor of Orange County, personally presented a congratulatory letter, which was received by Venerable Master Yung Han. The Mayor spoke about the deep friendship he has had with Guang Ming Temple for over ten years since his time as Orange County Sheriff. He has attended the temple’s Buddha’s Birthday celebration every year, and his wife, Valerie Demings (former U.S. Representative), and their children frequently participate in various activities at Guang Ming Temple. The temple has become a good friend to their whole family.

Luis M. Martinez, representing the Mayor of Orlando, read a message of congratulations, expressing gratitude on behalf of the Buddhist community for the compassion and wisdom left by the Buddha. Bathing the Buddha is a way to express infinite respect for this supreme teacher. He also thanked Guang Ming Temple for promoting the Buddha’s compassion and wisdom within the local community through its 30 years of establishment and for providing multicultural education to the community.

Director General Chou from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Miami delivered a speech, pointing out that Guang Ming Temple not only promotes Humanistic Buddhism through the “Three Acts of Goodness” but also contributes to the local community by providing diverse cultural and artistic education. The achievements in spreading the Dharma over the past 30 years have brought honor to all Chinese people.

Venerable Master Yung Han expressed hope that every person who participates in the Buddha bathing ceremony at Guang Ming Temple can feel that Buddha is within themselves. Even those in attendance who have faith in God, Jesus, or Allah can also sense their own divine nature. Through reverence and worship towards the object of their faith, whether it be Buddha, Jesus, or Allah, each person can elevate and develop themselves, facing each moment of life with an awakened heart.

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